Back to the present - well, last Thursday evening anyway. The weekly Slimming World group meeting and weigh-in.
I wasn't expecting much progress. Maybe a pound lost in the preceding week. But it was in fact two pounds, making eight pounds lost so far - 'so far' being just four weeks. And of course I'd broken through the first Half-Stone weight loss barrier! You get a certificate for that. Liz presented it to me later on that evening, when we were all sat around. Here it is:
Everyone clapped and smiled. There are a lot of good-natured people on that group!
These certificates do mean something. You can't get them without genuine personal effort and restraint. They say: 'I've changed my habits. I'm now eating and drinking wisely, and that half a stone lost is the payback. I already feel different, look different. And each certificate I get is proof of my snowballing achievement.' They may be just bits of paper, but I'm proud of mine, and I'd put them on par with my shorthand speed certificates of the 1980s.
This wasn't the only certificate. Ben, the man who comes with his girlfriend Diana - they are losing weight together - also shed two pounds, and as this was the best group result that week, we both got a Slimmer of the Week certificate! Here's mine:
It's a bit of a lottery whether you ever get one of these. In some weeks people who really go for it might lose as much as three or (more rarely) four pounds, and if they do, they stand a good chance of being Slimmer of the Week. A mere two pounds isn't usually enough. But we were lucky: Christmas was fast approaching, with its unavoidable high-calorie office lunches, and in any event all those sundry pre-Christmas stresses at home and elsewhere that demand some comfort eating to keep in check. Many people had done very well indeed just to stand still, neither gaining nor losing weight. Poor Jo had actually slipped a little. This is why Ben and I could get an easy win.
The Slimmer of the Week award wasn't just a nice paper certificate: you got a goody bag of assorted fruit and vegetables as well. Ben and I split this very amicably.
It's all clever psychology of course. It's thrilling to get clapped and congratulated. And of course it's good to have something like this, something official that you can wave in the face of dismissive, pompous, pooh-poohing people who think you can't stick at anything. It also stimulates and sharpens your game, making you eager to get the next certificate - in my case the one that records a whole stone lost. That's now my current objective. And then the next stage after that.
I should think that people who haven't yet got even one certificate are likely to push themselves to rectify that. But it's not a competition, and modest achievements are just as laudable as greater ones, because it takes serious effort and commitment to get anywhere at all, and all movement in the right direction is commendable.
Of course, I have to keep it up now! But I won't be over-ambitious. 'Are you going for three pounds next week?' Liz asked me. 'No, another two pounds is enough,' I replied. I know how challenging a regular two pounds might be!