You know that you're losing weight when your cap doesn't fit.
In four months I've lost about 25 pounds - apparently including a layer of scalp flesh.
I yanked on my Pittsburgh Steelers cap a couple of days ago and it would have covered my eyes if not for my ears.
Last month, I volunteered at a charity event for Ronald McDonald House and worked alongside University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head football coach Russ Huesman. Making conversation, I mentioned that I had lost a few pounds and I was at that awkward stage in every man's life when he looks at himself in the mirror and asks the soul-searching question: Is it time for new pants?
"Don't do it," Coach Huesman said wisely.
And, I knew he was right - at least at that moment. Buying smaller pants is a point of no return for men trying to shape up. It's the day when you pledge allegiance to a new lifestyle, not just a vacation from Olive Garden.
Women figured this out long ago. That's why they all have Barbie clothes saved in the back of their closets. They never throw anything away just in case they wake up one morning with an 18-inch waist.
My decision to hold off buying new pants was complicated by the fact that my old trousers were beginning to slip down my hips. No matter how tightly I would cinch my belt, I was, to use a technical term, "bustin' a sag."
This is also related to the fact that I carry about 10 pounds of dead weight in my pants' pockets. In my front left pocket is wad of keys with two fat fobs, four grocery store affinity cards, seven house keys and five interconnected rings. In my front left pocket is an iPhone with a plastic case so heavy that it has its own kickstand. My left back pocket holds my checkbook and my right rear pocket is for my overstuffed wallet. This has been my habit for years. If I don't feel pressure on these four points on my body, I don't leave the house.
But as my weight loss increased to 10, 15 then 20-plus pounds, gravity took over and started lowering my pants like a plumber's tool belt.
Once, I forgot to wear my belt and I had to walk around all day in the newsroom with both hands in my pockets - not something a grown man should ever do.
Finally, I was with my family at the mall one Saturday last month when we came across a clearance sale at Dillard's. Men's slacks were 75 percent off. It was 15 minutes until closing, so I scooped up six pairs of trousers and dashed to the changing room, my 6-year-old son in tow.
As I tried on each pair, I looked to him for approval.
"Too reddish," he said, as I tried on a pair of golf slacks.
"Too brownish," he said to a nice pair of twill trousers.
"Too grayish," he said of a pair of wool dress pants.
"What color do you want me to try!" I said, exasperated.
"Turquoise," he said flatly.
"Hush, I'm buying them all," I said, gathering the garments into a pile. "I don't care what you think."
Oh, the joy of clothes that fit. No more lightening my pockets. No more punching new holes in my belt. No more hitching up my britches.
More importantly, I thought I had made the haul before anyone at work noticed my problem.
Then, one day last week I walked by the city desk so say hello to our Metro Editor Chris Vass, and she stopped me short.
"It's about time you got some pants that fit you," she said without looking up.
"Was it that noticeable?" I said with a grimace.
She widened her eyes and looked away.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedy columnist.