Feeding the Ego Machine

Audrey asked a seemingly innocent question recently.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

But upon further reflection – pun intended – I realized the question required more thought than simply blurting out “a face!” as I’d originally intended. My daughter was digging for deeper truths. For more complex nuances. So I gave it some serious consideration before answering.


I should point out that, had she asked this question six months ago, my answer would have been much different. I think that applies to most people. Our perception of the face staring back at us every morning changes often. For too long, I did not like what I saw. It was more of a resigned yeah, that’s me. 

But when I replied to my daughter, I said,


And I thought to myself, it should have been this way all along. Sadly, it took a health scare to motivate me. I knew I was not at an ideal weight and making poor eating decisions, but I didn’t care (or I did care, but didn’t care enough to take the steps needed to change that). Tara warned me about my carb intake, but I dismissed her concerns with a wave of the hand while muttering about “junk science.” We made spaghetti one time and she substituted zucchini strips for the pasta. I thought she was nuts.

zucchini spaghetti

A year later, I never would have guessed I’d be making “mashed potatoes” out of cauliflower. Cauliflower, folks. I practically declared a fatwa against it once.

We Taurans (plural for Taurus people?) have a stubborn streak a mile wide.

So I was in denial, allowing myself only the briefest glimpse into the mirror each morning in order to avoid the truth. Nowadays, the mirror is my friend. Sounds like an incredibly vain thing to say, but I don’t mean it that way. The truth is, I am proud of all my accomplishments, and I love seeing the visual evidence of my hard work and determination. It’s quite amazing to me, this transformation. I want to savor it.

I also want to apologize to Tara for not being more open minded earlier. I’m sorry, babe. You were right. As usual.

And while I’m at it, I’d like to issue an apology to bacon. I feel somewhat responsible for the swine decline because I devoured far too much of it.


I spent two hours yesterday shopping for new clothes. Very few things fit any more. They’re all baggy and loose, and starting to look ridiculous on me. I pulled on a pair of shorts, and they immediately slipped down to my ankles.  Even my new jeans, purchased two months ago when I dropped a size, are too big. I’ve been buying XL for so long, L is a novelty, albeit a happy one. I even bought a couple of M’s. Relaxed fit has given way to regular fit. “First world problems,” Tara said, and she’s right. This is a good problem to have. But I also find myself walking on egg shells. I do not want to come across as boastful. I know people who have gone on health kicks, got into shape, and talked about it incessantly, and you know what?

It made me resentful.

Which is a terrible thing to say. Of course, I “get” it now – but I don’t want anybody to feel that way about me, so I try not to make a big deal out of it.

scaleWhen I stepped on the scale this morning, I weighed 63.5 lbs. less than I did one year ago. And I’m 45 pounds lighter than I was the day I came home from the hospital. That was less than four months ago. My diabetes is firmly under control without any medication. My blood pressure, once high, is now low. I’ll talk to my doctor about quitting my meds during my next appointment. My sleep apnea is gone; I packed up the CPAP machine and haven’t used it in weeks. And I have so much damn energy I can’t sit still. I owe all of this to the old standbys, diet and exercise. You know what?

That shit works.

I severely limit my carbs, avoid sugar like the plague, choose healthy foods, and keep my calories under 1,500. I also work out every day without fail, either walking, cycling or hiking. Treadmill, city streets, forested trail: it really doesn’t matter. Here’s a little secret: losing weight is easy. Finding the determination to make these lifestyle changes and stick with them is the hard part. My friends and coworkers compliment me on a daily basis, and that feeds the Ego Machine and provides the spark I need to keep up my healthy lifestyle.

I’m a new man, in more ways than one. And it feels great.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

16 thoughts on “Feeding the Ego Machine

  1. Mark, I in no way think you’re being vain or boastful about you speaking honestly on how your health-conscious change has made you feel GREAT about yourself. In fact, I applaud you and am so very happy FOR you! I mean, you’re proud of yourself, which you should be, so there is nothing wrong about stating it.

