Friday, November 30, 2007

On the nature of self denial

I take my kid to school on band days, he plays the trombone and it's a pain for him to get the awkward big-ass thing on the bus. School is right around the corner so it's really no big deal for me to take him, and since I'm already out I occasionally go into town and get a cup of coffee.

Usually, at 7:00 AM, there is nobody in the coffee shop except for me, but this morning for some reason there were eight people in line when I got there. Agh! I hate waiting in line. I. Hate. It. So, I was immediately pissed. But since I'd already made the trip into town, I queued up and tried not to grind my teeth and make bleating noises.

Immediately ahead of me in line were two twentyish rather, uh, large women (I'm being polite here, grossly obese would more accurate). Now, normally I wouldn't be so crass as to mention it, but these women were pissing me off - first, because they had pushed their shopping carts into the coffee shop (the Starbucks is in a little alcove inside the local Fred Meyer grocery store). The place is tiny. There's barely room for the tables, there sure as hell isn't room for one, let alone two, goddamned shopping carts. They were shoving tables aside to get the carts through, as if the carts had to accompany them all the way to the register. How can people be this damned clueless? It never occurred to them that the barrista was going to have to find the time to put the tables and chairs back into order, and it sure wasn't like they were straightening up behind themselves. But, what was really getting on my nerves was the loud conversation regarding their respective weights.

Both were loudly complaining to the other that they just couldn't loose weight, no matter what they did. Diet, exercise, pills, blah blah blah and etc, one was considering stomach stapling. Now because I've been playing dodge-the-cart with these two idiots for the last ten minutes, I can't help but notice the groceries in the carts. Wanna take a guess? A dozen each of Chocolate and Maple bakery donuts, large bags of Doritos, whole milk, frozen pizza, ten kinds of snack food, and, well, you get the idea. Not a vegetable in sight. As far as I could tell, about the only low fat, low-cal thing in either cart was the cardboard packaging around a large frozen Stouffer's lasagna. And then, when they got to the counter, what's the order? The first one ordered a Venti (read jumbo) Christmas Frapasomethingorother, with extra chocolate and whipped cream. The second one ordered some kind of large iced coffee slurpee, with extra fruit syrup and whipped cream. Then, I watched in amazement as the first one added six, that's right six, raw sugar packets to her drink (she also left the empty packets on the counter for somebody else to clean up, arh!). I gathered from their conversation, that this was a daily occurrence (the coffee part, I don't think even these women could have eaten all the crap in those two carts in just one day, but I could be wrong).

Being an acute observer of the human condition, not to mention a highly trained and experienced intelligence officer, I applied my mind, training and experience to the situation.
Problem: failure to lose weight.
Available hard data: they 'diet', 'exercise', and take those weight loss pills ordered from the Home Shopping Network (which, as you all know, are guaranteed or your money back, less S&H).
Conclusion: Self-denial is enormously fattening.
Solution: continue current program until fatal heart attacks cause significant metabolic reduction, followed by immediate and permanent weight loss.

This kind of self delusion pisses me off. I don't know why, it's really none of my business, but it just does. Look, I understand that weigh loss is hard, seriously hard. I do. I understand that some of you struggle with your weight, and I absolutely don't wish to either insult you or hurt your feelings. I understand that there are certain medical conditions that can cause significant weight gain and complete inability to do anything about it - thyroid conditions for example. I'm not trying to be insensitive here. Really. But Goddamnit, there just ain't no way in hell either of these women are ever going to lose weight. Ever. Not with carts full of junk food and heads full of wishful thinking. The one was talking about stomach-stapling. Major Surgery, with a fairly significant fatality rate. To her, this is a better solution to her weight problem than, oh I don't know, putting less sugar in her coffee or leaving the frozen lasagna in the freezer isle, and I'm not even going to mention those donuts.

Myself, I never really have had a weight problem. I could always eat pretty much what I wanted, and as long as I maintained a reasonable level of exercise (which in the military isn't exactly difficult) my weight remained pretty much constant (believe me, I understand that this isn't the case for everybody). But, now that I'm retired and not nearly as active as I used to be, and especially as I push into my upper forties, maintaining my weight is a lot more difficult. I'm used to being very active and eating a lot. So I've gained a bit of extra weight in the last couple of years. As a result I've cut back significantly on my calorie intake. Most days I eat a small breakfast and go without lunch. Or, I don't eat breakfast and have a small lunch. Either way, I've basically deleted a meal from my day. I'm hungry a lot of the time, but I drink a glass of water and ignore it. If I feel like I have to have a snack during the day, I have a banana or some low-fat cottage cheese. This isn't a hard and fast rule, if I'm doing heavy work and burning a lot of calories, especially if I'm working out in the cold, I might have both breakfast and lunch. Otherwise I end up with a migraine. We try to eat a decent dinner, but with reduced portion sizes. We don't have desert, except on special occasions. And I usually have a snack in the evenings, popcorn or cheese or olives or something along those lines. It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. Diets are something you do temporarily, lifestyle is a permanent change - that's why diets don't work. Do I miss being able to eat a whole pan of fudge brownies without consequence? Oh you bet. It sucks to get older - but that's just the way it is.

