A Public Shaming

I’ve joked about weight loss and my lack of conditioning for years. Lots of self-deprecating comments about being weaker than a kitten, squishy around the middle,walle wheezing like a two pack a day smoker walking up stairs… In my head I was joking, but I was never really concerned because I just knew that a couple of afternoons in the gym and I’d be back in race shape. It’s not that hard, I just need to put my mind to it.

I have cleaned out the fridge and cupboards multiple times the last six months because starting tomorrow I’m eating “clean”. I’ve subscribed to Blue Apron and Cook Smarts. I religiously read several paleo web sites. I have the bible for body mechanics and movement, Supple Leopard, on my desk. I just recently purchased a Soda Stream so I’ll drink more water rather than buying crap at the store. I’ve read Jocko Willink’s book and subscribe to his daily 4:30 am discipline tweets. I have a fully outfitted gym in my garage. I have zero excuses.

I have a stack of jeans in my closet that I don’t want to throw away because I know I’ll fit in them again shortly. I wear the same three things over and over because I hate how everything else looks on me… but I’m not about to go buy clothes because I’m loosing weight any day now and that would be a waste of money. I spend way too much time researching stationary trainers, the Peloton Bike ($2k, seriously?), the Woodway Curve treadmill ($7k, WTF?). Last year I signed up for a bike race but never showed up because I was forced to admit I probably wouldn’t be able to finish. I wrote the other day about catching sight of myself on video and being horrified. Clearly that wasn’t enough to prompt me to do anything about it.

Yesterday, reality hit hard. I went skiing for the first time this season (it’s been a really bad snow year). I know I haven’t done much exercise for, uhm, a while, but that’s never really stopped me before. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do as many runs as normal and I’d be a bit sore then next day, but otherwise no big deal.

Late in the day I took a silly little tumble on an awkward slope. No problemo. Went to get up and… my quads weren’t strong enough to stand up. I literally did not have the strength to stand. I sat in the snow and contemplated taking off my skis so I could get on my knees, when my nephew skied up and asked if I was ok. I said of course I was and wrenched myself up in a heroic effort. I managed one more run and that was it. I’d clearly strained my back and knew it.

This morning I’m sitting here with plenty of ibuprofen, a heating pad, and feeling sorry for myself. How in the world did I manage to let age get the best of me like this? How sad that I’ve lost so much strength I couldn’t even bleeping stand up? I’ve seriously claimed how ridiculous it was that someone would let themselves go like that (in my inside voice). Karma baby. One of my greatest fears would be to end up on my own hospital floor. Having my coworkers help me on a bedpan because I didn’t take care of my back is not an option. I’d fly to one of those surgery centers in India before that happens.

I hope this was the last straw. I know what to do and I have the tools to do it. I’ve done it before. I was in amazing shape (ok, maybe not amazing but pretty good) four years ago. Can I do it again? It takes an average of 66 days to create a habit. Why is it so mentally hard to break the cycle of eating and sloth? Isn’t there a pill I can just take instead?

I’ve already committed to more skiing, cross country skiing, mountain biking, and a river trip this year. If I continue down my current trajectory I’ll have to bail on all of it. I don’t want that. You have my permission to publicly shame me. Call me out on my diet. Ask if I’ve worked out. Tell me I look squishier than usual.

If pain and public shaming don’t work, I’m doomed. I contemplated posting the “before” bathing suit picture so I’d have daily motivation to change. Rest easy, the Facebook (or my ego) isn’t quite ready for such a shocking image – one that you couldn’t unsee. This morning I officially weigh 203.6 lbs (after pooping of course). I was 176 four years ago. That’s a lot of cake and nachos. Let’s see what happens.
costanza


Milton Waddams:  “The ratio of people to cake is too big”

The Problem With Mirrors

So, I installed security cameras outside the house the other day. The cameras have revealed two very interesting details. The neighborhood I live in has alleys with our garages in the back. The first detail that shocked me was the amount ofcatfreeway activity that goes on in the alley at night. People walking back and forth, cars driving by. And cats. Oh my god, the cats. My driveway is like a regular cat freeway at night.

