by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & D & lt;/span & AY 15 | I didn't have to do cardio today, but I still found myself walking the stairs to gaze at the big, stout treadmill I've come to make mine. It's situated in the northwest corner of what I've dubbed the jiggle room. Filled with cardio equipment of all kinds -- treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, rowing machines -- the bulk of the room's inhabitants are fat asses like me. What makes my particular treadmill appealing is that 1) it's well-constructed, so when my lanky frame slams around. the machine barely notices the strain, and that 2) pushed up against the north wall, directly behind a large-leafed plant, its placement obscures me as the source of inhuman grunting and wheezing.

DAY 16 | Zach the firefighter joined the fun today, which made the fun almost fun. He swears like a sailor -- around strangers, children, the elderly, doesn't matter. He'll kick up a cuss storm at the drop of literally any hat. It's the most dependable source of uncomfortable laughs I know of.

The core work we did required a lot of awkward movements of the midsection. This had him spouting off early and often, filling the free-weight room with a torrent of Yiddish-inflected profanity. We went on to do a cursory weightlifting session, arms and a little back, before Zach, heaping world-weary profanity on all in earshot, ambled off to the sauna.

He stormed to the locker room. I followed at a comfortable distance.

His frustration brought up a point. Many of these core exercises require really odd movements, movements that I can't really accomplish. My body feels like it's so unused to moving in certain directions that it can't bend enough to even engage the muscles I'm supposed to be working. The exercises feel more like stretches. I wonder aloud, if we keep doing this, whether we'll start getting more and more out of each workout.

"Not if I can help it." Zach says.

DAY 17 | Feeling some pain in my shins and back from running yesterday, I Googled "shin splints," did some painful stretches, and sent Ben Greenfield an e-mail listing all the exercises for the next four days that will aggravate my back, asking for substitutes.

DAY 18 | Around noon, I closed my office door, rolled my chair out from behind my L-shaped desk, and began to undress. I had my workout gear on under my street clothes, and once done, I began the ab circuit I was to complete five times in the morning (early afternoon in this case) and five times in the afternoon: 21 sky crunches, 28 bicycle crunches, 28 single-leg bridges. There's something naughty about rolling around in running shorts, bare feet and a skeezy T-shirt when most of the office is dressed to sell hella color ads to business people and such. We editorial slimeballs on the second floor are always dressed worse than the ad people downstairs, but this feels like a subversive extreme.

I'm writing this in the two-minute break I'm giving myself between sets three and four, sweat beaded on my brow, chest heaving. Out my office window, advertising reps in knee-length skirts and sensible heels casually try to figure out if someone's going into labor on company time.

DAY 19 | I lack the fuel for runs. I almost passed out 10 minutes into what should have been a three-mile run today. I slowed down and finished the thing, unhappy with ramping back.

DAY 20 | The sixth day of each week has been my favorite, today being no exception. After one of the more difficult cardio workouts of the week, Greenfield has me doing a long weight circuit designed to work, in order: my shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs and glutes, more shoulders, back, back, and chest. The first week, I did this circuit three times with some difficulty. The following week, I did it four times with the same weight and considerably more difficulty. This week, scaling up (as is Greenfield's perverse pleasure), I did the circuit five times. It was easier this week than last, which means I'm getting stronger. There's a tremendous sense of accomplishment in that.

DAY 21 | Greenfield is a huge fan of exercises that are so absurd-looking and awkward that I can't stand to do them in public. That means for the really tough days, like today, I have to work out somewhere private, then go to the gym and run. Thanks, jerk.

In all, I finished strong, so there's really nothing to say.

RECKONING | Greenfield's happy; I'm a little disappointed. According to the scales at U-District Sports Performance, in 21 days, I have lost 13 pounds total. Seven of that was fat. The other five, according to Ben, comes from having lower stores of carbs in my system. Those seven pounds represent a body fat loss of 2 percent, which is good, but I was seriously hoping to get under 18 percent. As it stands I'm around 20 percent.

I'm burning 300 more calories a day at rest, though, meaning my metabolism is up significantly and losing weight will now be 300 calories per day easier. Also -- and this is really good -- I'm burning a higher percentage of fat while at rest. Before, the number was around 14 percent, which isn't bad. Now I'm at 22 percent. That means I'm burning an extra 250 calories of fat every day.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & don't have issues with self-confidence when I'm at work, because it's my capabilities as a writer and editor that carry the most weight. But I'm not always at work. When I walk down the street, I don't have the insulating buffer of my skills and my potential. People passing on the sidewalk don't see who I am and what I've done and what I'm capable of doing. They just see what I look like.

After three weeks of the program, I don't feel people's stares (whether real or imagined) heavy upon me anymore. I don't know if there's been any real change, or even if I was ever the object of scrutiny that I feel I am. Whether internal or external, though, looking better makes me feel better. Two weeks ago, when I started noticing the difference in public, it felt like a betrayal of my better instincts, like my feeling at ease was a grave forfeiture of self.

If I'm honest with myself, though, whatever forfeiture there was happened a long time ago. I haven't been able, in decades, to get rid of my feelings of inadequacy about my body. It's more, then, an admission that I'm not -- and never have been -- OK with myself. I hated the way I looked when I was 185 pounds and knotted with muscle. I just hated different parts (nose, beady eyes, weak jaw line).

What these three weeks have shown me is a microcosm of what I've slowly been learning throughout my life. I need to take happiness where I can get it. As of now, I don't know how to get to a place where I'm OK with myself as I am, so I'm using the stop-gap measure of being OK with myself as I get better. It's not perfect, but it's something at least. For the time being, that'll have to do.

Luke Baumgarten's Super-intense, Inlander-funded New Year's Resolution Weight Loss Miracle will conclude in next week's Inlander.