Okay, so I’m trying to lose some weight. It’s just a few pounds, but even though I have been exercising regularly for years, for sinister and mysterious reasons those extra pounds have not come off.

It’s my dang tummy. I’m the Pop’n’Fresh Dough Girl. My youngest kid, Josh, says it’s “extra muscle,” and I always blame it on having borne three children –at least, I tell my kids it’s their fault – but Josh is 14, so I’m pretty sure the old statute of limitations clock is counting down on that excuse. Deep down I know, as Jimmy Buffet says, it’s my own damn fault.

Having said that, I hasten to add that belly fat is notoriously evil. It’s the “heart attack” fat, and it does not give up its hold without a fight. Because it’s winter, and this is when the kids and I always rewatch the entire “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy, I am also thinking, “Friendship with Saruman is not lightly turned aside.”

Like Tolkein’s nasty wizard, Saruman, belly fat is creepy. And, like a barnacle on a whale – oh no, I guess that makes me the whale – it’s tenacious.

News flash: I finally know why. It’s CALORIES!

Now, you may be thinking, “Duh, Sherlock,” and you’re absolutely right. Of course it’s calories. But in my defense, I really thought I was eating a pretty healthy diet. I don’t drink soda, I don’t eat a lot of fried foods, I eat lots of veggies and lean meats. I exercise.

IT DOESN’T MATTER. I now understand this with bleak certainty.

I can’t eat the way my kids eat. I can’t eat the way I used to eat, and exercise alone is not going to do it.

If you were around in the ‘80s, maybe you remember a Joe Jackson song with these lyrics: “Everything gives you cancer, there’s no cure, there’s no answer.” Well, as I finally understand that, at least in our society, everything has more calories than you think.

What caused this blinding flash of insight?

I got an app.

It’s called Lose It. The app makes it very easy to log in every single thing you eat or drink. I have mixed feelings about it.

Just as Gollum loves and hates the One Ring to Rule Them All, as he loves and hates himself, I love and hate this app.

Well, mostly I hate it, but I’m going to keep using it, because it’s working.

No sugar-coating this, although I would love to have anything sugar-coated at this point in the diet: The app is a giant fun-sucker. I now have to think about every single thing I put in my body. I thought I was doing that before, by making healthy food choices, but that’s not enough.

Because I am a fairly small in stature person, and because I’m of a certain age, my daily caloric intake is … not a lot. It was 1,333 calories. Then I lost a couple pounds and as a reward – that bastard app lowered my daily caloric intake! Now I am allowed a miserable aliquot of 1,313 calories. It’s not losing the 20 calories that bugs me so much; it’s the principle of the thing. Here I am, painstakingly recording every single mouthful of food and sip of beverage, and I get punished for success.

I have lost three and a half pounds. If you were to check the app, you would only see that I have lost two and a half pounds, because I lied about my starting weight. I didn’t want anyone to know. I lied about my weight on my driver’s license, too. I regret nothing.

So, breakfast. A two-pack of Nature Valley Granola Bars, peanut butter flavor, is 190 calories. I don’t drink coffee, but I drink a lot of unsweet tea, which is good – no calories there. But I really need my daily one or two Starbucks Very Berry Hibiscus packs, which I buy in bulk on Amazon and mix into cold water. They have caffeine. They also have 70 calories each. How about a yogurt? Well, the ones I like range from 140 to 170 calories.  I can have either the granola bars or a yogurt, then have the other as a snack later in the day.

Lunch: Stripping my life down to basics, a lone can of Starkist Solid Light Yellowfin Tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil is 230 calories. It’s less if you get it packed in water, but geez, I need the oil. It tastes better.  I add lemon juice, just a squirt – I don’t count it, sue me – and some spices, and it’s pretty good.

Dinner is tough. A relaxing glass of wine is 125 calories for 5 ounces. An even more relaxing 8-ounce glass of wine is 200 calories. God help you if you want cheese, which I love. Or a carb. I love carbs.

Last night, we got takeout from Chipotle. I had 650 calories left from my calorie-pinching breakfast and lunch, but it was still tough not to go over that limit. Fortunately Chipotle puts calorie counts on the interwebs, so I was able to figure out what I was allowed to eat by this app that I hate and to which I have voluntarily ceded control of my life.

