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The Fat Guy In Your Clothes

When I went to my first high school reunion what I noticed most about the other guys was the hair. What they noticed about me was that I no longer looked like I was built out of pipe cleaners.

I'd been a reed in high school, but inactivity and grain based beverages had taken care of that, and I was well on my way to acquiring a physique more like Mr. Potato Head. There have been a few reunions since, college and grad school too, and when I look at the photographs although the hair is still screaming out at me as a leading indicator of advancing decrepitude, it's the bodies that really tell the story. As we moved out of our twenties, we moved out of the size 32 jeans as well, and the results are not pretty. These are old men's bodies, the bodies we remember our fathers having as they stood on the sidelines of our sporting events, or went camping with us on Boy Scout hiking trips. These are the bodies of men who were the age we are now, who complained about their backs aching, and grimaced and said, "Gettin' old," when they were obliged to exert themselves.

It happens to men, just like it happens to women, but we notice it later with men because men's clothes are designed to conceal it better. There comes a time in every man's life, as he struggles to button the top of his 501's, that a decision has to be made: to I go with the Relaxed Fit, or do I "Rage, rage against the dying of the light"? I've told this story before, at the earlier incarnation of this concept. The truth is that losing weight is very simple: eat less, and exercise more, and you will find that all of those suits that you haven't worn in years now fit great.

In the locker room of the gym I go to a couple of weeks ago some sort of health related program was on TV, talking about the Atkins and South Beach diets. The TV talking head asked, "Are these just gimmicks, or is it an indication that Americans will do anything to lose weight?"-- and everyone in the room burst out laughing. You don't have to do "anything". You don't have to recoil at the sight of a breadstick, or subsist exclusively on broccoli-- all you have to do is get off your fat ass and start moving. Then do it again. And again.

I'll write about this for the next couple of weeks, but for now, let's start with a simple plan, and a simple understanding. Understanding first: it is not about "weight". You are fat, not heavy. You want to be less fat, because your body shape when you are fat is unattractive. You want to be less fat because you would like to be able to walk up a flight of stairs without breaking into a sweat. Fat people look older than they actually are, and you don't think you should look old. You want to get into shape.

This is a commendable goal, and not something that seems sissified, like some sort of diet: ball players get into shape at training camp-- it is a sort of Hemingwayesque thing to do. Say it to yourself now, "I'm going to get into shape." Sounds good, doesn't it? "I gotta lose weight," sounds like lettuce leaves and melba toast; "I'm going to get into shape," sounds like you are seriously setting out to do what a man does.

Got it? Good. Here's the plan: this weekend go buy a decent pair of running shoes. Go to a store that sells athletic equipment, and get something that feels comfortable. Don't buy "cross trainers". Cross trainers are for chumps, or Bo Jackson. We know you are not Bo-- don't be a chump, either. Even if you ultimately decide that running is not going to be the cornerstone of your program, running shoes are more flexible and better cushioned than cross trainers, and that is going to help you. Under no circumstances should you buy basketball shoes. You are a grownup now, so basketball shoes have no place in your casual wardrobe, and unless you have a regular game already, basketball is not what you'll be doing. A "regular game" for our purposes means a game at least once a week, with more or less the same players, in a gym. If you like, you can make getting into a regular game part of what you are getting into shape to do.

While you are shopping, you may want to have a look at the rest of your workout clothes. Don't go overboard, but you'll want some shorts that don't chafe, and maybe some tee shirts that don't have beer logos on them.

When you get home, put on your new stuff, and go outside. Stop worrying about how you look, and start jogging. When you get winded, walk until you get your breath back. Take it easy, and don't stop until you have gone for 15 minutes. Then take a nice shower, remember to drink plenty of water, and on the next day do it again.

We'll talk about what to do next time.

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