I recounted a few years ago that I'd managed to lose 35 lbs and fit into high school pants (here's how I did it). After a couple of injuries kept me out of the gym, coinciding with the resuscitation of my music career (necessitating rushed meals and late nights in gin mills) plus, as the crowning blow, the epic chowhoundish trip I've begun to recount here, I've at this point gained it all back. You can spot the mournful disappointment in the faces of my friends and loved ones.
Aside from the trip, I've been eating quite healthily. The crazy thing is that if I eat immaculately plus hit the gym four times per week, I can shake off a little under one pound a week. But if I eat with merely reasonable care and skimp on the gym (or vice versa), I slowly gain. And since I'm no longer focused on health and weight loss, and am concentrating on playing jazz in smokey nightclubs and grabbing a slice of pizza here and a beer there, I've averaged three weekly ounces gained over four years. That includes plenty of weeks where I ate nearly nothing and worked out like a banshee...but they were balanced out by the occasional lasagna. When one's best possible outcome is 3/4 pound/week lost, one must be an absolute hard-ass to keep one's ass hard. It doesn't take much to tip me over by 3 oz/week; it's not like I've thrown caution to the wind.
I'm nonetheless in good condition, with limitless energy. I'm not morbidly obese and still eat healthfully, so my cholesterol and blood pressure are fine (I suspect many overweight health risks stem more from poor diet than from body fat itself). And plenty of science indicates that I'd be smarter to remain at this weight than to keep yo-yoing. But, geez, I have to face the disappointment of friends and family each time they glance at my waistline. They were so happy before!
I have, over the years, served these people sublime food and drink, engaged them in witty conversation, turned them on to all sorts of books and films, played heartfelt trombone rhapsodies for them, etc. etc.. Yet while they enjoyed that stuff, none of it elicited much in the way of deep joy. My weight loss, however, seemed to make them oddly ecstatic.
But aside from the brief period of shimmering tribute, I myself got very little from the experience. To my enormous surprise, I failed to garner the instant torrid affection of every woman I met. Nothing else of substance changed, either. The things I grapple with were no less grapply*, and the qualities I cultivate were unaffected. I didn't play better, write better, create better. I wasn't kinder or more equanimous. There was no transformation in my contribution to the huge collaborative art project we call life on Earth. The only change was the buoyant joy my weight loss had, for some unfathomable reason, brought those around me.
And now, here, I've heartlessly gone and plunged them once again into darkness. While I love my friends, and want them to be happy, it seems a bit silly to put myself through another round of deprivation purely for their benefit...
* - if you suspect that I'm paddling back toward this murkily-expressed insight, you'd be right.
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