Losing weight as we think of bombing Iraq

Editor & Publisher

This past week, two fears have been competing for my attention.

I am ashamed to say one is noble sounding: I fear we are sliding sideways into further involvement in Iraq.

The second fear is on the purely selfish home front: I will never lose the 10 pounds I have wrapped around my middle like a toddler’s floatie ring I can neither deflate nor simply take off.

And in a world of American ideology, idealism, excess and cultural clashing, the two have a way of interacting.


Weapons of Mass Destruction & chocolate donuts

As I watched the news on Friday, I heard President Obama say that the instability in Iraq poses a danger to the country and its people and  “could eventually pose a threat to America and its interests as well.”

I looked at the 60-inch flat screen filled with violent background images. I thought of the rhetoric used for the first Iraq War more than a decade ago – Hussein as Hitler, the supposed intelligence of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the emotionally appalling specter of atrocities against the Kurds.

I though how out-of-control, without direction and in search of a palpable statement of mission Obama’s rhetoric sounds today as he weighs his options. I heard our President’s words again in my mind: “Iraq could eventually pose a threat to America and its interests as well.”

I thought to myself, “This Entenmann’s chocolate donut is an immediate threat to my life and its interests as well.”

And like most Americans, I started gorging on news of Iraq, yet again.

Are we going back to war? Will Obama end up sending in troops? Have we gained anything in that corner of the world? What is the difference between policy and spin?

As I watched the takeover of Iraq from the safety of my living room, I started to think of how controlling the geopolitics in Iraq is like controlling one’s weight – it rarely works. You can declare victory, but you will be back at war before long.

And going to war in Iraq is a lot like the desire to gorge when you really shouldn’t. It is easy to accomplish if you proceed in ignorance.  Just ask Adam and Eve: ignorance is bliss.


Size 34 pants at any cost

And the best and only way to really maintain ignorance when you start to gain weight is to not own a scale.

“Scales are for losers,” I said to myself for years when I was in my 20s and 30s and still rail thin.

“I will not be a neurotic scale watcher,” I would say to myself.

But life changes radically when you hit your 40s.

I slowly noticed almost imperceptibly that my pants were tightening. My teenage daughters would chastise me for having “muffin tops” emanating above my pant line.

But instead of changing a single habit, I did a little spin control on my manner of dress.  I began to master the “untucked” shirt approach.

We can thank God that American culture is very helpful at masking weight gain. We are now an untucked shirt culture. You can dine at the Country Club with shirt untucked and go to Commission meetings and the Mayor is hiding his extra 10 pounds with an untucked shirt.

It used to be only Oprah and Stevie Nicks had mastered the flowing garb approach to life. I used to make fun of the “all flow, no show” approach to dressing. But I soon adjusted my attitude.

And like many men, I decided stubbornly to stay entrenched in my size 34 pants. No matter how much pressure the weight gain enemy pressed on my buttons, I was staying in those 34s. That fight was more important than anything else: spending time with my children, being kind to my wife or the business. The most important thing was to not go beyond the 34 pant size. To go beyond that represented complete defeat of the ugliest kind.


Hi, this is my gut…

I blamed others for my weight gain. I remember the day I put a sweater on fresh from the drier. This must be my 10-year-old Alex’s sweater I thought. Nope.

Then I immediately thought, “Damn, I guess I let the thing bake in the drier and now it’s not wearable.”

Soon a strange thing happened. I had to divide my clothes in the closet into the wearable and unwearable depending on whether they made me self-conscious.

Half of my shirts screamed out when I met a stranger, “Hi, I am Steve Reid and this is my gut.”  Those shirts I pushed to the side. They became what I considered shirts I would wear in a couple of weeks after I shed 10 pounds.

I turned my closet rows into a series of personal weight goals.

Occasionally I would try one of my favorite shirts on before a night going out and would quickly put it back on the hanger. Not quite there – next week.


America’s greatest defeat

I realized the greatest defeat Americans face in their lifetime is purging their closets of clothes that do not fit. Not to mention the scientific nightmare of reality.

As I said, ignorance is bliss. I started reading statistics like the metabolism and testosterone levels drop about 1 percent per year after age 35 in men. “But not in my case,” I thought to myself.

So after about two years of fighting this stomach weight, or as I more glamorously call it – pre-diabetic stomach bulge – I made a rash decision to deal with the problem head on.

While shopping in TJ Maxx looking for a flowing black shirt, I bought a scale.

The scale was sexy sleek glass and aluminum. After all, scales are no longer clinical; they look like something that make you want to take your clothes off and hop right on.  And that is when I crossed over from neurosis to a complete break from reality.

Humans are adept at two things: adaption to challenges in the environment and lying to themselves. We are better than any other animal at these tasks and hence we tell ourselves our behavior is normal in even the most extreme conditions and lifestyles.


