Devil's Head Diary


Carolyn Wiley

Stop Showering: Lose Weight

I have long suspected that ankles, knees and hips would function better with a lighter load, so it was no surprise when my doctor noted at my annual checkup that I should consider becoming more active and losing some of my carefully-curated poundage. Then there was the problem of progressively diminishing lung capacity. “Use it or lose it,” the doctor said. But if you have already lost some of “it,” can “it” be restored through use?

I’m lazy, but the idea of carting around an oxygen tank for the rest of my life seemed like even more work than actual exercise would be, so I decided to give it a try.

Jogging was promising until a spread-eagle-face-plant sent me off in search of other pursuits. Zoomba was fun until a case of elder-knee benched me. Speed-walking was relaxing but concentration was a problem. All it took was a leaf, a bird or a dew-spangled spider web to turn a speed-walk into a meander.

I was reluctant to put my Rubenesque form on display but I overcame my aversion, put my glasses on the pool’s edge, slipped in for the initial Beluga whale swim and flailed my way through one length of a very short pool. Just getting back to retrieve my glasses required Aquaman-like effort.

The learning curve was steep. When I focused on stroke, I forgot to kick. When I focused on form, I forgot to breathe. But I discovered that I liked the solitude—the time to think, to observe, to analyze, to question.

Like a spear, I slide through the bubbly rush of exhaled breath into the dancing ice-blue shadows cast by the underwater light at the end of the darkened pool and I wonder, “Does the rippling of my aging eel-fin arms make me a more efficient swimmer?”

Gradually, some of “it” has been restored. I have lost 30 pounds since the first of the year. Unfortunately, it was not cumulative weight. It was the same 3 pounds, 10 times over.

Since I was working so hard, feeling healthier and building strength, why wasn’t I losing weight?

Like so many historic breakthroughs, the answer came to me in the shower after a swim. As I stood there in the stall, attempting to drain the local YMCA of all its hot water, I happened to read the label on my shampoo bottle. It was not one of those boxed, fine print warnings, but was emblazoned right across the front of the container, hiding in plain sight.

I have used the product to wash my hair for decades and let it run down my body with each long, daily shower, never suspecting that my relationship with those luxuriant suds posed such a dire health threat.

Do you know what the label said? “Use daily for extra body and volume.”

No wonder I have been gaining weight after these many years of product loyalty. It wasn’t what I was eating. It wasn’t my sedentary lifestyle. It was the curse of that very effective product.

I got rid of that shampoo. From now on I am showering with dishwashing soap instead. That label reads, “Dissolves fat that is otherwise difficult to remove.”

You’re welcome.

Carolyn Wiley lives in Longbranch.