I got fat yesterday. It suddenly occurred to me that there was a little more ‘stuff’ between my chest and my belt when I sat down. And that ‘stuff’ seemed to be hanging over my buckle.
I don’t really understand how it happened. I’m on holiday (currently sitting by a pool at a beach house in Brazil) and I thought I was eating and exercising as I usually do. But apparently not. Despite eating as I normally would and doing some exercise most mornings - usually a run, my normal routine - I’m putting on weight.
I’m really annoyed. I stood on some scales this morning and found that I was a glorious 78kg, at least 4kg above my normal weight. I was chubby as a young teenager and have the mental scars of the shame that I endured in response to the jibes I got, largely from family. Being chubby is not desirable, that was the clear message.
Back then I was ‘encouraged’ (ie told by my mother in no uncertain terms) to go running. I don’t remember doing it often but I do remember running to the end of the street, as far as anyone could see from my house, and then walking for what felt like a reasonable amount of time for someone out pretending to be on a run to lose weight. I’d run the last bit home to make it look like I’d been running the whole time, aided quite helpfully by my predisposition to sweat at the smallest exertion, and I was rewarded by my mother - with a slight reduction in the number and ferocity of the jibes.
I don’t need that external ‘encouragement’ any more. It’s clearly programmed into me such that I feel a pretty sustained level of disgust at the sight of myself. I’m fat and it’s not attractive.
Rather amazingly, my Mrs was well aware that I was getting fat! I mentioned my sense of fatness to her and she casually agreed saying that she’d watched my belly grow in the 12 or so days we’ve been on holiday. Really?! Could I really have put on five-or-so kilograms in 12 days and for that addition to have been so easily noticeable?!
What the actual f@ck, as they say?!
I think you always put on a little weight when on holiday. I think it’s the loss of routine. In London, I’m up at 06:45, I have two cups of chai while I digest the news through The Financial Times and the previous night’s Channel 4 News, and then I head to the gym for either a cardio session or a (injury-related) weights session. I used to aim to be in the gym for 45 minutes at the most but have recently given up and allow 60 just so I don’t rush. After the gym I have a light breakfast of muesli, shower and dress, walk 20 minutes to the office, and often stand most of the day while I work through my laptop.
Clearly, I’m not doing all of that here on holiday (except the showering and dressing!). My runs are not as committal and I’m not walking to work - or anywhere - let alone standing for the best part of nine hours.
But there’s something else that is only just registering with me. Somehow the food is sweeter and more abundant here in Brazil. On the former, my morning Greek yoghurt seems to have sugar or honey in it. And on the latter, yesterday I had a delightful fish lunch in Laguna but by the time I was full we’d barely eaten half of the meal that the restaurant thought was for two (I reckon four people would have dined handsomely on the amount). Of course, I should have - and probably could have - exerted some self-control but, man, that fish was good.
Is this how it starts? Is this how I ‘let myself go’ now that my football playing days are dwindling in light of a not-so-successful cruciate and meniscus operation (more on all of that another time, perhaps)? If not, what’s to stop me? Will it be the echo of my mother’s jibes from my early teens? Or will my Mrs stop being so laid-back and demand that her man get a hold of himself? Will the positive influence be internal, external, or some hard-to-define combination of the two?
I don’t know. But I do know that I’m fat. And I also know that lunch has been prepared and I really must go.
Dr Pritpal S Tamber MBChB
My work is all about improving health and health care through evidence. It spans medical publishing to community health, taking in technology and innovation, and is influenced by growing up in a working-class community. For more, see my homepage.