Is it easy? No, but it does get easier as time goes by and my habits change. The bottom line is this, if you want to loose weight you have to take in less calories than you burn during the day. Period. There just isn't any other way around it. All the wishful thinking in the world isn't going to help when you're shoving down chocolate éclairs and drinking coffee with six sugars and whipped cream on top - unless you're running a marathon every day and burning eight or nine thousand calories every 24 hours.

It's just basic physics.


  1. I'm curious what you had at Starbucks. Fatty.

    Serious on the former, kidding on the latter. :)

  2. My doctor calls this the "eat less, move more" plan. And (surprise, surprise!) it works.

    I won't pretend I don't struggle with my weight, but if I happen to be heavier than I should be, I'm under no illusion as to what caused it. the "eat more, move less" plan.

    Reality's a bitch.

  3. Shawn, a caramel macchiato. Which means I won't eat either breakfast or lunch today - though I did have a banana. But since I expect to be sitting on my ass most of the day, this works for for me.

    Janiece, reality is definitely a bitch. What aggravated me about this situation, is that I'm sure that both of these women know what the real problem was - but rather than face it, or be happy with themselves the way they are, they deluded themselves and each other with the whole "I'm eating right, I'm exercising, but it just doesn't work..." bit.

    Again, this really isn't any of my business - but it irritates me nonetheless.

  4. It's your business in that the health care cost in the US is astronomical and rising. So you get a little bitching leeway. :)

  5. Shawn, yeah, I thought of that, and it's valid point. But I'm conflicted over the fact that I also believe that we each have an inherent right to self-denial, even if it does piss me off.

    I do think that the growing (heh) problem of obesity in the US is every taxpayer's and insurance payer's burden - and therefore it does in make it my business, but then I'm faced with the dilemma of regulating other self-destructive behaviors vs. individual rights. (And you know how I feel about personal rights). This extends to everything from smoking to seat belts to using too much energy. (and that last issue, energy, is something I see becoming a major issue in the future, for example if we prevent Phillip-Morris from advertising cigarettes, how come we don't prevent General Motors from advertising monster gas guzzlers? Both have a significant impact on our economy and the gas hogs have a huge impact on the world at large, not just America).

    There's an easy solution. The solution Bush is attempting to use on us regarding national security, totalitarianism. We tax and regulate self-destructive behavior. I'd consider that non-optimal as we used to say when a military mission had gone completely to hell.

    A better solution in my mind is strenuous education in all levels of school with the goal of changing American's behavior from childhood and in the long term - lifestyle change vs diet so to speak. However, that implies that we, for the most part, write off the current generation and absorb the long terms costs. But I still think that's better than the other solution.

    The are degrees of both, the current smoking regulations for example, but I think those are stopgaps.

  6. Yes, we share a similar view on personal rights. I think people have the right to do whatever they wish, unless it intrudes on my rights, etc. The health care issue is treading in the grey area there...

    I'm TOTALLY on board with you on the need for education regarding health. From a distant perspective, California seems to be doing that rather well.

  7. Heh. When I finished with the Marines it sort of amazed me what pizza and Mountain Dew did to me, that it didn't before. Hell, I could have eaten two large pizzas a day in Iraq and still sweated off five pounds a week.

    Which is why I think I have the ultimate fitness club idea!

  8. David, you and me both. I eat pizza once in a blue moon nowadays. Usually homemade because that way I can control what goes into it. Soda (sorry, pop, for the Michiganders) I rarely if ever touch these days. I prefer my fizzy calories to contain hops as opposed to sucrose - and I don't touch much of that either, these days.

  9. David, oh and I think you've got something with that fitness club idea.

    Funny thing is, rich kids won't join the military, but they might pay you to do exactly this if they thought it was for real. Heh, just a thought

  10. I eat whatever I want whenever I want. I lead a highly sedentary life. My waist is 2 inches bigger than when I was in high school (almost 30 years ago).

    Don't hate me because I'm beautiful (effortlessly):-)

    -Nathan who is wondering if there's any more cheesecake in the fridge.

  11. You're not fooling anybody, Nathan. You're in the movie industry - which means you've been botoxed and liposuctioned into your current svelte and chiseled manliness.

    You're. Not. Fooling. Anybody. Now, if you'll excuse me, something made me think of cheesecake.

  12. Jim,

    I can watch surgery without being squeamish. I helped my brother spay my cats (one of us is a vet; not telling which). The sight of blood just doesn't bother me.

    Whenever they show one of those liposuction wands being jammed into some horrid cottage-cheese thigh on the news, that makes me turn away form the tube.

    -Nathan who ate the cheesecake and went back for a second slice. Aah.


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