I have found myself lately consuming a large jar of assorted nuts for dinner and being quite satisfied. Absurdly or nut(!), there’s a faint feeling of naughtiness that this must be wrong, after all, nuts are not food and I should be eating something substantial like steak or chicken or fish. I put this partly to my upbringing where having a distended gut after a meal was sought; and partly to the fear of fat in nuts. Looks like the game so far is: 1 to Nuts, and nought to Fear. Now I just have to give up candied nuts for surely that road, sweet as a nut, is fraught with peril.
Many would kill if they could get away with one kind of murder. There’s probably not a man who’s ever breathed who did not pine for a Greek body. Powerful arms to lift away objects of desire. Broad pecs to celebrate taut nipples. Strong legs to win at games and pin down writhing lovers. Flat stomachs to …. Exactly my point, to do what? Still, the flat stomach is the terminus for modern homo masculi. Make no mistake about it and entertain no doubt: if we could get away with murder that guarantees a six-pack, many would commit the crime. If there was a brew to turn stomach fat to punch bag, many would drown in the potion.
Muffin tops and love handles can be real downers. You work out and your arms and chest definition are winning admiring glances, but as soon as you bend over, your belly hangs. Not good. Let me pose a question: if you possess something that is really precious to you and you want to hide it securely, where would you keep it? I hear you: somewhere hard to get at. The body is that canny a beast. It needs energy and it knows it may not always get at its source: food. So it stores a reserve of fat. And then when it needs to burn something for energy it skips the storehouse; that, is for a rainy day. When the body needs energy it reaches for muscle. Crazy, isn’t it? The very thing you want to keep, it breaks down; what you want to lose, it keeps. Your body stores its own precious valuables where it’s hardest for you to reach: around your waistline. Smart, eh? OK, so you go to the gym every day, and you do your crunches and your cardio and your stomach twists and all and still the road to a “flat not flab” belly is hard and long. Of course, the easy way to a washboard stomach (apart from starvation) is not to have your body store anything there in the first place. Oops! Too late.
When you’re hungry you could eat a horse*. Not a foal and not a colt but a stallion. And that might not be so evil a thought if it is true that horse meat has more protein and less fat than lean beef. The French and Canadians, I’ve heard, enjoy this delicacy. The lower fat content is particularly appealing especially since fat became the enemy of humankind. There, indeed, was a time when corpulence signified well-being. A distended belly proclaimed to your fellow humans that you had enough lard not just for the next few hours but for the oncoming winter. Both slobs and the rich could be overweight but the rich, as always, were different. They had transcended the rat race. They were fat cats. To be rich and porcine was cool.
But somewhere in the 20th century we lost our thing for fat. Or maybe the grease was too slippery to hold on to. People were not just fat they were in a brand new category called obese. Fat became a thing of abuse. “Yo mama’s fat” was the ultimate insult. “Yo mama’s so fat when I laid her I rolled over twice and I was still in the middle”.
This evening I was scanning the shelves of Marks and Spencer for dinner. My belly was cooperating. Fat called out to me. “Oh, come on, you could eat a horse”. I bypassed the fresh Scottish salmon and stopped in front of the Indian section. Chicken tikka masala and pilau rice. 600 calories and 27g of fat. Each gram of fat has nine calories. Do the math. The percentage figures they quote on food wrappers are deceit incarnate. They quote the weight percentage of fat. What you need is the calorie percentage. That’s always worse. Much worse. Then I stopped in front of the cookies section (“These are not just any cookies. These are M&S cookies”). I bow before their Pistachio and Almond cookies. Each packet has ten biscuits and each cookie has 100 calories and 7g of fat. Each gram of fat has nine calories. But I was hungry, so it’s ok. I knew I was in trouble when I stopped in front of the honey roasted cashew nuts. Thankfully, my self-respect reasserted itself and I fled.
Various scenarios played in my head as I walked home with my haul. I could start eating the biscuits now, on the street, afterall, I needed energy to walk. Hunger and self-control dueled for bragging rights. I reached the corner of Theberton Street as a Ford Ka turned into Gibson Square and crawled to a stop. That’s funny. I couldn’t see a car in front of the Ka nor pedestrians crossing the street. It was then my my eye caught what had arrested the driver. It was a beautiful feline with the kind of fur many Mesdames would kill for. It ambled with stately nonchalance across the street and it was too obvious why. Even if it had wanted to it couldn’t run. The cat was fat.
Daytime television as seen on Jeremy Kyle
(Look away now for I am going to be politically incorrect)
Black father attempts to reunite with his three estranged children. He abandoned them 20 years ago, reconciled and then abandoned them again. Man was high on something. Children are visibly upset but the man, being highly strung, kept interrupting them, telling them to shut up while he was talking because he’s their father. The disciplinarian. Yes, he was an ass. He wouldn’t shut up and listen to his distraught children.
Two enormous black hogs – one the mother, the other the daughter. Daughter craves to be loved as she is. Mother’s having none of that. She’s screaming at daughter: you’re too fat, you keep eating, you can’t get a man, on and on. Can’t stop the bitch if you slapped her. Yes but mother you’re not just fat, you’re grotesque. If you really love your daughter set an example. But no, piggy knew best.
That set me thinking why people go on national television to wash their filthy laundry. A problem that cannot be solved in private is not going to be solved on telly screaming abuse at each other. Or is it – do they get paid for this? [Why was I watching this? I was on the treadmill at the gym and subtitles was on]. Later that night I was Maximus Interruptor during an engaging conversation with friends. I had a point to make you know. The other guy kept asking me to let him finish. I bit my lip. The thought was gone. It’s not so easy to just shut up and let someone else speak. Yes, but … can you let me finish …ok, but … aw, shut up!