30. Guilty Steps

30. Guilty Steps

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Guilty Steps

Every day I will find something to laugh about.
 ~Richard Simmons, The Book of Hope

In my on and off battle against the bulge, the bulge was winning to the tune of 20 pounds. Okay, 25 pounds. That didn’t mean I was waving the white flag and giving up. No, I simply retreated to the couch with my honor guard, a six-pack of donuts, to decide on my next step.

Step? Of course, that was it. I’d walk myself thin. I would become, pardon the pun, a foot soldier in the battle against fat. And I would start immediately. Well, immediately after I finished eating my faithful troops. After all, I was going to need the energy for my walking.

To put my program on a scientific footing, I went out and bought an electronic pedometer, a device that counts every step you take. Now, as long as the batteries held up, I would have a daily record of my progress.

I even bought a calendar and a bright red pen to write down the number of steps I took each day. I put the calendar on the fridge where I would see it every time I opened the fridge. That way the calendar and I would be seeing a lot of each other.

Then I opened the package and took out my nifty pedometer. I felt healthier just holding it. Although the instructions were obviously written by someone whose first language wasn’t English, I finally figured out which little red buttons to push to make the thing work.

I held my breath, sucked in my stomach, stretched out the waistband of my pants, and popped the gizmo on. I slowly released the waistband, hoping nothing would explode. But my pants and the gizmo looked fine.

So, I got off the couch and started walking around the house. Then I remembered to turn it on and started walking again.

Ten steps from the couch to the fridge, 12 steps from the couch to the bathroom, 25 steps from the couch to my bedroom. The fact that I kept using the couch as my reference point told me I hadn’t bought the gadget a minute too soon. But as I watched those little numbers add up, I felt a surge of optimism.

This was going to be easier than I thought.

That night I put the pedometer next to my bed so I would remember to put it on as soon as I got up. The next morning I rolled out of bed, popped the gizmo on my pj’s and started walking. Let’s see, go to the bathroom, feed two cats, go upstairs, give third cat medicine, go back downstairs, walk to the closet and get clothes, get dressed, go back upstairs. Oops, run back downstairs, take gizmo off pj’s and put it on pants.

By the end of the day I had logged 954 steps. By the end of the week my calendar was filled with little red numbers, each day showing a bigger total. I admit some of the increase was when I discovered I could have my cake and eat it too. Instead of sitting down to eat, I ate while walking around the house. By the way, don’t try it with soup.

The more I ate, the higher my little red numbers went. I figured the steps canceled out the calories. The scale, however, took a different view.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the third week the cats found the pedometer on the night table. It took me two days and a lot of crawling around on my hands and knees before I finally found it under the couch hidden behind old candy wrappers, elastic bands and enough cat hair to knit another cat.

Based on the tiny teeth marks I found on it, I think the cats hoped it was food, then decided it was a toy. Or maybe they also tried the eat-and-walk program.

Although I felt I had gotten a lot of exercise crawling around, technically it wasn’t walking. I wrote those two days off which meant two blank days on the calendar. I promised myself I would get right back on the bandwagon the next day and I did. And the day after that.

Then came the fateful day. I had every intention of walking, really I did, but it was raining outside and the couch looked so inviting and I was reading a good book and the cats all decided to sit on me.

One thing led to another, or in this case didn’t lead anywhere. By the end of the day the number on the pedometer was so dismal that I didn’t have the heart to write it on my calendar—I just left the square blank.

That was the beginning of the end. Every time I walked into the kitchen to look at the calendar and saw those blank squares, I felt a little pang of guilt which led to chocolate cake guilt, ice cream guilt and potato chip guilt. The guilt just got bigger and bigger and so did I. I finally realized I had to do something about the guilt or I would end up the size of my refrigerator.

I ripped the calendar off the fridge and went back to my couch.

All was not lost. I gave the pedometer to the cats who have been running and batting it all over the house and the numbers just keep growing and growing. I’m pretty sure two of them have lost a little weight.

You know something else? Now that I don’t feel guilty, I’ve lost five pounds.

~Harriet Cooper

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