Adventures in health, vol. 1

In a nation so hopelessly addicted to self-help books, fad diets and political demagoguery, it’s easy to take solace in the idea that some extraneous force, some minor adjustment in the way we live our lives or a change as trivial as the coming of a new year is the remedy that will solve everything once and for all. Professional tip: you shouldn’t.


I’ve fallen victim to this trap more times than I can count—I step on the scale, don’t like the number looking back at me and decide I’m going to do something about it. Then I recall that my favorite foods are pizza, steak and chicken wings, and I reach a mental stalemate. Why is life so unfair?


This year, I’ve decided to target my worst habit: compulsive soda drinking. Anyone who’s been through it knows how hard it is to break, and most all of us do something that we wish we could quit—whether it’s booze, smokes, binge eating or taking the bait every time your cousin on the opposite side of the ideological aisle posts an angry rant on Facebook.


So far, it’s meant filling up my water bottle multiple times a day, waking up at 5:00 a.m. to get my “Insanity” DVD workout in (I nearly keeled over Friday morning, but I lived to tell the tale), cutting out snacks and eating smaller portions as much as possible. Truth be told, it’s horrible, and despite Shaun T.’s best efforts, I don’t think I’ll ever be as jacked as he is.


I miss the days when I could scarf down a whole frozen pizza and subsist on Mountain Dew, Starburst and Doritos while keeping the same figure because I had cross-country practice in the morning, PE classes during the day and pick-up basketball with my friends at night. I’ve learned that if you try to do the same thing at 26, you won’t care for the curves you start developing.


Rice cakes and fruit just don’t have the same taste, and I’m not doing the manual labor or daily sports practices to burn calories naturally. Thus, another new year finds me well over where I’d like to be, making resolutions that I hope I can at least keep for a month or two.


It all leads to a bigger question: does being healthy really equal a happier life? I know that I get sad when I gaze at my protruding gut, but on the same token, a day of “clean eating” makes me want to devour a vat of pure grease just so I can remember what it tastes like. I’ve been skinny, and I’ve been fat. The general insecurities and existential ponderings that come with being a human on planet Earth don’t change with your waist size.


Still, I know how good it feels when you’re losing weight. You’re in the zone, nothing can distract you and you finally aren’t embarrassed to go swimming with your shirt off. Your girlfriend’s proud, your parents are proud and one of your friends just might notice your hard work and compliment you on it.


Why, then, have I continually reverted back to old tendencies, regained the weight I lost and wavered from exercising when I decided I’d rather get that extra 45 minutes of sleep than stick to my goals? I wish I had a good answer for that.


Probably because it’s hard, and it’s easy to fall back on comfortable habits, especially when we’ve had a bad day or reached the conclusion that the world has it out for us. Or because I want to eat my feelings and drink enough Seagram’s to sedate a pack of rabid coyotes every time the Chiefs blow a sure playoff win (the Titans, really?).


But each day, each month and each year is a new opportunity to turn it around, and luckily, nothing is permanent. I don’t like the way I look now, but I know exactly what I have to do to change it.


Actually doing it, of course, is the challenge. If I can just install padlocks on my refrigerator and snack drawers, ignore every soda commercial I see and convince myself that sweating profusely from every orifice in my body really is fun, I’ll be right where I need to be in no time.


Was it resolutions or records that were meant to be broken?