I’m not sure what to think about this. On one hand I’m ready to put concertina wire, moats, and laser firing automated robots around the property. On the other hand this has clearly been going on for the last six years and I had no idea. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

The other detail that horrified me was catching sight of myself walking around. For the love ohunchbackf god I’m a hunchbacked, potbellied, splay-footed troll. Why didn’t anyone tell me just how bad my physical condition has gotten? The problem is that when you don’t like what you see, it’s very easy to avoid mirrors. I glance in them just long enough to ensure something awful isn’t hanging out of my nose and that appropriate zippers are zipped. Clearly I haven’t been gazing into the mirror much the last few years.

Nothing like a dose of reality to force resolutions to happen. Eating clean starts right now. Ok maybe not now, it is super bowl weekend. Monday. Monday for sure. For the perimeter defenses, I’m not sure what to do yet. I’m thinking motion triggered tear gas rounds and blaring Justin Bieber music. Ok, maybe not the last part. A judge may find that too harsh.

Oh, and if you see me hunching over please tell me to stand up straight.

 

Food For Thought

I like food.  As a general rule (and I am a rule follower) the worse it is for me the better I like it.  But being the enigma I am, there are also fleeting attempts at being healthy.  Clearly some sort of foodie Jekyll and Hyde thing going on.  A few years ago in brief burst of health I read The Omnivores Dilemma and immediately resolved to eat nothing but food that was locally sourced, grass-fed, watered with unicorn tears, and lovingly harvested by nubile young virgins.  That lasted only a few weeks.  It’s just so damn easy to go to the mega-mart instead.  It wasn’t a complete waste however – I did buy a cow and will do so again once I finish the approximately 276 pounds of hamburger in my freezer.

Anyway, last night after catching up on the Kardashian channel  (E! News) I stumbled across Michael Pollan’s movie “Food Inc.”.  It wasn’t bad.  A little disturbing and very sensationalist.  Like his books it does make you think about your food and that’s a good thing.  It would be a wonderful thing if we could all afford to buy from farmers markets and not be slaves to the evil corporate machine.  Evil-doers I tell you!

Unfortunately it’s not reality.  The US population is 317 million.  The world population is 7.1 billion.  By 2050 those numbers are projected to be 400 million and 8.92 billion.  We do not have the capacity to feed those numbers with sustainable chickens running free through the woods and listening to Miley Cyrus on their little iChicken headphones prior to slaughter.  Here in the US, we have already exceeded the soil’s capacity to grow.  If it wasn’t for the miracle of modern nitrogen-based fertilizers we’d be living in some sort of futuristic Mad Max dust bowl already. 

So enough of the self-righteous condemnation of the modern food industry.  If, as Warren Buffet said, you’re one of the winners of the ovarian lottery be thankful. Drive the 20 miles to Whole Foods in your eco-friendly Prius and be grateful you can pay $6.99 for Chilean Blueberries while sipping a $7 mocha-latte made from beans sourced from Brazil.

GMO’s, drought and pesticide resistant seeds, massive corporate food production slaughterhouses and assembly lines, cheap immigrant labor… these really are good things.  Why?  The alternative is third-world food scarcity everywhere.  If you have a true, viable, alternative to feed the planet I’m all ears.  Meanwhile I’m going to go get me some .99¢ deep-fried chicken tenders, feel bad about myself and resolve to eat more salads.

We bought a cow

The Walmart was having a killer black Friday sale, so we went ahead and bought a cow.  Ok, not a cow but a steer.  Ok, it wasn’t Walmart but a local rancher.  Had to go take a look at him today since he’ll be in our freezer by next week.  It’s important to know where your food comes from.  That steak doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store!

On Giving Thanks. And Zombies.

Thanksgiving is an odd holiday.  It’s fake.  At least in its current form in the U.S., it’s a manufactured holiday.  Roosevelt went so far as to move the date in an attempt to help the economy by increasing the number of shopping days before Christmas.  It has nothing in common with the original harvest festivals of our forefathers… otherwise we’d be having a yummy dinner of fresh water eel and corn.  Even with all that, it’s still my favorite holiday.

