I found the plus-side of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s staring me in the face. It’s the glowing number on my digital scale. I wasn’t going to share the number, but I’ve shared everything else in this column over the years, so why the heck not?
I weigh 215 pounds. Not a personal record, but still a far cry from my ideal weight of 178 pounds which I reached during my Weight Watchers heyday. Of course, back then I didn’t have a deadly virus outbreak to contend with. Back then my biggest problem was trying not to munch on Doritos as I prepared my evening meal. My, how times have changed.
It’s not just me. Everyone I talk to says they have gained weight during the seemingly endless months of quarantine we have endured. And judging from what I witness when I see a random neighbor taking out their trash or watering their lawns, gaining weight is every bit as contagious as the coronavirus itself.
Back in March, during the early days of social distancing, eating healthy was the least of our concerns. Comfort food was about the only thing people could still take comfort in. It was late winter, so eating hearty was not unusual. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes were still on the menu. People had other things on their mind, like surviving, instead of worrying about getting their bodies in shape for summer. And when it became clear that there wasn’t going to be a summer anyway, it didn’t matter what we looked like.
With time on my hands and fear of the virus on my mind, cooking became a nice distraction. While social distancing, I perfected my banana-blueberry muffin recipe. My wine sauces went from acceptable to outstanding. Even boxed dessert mixes stepped up. Did you know you can bake a brownie that combines toll house cookie mix to make chocolate-chip cookie topped brownies? Throw on some vanilla ice-cream, hot fudge and Reddi-Wip and you’ve got yourself a party.
Since dining out was not an option during the early lockdown, my grocery budget increased. Top of the line steaks were now staples in my shopping cart. Cuts of meat I would have never purchased mere months ago were being expertly grilled in my backyard. Even though I would never order a lobster roll at a restaurant, I found I could make them at home for half the price. Suddenly I was craving one (or three). My Gorham Avenue House Fried Rice rivals the recipe at Franklin Street’s Fusion Taste (okay, it’s a tie).
Another factor contributing to my weight gain was the closure of my gym. At first I wasn’t that disappointed. I wouldn’t really miss the thrill of trying to find an unused locker. And I’ve been known to leave the gym if there wasn’t an open exercise bike for me to use. I took it as a sign and called it a day. With the gym closed I had the perfect excuse not to work out. Now that it’s re-opening, Covid-19 is the perfect excuse not to go back. Everyday I weigh the decision about which is worse for my health: walking into a sweat-filled gym or eating a bag of potato chips on my couch while watching Million Dollar Listings: Los Angeles. I’ll take my chances with the television. It’s safer and lots more fun.
At the few and far between social gatherings I have recently attended, everyone complains about facing the same struggle with quarantine-induced weight gain. No one feels the need to get in shape to hang around the house. People who abandoned the Keto diet are now munching on Cheetos. Dessert is the new main course. Calories have even crept into my bartending hobby. Together with my drinking parter Teri, we have come up with the perfect recipe for a Root Beer Float Martini, complete with a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream and a brandied cherry on top.
Weight Watchers has officially revoked my lifetime membership. I used to enjoy the weekly workshops. The program helped me to reach my goal weight in a relatively short time. My wife and I would attend meetings together for mutual support. I loved telling the group how I was able to maintain my ideal weight without a struggle. I didn’t know the last thing a large group of overweight middle-aged women wanted to hear was some skinny old guy telling them how easy the program was to follow. But today everything has changed. Including the numbers on my scale.
Aside from the pandemic, I have a million other excuses why it’s not a good time to start a weight loss program. It’s vacation time. The holidays are just around the corner. I can wait until the new year to see if I’m still here. Until then, what’s the point?
My wife walked into the room while I was looking in the mirror, holding in my stomach, remembering when a size extra-large was too big for me.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Does this mask make me look fat?” I answered.
Needless to say, we won’t be attending any Weight Watchers meetings together any time soon.