46. The Price of a Pound of Flesh

46. The Price of a Pound of Flesh

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

The Price
of a Pound of Flesh

There is just one life for each of us: our own.

What was it that brought me to the brink of paying an exercise guru to whip me into shape? What made me even consider paying more per pound of body weight to lose it than I pay for groceries? And, more to the point, what snapped me out of it?

I’d gained weight the last couple of years before I retired. Instead of exercising after school, I’d gone home to my laptop where my writing and photography held me captive. I focused on what I would do when I stopped working, and I started setting things in place for a freelance writing and photography business.

I’ll lose weight when I retire, I told myself. Until recently, I’d always been active—walking, biking, and working out at the gym. I had visions of my retired self leaping enthusiastically out of bed when the sun did, and going for brisk morning walks. In case of rain, there was always the exercise bike in the spare bedroom. When I don’t have to get up for work, I’ll want to get up, I thought.

But alas, my biorhythms had other plans. Without my alarm to rouse me, I slumbered on into midmorning. There was the new luxury of two leisurely cups of morning coffee while reading the newspaper and checking e-mail. And there was the pleasure of reading well past midnight, knowing I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed to get to work the next day.

My days in retirement mode were surprisingly full. I did what I had to do, and did what I wanted to do, and kept postponing exercise to later in the day—I’ll do it after lunch. I’ll do it after the library. I’ll do it after a nap—until eventually the day ended and I’d done nothing active. I’d climb into bed promising to get out and walk tomorrow.

My husband is the rise-and-shine get-it-over-and-done-with type, and for a while I went to the gym with him to use the treadmill, bike, or weights. But though I had risen, I never shined. The schedule—a morning one—was his, and it didn’t fit me. He rushed me and I held him back. After a while, I watched him go out the door in the morning—he, clad in sweats; I, still in my bathrobe.

I puttered through two years of retirement trying to convince myself that walking on photography jaunts with my camera was “good enough” exercise, and that I’d settle into an exercise routine eventually.

So when a flyer arrived in my mail announcing a new fitness center, I hoped it would be the answer. It was a slick promotional ad designed to bring potential customers into the fitness center where the soft sell of the glossy brochure would morph into a solid sales pitch delivered by a hard-bodied recruiter.

I was curious to know the cost of the program, and they wouldn’t tell me on the phone, so I checked out the facility in person. I’m a tough sell, and wasn’t worried that I’d get pushed into anything my pocketbook couldn’t support.

The center provided one-on-one fitness training—a private hour and a half with a personal trainer three times a week, a nutritional program, and body fat analysis. I’d visited this place four years ago to write a feature article for a newspaper, so I knew how they operated—and that they were pricy. After the grand tour and a number of questions designed to get me to admit my failures and commit myself to a trainer, my guide finally got to the bottom line.

“How much do you think this program is worth?”

“Well, I remember it was a lot four years ago, but. . .” I said.

“How much?”

“Oh, I don’t remember the exact. . .”

“What would you say if I told you $2,300 for three months?”


Angus strip roast was on sale at the supermarket for $8.99 per pound and boneless chicken breasts for $4.99 a pound. According to my calculations, if I trained three times a week at the fitness center my flesh would be worth about $150 per pound.

Part of me would have liked to plunk down the money, obey orders, and emerge buff and fit in 12 weeks. I’d be lighter, but so would my bank account, and I knew from experience that it wasn’t losing weight that would be the problem; it would be sustaining the loss. I needed something that would fit into my life for the long haul, something I could incorporate seamlessly into everyday life, something simpler—and cheaper.

The solution presented itself when I stopped trying to fit my round self into a square hole, when I stopped trying to reinvent myself—a miserable, if not impossible, task. When I worked with myself, not against my style. I accepted some things about myself:

1. I’m not a morning person; never was, never will be, as much as I might wish to be.

2. I need a hard and fast schedule, or I’ll drift along doing what I want, quite contentedly ignoring the “shoulds” my brain nags me to do.

3. I need variety; I become easily bored with the same old thing. Even the pleasure of a morning walk would become dull.

I happily do all of the things I want or need to do during the day without the inner voice chiding constantly, “When are you going to exercise?” Because now I know when.

Come 5 p.m., I’m wearing workout clothes and heading to the gym for an exercise class—a different one each day: Pilates, step, spinning, kickboxing, muscle toning, or a dance class. My needs are met: a set schedule for a variety of classes later in the day. I work up a sweat, releasing endorphins into my bloodstream that silence my inner nag. The slow and steady pace is effective for losing weight, and more importantly in maintaining the loss. It’s become a part of my day, one that I look forward to.

Recently I sat on a stationary bike in spinning class, sweating and chatting with the panting woman next to me. We were discussing our exercise routines.

“Man, when I retire I’m going to spend all day at the gym,” she said.

I didn’t share the mental journey that had landed me on the bike next to hers that evening. She’ll make her own discoveries when she retires.

I simply said, “That’s not my style.”

When it comes to exercising, or anything else in life, to thine own self be true—right down to the biorhythms.

~Ruth Douillette

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