The Weight is Over: Part 5 – New Year, No Scale

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Last week my Thursday progress report was posted on Christmas Eve. Today it’s New Year’s Eve. Thank God by next week we will be beyond the holidays, the most challenging time of the year to stay on a diet.

Some people have suggested that December was the worst possible month for me to begin this eating and exercise commitment at Align Private Training. 

I understand why they’d say that, but for me, December was the best time. Consider what I didn’t consume this holiday season, things in which I’ve indulged with total abandon every holiday season of my adult life, much of which I created in my own kitchen: Christmas cookies, English toffee, egg nog, fudge, fruitcake (sorry Tom, I had to share yours with the family), hot challah with butter, baklava, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, puff-pastry appetizers, wine, cocktails, and mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy. And don’t forget my favorite stocking-stuffers: See’s butterscotch suckers and butterscotch squares. Oh, how I missed them this year!

Throughout the holidays and its many festivities — all of which included super-fattening food — it was nearly an out-of-body experience for me to passively watch others eat and drink some of my now-forbidden favorites. I felt like an alcoholic craving a drink, watching as “everyone else” nonchalantly downed glasses of booze. Of course, we can survive without alcohol. We can’t survive without food.

I found that eventually, people would finish eating/drinking whatever it was I desired. Their eating time had passed, and I would have succeeded, once again, in not falling off the diet wagon. Meanwhile, others were stuck with the calories that I would have gained had I eaten what they’d eaten; not that I’d wish that on anyone except maybe that one particular person.

To celebrate the Christmas holiday, I joined my eldest son, two grandchildren, daughter-in-law and her entire family at a huge house in Dunsmuir, surrounded by magical snow, where we all stayed for three nights. So much fun!

doni in dunsmuir

Noni Doni in Dunsmuir for Christmas. Photo by Austin.

I packed an ice chest with my own foods as if I were traveling to Donner Pass, not Dunsmuir.

Even so, I wasn’t totally deprived. I was able to enjoy some of the same foods others ate, such as turkey, prime rib, green beans and salad. For Christmas dinner I did allow myself 4 ounces of a nice red wine. I really savored it, and made it last through my entire meal. It helped that my family knew I was dieting, and it meant a lot that my son kept telling me how proud he was of me.

On Monday I returned with enthusiasm to my workouts with Matthew Lister at Align with the hope that not only did I not gain, or stay the same (as I did last week -which REALLY bothered me!), but that I would have actually lost weight. How many people can lose weight during the holidays? I was pretty sure I’d nailed it. Way to be a loser, Doni! Atta girl!

Remember I said that I was seeing Matthew twice a week? That’s been bumped up to four or five times a week. I don’t know if it had anything to do with when Matthew asked me last week how my cardio workouts were going at the YMCA, and I explained that the week before Christmas was so crazy that I hadn’t made it to the gym. I just couldn’t find the time. Ya know?

Uh. Huh.

Ever since that admission, in addition to the strength training at Align two days a week, Matthew’s also having me come in an extra two to three days a week for kick-ass cardio. Why oh why didn’t I just go to the Y, where I could pace myself, creating grocery lists in my head, quitting when I got bored, or at the first signs of sweat or minor discomfort?

But the thing is, I know I wouldn’t have worked myself as hard there as Matthew makes me work at Align. I’m just not advanced enough in my development to do significant cardio exercise without professional supervision.

They’re called workouts for a reason. They’re damn hard work. And I have to say, there are times when Matthew demonstrates something difficult-looking that he expects me to do, and I mumble,  “OK,” while my brain is shrieking, “Are you kidding?! No freakin’ way!”

Somehow, Matthew seems to know exactly how many reps (gym lingo, for you newbies) I am physically able to do, which is a world of difference from how many reps I think I can do. Miraculously, every time, I do it. And when I do, I’m left feeling a combination of surprise, exhaustion and exhilaration. But what’s maddening is just when I’ve mastered a particular weight, the next workout session I can count on Matthew handing me one that’s a bit heavier.

That’s why I’ve come to dread Matthew’s question, “Is this weight difficult?” because I know that if I say no, Matthew will bump up the weight a notch so the last few reps are difficult.

