Tim Dowling: I know what I weigh. Our new scales are wildly out | Life and style

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On my third pass through the kitchen in the morning, I see a recently delivered box sitting on the floor. I consider the possibility that it might be for me. The package is addressed to my wife, but there’s still a slim chance I am the final intended recipient. I lift the box: it’s heavy. For the moment, I can take the investigation no further – my wife is not at home.

At some point in the afternoon, I look out the window of my office shed towards the house and see my wife standing in the kitchen. I cross the garden. My wife does not look up when I enter – she is staring intently at her feet. The box is on the table between us, empty.

“What was in that package?” I say, opening the fridge and removing half a supermarket cheesecake.

“Bathroom scales,” my wife says, looking down. “I ordered them last week.”

“How many?” I say.

“One,” she says.

“One bathroom scale,” I say, taking a plate from the cupboard and a knife from the drawer.

“No,” she says. “Some bathroom scales.”

“Is it, like, two big trays hanging from a seesaw, and you sit on one while someone piles rocks on the other?”

“No,” she says. “It’s black and it connects to my Fitbit.”

“Then it’s a scale,” I say, slicing the half cheesecake into two uneven portions, and putting the larger one on the plate.

“Scales,” she says, stepping off her scale. “Do you want to have a go?”

“I don’t weigh myself,” I say. “I know what I weigh.”

“Fine,” she says. But as soon as she turns her back, I stand on the black box. I watch as the digital display settles on a final number. Then I put the plate I am holding on the table, and look at the number again.

“What?” I say. “This is ridiculous.”

“I know,” my wife says. “That’s just lockdown.”

“No, I mean this is wildly inaccurate,” I say. “It’s out by more than a stone.” I hear how this sounds, even as it comes out of my mouth.

“I’m afraid it isn’t,” she says.

“Have you calibrated it?” I say.

“You don’t have to calibrate it,” she says. “Them.”

“Well, something’s wrong,” I say. “You should send it back.” I leave the room, in search of a quiet place to think about things.

Sitting on the edge of my bed in the gathering darkness, I realise that the last time my fixed notion of what I weighed was affirmed by actual measurement was at a doctor’s appointment five years ago. An extra stone in that time frame was not just plausible, but likely. More likely still, I think, is that the extra stone is the product of just one year: this past year, the year of lying down and eating. Then I think: I completely forgot about that cheesecake.

Later on, I experiment with the scales in private, discovering many ways to turn the disparity between my true weight and my actual recorded weight into a more manageable number.

“The pounds are flying off,” I say to my wife as I emerge from the bathroom in a towel two days later.

“How?” she says, lying in bed and not looking up from her phone. “I haven’t noticed any changes to your lifestyle.”

“First, I removed my wallet and my keys, which made a considerable difference,” I say.

“I see,” she says.

“I also prefer mornings,” I say. “I find I’m lighter in the morning than at any other time.”

“What do you mean?” she says. “How often do you weigh yourself?”

“At least a dozen times a day,” I say. “Because it fluctuates.”

“You’ve become obsessed,” she says. “Dangerously obsessed.” I look at her.

“It was you who brought scales into our home,” I say.

“Exactly,” she says. “Losing weight was my idea. Now you’re just copying me.”

“Do you want to know my target weight?” I say.

“No, I don’t,” she says. I tell her anyway.

“Really?” she says. “And what do you weigh now?”

“Do you mean right now?” I say. “Hang on, I’ll just check.”

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