The Heart Monitor: Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me!

We’ve got to lose ten pounds. It’s not a big deal. That’s what happens to happy couples: we fall in love, we eat our feelings, and we have sex with the lights off. We eat low-fat ice cream for a week before switching back to full-fat Ben & Jerry’s because they don’t make low-fat Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.

I know I used to have will power. I used to be a lean, trim, enviable size four. I used to skip breakfast and dessert.

We decided to lose weight together. We do everything together; why not get in shape as a couple?

He convinced me to join the gym. I hated the idea of working out in public. I didn’t want people to watch my boobs heave up and down. I wasn’t sure where to keep my hands on the machines. Where would I pick sweaty wedgies? Would people judge me if I wore mascara? What if I got lost? But he talked me into it. He said he would go with me, we would do it together, and I would lose weight easily.

It took me 26 years to join one, unless you count the few months I spent at the age of six waiting in the playroom at the local All Sport Fitness while my mom did Jazzercise with an oversized neon ball.

We joined in November as a proactive start to losing the holiday weight. I assumed three evenings on an elliptical machine would tighten my butt and encourage me to eat less carbs. I also assumed I would eventually lose ten pounds. No, that’s a lie. I assumed ten pounds would melt right off me. I thought my love handles would dissolve into a size four and my stomach would flatten to my abs of yesteryear.

It was just as bad as I had suspected. I looked like a moron on the machines. I slipped off the elliptical and my shoelace got caught in the pedals. I wasn’t coordinated enough to drink water and jog at the same time, so I constantly stopped and started. I feared disobeying the laws of gym etiquette and gave up machines after only fifteen minutes into a workout. Mascara dribbled down my cheeks. I grew distracted easily, and my eyes would wander around the machines, realized I was the heaviest girl in the room. I felt crushed.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, walked around like a stud. It was his first time at this gym too, but he instinctively knew where to find the clean towels. He got into the zone and waved me on after our agree-upon forty-five minute interval was up. He chugged down water and splashed a bit on his forehead, wiping the excess off with a towel and a smile. I watched him wistfully until I tripped up on the elliptical and smacked my chin on the handlebar.

After a few months of torture, I stopped going. It was around late January, just in time for the flood of weight loss resolutes to lose interest. I trusted no one would miss me.

Clearly, the gym was never going to solve my problem. I’ve heard stories about people becoming addicted to working out and making it a happy, regular part of their lives. This wasn’t the case with me. The more I went, the more I resented my boyfriend for convincing me to join.

Recently, I decided to go back to the one true weight-loss tool I know will work: the painful, calorie-restrictive diet. Ah, my old tried and true friend! Just a little bit of will power and I’ll be on my way to my old size four without any blood, sweat or tears. Lumpy one-piece bathing suit season is around the corner. It’s time to get cracking.

I run the kitchen in my household, and if I’m going to diet I’m going to take my boyfriend with me on the ride. I stocked up on low-fat yogurt, steamed vegetable medleys and Lean Cuisines. I’ve noticed my boyfriend has been reticent. He has insisted he will continue to eat normally and just cut down his portions. He doesn’t think he needs to diet. He has been avoiding the D-word.

Dieting, I realize, is my weight loss comfort zone. Billions of advertising dollars have been spent convincing women that frozen diet food, low-fat protein bars and high-fiber cereal are crucial for slimming down. Meanwhile, my boyfriend prefers the machismo image of a burly jock sweating under a bunch of weights. It’s not considered masculine to diet — I can just imagine my boyfriend’s immature coworkers snickering at him if he brought in my Lean Cuisine and pink fat-free yogurt to lunch. He’d rather blow out his calf muscles at the gym.

So much for losing weight together. He can have the gym and I’ll go back to my steamed veggie plates.

Orson Welles said we all die alone. I guess we all diet alone, too.

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    • Venus in Furs

      If you are only 10 pounds beyond a size 4, and you are (were) “the heaviest girl in the room” at your gym, I think you need to find a new gym! Seriously. I mean, it is one thing to be 200 lbs and be the heaviest girl in the room, but to be (what?) 120, 130 lbs & be “the heaviest girl in the room” means one thing to me: You were probably a member of Globo Gym (or some other big box gym for “pretty” people). Places like that are designed more for self-loathing than self-improvement, and that’s not good for anybody.

      • Brandy Alexander

        Fair enough. It’s a gym in Manhattan with slender blondes with perky boobs. It was a depressing sight.