All my life I’ve been more of a cerebral person, someone who used my brain more than my body. In fact, I’ve been so out of touch with my body that there were stretches when I actually pictured myself as just a head, without a body. Psychology types have a word for that, but let’s not go there today.

It’s a sobering realization to acknowledge that I’ve waited until this relatively late stage of life to seriously push myself physically for the very first time. Yes, I wish I’d done it sooner. But better late than you-know-what.

So, back to my post-Christmas weigh-in. I did my hour workout on Monday, all the while wondering and imagining how much weight I’d lost. But when I was done working out, Matthew said he wanted to talk to me first, in his office. Door closed.

Ruh roh

My first thought was he was going to discontinue working with me. Don’t ask me why I thought that. I just did.

My second thought was I was being taken to the principal’s office so he could tell me how badly I was doing. Again, I don’t know why I thought that. I just did.

He did neither. But he did break it to me that he would no longer tell me how much weight or how many inches I’d lost. Not for a while, at least. Like a month.

A month! Holy cannoli! We’re talking almost February.

He explained that I was getting too fixated on the scale and tape measure. He wanted me to take my mind off the numbers, and put it on the execution of the eating and exercise plan. He said he would continue to weigh and measure me and track the data, but he wouldn’t disclose the numbers … for a while.

He wants me to let go of the whole idea of control – something very near and dear to my heart – and give it to him. He said his job is to take care of me, and to ensure my success. My job is to let go of the numbers and embrace the process.

Foreign concept. Completely.

He was serious. But he wasn’t done.

“I want you to bring me your scale and leave it here.”


Before I left, he weighed me, and held a clipboard over the digital readout so I couldn’t see. I looked at his eyes, searching for a hint. Did I lose? Surely I didn’t gain, or stay the same. Did I?

He’d make a great poker player, because I have no clue how I did. (But I’m guessing hoping I lost.)

Yesterday I brought in my scale, which Matthew confiscated and set in a corner. Bad scale. Stay!

But wait, there was more. About the food. He asked how I was doing. I admitted that dozens of times a day I consult the papers he’d given me, trying to decide which food from which columns I should/could eat.  The lists were looking pretty raggedy. And I was putting things together from some columns that weren’t compatible.align program

He asked about my comfort level for eating pretty much the same menus each day. I said I was OK with that. Actually, I’m a creature of habit, and having the same breakfast, the same lunch and the same dinner and snacks works for me.

Say no more. I now am down to breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, bedtime snack, where the food stays basically the same each day for set menus. For now, it’s a daily combination of cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, green beans, protein (turkey, fish, chicken), apples, avocado, nuts, celery and peanut butter. I can have a protein drink twice a week. I can have my morning coffee.

I like this new food plan. It’s easier for me to not think about all the choices. Grocery shopping is sure easier, and I’m spending less on food. There are now entire sections of the store I no longer visit. Adiós ice cream, cheese, grains, chips, cookies, dairy and bakery aisles.

Matthew correctly pointed out that if I’d started the diet like this – so simple, even seemingly restrictive – I may have thought it too limited, especially following my previous anything-goes eating plan. But after a few weeks with the first diet, I’m ready to move on to this new way of eating, which is basically the same, but more specified, with less selections. And 60 ounces of water each day.

No segue, but have I mentioned that my sugar cravings are nearly gone? Amazing, but true.

What else can I say? I can’t report numbers for a month, because I won’t know until then, and when that time does come, I’ll be as surprised as anyone. But I can tell you that I put on a quilted vest last night and zipped it closed for the first time in a couple of winters.

And I feel great. Except I’m sore in places I didn’t know I had muscles. But that’s a good thing, because I’m getting stronger by the day as dormant muscles come to life.

I’m so excited about 2016. For the first time in my life I’ll have a head start on my New Year’s resolution, one I know I will achieve. To quote a wise friend/life coach with whom I visited during the holidays: It’s now or never.  I believe that with all my heart.

I hope you had a peaceful, happy holiday, and I wish you a healthy, fit, flexible and joyful 2016.

Now, let’s hear your healthy resolutions, and your plans for making them happen. It’s now or never.

Click here to read previous “The Weight is Over” columns.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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