The original plan was for me to take my shirt off. I know, you’re all drooling on to your keyboards at the thought, but settle down! I needed a goal, something to motivate me to get into shape. This was in February. I rejoined my old L.A. gym, Crunch, which makes absolutely no sense because it’s really far from where I live in Atwater Village; only, I really like that gym and when I was a member, I went regularly. I had friends there. So I rejoined and ever since February, I’ve been going four days a week. That’s almost six months of regular gym-going and if I had to take my shirt off now on my blog, I’d be a lot less freaked out than I would have been six months ago (OK, maybe I’ll show you my biceps).
The question for me, though, was never really a question of exercise. We all know that exercise is good for us; there’s not much to think about. You go, you do it, you look better, you feel better, etc. The harder question was a question of diet: how do I change what I eat to maximize my efforts? If I wanted to see changes (and I did want to see changes) what did I have to do?
Why oh why did I buy this scone while sitting here at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village where the pastries are tempting and the cakes are alluring and I came for a sandwich but now I want coffee and while ordering coffee I heard my mouth say, “I’ll have a scone too” and the woman said, “It’s cherry” and I said, “Ooooh” and she said, “I’ll give you an extra big one” and I was like, in my head, “Nooo, don’t, because I’m supposed to go to the gym later!” and I know if I eat this scone I probably won’t go to the gym later which is faulty logic seeing as eating the scone should make me want to go to the gym more because there’s more to burn but, in fact, it makes me want to go to the gym less because I’ve already blown it, health-wise, so what’s the point as I stare at this scone in front of me and question whether I should eat it at all or just take it home to reward myself with later.
There was a tiny period, at the end of 2011 and the start of 2012, when, upon joining a gym for the 300th time, I blogged about this latest attempt at exercise on my Not Food Blog. I wrote about the advantages of a treadmill vs. an elliptical machine (the treadmill forces you to run), what to think about while exercising (the answer: not exercising), and my fear of quitting.
Then, not-so-shockingly, I stopped. People who were reading these dispatches probably thought, “Ah, he quit.” And, based on my history of quitting gyms, these people would have a very legitimate reason to believe that. Only, I didn’t quit the gym, I just quit blogging about it. And, more than 9 months later, I’m still going and–weirdly–kind of enjoying it. And I’m starting to see changes, like the change in my arm you might notice in the photo above. That’s a strong arm! How did I manage that? Here, then, is my advice for those of you who, like me, always quit gyms but want to learn how to stick to it (a pretty essential thing to know if you enjoy eating like I do!).
If there’s one question I get asked all the time, whether in my blog comments or over Twitter, it’s: “How do you not weigh 500 pounds?”
It’s usually in response to a post about a very decadent meal or a recipe that involves several sticks of butter (like Craig’s birthday cake). The question implies that food with lots of butter or meals with lots of heavy courses are somehow responsible for massive weight gain; it ignores one’s own agency in the matter, assuming that when one bakes a cake with five sticks of butter that one is therefore going to consume several sticks of butter. If you visualize those five sticks of butter spread throughout a giant two layer cake, however, and then you cut an individual slice out of it, you come to realize that one piece of that cake represents just a few tablespoons of butter. And therein lies the answer.
Last week I thought I was dying.
No really: it was Craig’s birthday and I took him out to Soto where we ordered the tasting menu (this is after taking him to a taping of The Daily Show.) The food started to come–a tiny amuse bouche, then a bowl of miso soup–and after the soup, I felt utterly full. Like I couldn’t have been fuller and there were ten more courses on their way. I asked the waitress if we could cancel my tasting menu and if I could just pay for the two courses I already ate and she said “No; the chef’s already preparing your whole meal.”
Iconic male food writers like A.J. Liebling and R.W. Apple were large men; they flaunted their girth in ways that their female counterparts (M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, Ruth Reichl) did not. Their weight helped them cultivate an aura of power and authority; it’s easy to imagine them sitting in a brown leather chair, patting their tummies after a large meal, smoking a very expensive cigar and sipping a very fine Brandy. But to quote the Monkees: that was then and this is now.