I am not a thin man. I won’t need to be buried in a piano crate but, more than once, I have used pliers to pull up the zipper on my pants. If a car salesman were trying to sell me, he’d use terms like “roomy” and “ample trunk space”. He might even mention “cup holders”, but I’m not sure what he would mean by that, and we’d probably wind up fighting.
When I was a slim twenty year-old, my then-girlfriend-now-wife Lily said to me, “How can you do that?!” as I ate my favorite meal of a burrito smothered with chili and wrapped in a pizza. I merely laughed and dumped on hot sauce in an orgy of youth. When I was a heftier thirty year-old, Lily said, “Why do you still do that?” as I snacked on several peanut butter sandwiches and a bag of sugar. Now that I’m a full-figured forty year-old, she just shakes her head and says, “Honey, you need to stop doing that!” as I lick from my fingers the remains of a stack of chicken wings, a plate of nachos, and a can of frosting.
Lily recently reached her limit and scolded me severely after catching me eating a pig. In my usual way I interpreted her concern for my health as nagging and as a challenge to my independence. She watched in pursed-lip silence as I dumped on more hot sauce, feeling like my twenty year-old self again. Later that night, I made sure she was asleep before I sneaked into the bathroom to swallow a bottle of antacid tablets and a towel.
As I stood in front of the mirror, wisps of steam seeping from my mouth, I began to wonder if Lily might be right. I didn’t have the energy I used to (I needed at least two rest breaks whenever I dialed a phone number; a long- distance number also required a snack break.) I shopped for my pants in the tent aisle at REI. Normal people would see those as clear signals that something was wrong. I had assumed they were just the subtle changes that all of us go through as we age, like finding a few gray hairs in your nose.
Staring back at me from that bathroom mirror was a man much blobbier than I remembered myself being. I knew we hadn’t installed a fun-house mirror and it started to sink in that the blob just might be me. I decided to hop on the bathroom scale to see exactly how many pounds have crept up over the years. After looking all over for the scale, I discovered that I couldn’t see it because I was already standing on it. In fact I also couldn’t see my feet and realized that I hadn’t seen them in a few years either. I then realized that I had been absentmindedly slurping from a tube of mint-flavored tooth paste even as I stood there worrying about my eating habits. Oh dear….
The shock of that night’s revelations led me to make some lifestyle changes, much to Lily’s delight. I now exercise regularly (using my walking shoes for daily walks instead of as potholders for deep frying bacon). I eat less (five small meals instead of one twelve-hour graze with occasional snack breaks). And I’ve started eating healthier food (one skinless chicken breast instead of eighteen deep-fried pieces and the grease-soaked bucket they came in).
The final lifestyle change was the most painful. I walked into Daphne’s Donut Den, my home away from home, and handed over my Donut Deal card (“buy six-dozen donuts and get a free cardiogram!”) Behind the counter, 300-pound Daphne gasped in astonishment through the cigarette smoke that wreathed her head (her donuts are tasty enough that I never complained about the little extras they sometimes contained, like cigarette butts or hair nets.) I left a sobbing Daphne behind me and set out on the morning’s walk with a spring in my step and a chocolate bar in my pocket (I’m only human after all, but don’t tell Lily.)