I got a bowl – just having a burrito adds 300 calories, right off the bat. White rice or brown rice? I always get brown rice. Besides being able to virtue-signal about having brown rice, it’s supposed to be healthier – or so I’ve always read. But brown rice has 200 calories, and white rice has 185 calories. In the end, it didn’t even matter. I got NO RICE, because I wanted guacamole, and that was 200 calories. I got NO CHEESE, because that would have been an extra 100 calories, and I wanted to have my 5-ounce glass of wine. It goes without saying that I got NO SOUR CREAM. I did get the fajita vegetables – just 20 calories – and lettuce – a whopping 5 calories. I got tomato salsa, just 20 calories. I got NO CHIPS, which I really wanted. You know why? Because they are a stinking 570 calories. Well, that explains a lot!  Nor did I get the queso dip. I don’t even know how many calories there are in that, because I couldn’t get the chips, so at this point I was losing my will to go on.

Tonight, I made turkey chili, 230 calories for a cup. I added black olives, 5 calories a pop, and one ounce of grated cheese, 100 calories. I had an Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider, 190 calories. I spiced up the chili, with Josh’s help.

Josh is reading George Orwell’s 1984 now, and just as Winston said, “If there is hope, it lies in the proles,” I was thinking, “If there’s hope, it lies in the spices.” Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman will always have Paris, and by golly, I will always have my spices.

Because I was hungry and no longer thinking clearly, my brain just kind of took it from there.

“Well, Lose It app, you’ll never get my spices! Because I’ll never report or count them! Ha!” And believe me, that “Ha!” was every bit as dashing and bold as anything Errol Flynn ever uttered as Robin Hood in the best movie version of that story.

Then I flashed to Jimmy Cagney as the “come get me, copper – you’ll never take me alive” wacko gangster Cody Jarrett in “White Heat,” as he goes out in a literal blaze of glory: “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”

Then, I don’t know what happened, but I went leprechaun. “They can take my carbs, but they’ll never get me spices! They’re after me Lucky Charms! They’re magically delicious!”

What I wouldn’t give for those marshmallow hearts, moons, stars, and clovers – that frosted oat cereal with the sweet surprises.   I normally don’t even like that cereal, but now I want it.  I want it bad.  Just add it to the list of things I won’t be having until I reach my weight loss goal – and even then, I’ll just have a very small portion.

Now I understand how this app got its name. Because I’m losing it. I’m really losing it.

© Janet Farrar Worthington

It’s the start of the New Year, and I’m already stressed out – mainly due to constant harassment from technology. “Oh, really?” you may sneer. “Well, why not just turn it off?” It’s not that easy, buddy. Trust me. Here are just a few examples:

My phone: I’m tired of Apple constantly saying that my recently updated phone is not finished being set up because I haven’t done Apple Pay. I don’t want Apple Pay. If I wanted Apple Pay, I would have set it up. But it keeps asking. Stop bugging me!

My dishwasher: I don’t know why; I can’t explain it, but I feel just feel pure outrage and violation when the light comes on my dishwasher saying I need more rinse agent. I just filled it up! I bought a huge bottle of Jet Dry at WalMart. But why do they even sell a huge bottle of it? It should come in a little ampule and an eyedropper, because that’s all the dishwasher holds! But wait – there’s more! It takes a nasty turn. My “smart” dishwasher punishes me if I run out of Jet Dry by making the cycle 15 minutes longer. How dare this machine do this to me? Who’s in charge here? So I put in another micro-alloquot of rinse agent, all this expensive “smart” machine will hold. The dishwasher is pleased with the sacrifice. The digital readout that tells me how long it will theoretically take to wash my dishes – it actually never takes as long as it says – goes back to 2:15 instead of 2:30.

I don’t want my dishwasher to be smart. I want my dishwasher to be a dumbass.

My car: I get crap from my car, too. God forbid if I have to haul something like – oh, I don’t know, just say for a random example, eight feet of floorboard molding from Home Depot. It won’t quite fit. My car, Magnus – it’s a Highlander, so we gave him a name that would be appropriate for kilt wear – starts beeping. He starts out by just being pushy. Then he gets annoying. Then he gets the Red Mist – he quickly moves into rage at being ignored – and the beeping becomes increasingly louder and, frankly, unbearable.