    “My diabetes is firmly under control without any medication. My blood pressure, once high, is now low. I’ll talk to my doctor about quitting my meds during my next appointment. My sleep apnea is gone; I packed up the CPAP machine and haven’t used it in weeks. And I have so much damn energy I can’t sit still”

    That’s freakin’ AWESOME! And you worked hard to achieve those things, so BE proud of yourself!

    I love Audrey’s question!

    When I look in the mirror, I see:

    Someone who is genuinely a very happy person.

    Someone who walks through my fears.

    Someone who can adapt to change quickly.

    Someone who sincerely likes myself.

    Again, CONGRATULATIONS on your achievements, buddy. You ROCK!


    1. Thanks, Ron! After reading your blog for years now, I am not surprised that you chose the answers you did. I see you as a happy person who won’t let adversity stand in the way of success, and that’s a very healthy attitude! I wish more people had a positive self-image when they looked at themselves in the mirror, but I know firsthand how difficult it can be.


  2. Mark, that is a significant amount of weight that you lost! Very impressive! I’m so glad you feel better, both physically and mentally about yourself! Way to go!!!

    My husband and I have never struggled with weight, but we were not healthy eaters for years. I think our motivation has been seeing 50 on the horizon, and then watching it come and go past us! Ha! I tried making mashed cauliflower last week, btw, it tasted good, but did not look mashed like the picture!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How many times have you seen a photo of a menu item, only to be disappointed by the real thing? Fast food is especially notorious at this sort of deception, because I swear the McRib™ never looks as pristine as it does in photographs! (Still tastes good, though. I guess that’s the important thing).

      You are lucky you’ve never struggled with weight issues. I believe that puts you and your husband in the minority.


  3. I so would have answered, “my face” had my boys asked me that, but that is the kind of answer they’ve grown to expect from me. Congratulations on your accomplishment! The lifestyle part really is the harder part.


    1. Thanks! I’m glad we share the same sarcastic streak. I think it’s human nature to be wary of change; heaven knows I’m guilty of that. But I am also “militant” about my new lifestyle (my family’s words), so I know that I will continue to see success.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I would like to say congratulations to you. A very warm set of well-wishing congratulations and also salutations! I am currently on the hard part; finding the motivation and commitment to stick to my daily goals. I managed to do it two years ago but gained it ALL back since then and I mean ALL. Sadly, it is because I have allowed my bike to get rusty in the bike shed. Terrible, I know. But the feeling of being well and fit is unbeatable. So I take my hat off to you. As for what I see in the mirror.. well, I can just say that I haven’t quite reached your level of contentment with your reflection!


    1. Thank you so much! At least you are TRYING to find the motivation, which is more than a lot of people can say (myself included, until I ended up in the hospital diagnosed with diabetes). Take your bike out of the shed, scrape away the rust, get those tires inflated, and hit the road. Before long, you might like what you see, too! Trust me, if I can do it, anybody can.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Mark. I’m visiting compliments of Ron, and I just want to say, Wow!! Outstanding testimonial of what persistence, determination, and a bit of a health scare can accomplish — well done! Now, keep up the good work!!


    1. Thanks so much, Debbie! Sad that it took a health scare to catapult me into action. Now we joke around and say, “thank God I got diabetes.” Sounds seriously twisted, but it probably saved my life!


  6. Here via Ron. And I really enjoyed reading this post. I try hard to convince my patients that they really will feel better if they eat healthy foods and exercise, but it’s a hard sell. It seems like you hit a point where it suddenly really mattered enough to you to make some big changes, and good for you! I am feeling very motivated now and I appreciate that.

    Also, what is that thing you used on the zucchini? I want one of those.


    1. Thanks for visiting, S.A.W.! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You’re right about suddenly hitting that point where it matters more than it doesn’t matter. I guess everybody has their own unique spot where that happens. The kitchen tool is called a spiralizer. You can also use a grater, but that’s a lot tougher.


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