It is nine o’clock on Saturday morning, sixteen weeks and six days since lockdown began, when I finally stop procrastinating and step onto the scales.
I stand as tall as I can, willing myself thinner. It takes a few seconds for the scales to give their verdict. In those few seconds, I hold my breath and close my eyes, and all the cakes and chocolate and biscuits that I’ve devoured in lockdown flash through my mind.
It is an obscene amount of food. I have no choice but to face up to the grim reality. I look down and there it is — the number I’ve been dreading. And just to make sure I don’t miss it, it flashes.
I step off the scales, reposition them on a different tile, and step back on. I’m a quarter of a pound heavier, so I try again. A pound heavier, gaining weight at rapid speed. On the fourth attempt, I’m the same weight as the first reading. It will have to do.
‘Is it bad?’ Chris asks, coming up behind me.
The number is still flashing. I wish it would stop. Chris sees it and grimaces.
‘Ouch,’ he says.
‘Maybe it’s the floor,’ I say. ‘It’s different from the one at the old house. It could cause the scales to read heavier.’
He shakes his head. ‘The scales don’t lie.’
‘You’re not fat.’
‘I am. People keep telling me how well I look. They only ever do that when I’ve gained weight.’
‘You can lose it.’ Chris has developed an annoyingly positive voice. ‘You’ve done it before.’
I sigh. I have and I know exactly how much energy, effort and willpower it takes. And, in recent weeks, my reserves of energy, effort and willpower have been exhausted.
‘I don’t have the energy or willpower,’ I say.
‘That’s the spirit.’
‘It’s all right for you, you’re not fat. Why aren’t you fat? You’ve been stuffing your face, too.’
‘I’ve been going on the bike.’
‘So have I.’
‘Once,’ he says.
I put the scales in the cupboard and go downstairs, ashamed that I’ve done this to myself. My exercise sessions have been sporadic. My eating of cake has been consistent. For the foreseeable future, my life will involve less of one and more of the other.
‘Exactly how big are you?’ Mum asks later that day when we’re sitting at her kitchen table with a brew but without biscuits or cake.
‘Ten stone, two and a half.’
She gasps. ‘That’s a lot for you.’
‘What were you on your wedding day?’
‘Eight stone, thirteen and a half.’
‘Blimey, you’ve really piled it on.’
I take a drink of my tea and say nothing.
‘Ten stone.’ Mum shakes her head, as though she still can’t believe it. She turns to Chris. ‘You haven’t put any on, have you?’
‘Can we change the subject?’ I say.
‘Biscuit anyone?’ Dad says, breezing into the kitchen and taking a digestive from the cupboard.
‘No!’ Mum and I shout.
She turns to me. ‘Could you try to lose a few pounds for your birthday?’
‘Not enough time.’
I take another sip of tea, and watch Dad eat his biscuit, then go back for another.
‘This time last year, I was young and thin and in Crete,’ I tell them. ‘Now I’m old and fat and here. I wish I’d done a Shirley Valentine with that lovely Greek waiter.’
‘That would have been good for Chris,’ Dad says.
‘Good for everyone,’ Chris says.
Mum nods. ‘Greece hasn’t had many cases of coronavirus.’
‘Win-win,’ I say.
‘We’re worried about you.’ Mum looks serious. ‘You’ve been doing too much. You need to relax and put yourself back together. Get the old you back.’
‘I’m frazzled,’ I say. Over the past few months — a house move, a day job, home-working with the husband, looking after horses and dogs and rabbit, trying to achieve my dream of becoming a best-selling author, or even just an author, and coping with the world in its current state — have all sent my stress levels soaring.
‘We’d noticed. But you’re already looking better. A few pounds off and you’ll be back to normal.’
That night, I think about what I need to do to lose the extra few pounds. I remember all the things I used to do before lockdown like running and spinning and strength classes. And how they balanced out the chocolate and cake.
For the rest of the weekend, I continue eating at the lockdown levels my body has become accustomed to. I devour one last slice of cake and then follow it with another because it’s delicious.
The diet begins on Monday, fails Tuesday and restarts on Wednesday. Thursday is a success, followed by another good day on Friday. By the weekend, I have some momentum.
I feel strong and positive that I can scrape some effort and willpower from somewhere. I can be fit and healthy again. I will be fit and healthy again.
‘The recovery begins,’ Mum says. ‘You can do it.’
‘I’m on it. And when I’m back to normal, we’ll go for afternoon tea to celebrate.’
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