Thursday, March 21, 2013

Melting The Pounds Away

I've abandoned even the pretext of writing short, snappy blog posts.  Everything grows in the telling for me.  I can only hope to make these longer ones entertaining enough to engage you through to the end.

Alphonse Mucha's Woman With A Burning Candle
We’ve all heard the words – Melt those pounds away.  Like it’s just as easy as that.  The promise of that swimsuit body in a few short weeks melts away billions of dollars from our wallets every year. 

I’m thinking about this because I recently got back to exercising after several months of storing up fat for the winter and testing the elastic range of my abdominal skin.  I can report I succeeded smashingly in both regards.  Now it’s down to the difficult work of reestablishing a consistent exercise routine so I can recover my youthful physique.  Confession:  I was a stickboy in my youth, so I’m not really aiming for that specific physique, but it’s just an expression, like sick as a dog, piss like a racehorse, or throw someone under the bus.  We say the words even if they aren’t literally true.

As we all know, it is far easier to blame external forces than to correct internal shortcomings, but I can’t help wonder if my challenge is more than one of mere laziness and procrastination.  The very laws of nature conspire against me.  Against us.  I don’t just mean the inevitable wasting effects of age – the aches & the pains, increased recovery time & diminishing returns for your efforts – I am chalking this up to the inescapable truths of Newtonian Physics.

You know where I’m going with this – Newton noted, in simplified form, that natural objects possess a natural desire is to resist change:

  • An Object in Motion tends to remain in motion unless acted on by an outside force.  With regard to exercise, this is the state in which you have established a regular and satisfying routine that is self-perpetuating because it calls to you every day.  You may feel sore, but it’s a satisfying soreness.

  • On the other hand, an Object at Rest – one that is gradually boring a bum-shaped crater into the couch – tends to remain at rest unless it too is acted on by an outside force.  Picture a pool ball and a cue.

It’s this outside force that I am in search of.  I asked a circle of writer friends recently if any would be willing to help hold me accountable to establishing a regular writing routine and, to my surprise, I received no takers and no small measure of scorn for the very suggestion.  I intended to set my own goals - goals I truly wanted to achieve.  I simply wanted their help to remind and prod and encourage me to work toward them.  If interested, maybe I could do the same for them.  Iron sharpening iron.  Perhaps that was the unspoken deal-breaker.

I don’t fully understand what the push-back was about.  Maybe it was my own uneven history of accountability with them.  I do think some writers believe the creative process is so inviolate that they can be uncomfortable with the very idea of externally imposed requirements.  I have come to view writing as more an act of will and intentional creative expression rather than one of transient inspiration, but I’ll leave that for another discussion another time.

Regarding accountability, I understand it is the inner drive that ultimately matters most in whether we remain at Newtonian rest, physically and figuratively, or we get ourselves in motion and create habits and and environment that keeps us motion.  Establishing that supportive external environment that motivates you to fulfill your inner desires produces more results than relying on your own will alone.  External accountability and motivation never hurts.

So, to that end, I began tracking my food intake via Weight Watchers online AND I also got a Nike+ Fuelband activity monitor that I wear all the time.  Both of these tools provide regular reminders of whether my present choices are contributing to or detracting from progress toward my goals.  They are external forces of accountability to support me when my inner drive is having an off day.
With weight loss I’ve had more success than writing thus far this year.  It’s been two weeks and I am down 4 pounds, 2 per week.  I am very pleased with that progress – it is both healthy and sustainable.  Crash, fad diets usually turn out to be neither healthy nor sustainable.
But, it’s not all rainbows and roses.  The physical and dietary work itself isn’t as hard on my body as my self-judgment is on my psyche.  We are usually our own worst critics.  The mirror is a daily reminder of our past choices and it can be easier to focus on regrets rather than your present course. 

For anyone who has lost weight, perhaps you can relate to the following experience.  Two weeks into successfully shedding pounds I actually feel and look flabbier than when I started.  I'm serious.  I am physically going in the right direction, but aesthetically I am literally sagging. 

