Leviathan, or, Whale of a Boy

     In high school, I overheard a physical education teacher say “These guys are in good shape now but watch, a few years out of high school, when their metabolism starts to slow down and nobody forces them to go to the gym, they’ll develop pot bellies – they’ll get fat.”

     At the time, like anything having to do with “real life,” the teacher’s prediction seemed a long way off. I wasn’t even particularly struck by the pessimism of the whole thing. Actually, I thought what he said with such stolid assurance was reasonable, just not for me, not then. Well I’m telling you now, “real life” seems to have handed me three-dozen donuts because I’m seven years out of high school and I think I’m becoming one of those fat guys.

     To be fair, I’ve always had a round belly. Even throughout my childhood, when my brother and I ran around all day playing every sport imaginable, I had what was then termed “baby fat.” It certainly can’t be called that anymore, but I look below and despite it being nameless there it still is – my companion. The problem now is not the mere existence of this coy area – that has been established – but its ongoing expansion; I’ve lost control, and I don’t think I like it.

     Let’s be clear about one thing, I did not ascertain the fact that I was expanding from studying my weight. I’m no scale-watcher. Like determining a book by its cover, I’ve always felt that it was kooky to reduce one’s vastness to a number, especially a number that fluctuates hourly. No, I use the people-scale to tell me everything I need to know; those closest to me have already acknowledged my ballooning belly with hidden jeers obscured by kind words. That’s okay, relations reserve the unalienable right to make fun of me. It was not until a couple of jolly old library patrons poked my midsection whilst notifying me of my burgeoning girth that things began to turn bleak.

     I’d like to think that my weight hasn’t changed much from high school. For a long time, I could say with a bit of a swagger, “Yeah, I’ve held the same weight for four years…” There were no smirks from the nurse when I was weighed at the doctor’s office. Yet, somewhere on the path to adulthood, unbeknown to me, my confident walk was exchanged for a penguin’s waddle. I might be exaggerating.

     Anyhow, I stayed at a crisp 160 pounds for a good while after high school. I had the baby fat, but nobody poked me. Later – up at around 180 lbs. – on a whim, I became a vegetarian and the people-scale pointed to my new found gaunt face – joy! Then, after a year of abstaining from animal flesh, I started eating meat again and, as a result of my body’s indignation at being filled with burgers, things took a heavy turn. Now, in an effort to optimize my diet, I’m a pescetarian (meaning I eat no meat, only fish) but feel like I’ve taken up agnosticism; I’m just not sure what’s going on. It’s been a few months of fish-eating and the people-scale is solidly against me. I don’t know what the scale-scale says – I’m afraid to look.

     Around the time I turned to vegetarianism I also took up jogging. Could that explain my gaunt face? If so, may I ask why I lost weight in my face and not my belly? I’m led to believe that bodies shed fat in genetically-predisposed places – some women complain that they lose their breasts and boyfriends before their thighs. If they can start around the middle, why do I have to work from face-to-bottom? So I’ve returned to jogging but it’s not as easy as it was in my sprightly youthful days – not when it feels like I’m carrying a kangaroo joey around the track. I’m thinking about joining a gym, but I prefer the smell of nature to sweaty towels. Still, now that I’m a jogger again, it surely won’t be long till obnoxious parents start pointing me out as an example to their soda-swilling kids. Sure, those portly children will hate me, but at least I’ll be emaciated. It won’t be long until third-world countries airdrop food to me. That’s how I’ll know I’m ready for America’s Next Top Model.

     Speaking of food, not only am I abstaining from meat, I’m also abstaining from coffee and soda. The coffee isn’t a big deal since I don’t drink much anyway, but if I can’t drink caffeinated soda, what can I use as a crutch for when I stay up into the night studying FAILBlog? Actually, I’m trying to eat better. The problem is that I’m lazy; chopping vegetables for a salad seems like such a hassle when there’s pie in the fridge!

     To be fair, I’m skinnier than most. Most whales. Most blimps. Most small planets. I’m like the before-before picture. I auditioned for the before picture, but didn’t make it. I’m the guy who’s not holding a newspaper in the before picture because he ate it. Things are changing though, I’ve stopped being the guy my friends turn to when they can’t finish their food – I’ve left that behind. Last week, Red Lobster called me about delivering their leftovers. Maybe I should see a therapist. I tried a Freudian once, but I left disgruntled; he thought that when I dreamed about eating all the muffins in the world it really had to do with my mother. I said “No way! I’m not sharing any muffins with her.”

     I do love muffins, and cobbler, and all those other delicious desserts, but it’s time to stop. If I don’t turn my eating habits around, foreign tourists will begin photographing themselves poking my belly. I can do better, I know it. I don’t have to be one of those fat guys the P.E. teacher predicted. I can lose the weight. I just need to stop eating everything I love.

     To be serious, I have changed my diet for the better and I am exercising. Now I linger. So far, it feels like I’ve ordered a scrumptious meal and am waiting way too long for the food to be served. Will the waiter’s tip suffer? It doesn’t matter. At least I won’t be tipping the scale.

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