If you can strip out all the commercialism, there’s just something about sitting down with family and friends for no purpose other than enjoying good food and giving thanks.  The Christmas/Holiday season? Hate it. Always have. It’s phony, fake, driven by marketing and the 2,735 holiday commercials per minute we’re bombarded with.  I lay in bed at night, stressed that I haven’t purchased the iNog EggNog maker for someone and for yet another year failed to get holiday newsletters out.  What in the hell am I going to get Aunt Sophie for a grab-bag gift?  The woman does nothing but watch approximately 22 hours a day of Judge Judy re-runs.  The fifty-four pound box of Pepperidge Farm sausage seemed reasonable to me, but my wife thinks otherwise.  Sigh…  The pressure is unbearable.

Ah, but Thanksgiving.  The only requirement is to relax, cook, and sit down with the people most important to you and eat.  And talk.  Share stories.  Drink too many adult beverages and thank the deity of your choice that you’re at an age where you’re longer stuck at that rickety card table with the kids.  And wallow in the knowledge that you have a free pass to eat an obscene amount of food.  The calories don’t count on Thanksgiving.  Extra gravy.  That ridiculous yam dish with the marshmallows – on what other day of the year could you serve something covered in marshmallows and get away with it?

But most importantly, to give thanks.  At some point during the dinner, sit back and just watch.  Watch your family and friends eating, enjoying, talking, arguing over politics and sports.  Simply being together.  And give thanks that through an accident of birth you happen to be in a position to live where you do.  That you don’t live in Sudan, or Somalia, or Afghanistan, or the poorest parts of India or China.  That you do have food on your table, clothes on your back, and that Uncle Bob is free to slur his words and lament that those damn commie democrats won the election.

Because not everyone has this gift.  But we do.  So ignore for at least one day the looming commercialism of the “holiday” season, politics, the media, and all those cute cat videos on Facebook.  Enjoy and be thankful for what you have – because as down and out as you might be, you’re not living in a mud hut in Ethiopia wondering where your next meal will come from.

And besides… we’re only a month away from the Mayan doomsday.  And you know what that means, right?  The coming zombie apocalypse.  There’ll be no enjoying canned cranberries or Frenches green been casserole when fighting off the zombie hoards.  I watch the Walking Dead, I know what’s coming.  I don’t know about you, but I’m stockpiling fancy Jell-O molds in my bunker.  And guns.  Lots and lots of guns.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Twinkies And Gray Hair

I’m heading to a Mexican beach in about nine weeks. This is a good thing. It also means going shirtless. That is a slightly uncomfortable thing. As a guy I’m not particularly vain, but I’ve never been very fond of how I look between the neck and the knees. I’m happy with my calves. I guess the ankles too. The rest not so much. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly fat. Just sort of… squishy around the middle.

The problem is food. I love to eat. Be forwarned – don’t get between me and good BBQ. Or cheese. I’ve seen plenty of Bruce Lee movies and can scare the hell out of you with my Jeet Kune Do warrior yell. The only thing that saves me from being four hundred pounds with cankles is that I’m pretty darn active. Between daily mountain biking, running, and wicked Gears of War battles on the XBox, I burn a ton of calories. Unfortunately all that does is let me maintain my sexy Stay-Puft abs. I never actually get less squishy (de-squishy?).

I figure I need to drop fifteen pounds to not feel like I need to wear a support garment. That means roughly two pounds a week. I’ll need to burn 5,800 calories a week. Just under 900 a day. That seems do-able. The problem will be limiting the calories needed for basic sustenance to just the minimum. Probably somewhere around 1,800-2,000.

Which brings me to Twinkies. 160 calories and a shelf life that doesn’t expire. I figured I could eat ten a day. And coffee. Can’t live without coffee. 1600 calories and plenty of sugar to keep me fueled. I was just about to head to Costco to pick up a pallet when I saw on snopes.com that it’s a myth. Twinkies only have a shelf life of 25 days. What a cruel joke! My pallet-load would go bad before I could consume all that sweet goodness. If I’m already going to have to go to the grocery store more frequently, I might as well buy vegetables or something. Sigh.

This is going to be a struggle. Worth it though – who doesn’t like to see a middle-aged guy strutting around the pool convinced everyone thinks he’s twenty years younger? I did discover a new batch of gray hair the other day. Going to have to deal with that. Grecian-Formula for Men and we’re practically John Travolta. Wait, that’s a hairpiece, so bad example. I’m sure you get the point.

