For the first few decades of my life, I always knew what my New Year's resolution would be: Lose weight. Get to the number on my license.
After my son was born and I was really fat for the first time (which came as a shock when I finally figured it out, since I'd been convinced that I'd been fat all my life), I finally figured out that if I treated losing weight like I did everything else in my life -- with concentration, determination and a real plan -- I could actually succeed. I even wrote a book about it: "Making the Case for Yourself," which came out within days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
For weeks, I crisscrossed the country on a book tour that had me invited on every show everywhere I went -- to talk about Monica Lewinsky. I managed to sell books nonetheless, with lines such as "If Monica Lewinsky had been on my diet, she wouldn't have felt like she belonged under the desk."
Which actually has some truth to it. Feeling awful about yourself -- waking up every morning and castigating yourself as you stand on the scale --- doesn't do wonders for your self-esteem. When the reporters would ask me how a feminist could write a diet book, I'd always tell them that feeling good enough about yourself to be comfortable in your own skin was as important as one of those "dress for success" suits. And it is.
But it's not the be-all and the end-all. That took me almost as long to learn.
One good thing about writing a diet book is that unless you're a mega-celebrity like Oprah, you feel pretty stupid about gaining all the weight back. So for the next decade or so, I struggled to keep it off, or at least down. Creep up five, go down three; creep up five more, make the cabbage soup; creep up again, go back to steamed vegetables. I went from a size 6 to an 8 -- packed up the tight jeans and told myself that an 8 wasn't so bad for a 50-something-year-old, which it definitely isn't.
And then my youngest went to college, and I felt like I'd gotten hit by a truck; I took on another job to pay the tuition, and the stomachaches that have accompanied me through life came back. There was no one to make dinner for or eat dinner with, and for the first time in my life, I lost weight without even trying. Or noticing, in particular.
I would go to try on a pair of pants and take in the 8 by habit. Then the salesperson would bring me the 6, and then the 4. Size 4? I weigh what I wished for in high school.
And no, I'm not writing this to make you jealous. Just the opposite. Here's the truth: It didn't matter. Not at all. Imagine that. My life is no different when I see the magical number on the scale. It's not a recipe for happiness and satisfaction. It really isn't a measure of anything.
So when you're making your New Year's resolutions, remember this. Be healthy. Listen to your doctor. Do what you need to do. But don't make the mistake I did. A number on the scale is not the road to happiness. It's just a number. Like 2012.
Happy New Year.