There reaches a time in everyone’s life when they notice that their waist is getting bigger. It usually happens because our clothes start becoming tight and begin revealing features that are not desirable to feature. Often it happens during middle age when your middle starts reminding you about it. My middle's weight was nice enough to wait before weighing more, but now that it threatens me with buying larger pants, I'm not taking the warning lightly.

In an effort to stop this spreading malady, I started eating less. Over the past year I’ve cut the quantity that I eat by about 66%. I now eat only one meal a day and that is usually a small one. I drink orange juice for breakfast and, on rare occasions, have a banana or a bowl of grain cereal. (If there are non-grain cereals, I’d rather not know about them.) I’ve cut out most of my soda habit and switched to V8 juice and Perrier. As I write this I’m drinking Perrier and snacking on low-fat crackers. It’s 3 PM and I’ve not eaten yet today except for a banana for breakfast.

The only benefit from all my cutbacks in food intake has been a reduced food budget. My waistline isn’t reducing. I seem to have stopped the spread but I have not reversed it, so the dreaded alternative must be considered -- “exercise.”

To me, getting plenty of exercise means keeping active. I have always considered myself fairly active, but in reviewing my activities, I have concluded that being active and getting exercise are not the same thing. My body is always going places, but it does very little to get there. I’m either out riding in my truck, riding on my motorcycle, or riding with someone else.

In talking about this matter with a colleague, it was suggested that I join a health club. “Hmmm…” I replied. I’ve been in a few health clubs, but I can count the number of times on one hand. I recall seeing lots of sweaty bodies -- and most of them nice looking. My impression of health clubs has always been that people who look fit go there to keep looking good, and people who don’t look good (not fit) go to Wal*Mart. If the people who aren't fit really cared about it, they would have done something about it.

I have a number of friends with exercise equipment in their homes. None of them are currently using this equipment. Evidently purchasing your own exercise equipment is a short-lived project. Come to think of it, I have a rowing machine in my basement that I purchased 15 years ago. I liked the idea of excercising while sitting down. I used it once. I rowed too enthusiastically that first time and rubbed the skin off my tailbone. Having a bloody butt was not a good first impression.

Down the street from where I live there is an LA Fitness center. The parking lot is always full. I decided to give it a closer inspection without going inside. Large glass windows revealed a huge room filled with all types of equipment and lots of people in Spandex with bodies that would intimidate me if I ventured inside. I debated about it. As I sat there in my truck I made an interesting observation. People were arriving in their cars and driving around the crowed parking lot looking for a spot close to the door. There were lots of empty parking spots further out, but these exercise buffs didn’t want to have to walk too far. Parking far away and walking is not a popular thing to do and never has been. Evidently this is no less true for health club members.

This validated another belief that I’ve had about people who belong to fitness centers. They belong because it is popular and makes them feel good about themselves. It’s the in-thing to do. Currently there are five of them within 15 minutes of my house. If it was just the healthy thing to do but wasn’t “popular," there would be a lot fewer health clubs and more Wal*Marts.

My conclusion from all this is that I’m going to put away my crackers and go ride my horse. He really needs the exercise.

• • •

Post Sript: After writing this I took my rowing machine to a yard sale and no one wanted it, not even for a dollar, so I gave it to charity.