I understand the principles behind weight loss. I understand the approximate number of calories per pound, the conversion of excess calories to fat storage (and the reverse), the effects of exercise on one’s metabolism. I understand this on an intellectual level, but often have trouble applying this knowledge in any practical fashion. In order for me to lose weight, I usually have to keep a minute record of my calorie intake so that I am forced to see precisely where I’m spending my calories. (And that’s how I look at it: as if I’m budgeting 2000 calories per day that I may spend how I please.)
My brother, Jeff, has tried a somewhat different approach, and it’s worked for him. To achieve his recent weight loss, he’s simply eschewed food during the day and then allowed himself to eat whatever he pleases at night. Yes, this violates traditional weight-loss advice (“eat many small meals rather than a few large meals”), but it’s worked for him.
“Don’t you get hungry during the day?” I asked him yesterday.
“Sure,” he said, “especially when I first started. But now it’s not such a big deal. I don’t even notice it, really. Plus if I get really hungry, I have a small snack, usually some protein.”
I’ll give Jeff’s method a try for a while, just for a change of pace. If that doesn’t work, I can always fall back to recording every little thing I eat.
“I’m not he man I want to be,” I told Nick the other day.
“Who’s the man you want to be?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. But this isn’t it.”
When my friends come to me with the weight of the world upon their shoulders, when life is bringing them down, I always tell them: “The only person who can make you happy is yourself. Happiness comes from within.”
That’s good advice. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to give advice than to take it.
If I had come to myself seeking advice, I would have said: “Happiness comes from within. If you’re not happy with the man you are, then be the man you want to be. If the man you want to be writes when he gets home from work, then write when you get home from work. If the man you want to be is fit, then be fit. If the man you want to be is not a smart-ass, then don’t be a smart-ass. If the man you want to be doesn’t watch TV, then do not watch TV. Read. Listen to classical music. Cook. Keep the house clean. Form deeper relationships with your friends. Be the man you want to be.”
My advice to myself sounds something like an Army recruitment ad.
“What are your goals?” Kris asked me.
“I don’t want to have goals,” I said. “I don’t want to have a destination. But I know the general direction I want to travel, and I’m on an opposite course.” (“I’m crowding the lee shore,” I thought to myself. I’ve been reading too much Patrick O’Brian.)
Dad used to say, “If you don’t change directions, you’ll arrive at where your headed.” I don’t like the place I’m headed.
Driving back from Hillsboro yesterday, I stopped at Voget Meats to pick up some smoked center-cut pork chops. Later, I stopped at the produce stand in Oregon City to buy an onion, a bag of potatoes, and some apples (both Jonathan and Jonagold).
At home, I prepared not one dinner, but two. I cubed the potatoes, boiled them, added salt, butter, seasoning and mashed the hell out of them. I grilled the pork. When Kris got home from work, she had a delicious dinner waiting for her.
The man I want to be cooks for his wife.
While waiting for the potatoes to boil, I set a pot of beans to soak. (When I get home today, I’ll boil the beans, add some onions and garlic, add left-over pork and a glass of wine, yielding a fine bean soup.)
After dinner, I sat in the parlor reading Brideshead Revisited while listening to classical music.
The man I want to be reads in the parlor while listening to classical music.
In the evening, I drove to the gym. I toured the cardio room, the weight room, the pool. I asked questions. (“That pool is pretty small. Oregon City has a lap pool. Can I use both facilities?”) I signed up for six months.
The man I want to be is fit. He exercises regularly.
And wouldn’t you know it, I find myself a happier person today. All it took was a tiny bit of effort to change my direction.