Running on full

July 13, 2020

James Joyce’s sketch of Leopold Bloom

I have to lose a few pounds. Actually, I have to lose a lot of a few pounds. In my long distance running days, I never had to worry about my weight. Running forty miles per week meant everything I ate and drank converted immediately to fuel. I could walk around the house with a Dove Bar in each hand and a stupid grin on my face. Running for me was an obsession, quite possibly an addiction, but without a destructive physical or emotional element. As with all my obsessions, however, running, too, wound up on the ash heap of my history.

“I seem to be stuck within the This Is Why Rome Fell Diet of excess and indulgence. The pandemic’s restrictions haven’t helped at all.”

It was as if my fat cells knew what was happening, and they all knew exactly where to go. They saw my weekly miles drop to about ten, and shouted with one voice, “Head for the belly, boys!” From that fateful day my buckle found the next forward belt hole, it has been a slow but steady losing battle with circumference.

And as I age, my body is exhibiting a remarkable resistance to almost all efforts regarding exercise and diet. I say “almost” because I’m still avoiding the more draconian but effective solutions to weight control, such as eating less and more healthy, as well as curtailing Happy Hour. I seem to be stuck within the This Is Why Rome Fell Diet of excess and indulgence. The pandemic’s restrictions haven’t helped at all. The refrigerator has developed the most seductively dulcet tones when calling out to me.

Carol is much better at these self-disciplinary efforts, but even she’s saying she doesn’t understand why her usual diet (which I call the Auschwitz Plan) isn’t working for her. It might be we’re both coming up against the natural barrier of aging, when metabolism slows and exercise options become more limited.

This past week, for instance, I did my normal morning jogs (admittedly more of a demented shuffle), cut out all Happy Hours, and limited myself to two feeding times per day. I hopped on the scale at the end of this most grindingly grim week of deprivation, and found I had gained a freaking pound! Instead of being able to celebrate a weekend bacchanalia for having lost five pounds, I had to settle for a weekend bacchanalia to celebrate not giving a s@#t anymore.

Of course the solution is a simple one. It’s just a hard one to implement. It’s Homeric. It’s about Odysseus navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of lunch and dinner, resisting the siren song of the fridge, as well as the lotus-eaters of Happy Hour. Except Odysseus had to survive all that only once. This modern dietary Odysseus has to do it every damn day.

Less Homer’s Odysseus and more Joyce’s Leopold Bloom, I prefer to wrestle heroically with my waistline, even as the whole social and economic fabric of life as we know it is crumbling before our eyes. On the one hand, there’s not much l can do to affect the latter; on the other, losing a pound seems to be as difficult for me as wearing a mask is for many others. Not much heroics for either Homer or Joyce to bother with.


  1. Susan Mattern says:

    Oh yes, I share your pain, and I enjoy your writing so much I may just have a bite of chocolate to celebrate it!!!

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