A scale is the most important tool that has helped me lose weight and keep it off. Make that two scales: one for the bathroom, one for the kitchen.
In 1990 when I first lost more than 100 pounds, a once-a-week weigh-in monitored my progress. Until that time, since I'd been overweight for so long, a scale was no friend a mind. But when I started seeing those numbers tick down by five pounds a week, that scale suddenly became my new best friend.
At the end of that program and 70 pounds lighter, my dietitian/group leader said I needed to buy an accurate bathroom scale and to continue weighing myself weekly. I took her advice seriously and noted my weight each day.
That scale became my early-warning system. If my weight went up more than a pound, I knew I'd veered off my dietary path and immediately began to evaluate my food plan and activity levels to see what had happened; swiftly making adjustments.
After a few years, I weighed myself less frequently until I stopped all together. I knew I had gained weight and didn't want the evidence so I sold my scale at a garage sale. That turned out to be an extra-large mistake.
When I did weigh myself again six years after that I tipped the scales at 326.7 pounds.
With a renewed commitment to shed the weight I stepped on a scale every Saturday morning to, once again, monitor my progress. Little by little the weight came off until 20 months had passed and I'd lost 150 pounds.
At that point I shifted from once-a-week to once-a-month weigh-ins; a practice I continue to this day to keep myself accountable and responsible. To stop weighing myself would, more than likely, lead to regaining all the weight I'd worked so hard to lose.
I make nearly every eating decision with that scale in mind. To make sure I stay on track I turn to another scale, my digital kitchen scale, to weigh almost everything from the frozen wild blueberries (2.5 ounces) and wheat bran (1 ounce) headed for my morning shake, to the veggies and meat for my dinner. With my kitchen scale I know exactly how much I'm eating.
Thanks to my kitchen scale I know there are 11 almonds in a half-ounce, and I can measure 2-ounce servings of uncooked macaroni when I make a batch of my lean mac and cheese.
When I make meatballs I break the mixture into perfect 2-ounce pieces so they roast evenly, and when I bake, push the measuring cups aside and weigh the flour -- 4.4 ounces or 140 grams equals a cup.
Integrate these two tools into your daily routines and you'll soon see how they help you lose weight and make you a better cook.
You just may find one or both at a garage sale.
Try this recipe: If you've never made a creamy mushroom soup at home, you're in for a treat. This soup is surprisingly easy to make, simmers for just 30 minutes and tastes better than any canned version.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at email@example.com.