This morning at the gym as I sweated my way from the machine where you push away from your chest to the apparatus where you put all your weight on your forearms and lift both your legs off the ground, a woman approached me with a smile. I recognized her as a regular gym-goer but had never spoken to her.
“You look great!” she said, She continued to explain how she’d been noticing my progress over the last several months and hadn’t I lost weight?
“35 pounds,” I proudly replied. I resisted the longer version of how I actually lost 36 pounds but then gained 4 pounds over the holidays and then lost 3 of the 4 I’d gained. No need to go into details when someone is giving me a compliment, right?
But it made me think about my paper clip chain.
I realize that to people who don’t attend my Weight Watcher meeting would think that statement was a true non sequitur. See, my WW leader, Martha, hands out a paper clip for each pound lost in the past week, so that you have a tangible and colorful record of your weight loss. I lost 3 pounds since last Saturday, so I took 3 paper clips. But it’s not like I returned 4 paper clips when I gained them back; so in essence, I’m taking more paper clips than I actually earned.
If you consider that my weight loss path might be somewhat crooked, I shall continue to regain a few of those pounds I shed before losing them again. Follow this out to its natural conclusion. Let’s say that for every 10 pounds I lose, I gain 2 before losing it again. That would mean that for every 10 pounds lost, I would end up with 12 paperclips. When I lose the whole 67 pounds, which is the plan, I will have in my possession the 67 paper clips I earned, plus 13 paper clips which I’ve gotten through the ups and downs.
Do I say then that I’ve lost 80 pounds and wear my necklace of 80 paper clips for the world to see? Or do I give back the extra paper clips and wear 67? Or do I not wear them at all because middle-aged women shouldn’t wear paper clips around their necks unless they are elementary school teachers or office supplies reps?