This morning when I stepped on the scale outside my bathroom, it told me that I weighed less than 200 pounds for the 300th day in a row. That is not something I could have ever imagined happening.

Losing weight has never been a problem for me. Finding it again has been the bane of my existence for the past 40-plus years.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve lost at least 75 pounds in my life. That’s not a good thing, either — the fact that I’ve done it so many times — or the fact that I can’t remember.

My whole adult life I’ve been the poster boy for yo-yo dieting. This time is different. This time it’s just yo, no putting it back on this time. I’m too old, and hopefully smart, for that.

A friend, Bobby Walker, to be specific, thought that if I wrote a column it might help someone else who has gone through similar travails with the scales.

If this were a book, I’d call it The Three E’s of Weight Management. (I don’t like the word diet. You can’t spell diet without die.)

The E’s are Emotion, Energy and Exercise.

I have always been an emotional eater. If I’m bored, it’s something to do. If I’m not happy, it makes me happy. Never once, never, has a $1.98 bag of cheese popcorn shouted Stop! at me. Never have a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza with extra cheese let me down. Finally, if I’m in a good mood, a milkshake is a great way to celebrate.

Energy is the way I’ve learned to think about the real function of food. Note: No one has ever confused me for a nutritionist and I’m not about to try to tell you that I’m eating right. I’m absolutely not. But what I am doing is eating to provide the energy for the next round of exercise.

To digress just a bit here. I am eating better. Thanks to a fellow I go to church with, Norman Parker, most of the red meat I’ve eaten for the past two years has been deer, elk or moose. Can you say lean? Like really lean. I’ll bet I haven’t eaten five cartons of French fries, NONE of them super-sized, in the past two years.

Wish I could say the same for pizza and popcorn.

I’m also drinking fewer soft drinks and a lot more water. Problems with kidney stones several years ago convinced me to drink more actual water, but I’ll confess that I still swallow my share of diet soft drinks.

Now, the real key. Exercise. Just as I am not a nutritionist, I do not have a medical license on the wall at home or in my office. I don’t know a whole lot about metabolism, other than to say mine doesn’t work on its own.

Sometime a couple of years ago a friend told me to think about my body as a river and my blood as the water. If you don’t move, the water becomes stagnant, and we’ve all seen stagnant water. Yuck! Double yuck!

When I was at my heaviest, approximately 370 pounds (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that, but that was on a scale in a tobacco barn so hey, who knows how accurate it was?) and wore a size 56 pair of pants and 19 shirts in the ’70s, I started jogging. That worked pretty well and by the early ’80s I was jogging half-marathons and 25K road races. During the 25K Waycross Okefenokee Swamp Run I was with three other guys and we decided at 10 miles to take turns being a rabbit to pick up the pace for everyone to the finish line. I took the 11th mile and promptly stopped at the end of the mile. My legs hurt so bad I thought I’d die. I could barely walk to the finish, but I had to. Stopped running and it didn’t take long for the weight to come back.

I put it like this. Without exercise, my cow not only leaves the barn, it leaves the state.

I’ve done all the diets: Weight Watchers (required by my Aunt Wanda to live with her and Uncle Bob during the summers while I was home from college to be able to work for my favorite summer baseball league), the Keto diet, Nutri-System, even a liquid protein diet. I don’t know you well enough to explain how badly that last one ended.

The key, for me anyway, is the exercise and that’s where walking comes in. Since 2010 I’ve walked about 5,600 miles, equal to the distance from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, if you were to map it.

I’ve kept track of everything (well, maybe not EVERYthing) I ate and every mile I’ve walked in an Excel spreadsheet since April of 2010.

Just walk! About 18 minutes to the mile. I try to do it two and sometimes three times a day. Generally 30-45 minutes each time. I can’t wait til cooler weather when I will try to pick up the pace some. Walking gets that river of blood inside of me flowing and kicks little things called endorphins into gear. They make me happy without the need for pizza or popcorn.

Bobby Walker and Billy Thornton would disown me if I forgot to mention tennis. Billy encouraged me to give it a try about a year ago, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I try to play at least once a week with the Grumpy Old Men at Etowah Park.

Billy started out as my coach, but handed me off to Bobby after two ladies beat us in doubles on the clay courts at Coosa Country Club.

I’ll never be mistaken for Roger Federer, my mother’s favorite player (by the way, she was the real athlete in the family). Nevertheless, I’m getting better with Bobby’s persistence and my eagerness to become a champion super senior.

I think I’ll call Billy this weekend to see if he knows two ladies he thinks we can beat.

At any rate, I can assure you I’m a lot happier at 193 than I was at 284 on Jan. 1, 2018.

By the way, I’d love to have your company on the trails, or the tennis courts around Rome sometime. I still need regular doubles and mixed doubles partners.

Doug Walker is the associate editor for the Rome News-Tribune with a focus on community development.

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