January is now at a close, and the Resolute have dropped like flies.  In early 2012, I was unable to find a cardio machine to literally “save my life” (having to settle more than once for the “hand pedal thingy” – what is that thing called anyway?) and now, you can fire a 10kg medicine ball straight across the cardio room without hitting a person. Where did they all go? Where did all the dreams and good intentions go?  I think they, like the people, are up in smoke – just follow the trail of discarded Nicoderm patches.

I am back in the gym because, like the tides my weight, goes up and down… it is a never-ending see-saw battle.  For most of my life it has been a constant … like Beer and BBQ… and a couple of times I have wrestled The Beast to the ground, only to have it bounce off the canvas and put me in double-arm headlock. But just like Mickey Rourke, I am not about to give up (forget the ending bit…it did not go well for Randy “The Ram”…)

After maximising my mass potential in 2004 and being confused for Fat Albert (which was totally absurd, because our haircuts were so different), I managed to shed so much weight during a 9 month program – which I affectionately call the “Vodka and Smokes” diet – that acquaintances were afraid to ask me about it in case I was seriously ill.  I realised it was getting out of hand after one of my friends finally said, “Eat a sandwich, fer crissakes, you look like a Kenyan marathoner.” And that “blessing” from a friend started the pendulum in the opposite direction. Old habits die hard, and after a couple years, most of the lost mass is back.  I am what fellow Punjabis would colloquially call, “healthy!” So here I go again, on the health kick to shed a few kilos and get back on the happy track.

As I do when I embark on something hard, I ask myself, “Why?” In this case, why is it that we so readily pursue the concept of an “ideal weight”?

Cynically, I do not believe it is not as simple as “losing weight means getting healthier” which means improving our chances of living longer; I don’t buy that as our overriding aim.  Pessimistically, I think we are just a “wee tad” vainer than that – maybe it is a bit of “keeping up with the Joneses” or improving our own self-esteem.  Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that we – as a society – are obsessed with body image.

Sometimes I think, why can’t we be like the Europeans…go the beaches in Italy or Germany or Spain and you’ll see that the men all have a damn the chorizos and full speed ahead attitude. No self-esteem issues there, just confident men enjoying their “girthiness”. Instead we North Americans get hooked up on the notions of health and fitness that are sold to us by the glossies and the infomercials. And we end up pursuing the body that nobody can achieve (don’t believe me, follow this link about how Photoshop creates the unachievablefrom the desireable…or better yet, this one about our fake celebrities!)

The fact is obvious.  I don’t care how hard you work – unless you have a full-time trainer, a chef, a gym and 16 hours a day to work out, it just can’t be done.

Even the “ancient” Gerard Butler and the other Spartans had the benefit of a specific vomit-inducing workout regime that was more suited to a Russian Labour Camp than a working person’s lifestyle (and maybe, just maybe, a little CGI assistance?)  But even with the Draconian Regime, they still took time to get there. There are no quick fixes.  Well, I suppose if you are willing to upgrade muscle mass in exchange for a one-inch penis and shrunken testicles (or whatever the female equivalent is) , you could “steroid-up”. But really, self-injecting stuff to make horses and bulls bigger is just too stupid – I think I’d rather go back to smoking and feeling my “mitties” bounce.

Yet, even more absurdly, we make snap decisions about people based on how bony or fleshy they are.  (There is a technical paper on ingrained biases here if you are interested).  Sadly, there is prejudiced-thinking everywhere –  skinny people are more disciplined, smarter, more reliable, happier than those of us who are packing a few dozen of extra pounds. I mean just look at Keith Richards, Amy Winehouse or Kate Moss – aren’t they proof that theory is correct?  All kidding aside, maybe it is those misleading ideals that drives us. We do it because others will think better of us. And I know that is wrong.

But, really though, how did I get to this point?  Tectonically. Glacially. Imperceptibly.   I will admit that I may have used my non-smoking status as a crutch –  as I joke, “ I stopped smoking 10 kilos ago”. But you can only hide behind the “I’m-better-off-eating-a-dozen-Kripsy-Kremes-than-having-a-smoke” excuses for so long (evidently 3 years).  Casting aside all the smoke screens and justifications, it is simple…I gained weight because I love food and drink.

I know that overeating is bad, but gosh, most food just tastes so damned good.  I mean, even after watching “Super Size Me”, I didn’t feel all grossed out and shocked…no I actually wanted a double quarter-pounder with cheese – a greasy one, all warm and hot!  But I do not eat those anymore; not because the food does not taste good, it is the best tasting plastic out there…but rather because I am afraid of food that bacteria won’t even touch.  But, evenwith Mickey D’s and the King and the Colonel and the Little Red Haired girl on the verboten list, there is still so much good stuff still out there…pulled pork, chicken wings, pineapple-upside down cake, flammenkuchen, burgers, mulled wine, jam, kielbasa,  perogies, sausage, weissen bier, gnocchi…the list goes on forever. It is so bloody hard to be good!

So the equation is uneven…I love food and I don’t love working out. (Now don’t get me wrong. I love sports – but there is a purpose to sports: to score, to tackle, to WIN!)  Grunting and groaning and sweating and straining, of your own accord, takes a special type of auto-masochism or heightened narcissism – you REALLY, REALLY have to want it.  Or you can’t fit into your jeans anymore – even your most trusty comfortable pair.  When you get to this stage – when the “relaxed” fits are rejecting you –  YOU REALLY WANT IT.

So, I like all others, have jumped on the bandwagon to fit back into my old clothes.  Why?  Because it looks like someone replaced my full length mirror with one of those fun-house ones, and I my last visit to buy a suit was like watching a three mirror horror show.  And in the end it is not because I think others will label me as unreliable or lazy, it is because looking in the mirror makes me unhappy. I do not like it.

In order to undo almost three years of sticky toffee puddings with custard, massive full English breakfasts, portions of fish and chips large enough to choke a horse, and good ol’ late night donair kebabs – all washed down by lashings of full headed locally brewed ales, I have to work hard.  Plus, as I am sure many of you know, working hard and denying yourself all those things that taste good is a bitch.

And that is the crux of it – you have to work hard. No other crap works. The TV is full of miracle cures and plans and programs and diets. Some tell you to eat no carbs, others say grain only, some say to cut out fat, others say eat fish only, some say eat many small meals, others say eat only one or two…there are so many different plans. And we really do not ask “Which one is right?” We ask, “Which is fastest? Which is easiest?”  And I don’t think that is the way we should do it. Unless you’re going for liposuction and teflon abs, plan on a long campaign – that at times will just plain suck.

So, as I embark on another round of self-flagellation, I won’t attempt whole scale change and promise to get skinny and keep the weight off forever.    I won’t aim for skinny this time…I’ll simply aim for “happy”.   Happy is more than good enough, and “happy vice skinny” lets me fit in a few goodies around the foundation of high fibre, low fat meals and runs and workouts.  As a friend once said, “Everything in moderation, including  moderation.”  I will not worry about the “mits” or the “flabs” or the “love handles”, and forget about the Speedo. I will just aim to fit well into my good jeans; but, I will leave those comfortable ones in the closet for the unplanned, but expected, down turns.

So enjoyable eating to all of you. And to those of us who are still plugging along on the New Year Resolutions, good on ya’!  Hope it goes well and you end up happy too!