Weighing options of how to embrace weight loss challenges

It’s a question only a wrestler could answer.

“How much more do you think wet hair weighs?” I asked my son.

He glanced up from his breakfast burrito, sized up my dripping locks, and quipped, “Three ounces,” then took another bite.

“Really?” I muttered as I pushed my wheelchair away from the table, deciding to scoot back to the bathroom to finish what I had started.

I knew he would know. In a sport where weigh-ins to the ounce determine competition eligibility and athletes are often defined to by their weight-class instead of their names, my own 152-pounder has forgotten more weight management techniques in his 12-year career than I will ever learn.

I lost my size 6 figure when I lost my legs to paralysis 14 years ago. I’ve tried various diets — counted calories, carbs, and sugar; increased fiber and reduced fat — but could not sustain them.

Losing weight is hard, especially with no easy way to weigh-in — stepping on a scale isn’t possible when you can’t step or stand.

I had wondered, though, did it matter? I wanted to look and feel better, I rationalized three diets ago. Did I need a scale? Wouldn’t a measuring tape do?

Not really, I learned.

In the world of paralysis, muscle tone often fluctuates as a result of pain, illness, injury or plain old misfiring neurons or spasms. Measurements can vary by inches — not the best tool for the war on weight.

Finally, I found a place that would weigh me seated in my wheelchair. A ramped floor scale weighed us both, printing a receipt.

The black and white of those numbers was oddly comforting — a digital stake in the ground that defined a beginning.

Slowly the numbers got lower.

After one weigh-in, a fellow attendee held the elevator as I whipped my wheelchair in and spun around.

“You can turn that thing on a dime,” she remarked.

“Yes, it’s mid-wheel drive,” I said, pointing to my power wheelchair’s tire location.

“It’s great for tight spaces.”

I settled into the elevator and then asked, “Have you been coming here long?”

“Oh, only since my son was in high school — and he’s now 30!” she laughed.

“This time I didn’t tell my husband,” she confided. “I’ve lost 30 pounds, but he didn’t notice until I’d lost 20.”

“Wow, 30 pounds!” I repeated.

I paused and decided it was OK to share my apparent secret. “I’ve lost 30 pounds, too.”

“That’s wonderful,” she replied, giving me that knowing look.

“Thanks. No one notices for me, either. Maybe my black clothing blends into my wheelchair’s black seat…” I rattled on, and then stopped, realizing her husband had no such excuse.

“But I know,” I stated, returning us to common ground.

“And that’s what matters,” my comrade concluded.

As we parted ways, I thought about unnoticed accomplishments. We may be kinder, gentler or more tolerant — or have put in an extraordinary effort that yielded little visible results.

But, invisible achievements are still achievements, I reminded myself.

Then 34.7 pounds into the program the unthinkable happened — they moved the scales. From one facility to another, and then two more times in that location.

Each time, my weight shot up, as did my anger. My invisible achievement just lost its anchor. And I lost my patience.

But there was no way back, so I had to recalibrate and accept the new situation. After all, scales and measurements can fail — they are only a public indicator of a private journey.

Numbers (and scores) rarely reflect the full story.

Competitive athletes know this — as do disappointed post-season football fans.

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.


  1. We all share the same battle in the ups and downs of weight loss and gain. I also feel the anger that I gained weight AGAIN. Once again I am on the weight loss journey. I am so sick of this. You look awesome always. I have decided it is the conditioner we use that causes a lot of our weight gain. Read the label. It states it builds body. No thanks to that. I don’t need any more body. Less would be great. I will make sure my hair is dry so I lose 3 ounces every day. I am sure if I go outside in the cold, I will instantly lose weight. Doesn’t cold make things shrink???? Just remember you are beautiful in all of our eyes. Weight does not make us, we need to remember God loves us if we are 100 pounds or 800 pounds.