Tuesday, February 5, 2013

5 AM Musings on Diet and Exercise

This isn't the article I wanted to write, or indeed the kind I typically write. I'm a bit of a loose cannon that way, and it's a part of the reason I used to maintain many blogs rather than a single one. But I digress before I've even begun - hardly a record for me.

I'm what you could call an ectomorph. Losing weight has never been as much of a problem for me as gaining it. I am pretty much constantly below the "healthy" BMI range and have been ever since I can remember - food simply doesn't stick to my ribs, even the ones that should. It's not because I eat right either; when I am eating "well" I eat like a Frenchman (heavy cream, butter, breaded everything and what we can't bread we stuff with cheese anyway), and when I'm eating poorly (which is more common) I'm stuffing my face with pizza, crisp-fried vegetables, bacon, deli meats, and other junk. I've pretty much nailed down my main craving groups into three categories - fats, salts, and sugars.

I say this not to brag but to complain. With no way to maintain a healthy weight, I'm pretty much stuck  falling into the same patterns of binge-eating over and over again in between bursts of give-a-damn. There's usually no physical consequence of such binges, except in extremes (I put away three energy drinks packed with aspertame and taurine yesterday morning and spent the rest of the day polishing off a family-size veggie stix, half a pack of montreal-style smoked meat (in sandwiches of course) and, in a futile attempt to stave off the retribution I had coming to me, a whole pot of Dan Cong), which means there's usually no motivation to break out of my ways.

I could spend hours analyzing why I eat junk, but I've found over the years that looking for the reasons behind my doing something rarely address the problem and usually just enable me by providing an excuse of some sort - I honestly believe knowing about my bipolar disorder probably set me back a good three or four years when it came to learning how to manage my mood.

Of course, one day my metabolism will crash, I'll balloon up to about 250 pounds, trigger an episode of male pattern baldness (almost assured with my genetics), and generally ruin my physical appearance into my 30s and 40s with still half a life to live. While it sounds a little vain to worry about it, I can hardly rely on my brains to be a mealticket (hardly a commodity around here), so it's either prepare myself for the nightlife or accept the onset of Gregishness early by just getting it over with and buying the rascal scooter now.

I joke, of course. Usually poorly.

Pretty much every doctor ever has recommended dramatically increasing my protein consumption in combination with and increase in physical activity. This actually worked once, when I was in my early teens. I attended the Argonaut Army Cadet Summer Training Centre (on a 3-week Marksmanship Course and 6-week Army Cadet Leader course, respectively) for two summers in a row. Being forced to adopt a 3-squares pattern of eating and having no other choice but to get physically active helped me put on a good 20-30 pounds each summer, which kept me looking less-skinny during the start of each respective school year. Of course, by Christmas, those were usually gone.

Staying physically active is probably more of a problem for my current diet than protein consumption (being a cook taught me to think of meat as more than a justification for my drink), because there's simply no good way to motivate a nerd to get physically active. I've tried everything, from thinking of exercise as an analogue to levelling up in real-life, to developing achievement-like "high score" systems. I've even owned a gym membership with an annual contract to try and cash-guilt myself into it, but after two or three trips to the gym I simply social-hacked my way out of it.

There's probably no solution whatsoever to that problem. The best reason I ever come up with to do anything usually has three letters, big pretty doe eyes and a face I have a hard time saying no to... but that's a hard sell from time to time when she's two hours away in the auto. Having said that, it worked for keeping the house clean.

I'm not a big guy, either. The only people on staff I'm taller than are all women (and most of them are still taller than me). My dad's a freaking mountain, but I got the height genes from the Saulnier midgets, with no offence meant to actual little people. The combination of short and skinny doesn't work nearly as well for all but the most diehard of nerd girls - except perhaps those in the Fashion Design department at your local arts college, but even then the interest is usually more in the challenge of making it look good than it actually looking good.

I've learned that, for me, the best exercises by far are the ones that I can trick myself into doing. I'm always in my best shape when I have a job that demands it. Cooking, which by all rights is an excuse to be fat (we even have a saying demanding it!) probably had me drop all the weight that discovering donairs in high-school let me put on. Even then, I wasn't carrying the weight where I really need it... just around my gut.

I've found that that particular habit of my genes usually makes me look more like the child in a united way commercial than fat.

Now, I could do something like point out that the crap I eat makes you lazy, which in turn enables more junk eating, but that's an excuse - admittedly one to which the answer is a nice salad of microgreens and edamame with a home-made hoisin-based vinaigrette which forms the bed for a fan of sesame-crusted, pan-seared ahi tuna (no, I'm not sorry). Eating well usually leads to my drinking heavily, since it eliminates the morning-after consequences, but that's a matter for another conversation.

Motivation for me is cyclic - it works for things like Youtube and Blogging because I can work in short bursts even when motivation is low. For something like diet and exercise, or cleaning the house, or any other permanent change in living patterns, though, that just doesn't cut the mustard. Even with ample medication, sunlight, Vitamin B12, D, and E supplementation, and endorphins from diet-and-exercise, the first "couch day" I have pretty much destroys any habit I might have formed. Useful for quitting smoking. Not so good for starting salad.

You know what though? I like the right salad. Unfortunately, they're always either terrible for me (Caesar salad) or my wallet (You think beet shoots, corn shoots, watercress, the ingredients for my vinaigrette  edamame beans, and ahi tuna come cheap?). We're digressing again.

Now, in my experience, a combination of high-score modelling and visualization are usually as good as it gets. Time to start somewhere, right?

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