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By Johnny Lucas
I'm of average height for a man (5'10"), so 20 lb. will make a difference but I still won't get blown away in a storm. For much of my life I've felt at least a little overweight. My baby pictures show an adorable little butterball. I'm not looking for thin this time, just a change for the better.
Having witnessed several close friends stop smoking, I accept the fact that a change in habits comes only when you're "good and ready." I also know from their experience that vigilance against backsliding has to be a lifetime commitment.
I've had a few signs that now is the time. Little things have added up: some favorite pants don't fit as well as they should, I'm not wearing one nice belt because the leftover end looks too small, I don't feel comfortable going shirtless anymore. Everybody's got their own long list of nagging, weight-related annoyances.
I also have to face the fact that if I don't change my weight now, I will be obliged to change my self image. I will have to consider myself to be a person of the pudgy persuasion--I still refuse to use the f.. word. And with Christmas coming, it's likely that if my weight doesn't start going down right now, at the end of the Official Overeating Season, it will very likely be even higher. It looks like now or never.
I could live with the never option, but I don't want to. My motivation comes down to two big reasons: health and vanity. A powerful combination those two.
In my case, the health arguments are pretty standard ones. I'm not obese, let's understand that, but I'm weighty enough right now that there's an additional strain on my spine to keep decent posture and I have been warned of the risk of increased lordosis as time goes by. Excessive lordosis is too much curving of the spine, and it sounds too much like lardosis.
And there's the heart. The more weight you have, the more blood you've got to pump around to keep alive. There is some history of heart disease in my family, and although I'm quite comfortable with my own mortality, I'm not ready to go just yet, and I'd feel very embarrassed to die of something preventable.
Even the side effects look good. A necessary part of weight control is watching fat intake. Fats have been targeted as contributing factors in lots of ailments not directly related to weight, such as prostate problems and cancer. (The prostate is a major concern in men's health. More on this troublesome little gland in upcoming columns.) A more active life is better for the strength of bones, for sleep, for sexual function, and for stress reduction.
Now that I've talked myself into doing something, what course do I take? This is especially important, as I know by now that changes in eating and exercise patterns will be things that I'll have to watch for the rest of my life.
My previous GP discouraged any weight loss ambitions. "It's genetics," he said. "In mankind's hunting and gathering stage, the ability to store every calorie as fat made you more likely to survive long hungry spells." He too was moderately overweight. When I told my current doctor I was going to lose some weight, he agreed that it would be a good move and said that he was about to try the same thing.
With considerable enthusiasm and hoping to get some great insight or secret, I asked him how he was going to accomplish this. He said "I'm going to eat less and exercise more." That's my plan too. It's a very nice end-run on the $30 billion diet industry.
During the next two months I'm going to find the exercise program that's right for me. I'm going to resume swimming in my local community centre and I'm even going to hang around the weight room and see if I can bear to ride a stationary bicycle. I shall say no to all snacks wrapped in plastic, and "think twice and eat once." Watch this space every couple of weeks--I'll let you know if it works.
Johnny Lucas is a moderately overweight Toronto writer
illustrations by Scot Ritchie
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