Listen to the Mexican Shaman…

Over the next few weeks I related more intensely to the scale than any other relationship. I hopped on it first thing in the morning and quickly stated weird inner and outer dialogues.

“Holy shit, Jesus Christ!” I would yell from the bathroom. “This scale is off, why is it vacillating so much?” Or, “Wow that’s improvement!”

I would say it extra loud on a good day so my wife could hear of my accomplishment.

Then I started to grow very adept at knowing what adds weight and what to do for the most favorable weigh-in.

“Oh, I better take the boxer shorts off, they add a quarter pound.”

Then I would weigh in before and after going to the bathroom. Even wet hair from the shower adds a couple of ounces I learned.

And as anyone with a scale knows, it does not get any better than that first morning weigh-in. Like a true alcoholic, if you want to catch me sober you best catch me early – that is how weigh-ins go.

In fact I stopped drinking coffee and tea and would sometimes weigh-in later at 10 in the morning after starving myself.

I would smile as I had lost 4 pounds from my water-laden gorged and bloated weigh-in from the night prior. And with that knowledge I would either take a stoic approach and continue the positive trend, or succumb to the all-to-human voice: “That is awesome, you should eat at the Indian buffet today.”

I started to use weight loss as a justification to drink a bunch of Corona Lights later in the day. Then I remembered what a Mexican shaman once told me: “It is not what people do that kills them; it is what they do not do.”


Athlete or homeless man?

I got my old mountain bike out and started biking the Legacy Trail 20 miles three times a week.

There too, was a strange phenomenon. The whole world now takes their exercise and bicycling very seriously. As I wore cargo shorts and a tee shirt, everyone else whizzed by in complete Olympic gear – spandex, bike helmets, racing shirts, $2,000 bikes.

I dressed like I was back in college and was told I looked like a homeless guy on the trail by my friends. They had invested in the professional garb.

Then I started running the Ringling Bridge. I remembered that back in high school I could run a 5 minute 40 second mile. It is one mile from the Bird Key light to the Golden Gate Point light and I said to myself, “You are 45 years old but as agile and fast as ever; you will run a 6-minute mile over the bridge even if it kills you.”

I even got geared up with new shoes and shorts, but skipped the tight Lycra shirt out of respect for passing motorists.

I raced up the bridge. My joints hurt and feet ached and I panted like our family Chihuahua after I throw him in the pool and he frantically swims out.

I got to the halfway point on the top of the bridge and started my inner lying process.

“These distances are off. No way!”

I was already at almost six minutes and only half a mile under my belt.

I texted my family members, “I am going to die from cardiac arrest coupled with a low sugar coma on the Ringling Bridge but wanted to tell you I love you.”

To punish myself I ran all the way to the Golden Gate Point and all the way back to Bird Key.

Later that night, I weighed myself and as always nothing changed. Same weight. I told myself, “Well, muscle weighs more than fat.”

Later that night I fell into a deep slumber. I dreamt I was on white sandy beach. I lay rolling around in the sand smiling and laughing and ecstatic. Suddenly the sky darkened. The sand I was rolling in had turned into an endless expanse of breadcrumbs. I rolled and rolled. I then looked up and saw a pack of alligators rushing toward me. I awoke and rushed to the scale.


Lay down your donuts…

For me and half of America the battle over 10 pounds shows all the signs of continuing. Like unrest in Iraq, there is no end. The struggle, the warzone in my psyche over my weight rages as do the cities of Iraq with all kinds of radical thoughts, competing factions and attempts of takeover.

And like Obama and his predecessor in dealing with Iraq, I will try targeted attacks, containment measures and an attempt to impose control on a landscape that is nothing short of volatile. And just like Bush and Obama I will occasionally declare victory and act like I am finished battling.

Unfortunately, all it takes is a cheeseburger from Five Guys, an Entenmann’s chocolate donut and three Corona Lights and I am right back on the front lines fighting all over again.

But it does not have to end that way. We can all start today. In America, for our part, let’s all take a pledge to lay down our donuts and give peace a chance.


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3 Responses for “Losing weight as we think of bombing Iraq”

  1. dora walters says:

    I like the column..very interesting comparison. Good luck on the ten pounds!

  2. Leon I. Hammer, M.D. says:

    Well done.

    A true Greek tragi-comedie.


  3. Lara says:

    I was over weight and tried so many things. Different things work for different people and I was lucky enough to find one that worked for me. I lost 18 pounds in one month without much exercise and it’s been a life changer. I’m a little embarrased to post my before and after photos here but if anyone actually cares to hear what I’ve been doing then I’d be happy to help in any way. Just shoot me an email at secretosdelara@gmail.com and I’ll show you my before and after photos, and tell you about how things are going for me with the stuff I’ve tried. I wish someone would have helped me out when I was struggling to find a solution so if I can help you then it would make my day

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