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I know it. I don’t need anyone to tell me, though Kathy manages to slam me with at least one less-than-veiled comment per day.
“Hey, Chunky. Did I see more cheese in the refrigerator and some ice cream in the freezer? Still buyin’ the dairy products, are ya? What do you think this is … Finland? You need a lot of butterfat when you’re out herding reindeer, don’t you?”
“Watch your step Doughboy, you’re not as light on your feet as you used to be. By the way, have you been able to see your feet lately?”
And so on.
Up until the other day, I could take it, dish out a few barbs of my own, and continue on my merry way. I measured the remarks against the beauty of bernaise, against the value of roasted new potatoes slathered in a buttery pan sauce, and the food won. Hands down.
But, there are times when something occurs to a fat guy that takes the game to a whole new level — way beyond snide remarks and mildly-disturbing images glimpsed in a full-length mirror. To a moment of stark, existential realization.
I had one of those experiences last week.
I flunked the tub test.
In a big way.
It began when I felt poorly while at work. My body started to ache; I grew suddenly and seriously fatigued. I began to heat up, my temp rising like the fuel rods in the reactor core at Chernobyl.
It was the tail end of flu season. I had been to local school buildings, touching things — door handles, desk tops. I’d been indiscriminately shaking hands with folks at the office and at the market. I was a prime candidate for a ticket on the Influenza Express.
I admit I am somewhat of a hypochondriac so, at the very least it was influenza. Most likely, I had SARS. I was going to die.
I dragged myself to the grocery store and bought the makings for a simple and quick chicken soup: chicken broth, some frozen mixed vegetables, a rotisserie chicken — ingredients that could be plopped in a pan, heated and eaten with a modest portion of shame. The gunk for the soup had enough chemicals in it to send the national security warnings off the chart, but I figured the additives might kill a virus.
I served up a bowl to Kathy. She stared at the bowl, then at me, then at the bowl, then at me.
She stared at the bowl, then at me, then at the bowl, then at me. I held my face about two inches above the surface of the hot … what shall we call it? … “stuff” in the bowl. I inhaled the steam coming off the surface of the “stuff” and moaned as I exhaled.
“Not feeling well, are you Porky?”
I explained my symptoms, their rapid onset. Influenza. Sinus infection. Something dire.
This piqued my bride’s interest. Kathy reads a lot of oh-my heavens-if-you-don’t-drastically-change-your-diet-you will-perish-in-the-worst-of-ways books she orders from the Perspectives on Doom Book Club. You want symptoms? Kathy knows symptoms.
“Sounds like you’re in a world of hurt Chub Ball. The Big V definitely has a grip on you. I warned you about weakening your immune system with your careless habits. You’ve been a very bad boy, haven’t you? Too much red meat, too much butter, too much cheese, too much wine, too much gin. Especially the gin. You’ve got to stop eating refined products, and …”
As she recited her litany, I put my head on the table.
“I gotta go to choir practice at church,” she said. “I’d pat you on your giant head if you weren’t infected. I do feel sorry for you, really I do, but only up to a point. After all, it’s your own fault. What I want you to do is drink the potion I’m going to whip up for you before I leave. As soon as you’ve finished with the magic potion, I want you to take the pills I give you then fill the tub with hot water, and soak. Then, wrap yourself up, and sleep in the guest bedroom. Whatever you do, stay away from my bed. Don’t even sit on the end of the bed; you have cooties and I do not want them.”
A regular Mother Theresa.
Kathy made a huge mug of her special potion. I’ve written before about her odd alchemical experiments — teas brewed using roots and barks and berries from the Third World, allegedly imbued with major mojo. She gathered a fistful of capsules and tablets and set them on the table. She put the mug in front of me, backed away quickly and waved goodbye.
As soon as she left, I poured the tea down the drain and deposited the caps and tabs in the trash, carefully concealing them beneath a pile of shredded credit card offers.
The bath I’ll do, I thought. That sounds like it could provide some relief.
I staggered to the bathroom and filled the tub with hot water.
I lowered myself into the tub. I had to take it slow, since the water level rose quickly, threatening to overflow on to the floor.
Finally, I was in.
The first thing I noticed was the absence of water.
Where was the water? Shouldn’t it be lapping over me, covering me in a blanket of therapeutic warmth?
I looked to the end of the tub. The second thing I noticed was the fact I couldn’t see the end of the tub.
My stomach blocked my view.
Maybe I’ll sit up and turn on the water, I thought.
The third thing I noticed was the fact I was kind of stuck in the tub.
Well, in truth, not “kind of.” I was stuck in the tub; I occupied every square centimeter of the thing. It was like I’d poured myself into the tub — a hirsute mass of chalky Silly Putty, with a spine.
To compound the problem, the rapid evacuation of the water (oh, that cursed displacement) had created a strong suction, bonding my ample backside to the porcelain. When I lowered myself into the tub, the water was a good 8-inches deep. When the Eagle landed, the water level was down to a couple microns.
So, I am fevered, fatigued and form-fitted to a bathtub with only the enormous, desolate continent of my midsection in view.
It was pretty obvious: I probably ought to lose some weight.
It took me quite a while to get out of the tub, and the process wasn’t pretty. I flopped and slithered my way to freedom, like an albino manatee escaping from a tank at Sea World.
Apparently the diet I detailed in this column about a year ago has not served me well. I was wrong: I theorized I could lose a bit of weight and maintain the loss by eating anything I wanted, in moderation. The idea was so cleanly Aristotelian — how could it fail?
But fail it did, especially when the things eaten in moderation rank near 8.0 on the flab Richter Scale. That and the fact that “moderation” is a sketchy concept. Wasn’t it Maurice Merleau-Ponty who rigged up an epistemological system based on the intentionality of perception? It’s easy to understand: A “moderate” dinner in my estimation would be a month’s supply of food for a village in South Sudan.
In light of my gross miscalculation: Where to go, what to do?
I know folks who have lost weight on the low-carb, no-carb regimens. But, I also know many of them fall off the protein wagon and bounce right back to Fatville.
There’s the South Beach Diet, the Atkins, the modified Atkins. There are programs that involve regular fasting; there are radical vegetarian plans. There’s the grapefruit diet, the eggplant diet, the green things diet, the macrobiotic diet.
It’s depressing. But, so is flunking the tub test.
Then there’s the notion proposed by my wife that weight loss might occur if butter and cream and most red meat and most dairy products are excluded most of the time from the menu. Hand in hand with alcohol. But who wants to live without these things? If the economy collapses, if Guatemala invades and takes over the country, if a meteor hits the planet and plunges us into perpetual winter, I might have to give these things up, but why now?
What to do, what to do?
I have an idea that might solve the problem, at least for a while.
Tomorrow, I’ll buy a larger bath tub.