Elastic waistband glory, and other bad advice

by Mick Rhodes | editor@claremont-courier.com

For many, being tasked to write a column about healthy living would be a welcome chance to offer personal tips on how they have kept Father Time, Mother Nature, and/or gravity at bay.

Sorry readers, this is not that column.

This mostly sedentary 60-year-old is simply doing what he can, which isn’t much, to stave off the inevitable, cruel march of time, that (hopefully) long walk toward the great equalizer, the herenomore.

There was a time when I could have riffed on my fitness regimen, my favorite gym, and the health and spiritual benefits of basketball for folks over 30. That was 40 pounds and 30 years ago. My expertise now is in locating good Mexican food joints and testing out the elastic robustness of men’s jogging pants (as if!).

I’ve been out of shape before, and it’s always been the same: I reach the fork in the road where I must either lose some weight or buy an entire new wardrobe, and I choose the former.

Now though, I’ve taken the other, easier road. It’s not that I don’t care. I do. But I just don’t care enough to suffer. I love all the food my health-conscious friends avoid: pizza, beer, bread, beer. And beer. I’m a carb-counter’s worst nightmare, and I just don’t care to pretend otherwise any longer.

Yes, it’s a terrible idea to carry extra weight in your 60s. I’m full of terrible ideas. It comes with the package. For now though, my cholesterol and blood pressure are fine, my heart appears healthy, I’m not pre-diabetic, and my parts mostly function as they did when they left the factory. I know this isn’t permanent, and problems will arise. But for now, I’m going to do the thing I’ve always told my kids not to do, and just pretend everything is fine.

We’ve all seen the stories about 100-year-olds crediting their longevity to a pint of Guinness or a dram of whiskey a day. I’m simply emulating these heroes, in hopes of duplicating their success (though I’d settle for 85 if I’m honest).

Yes, this column is sandwiched (Ooh, a sandwich! That sounds good) between all manner of well-meaning, educated, qualified, and earnest health professionals, all extolling the real, quantifiable benefits of various forms of exercise, diet, restraint, and moderation. Those are of course all well and good, sensible approaches to the aforementioned inevitable march toward the herenomore. I do not mock, nor do I offer an informed alternative. In fact, I freely admit my recent slide toward slovenliness is due only to my own laziness.

And, I have to hope this isn’t one of those “knock on wood” columns, where I picture myself at my little desk five years from now looking out the same window and writing about how wrong I was. Adding to that possibility is the fact that my family history is mostly dismal. I just caught up to my dad, who died at 60. My grandmother, aunts, and mother also all died relatively early, in their 60s and early 70s. The lone outlier was my maternal grandfather, whose clean living and good natured disposition propelled him to 96. I share neither of those qualities, and since we’re grading on a curve here, that score gets thrown out.

With apologies to my fit and fabulous peers, the upshot here is that for me it’s all gravy now, so why not enjoy some gravy?

I traveled to Italy in 2001 and was struck by the juxtaposition of the food — bread, pasta, cheese, rich desserts, gelato, wine — and the Italian people, who for the most part appeared to be roughly the same size as 1970s Americans; that is, within healthy body mass index ranges. I attributed this to the lifestyle there: long, peaceful meals, daily siestas, and lots of walking around town. I’ve since learned Italian’s diets also include an array of vegetables, fruits, fish, beans, tomatoes, poultry, whole grains, olive oil, red wine, and dairy, and they really don’t eat a lot of red meat. It’s sort of like the anti-American diet, really.

Here in America we absolutely cherish our “white foods.” A January poll by Grubhub, published in that most American of publications, Reader’s Digest (Yes, they’re still around!) listed the top 50 most popular foods in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Number one was a surprise: burrito bowls. But numbers two through five were cheeseburger, hash browns, cheese pizza, and french fries. Also on the list: nachos, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, donuts, mozzarella sticks, and onion rings. This is who we are. We love our salty, fried, and crunchy. I am not judging in any way whatsoever. In fact, this list only affirmed my belief that my diet puts me in good company as a slightly round, patriotic American.

But that little pudgy dude on my shoulder — the one who whispers in my ear when I’m breaking into the bag of snack-sized Payday bars — I know he knows that I know what’s up, that my complicated attempt to justify my quest to live and let live in elastic waistband glory is unsustainable.

The day of reckoning is coming.

But when it does, I hope to have struck a chord not for giving up, but for the virtuous enjoyment of food and drink, maybe even a little too much of both. It’s not forever, this life. Might as well have a couple beers and eat some pizza before it’s too late for either.

They’ll be time for core strengthening and juice cleanses.

I have to hope.


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