The day my pants exploded, I knew I was in trouble.
A pair of navy corduroy pants, with a sturdy brass button, had been under the Christmas tree.
I proudly put them on one day early in January. But I forgot a belt.
As I couched down to slide into the driver's seat of the car, I heard a loud POP, like the sound an air gun makes when it is fired.
Suddenly a cold blast of air rushed in to my waist.
The button was no longer.
That night I stepped onto the scale and weighed in at 196 pounds, 30 more than I weighed when I was in my 20s.
Granted, I was a skinny marathon runner at the time .
But 30 pounds!
I've usually lost weight through exercise, so my first thought was to get back to a routine of working out every day. Jogging and regular trips to the gym have always been part of my life, but it had gotten easier and easier to skip them.
So I changed my approach.
Christmas had also brought a Wii Fit video machine to our house. I set about doing daily programs based on the variety of exercises that the game offers -- from push-ups and twists to yoga and balance tests.
It helps that Wii Fit is a robotic and unrelenting taskmaster.
Its basic fitness test, which you are encouraged to do every day, tells you in no uncertain terms if you are overweight or obese.
The animated fitness instructors tell you right away if you are off balance while doing leg raises or if your pelvis is dropping towards the floor while doing push-ups.
And the computer rates you after every exercise on how well you did, flashing up the dreaded "couch potato" rating if you fail.
With that kind of guidance, I had lost five pounds within a month. Then the weight loss stopped.
Still wanting to lose more, I took a look at my lifestyle and realized I was drinking too many calories. I go to a lot of social functions. Two drinks turns into five pretty easily. And it was all ending up on my waist.
So I made another change and cut back alcohol. Within another month five more pounds had disappeared. But again the weight loss stopped.
So I cut out snacks -- muffins with morning coffee, sweet treats in the afternoon, cookies from the cupboard. And after a few weeks another five pounds was gone.
All of this brought me down to 181 pounds -- not bad, but still slightly overweight for someone of my height.
I finally realized I had to change what I eat at mealtime. I was still having double burritos with sour cream at lunch, blueberry pancakes and dessert at dinner on a daily basis.
Once these were gone, replaced by sensible portions, another five pounds dropped off.
Now I sit at 176 pounds, having changed much of my lifestyle without really a lot of planning -- surprising myself in the process.
And I have finally realized the lesson that I learned from my exploding pants.
If you want to lose weight, start with one change -- anything that reduces caloric intake or increases your activity level. It does not really matter where you start so long as you start somewhere.
Don't make it complicated. I have often overheard newcomers to the gym, in their first session with trainers, getting advice on everything from resistance training to cardio workouts to dietary changes. It is all sound advice, but usually it's enough to overwhelm all but the most dedicated people.
So start small. Then measure the results. Chances are you'll end up adding another change, and another as you learn more.
There are many good ways to lose weight -- and no end of people and programs wanting to help you. But in the end it's up to you to act.
You're also the person that you are losing weight for. I'd like to say my wife is thrilled with my weight loss -- or jealous she couldn't do the same. But the truth is she barely would have noticed if I had not obsessively pointed out to her my progress.
I'm not sure when I'll stop adding changes. I could stop here. But I'm still on the high side of normal weight.
As for those pants, I never did find the brass button.
It wouldn't have done any good anyway -- the pants are too big for me now.