I like ice cream. I also like muffins, cupcakes, bubble tea, chili cheese fries, pizza, bread pudding, oatmeal raisin cookies, and any combination of pasta and sauces. And you know what? Those things do taste as good as being thin feels.
The problem is that I like to eat but I do not like exercise. This is because I am lazy. If presented with the option of playing frolf (frisbee golf) in the park or watching a marathon of Welcome Back, Kotter, I’m probably going to choose the Sweathogs over actual sweat. Lounging on the couch while watching things I’ve seen ten times before is more appealing to me than going out in the fresh air and sunshine. And at the end of the day, I don’t smell like grass and outdoors. I probably smell like Cheetos.
And so it is that I am days from my 30th birthday, out of shape and still wrestling with body issues. With no reunion, wedding or bikini demanding a toned body, I lack the motivation to get into shape. I’ve been battling the bulge most of my life and have tried different exercise programs over the years but none of the routines stick. This can be partly blamed on my laziness but also on my intentions for different workouts.
As a child with various allergies and maladies, I wasn’t encouraged to run around or participate in physical activities that might result in severe injuries. I was mostly instructed to sit down and be quiet. I began life as a roly poly baby and carried around my baby fat for the first 17 years of my life. Then I just got grown-up fat, which isn’t nearly as cute or endearing. With my own food budget and a craving for sugar, butter and lard, I consumed a lot of fast food during my teen years. By age 19 I hit my heaviest at 175 pounds. By today’s obesity standards, 175 is nothing. Why, it’s almost average. But it is still big enough to mean you have to shop in the husky ladies’ department.
Once I moved from my hometown to a booming metropolis, there was less and less of me to love. I was walking instead of being driven around. I was no longer making trips to Taco Bell or KFC for my daily dose of the tasty trinity. Such a dramatic lifestyle change meant the weight dropped off. By my 20th birthday I was down to 115 pounds. The loss alarmed my mother, who was probably convinced I’d taken up drugs and other unsavory habits in the big city. Over the past ten years I’ve put a little more Kraft Dinner on my bones but I haven’t come close to becoming Fatharine again.
I still walk everywhere but I just can’t get into exercise. Some exercises involve special equipment or heavy machinery. Others involve counting. Videos require watching people in better shape than myself pretend to have a better time than me while perspiring. All fitness programs demand a certain level of enthusiasm for physical activity. “Oh boy, let’s jump up and down 20 times! Woo! Now let’s see how close we can get our knees to our eye sockets! Yay!” I don’t even express that kind of enthusiasm for things I love. What I need is an workout program designed for lazy cynics.
When you’re a recluse-in-training like myself, it can be very difficult to meet new people. Bars and clubs can be too noisy to make social connections while libraries are too quiet. Apart from jobs and church, most social settings require some sort of routine consumerism. Gyms involve routine consumerism with the added bonus of physical improvement. Except nowadays people exist in their own bubbles, shutting themselves off from outside distractions through their portable electronic device of choice.
In my pursuit of physical fitness as social activity, I joined a “walking group” once that turned out to be me and two larger single women engaging in early morning bitch sessions about the opposite sex and the perils of online dating. I had to quit because 6:30 a.m. is too early for me to be defending my relationship to bitter thirty-something ladies who believe all men over 45 are slimy creeps.
Just before the Big Move, I enrolled in a ballet class which was filled with 60-year-old fangirls of the tightly packaged teacher-boy. The acoustics in the classroom were lousy and all the ladies wanted to be close to the soft-spoken danseur. I quit after two or three classes, after I realized I wasn’t going to fit in there. A few years before that, a friend invited me to use her guest pass at Curves. I found the mix of machines and low-impact exercises accessible but quickly exhausted of the overplayed disco tunes pulsating through the tinny speakers. If I never hear YMCA or Hot Stuff again, I’ll pen a personally handwritten thank you note to Jesus.
And so, the quest for washboard abs remains a solo endeavor. Occasionally I’ll have one muffin too many and discover an unwanted muffin top. Then I pull out the Pilates book and the yoga mat and try to muster up the will to lose enough so I can once again comfortably wear pants without elastic. But exercise at home feels like a chore. Though I know the 15-minute walk (uphill both ways and, for five months of the year, in snow) to and from my subway station isn’t much, it’s more active than simply getting in and out of a car.
That I’ve been able to escape obesity for this long without strict diet and fitness regimens is an amazing feat. It will no doubt catch up to me. As my metabolism slows to match my sloth-like movement, I suspect I’ll be forced to go up a pant-size or two. But maybe I’ll stumble on the perfect workout program or a gym for cynical, socially awkward nerds. Or I’ll invent a Wii game that combines Boggle and Dance Dance Revolution. In the meantime, there’s a very special episode of Welcome Back, Kotter I’ve never seen.