On December 31, 2010, I made my first New Years resolution, one that I would actually keep, to my deep and pleasant surprise (a year devoid of any Mountain Dew, which I guzzled by the truckload in 2010). I know it’s a bit early, but the writing bug bites when it will, so I’m all ready to entrust the world with my resolution for the coming year.
In 2013, I’m going to lose fifty pounds.
Fraggle Rock, this is going to be a tough one.
I’ve grown rather tired of being decidedly pear-shaped. I may have been a thick-headed snot in high school, in the same vein as most teenage boys, but I have the photos to prove that I was reasonably strapping, and I miss that life. I graduated from high school in May 2007, and I wish I could remember how I spent the following summer, because the next event in my memory still burns me to this day. There’s a great number of things about my life I wish went differently, but my freshman soccer tryout is a prominent one.
I showed up for preseason fully expecting to make the varsity team and spend every minute on the field. I was no great shakes with the ball on my foot, but I was strong, I was smart, and I knew how to play defense. Forwards struggled to get off clean shots against me from the ninth through twelth grades, and I was proud of that fact. I was also one of the better-conditioned players on my high school team, and I could outrun a lot of guys my size and smaller.
Well, imagine my disdain when I finished second-to-last in the inaugural two-mile run.
I struggled through every conditioning drill in that two-week stretch, and that revelation culminated in my meeting with Coach Caucutt. I hadn’t really expected to make the team at that point, but I still remember how embarrassed I felt after Coach shared his analysis:
“Matt, you’re a good soccer player. You have a great I.Q. for the game, better than many of our upperclassmen, and we could use your strength in the box. The fact of the matter, however, is that you’re just in horrible shape, and I can’t really use you because of that.”
Frankly, that sucked. That was the first time in my life I had ever failed at anything simply because I was physically unprepared, and it wasn’t a feeling I relished. I should have acted on that feeling and done something about my weight gain, but my school happened to serve incredible food, and as much of it as I wanted at virtually any time, so I indulged and indulged and indulged until four years later, when I had completed my transformation into an unattractive anthropomorphic mass.
I finished high school at a healthy, fit 215 pounds.
I weighed myself today. Two hundred and sixty-eight girth-units.
Isn’t that sickening?
No longer. I’m tired of looking, feeling, living like a self-indulgent calorie vacuum. I don’t want to travel the world and invoke strains of “typical American blob” from the nationals. I want to feel good about myself again, so I’m going to make that happen, Lord willing. And I’m pretty sure the Lord wills.
This first resolution segues perfectly into an auxiliary resolution.
In 2013, I will eat no fast food.
It’s fast food’s fault. Fast food has made me and my fellow Americans obese — if not morbidly obese. It’s changed the age-old equation that poor equals thin and rich equals fat so that now our working poor are huge and slow-moving and only the wealthy can afford the personal trainers, liposuction, and extended spa treatments, it seems, to be thin. It’s in their snail tracks that our thighs have expanded, our bellies pooched out over our groins, and our normally-proportioned generations developed into swollen masses.
Is fast food inherently evil? Is the convenient nature of the beast bad, in and of itself? Decidedly no. Fast food — which traditionally solves very real problems of the working families, families with kids, business people on the go, the casually hungry — can be good food. If you walk down a street in Istanbul or visit an open-air market in San Juan, you’ll see that a quick, easy meal, often enjoyed standing up, doesn’t have to be part of the hideous, generic sprawl of soul-destroying sameness that stretches from strip malls here in Madison across the U.S. and back again, looking the same and tasting the same. I’m tired of the paper-wrapped morsels of gray “beef” patties with all-purpose sauce. The unbelievably high-caloric horrors of beef-flavor-sprayed chicken nuggets, of “milkshakes” that contain no milk and have never been shaken, of “cheese” with no cheese.
I’m going rogue. Actually, I’m going small-ball. I don’t believe we should legislate these joints out of business. My position is going to be the Nancy Reagan position on drugs: “Just Say No.” I want to encourage you to do the same. Next time you find yourself standing slack-jawed and hungry in front of a fast-food counter, just turn on your heel and head for the lone-wolf, independent operator down the street: a pie shop, a chippie, a kebab joint, or anywhere that the proprietor has a name. At least you’re encouraging individual, local business, an entrepreneur who can react to neighborhood needs and wants, rather than a dictatorial system in which some focus group in an industrial park in Iowa decides for you what you will or should want. Deep-fried cod or plaice with vinegar, haggis with curry sauce; these may not be the apex of healthy eating, but at least they’re indigenous to somewhere, and they’re actually quite tasty.
That’s one thing that my limited travels have taught me — whenever possible, try to eat food that comes from somewhere, from somebody. And stop eating so friggin’ much. A little portion control would go a long way in slimming down our herds of heavyweights, myself included. We may as well stop snacking on crap while we’re at it. Nobody needs that bag of chips between meals. I don’t even enjoy them anymore. Save your appetite for something good! Take a little more time with it!
All this rage and frustration I feel with myself for getting to this point is going to be filled with something more than a soggy disk of ground-up excrement. I’m going to eat for nourishment, yes, but I’ll also eat for pleasure, which is something I’ve missed for a while. I’ll stop settling for less. That way, the next time I decide to write a blog post about booting the major chain evildoers out of their holes, at the very least, I’ll be able to squeeze in after them.