I’ll start the diet tomorrow. Or maybe on Monday. Never start a diet on the weekend. I should probably find that swim-shirt just in case.

Can I Get Some Service, Please?

I’m not sure when it happened. I wouldn’t have thought I’d get like this. I fear I’ve turned into a cranky old curmudgeon. Maybe not quite to the level of the shuffling old guy with hair sprouting out of ears like some sort of odd alien growth, but clearly I’ve lost patience with the average retail employee. When did it become okay to hire someone incapable of counting change back? I know I’ve turned into a crusty old codger when it annoys the crap out of me the way they hand your change back – one big pile of bills, coins, and a receipt. Would it really kill you to hand them to me separately the way it was hammered into my thick skull by the owner of the pizza place I worked at in my tender youth? If he ever caught you just dumping a wad of change in a customer’s hand you’d be on dishwasher duty before you knew what hit you.

Speaking of restaurants, what happened to actually having hostess/wait experience before working at mid/high level eateries? We were walking downtown the other night and decided to have a drink at semi-new place. The restaurant was practically empty. The hostess greeted us and we asked to be seated at a table overlooking the sidewalk (it’s all about people watching). She asked if it was for just drinks or dinner? When we said drinks she seemed exasperated and said “ok, these tables are for dinner but since we’re not busy I’ll let you sit there. But if I need the table I’m going to ask you to move.” Really? Do you think we’ll ever go back with that attitude? Not. I would have walked out, but once I have my mind set on an adult beverage I’m like a big dumb dog trying to get ball out from under the couch. Single minded, I don’t quit. Not sure why I don’t have that attitude in business, working out, gardening…

What got me started down this train of thought was McDonalds. I have to preface that it’s a rare event for me to dine at the golden arches. However I was making a multi-state drive and ended up in Winnemucca Nevada, hungry and in need of gas (the refined, dead dinosaur, petrol kind). One’s dining choices in the middle of nowhere are pretty limited, so off to Ray Kroc’s legacy I went. The visit started badly from the get-go. Generally speaking, I tend to be a rule follower. If someone went to all the trouble of creating a rule, heck you may as well follow it. Even as rigid as I am there are times when it seems appropriate to bend or interpret rules to fit the current situation. I found myself staring at the breakfast menu. I asked if they were serving lunch. The gal at the counter glanced at her watch and said, “I can’t serve you lunch for three more minutes.” Really? She’s going to make me wait for three minutes? Sure enough. I stepped back and we stared at each other like some sort of weird Mexican stand-off for three minutes. At the stroke of the hour she flipped the menus from breakfast to lunch and said, “Ok now I can serve you.” Made me wonder if somewhere off in McDonald’s corporate headquarters there’s a dark room full of monitors and technicians. All intently watching employees via secret cameras and hoping to catch someone serving a cheeseburger too early.

Speaking of corporate headquarters, I’m all in favor of the famous Micky-D’s efficiency and speed in food prep. I understand the need for the numbered menus. Simply asking for a number 3 is an unbelievable time savings. Heck, one could just have a sign printed and hold it up – no human conversation needed! The problem I faced with the keeper of universal breakfast and lunch times who was serving me was that the number 3 was close… but not exactly what I wanted. I said “I’ll have a quarter pounder with cheese and…” Like a drill sergeant she barked “Do you want a number 3!?” “Uhhm, if it’s cheaper sure. But I’d like large fries…” She looked at me like the soup nazi from Seinfeld and sighed, “So a number 3, up-sized fries. Will that be all?” She was starting to scare me a bit, but I had to press on. “I’d like coffee instead of a soda.” She looked at me for approximately 20 seconds without a word and then started taping buttons on her register like she was programming a missile shot. “That will be $8.63. A regular number 3 and a side coffee would have been cheaper.” At least I didn’t go through the drive-thru. As the famous life coach Leo Getz says, “They f*** you at the drive thru!”

Considering the IQ of the average retail employee these days is somewhere near a mossy boulder… I don’t see my tolerance level with humanity getting any better as I get older. Sigh. Maybe I’ll just go yell at pigeons in the park. That usually makes me feel better.

On Feeling Young. And Tacos.