I’m not repugnant, at least not any more so than I was two weeks ago, but I feel less… alluring.  The scale assures me otherwise, but we haven’t yet established a rapport, the scale and I, where I have confidence he’s entirely on my side.  He must know that once I reach my goal I won’t consult him every morning like I do now and, between you and me, I worry he may become a bit clingy.  We are still working through some trust issues – like how over the course of the week I can be up a pound one day, down a pound and a half the next, even, up, down, and so on.  It’s like watching the astronauts in Apollo 13 try to keep the Earth centered in the window as they hurdle back from the moon with no steering on their booster rockets – it swings wildly back and forth until it finally settles on the money shot for the weekly Monday weigh-in.

Picture from
Weight loss products enthusiastically claim they will Melt The Pounds Away.  Sounds great.  But have you ever seen a candle melt?  That might be exactly what you want for a romantic dinner, peaceful bath, or secluded monastery, but not what you want to see reflected in the mirror.  Melted wax rolls over the edges, slides down the sides and puddles around the bottom.  Picture that on a human body, if you will.  

As my fat thins it no longer presses my skin taut so that everything now sags and swings like never before.  My belly used to protrude a bit above my belt.  Now, as they’d say in the South, it done laps right over.  It’s like an abdominal waterfall breaking over my waistband.

In the past, I joked about maintaining My Girlish Figure.  But now that I have bouncier man-boobs and a bowls full of jelly gyrating around my hips and caboose, I can say with certainty that the classic hourglass shape is not exactly what I was going for.  Nor is the pear-shape, which is probably closer to the truth for me.  Have you seen an elephant seal shimmy-flopping up a beach?  Yeah.  Then you know my hidden pain.

This is a transitional period, I know that, but the watch-it-wiggle-see-it-jiggle phase does little to encourage me back into the gym where I must wallow amongst the typical crowd of hard-bodied, tri-athlete Boulderites that populate the gyms around these parts.  But I know I have to look past this present hardship to a brighter future and accept myself along the way.

In one of my favorite Seinfeld scenes, Cosmo Kramer has been coaxed by a big tobacco company into the role of a rugged Marlboro Man-type ad model and he has literally taken to smoking like it is his job.  He sets up a smoking lounge in his apartment, where he chain-puffs away on a pipe all day long.  Jerry confronts him about how he has crammed an entire lifetime of smoking into just a few short days and it is ravaging his face.  He comments that Kramer’s skin now looks like a worn-out catcher’s mitt and his teeth are stained a repulsive shade of brown.  Horror-struck at what he has done to himself, Kramer laments:

Jerry, you know my face is my livelihood.  Everything I have I owe to this face!  It’s my allure.   My... my twinkle.

Then he famously concludes with the imminently quotable line, “Look away, Jerry!  I’m hideous!

I hold no misgivings that my face is my twinkle, but I do understand his remorse over regrettable choices.  I have become Cosmo Kramer.  Please avert your eyes awhile.  I feel hideous.

Getting older is really getting old.  And if aging has taught me nothing else it is this - in pretty much everything in life, it is always easier to Keep Up than it is to Catch Up.

Picture from Red Cross of Argentina


  1. I'd be happy to nag you on a daily basis about writing. I'm not exactly the motivational type, though. Okay, here goes...Get off your ass you lazy slacker. Get to that keyboard and start typing some fiction. Yes, right now.I wrote today despite having a preschooler interrupting me every other minute. Yes, what I wrote was shit but, by god, I wrote.

    I'm thinking vodka might be something to keep in my desk drawer along with all the chocolate easter eggs. Come over and we can write, eat chocolate, and drink vodka together.

    How was that?

    1. That's a little more of the drill sergeant approach than I expected, but it's a start. It's so hard to write with children around, so that was a herculean accomplishment on your part.

      If writers are going to drink, which isn't at all a bad idea from my experience, we may as well make it red wine so we can at least get the health benefits of the "mediterranean diet".

  2. The red wine idea sounds like a winner. I'm trying to think of another motivational approach, but all I can come up with is drill sergeant and mafioso. Write! or you'll be singing with da fishes.