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Saturday, July 12, 2014

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The perfect number

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Over the past 25 years, I’ve been no stranger to Weight Watchers. When my 10 extra pounds have felt like an insurmountable burden, I’d present my credit card, walk away with another little booklet and show up for weekly weigh-ins at various church halls. It would alleviate my conscience, somewhat, and make me feel that, if nothing else, at least I was on the road to a thinner me.

Each time, as I’d join the long line of women awaiting caloric judgment after a week’s worth of battling food cravings, the scene would be the same. Those around me would range from reed-thin to normal-weighted women, with occasionally a few obese or visibly overweight ladies among them.

A gasp of distress would come from the digital scale and all eyes would be riveted on the woman poised on top of it. She’d be shaking her head, clearly distressed at this week’s number.

“Yes dearie,” the Weight Watchers employee behind the counter would say as she recorded the evidence.

“You gained two pounds. Sorry,” she’d add, sounding anything but sorry.

This is the world of Weight Watchers, where food is measured in points and distinguished by numeric values rather than by flavour, texture or taste. This is the home of the woman laden with weight complexes, the person beaten by the social yardstick of sexual appeal into believing that she’s fat.

Deep down, she suspects everyone, from her friends to her lovers, will like her more if she robs her body of its excess baggage, replacing fatty rolls with bone-baring skin. It’s what keeps Weight Watchers in business, really – women on their never-ending quest for the perfect number on the scale, the number that will say, unequivocally, “You’re thin, and you’re gorgeous!”

Recently, I reached the perfect number, the one I’d been striving toward for years. It was no thanks to Weight Watchers, with whom I parted amicable company several years back. Dr. Pierre Dukan, the famous, in-vogue French Jewish doctor, helped me get there this time, encouraging me with examples from his book, The Dukan Diet.

I’d been certain that when I reached my perfect number, my body issues would be gone and that I’d look in the mirror with pride rather than disdain and criticism. Yet the moment of victory was anti-climactic to say the least. The scale clearly stated that I’d reached my goal, but the bathroom mirror said otherwise.

“Look at those bulges,” it leered, deprecatingly. “Maybe it’s time for a new perfect number, 10 pounds lower.”

The notion of a perfect number is so tempting. When you’re far from it, it gives you a goal that can make it worth foregoing dessert or doing that extra set of jumping jacks. Maybe the fun is in the journey toward the goal, and not the arrival, after all.

But a little voice in my head argues that there’s no such thing as a perfect number. “It’s about accepting you as you,” it declares. “Surely you knew that all along?”

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