I don’t know what it is about street food that makes it so good. Grills and pans take on a certain patina when they’re not exactly cleaned spotless each night. Lard tastes better than heart healthy sunflower oil. (write this one down kids… fat = flavor) Maybe it’s the thrill of taking a chance on salmonella or hepatitis. Regardless, Anthony Bourdain has it right – you’re more likely to get sick from the hotel breakfast buffet than a street vendor. Accordingly, a friend and I took a chance on a serious dive, hole-in-the-wall, side of the road taqueria the other day.

I had a couple of pork chili verde tacos. Two small homemade tortillas, pork, onions and cilantro, hot oil dripping down my fingers. Simple. Heaven. Makes me ashamed of the American contribution to Mexican culinary history – the Chalupa Nacho Cheese (si, queso!), beef or upgraded to authentic carne asada. Oh, and Cinco de Mayo. Truly sorry about that one. Since I’m apologizing I may as well throw in blended margaritas. If you feel that you must drink your alcohol like a Jamba Juice smoothie, please have the decency to not call it a margarita. Ice cubes (Cubes DAMMIT!), Cointreau, good 100% blue agave tequila, salt. A lime if you must. Anything else and it’s no longer the beautiful drink Don Carlos Orozco gifted us with.

Since we’re talking tequila, we should probably mention a certain Jose Cervo-fueled night when I was in my twenties. Or not. Let’s just say that livestock, downtown high-rise hotels, and base jumping rarely ends well. What is worth talking about is that feeling you have in your youth.  Joints don’t hurt and backs don’t ache. There’s no such thing as stretching and warming up before you do something. There’s no hesitation when it comes to running, jumping, or climbing things. You just do it. Afterwards muscles aren’t sore. Sleep often comes easy. You don’t blink an eye at starting your evening at 11pm. Roll in as the sun is rising, go to work and repeat it the next evening.

Sitting here at an age that’s probably closer to the end than the beginning (holy crap, that’s a depressing thought), I wonder where those feelings of youth went? Well, not exactly true – in my head I still “feel” like I’m late twenties. I still listen to loud, obnoxious music that doesn’t fit my age. I feel ridiculous the few times I need to wear a tie or a suit, like I’m pretending to be an adult. The thought of going on a cruise just feels claustrophobic and something grandparents do. I like speed and thrills – skiing, mountain biking, motorcycles. I don’t think twice about going on crazy long hikes or trail runs in the backcountry. Unfortunately most of my activities usually culminate in ibuprofen, ice, and being too sore to walk the next day. I am constantly surprised when I can’t do something that I used to be able to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in the morning in pain and been honestly puzzled why I hurt? I never used to have to stretch my hamstrings and calves before spending an afternoon pulling weeds in the garden.

The lesson is that while you can’t stop the physical aging process, there’s no need to grow old mentally. The older I get the less interested I am in becoming a “grown up”. I don’t want to stop riding bikes, going for hikes, or listening to ridiculous gangster rap and 1970’s funk at eardrum damaging volumes. Everyone should resolve to do something youthful this week. Go watch a three stooges film festival. Go-cart racing. Sign up for climbing lessons at the local climbing gym. Wear a baseball hat and flip-flops. Take a spur of the moment trip without planning. Stay up past 10pm. It doesn’t matter what it is… just go do something to prove to yourself that you’re not an old fuddy-duddy.

And resolve to skip a chain restaurant this week in favor of street food. Preferably not in the best part of town. Take a chance. Have a real taco.

Ode To Cows

With your rough coat protecting you from the elements, saliva slowly drips from your cow lips.

I try to slip past without disturbing your cud, changing gears to power over the rough trail, deep divots from your hooves, standing on the muddy trail. How I love your vacant stare, steaming piles, dung shaped like frisbees, rib eye and filets, hamburger.

Calves in the spring are frisky and curious, cute eyelashes, running in the fields, speckled coats of every color. Leather jackets size forty-two long, perfect for a night on the town.

Porcine may be the ruler of barbecue, chickens are the king of breakfast supplies and spicy wings, but the bovine gives us calcium and work gloves, giardia is really just a weight loss method. Cruel? Cows are stupid, uncooperative, inconvenient, ill-tempered creatures. They get what they deserve.  A steak is what I crave.