    • Dove

      I definitely think it’s good to try new things, but we all have our confort zones. I’m a workout girl – 5-6 days a week, 45-70 minutes of cardio, and some light lifting/stretching. I eat basically anything I want, and I’m a size 10.
      I could cut back on calories (as I’ve done in the past) and get down to a 6-8, but it makes me miserable to live like that. If I stopped working out, I’d be screwed, because it’s basically what keeps me healthy.

      All that said, working a 40hr/week desk job is brutal, I eat way more than I used to and I think is a big part of why I gained 15lbs AFTER college.

      • Brandy Alexander

        I blame the desk job, too. I am like a bad Cathy comic strip.

    • cnm

      Don’t waste your time on those cardio machines. Just do a bit of a warm up and then start lifting heavy weights- not those 3 pound dumbells, real weights.

      • Dove

        Different things work for different people. I do cardio because I play soccer and like to stay in shape for summer games, and because it’s best for your heart to actually get it pumping, which really only happens when you are running or working equivalently hard on a bike or elliptical.

        I don’t think I’ve ever touched a 3lbs weight. I use the real deal.

      • Brandy Alexander

        Heavy lifting??? I’ll lose weight just from heavy lifting???

      • Eileen

        Well, you probably won’t lose all that much weight since you’ll build muscle which is denser than fat – but you’ll burn more calories. Cardio’s still good for your heart, though.

    • G

      I workout out at home, I run outside. Fuck gyms. Gyms are the devil. There are ways to workout without all the machines and constant paranoia.

      • Hannah Beth

        Agreed, G. Gyms are so boring, and lights are ugly, and it kind of smells bad. I jog and walk outside, which is great because the fresh air feels good, and a little bit of sunshine does wonders for the mind. I also like DVDs for targeting certain areas when I feel I need to. Ms. Alexander- you do what works for you. Everyone’s bodies respond differently to diets/exercise. Perhaps you and your fellah can take some sweet walks together.

      • Dove

        I love gyms, always have for some reason, but I can EASILY see what people don’t like about them. I’d run outside if I could, but the fact that I haven’t had cartilidge in my knees since I was 16 means sidewalks are not my friends.

    • A

      I suffered through the gym for years, and became rather proficient but was incredibly bored. Same thing with exercising outside – bored. Then I started taking cardio classes at a dance studio (but they’re also at any gym). Once my brain figured out how to move my limbs in various, non-elliptical-machine ways, I had a blast. And now I’m at those classes 6-7 days/week simply because they’re fun.

    • Eileen

      I like my treadmill because I am really bad at judging speed. I CAN, for example, run a six-minute mile…but if you put me outside, I won’t. If you put me on a treadmill at set it to 10 mph, I have to.

      I’m also big on free weights although I still think I’m kind of weak. Still, I’ll take exercise over diet (although I definitely watch what I eat) because it makes me feel stronger/healthier.

    • Goldie

      Oh hon, you are totally psyching yourself out! Forget the gym if you hate it. Weight loss is (for most) as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Think of it as a science experiment and start counting calories. There are 3500 calories in a lb. Eat as you normally do for a week and count all the calories you ate. (It sounds totally OCD but there are tons of iphone apps and internet resources to help you count so it’s not so tedious– I’ve used sparkpeople.com and really liked it)

      Then figure out where you can cut back, and keep counting. (You don’t have to do it forever– after a couple of weeks you can get pretty good at estimating the calories yourself) You don’t have to depend on lean cuisines (which are loaded with shit tons of salt) to eat right if you can judge the calorie content of all other foods.

      Also– walk. Walking is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and it’s easy and free. You burn ~100 calories/mile, so if you do 15 miles/week you’ve burned almost half a pound.

      I dunno, maybe this sounds obsessive, but for me it’s easier to have quantifiable goals with predictable, measurable results rather than, “well, maybe if I do a little X and Y then maybe hopefully Z will happen?” I think a lot of people lose motivation because they have unrealistic expectations or overestimate what they’re doing.

      Also, what if you and the bf started a little weight loss competition? Put some money on it. See who could lose 10% in 3 months, and channel some of that gym/perky boob resentment into motivation. Just some thoughts. Good luck!

      • Brandy Alexander

        +1. This is the most optimistic advice I’ve read all day.

    • Lexie

      Netflix the free fitness DVDs and you, too, can feel like an idiot, only in the privacy of your own bedroom!

      Also, running up and down subway stairs not only gets you to work faster, but helps cut calories!

      • Brandy Alexander

        Working out in a tiny Manhattan apartment is like having sex with your cousin. You -could- do it, I guess, but it would be soooooooo uncomfortable.