I’m just trying to get home. I have the back door tied down. That’s not good enough.

I looked online, and there is no way to make it stop making this noise. Because it thinks it knows best. (I could stick some cardboard in the door latch, but that might mess it up, and besides, who carries around cardboard?)

The reason for this is that the arrogant designers – the same pompous, smug presumption we see all the time from Apple, which harasses you to update your phone, and then won’t let you actually update it (which I do, just to make it shut up) until you hit the “agree” button, agreeing to God knows what – don’t think I’m an adult who can actually make quite rational decisions, and that I shouldn’t be allowed to drive if the back door is not shut.

There’s a lot of that.

Guess why I don’t have a smart watch? I don’t want some machine telling me I haven’t exercised enough, or slept well. Duh! No poop, Sherlock! I know I haven’t slept well! I was there!   I know I haven’t exercised enough! Happy now? Now? I already have the health app on my Apple phone. I can’t make it go away. It won’t be deleted. If I could put my phone on the washing machine and have it think I was exercising more, I would. Just to make it shut up. I do what I can. Isn’t that enough for you, Apple?

Landline phone calls: I’m tired of robo calls with fake people. I got two this morning, both from spoofed local numbers, so it looked like someone from my town was calling me.

Some innocent-sounding, high-pitched female voice says, “Hello, can you hear me?”   I know what you want, you evil spammer robot hag. You want me to say “Yes,” so you can use that as taped permission to open some account in my name. I always just hang up.

“Hi, this is Angela from credit card services.” Hi, Angela. You’re a robot. Take a long walk off a short pier. Click.

Email: I’m tired of websites saying “We’ve missed you!” when I JUST MADE A PURCHASE. Literally, yesterday, I just bought something, with the 20 percent off and free shipping that you offered. What do you want from me, Williams Sonoma? Pottery Barn, cut me some freaking slack! Dillards, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works – you’re downright needy. Amazon, I don’t even like myself for buying stuff from you, because I feel like I’m hurting actual retailers – except they don’t sell all the stuff that I can buy from you. Stop bugging me! I’ll come crawling back, the next time I’m looking for something I can’t get here in town.

It’s gotten to where, if I had any sense of humor left, I would laugh when I saw an email from a store with the words, “Last chance!” No, it’s not. Something else will go on sale tomorrow.

And frankly, I don’t need anything.

I Do Not Need Anything.  It’s important to realize this.

TV:  HGTV sells dissatisfaction, disguised as serenity and happiness and shiplap. I love HGTV, don’t get me wrong. But you know why all those made-over homes and rooms look so beautiful? First of all, it’s because they decluttered!  They’re crap-free!  More than anything, that’s what makes your home look good. That, and a coat of paint.

Get rid of all the clutter, and any place is going to look more Zen. Add a houseplant, paint the walls a lovely shade of white, and boom, it’s already more serene. But who can live like that? If I really followed HGTV’s advice, I wouldn’t have books double-stacked on my shelves. I would have just a handful, hard cover, matched by color, and maybe a nice Mason jar tealight candle. Actually, in Country Living magazine, I saw books placed on shelves BACKWARDS, so you couldn’t read the spine! It looked more restful that way. WHAT THE HELL! Hey, I want to read a book: I like this one. It has a nice width! Said no one ever.

Charities: I’m tired of pushy charities. If I make a donation out of a burst of goodwill to an organization, I wish I had as much money as I really don’t want to get envelopes in the mail with the words, “Your Account,” or “Membership Statement Enclosed.” I’m not a member! I just made a freaking donation! We don’t have a relationship! I’m sorry I ever gave you money in the first place!

One organization, which shall remain nameless but is located in upper New York State, has a bird app that is really cool. My son, Josh, loves it. I downloaded the app and from the get-go started getting online appeals to Save the Birds. I made a donation and thought, “Good, I’ve done my part.” Wrong! The emails doubled down! “Triple Match Alert! Give now and a donor will not just double, but triple your gift!” Emails several times a week, sometimes daily.

No! I’m not the dang bank machine.

Bah, humbug! And it’s not even Christmas!

© Janet Farrar Worthington