Today marks six months until the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo. Hopefully.
A few years back, three very grown-up things happened to me over a week-long stretch: I turned 30, got married and realised I had become rather fat.
I don’t say fat in a mean, judgy way, merely as an old-fashioned statement of where my health was at.
I almost stand 180 centimetres in my RMs (and any hedge-fund manager with a Napoleon complex will begrudgingly tell you they’re a boot with a fair heel) yet was weighing in at around 105 kilos. This low-hanging branch was groaning with fruit.
My stocky build kinda-sorta helped cover things, as did the fact I was living in England and could wear coats for most of the year.
But you know your own body and I remember waking up on my 30th and being like, “wait, how long has this part at the front been here?”
As for perhaps looking uncomfortable on the day of my nuptials, it wasn’t due to nerves, it was because my sides hurt from sucking it in to keep from popping the buttons on my waistcoat.
I’d like to say that day was the wake-up call I needed but the truth was I just bought larger clothes, in black, and kept trucking on with life in the slow, wheezy lane.
And the cartoonish incidents started to pile up.
An elderly relative who was suffering dementia gave me a hug one Christmas before leaning back, grabbing my paunch, and noting, “My, you’re a big fella!”
I attempted to pull myself under the lowest rail on a farm fence but my mass overcame the goddamn nails and the rail came wrenching out of its posts, leaving me lying in the grass, on the same side of the fence as where I’d started, grasping a detached plank of timber.
A mate who worked in marketing called to ask if I was available to appear in a pitch video.
“Sure, which business are we pitching?” I asked.
“Pays great coin,” he responded.
“Sweet, what’s the gig?”
“And it’ll only take like an hour of your day.”
“So what am I doing?”
“Cash money brah!”
“Dave. What is the name of the company?”
“Sorry,” he said, pausing. “Um, it’s called FatBlaster. We need someone who’s fat but not, like, fat-fat and I thought of you.”
(I took the job.)
The thing was, I’d always somewhat struggled with my weight. Standing next to my three trim, handsome brothers, I’m referred to as ‘the loud one’ or ‘the one who’s fun at parties’ or ‘the one who’ll make for a good Santa Claus one day’.
And I honestly don’t care, because those descriptors are all accurate and – this part is probably important – I’m a tremendously confident human being. Fat jokes never ruined my day.
‘Struggled with my weight’, however, is an important aspect, because while I’d flirted with the 100-kilo mark in my late teens, I had weighed less than 80 in my mid-20s – 100-plus was not a weight I’d always been. It just kind of crept up on me.
So if I had gained it, shouldn’t I be able to lose it?
But attempts to diet failed because I’d find myself too hungry, and going to the gym was such a chore – like, you need to spend an hour there to get any real value from it and adding in time to get ready, travel to and from the joint, and then shower? It’s a minimum two hours’ commitment and a lot of excuses to not bother pop up in that period of time.
They’re actually the hardest part, because there are so many excuses not to get sweaty – just like there are so many excuses to let yourself have that second serving.
Yet excuses were what turned it around. Because when lockdown kicked in I was going stir-crazy and exercising was one of the only excuses we had to leave the house.
I have always enjoyed running and when COVID hit, I decided it was time to dust off my hot-pink Nikes – and since Kalyn Ponga had worn the same colour footy boots to start the 2020 NRL season, I was hopeful the abuse from the good people of Waratah would be less forthcoming this time around.
I started with five-kilometre efforts, which were a good base, but within a week or so I was a bit like, well, if this is the only excuse I’ve got to be outside the house, might as well make it count.
So I built to eight. Then ten. Then 13. Then 15.
These longer runs were by no means the daily effort but on shorter runs I found myself hitting five kilometres with energy left in the tank, so I would go further.
Then one day, I realised I had done 50 kilometres over the course of that week and wouldn’t it be nice if I tried to cover that distance again next week?
So I did it. Then I did it again. And again.
At this point, since March, I’ve run a total of slightly more than 2000 kilometres, and last Tuesday after work, I completed a half-marathon (at my own, very slow pace) for the sixth or maybe seventh time – and how cool is it that I’ve lost count?
All of which sounds like I’m just giving myself a big ol’ pat on the back – and yeah, I guess I am – but it’s also an illustration of the possibilities presented by exercise.
A few years ago, right around Christmas, Peter FitzSimons wrote about how he lost heaps of weight in large part by simply cutting all sugar and booze from his diet.
Look, do what works for you, but his method is entirely incompatible with my lifestyle. Beer and ice cream are the best and the prospect of removing them altogether makes me so sad I just want to raid the fridge and freezer and spend the rest of the afternoon making a sticky, wet mess with Sara Lee and James Boag.
Obviously what you put into your body has a huge role to play in the digits that show up on your scales, but it seems diet has become regarded as the panacea.
Case in point was a recent study into the way exercise affects weight loss, which the Sydney Morning Herald wrote up with the heading: “Want to lose weight with exercise? You’re looking at 300 minutes a week”. It was clearly meant to be daunting.
Personally, I think it should have been written: “Want to lose weight with exercise? You’re looking at the best 300 minutes of your week”.
Having been given the excuse to exercise, I don’t need one anymore. Because I want to get out on the roads for those five or so hours a week.
I listen to podcasts or music, I enjoy the scenery, I get outside of my head or – if I want to – I really get inside my head and pull apart the mysteries of the universe.
Exercising shouldn’t be held up as an obstacle to overcome, particularly for those of us who have never been good at it in a traditional sense. Rather, it’s a gift to enjoy.
There’s an old saying about wine: it’s not that you don’t like it, you just haven’t tried the right one for you yet. Couldn’t be more applicable with exercise – find the one you love and the excuses not to do it will fall away quicker than the pounds.
Although on that front, on January 1 of this year, I weighed around 108 kilos. When I stood on the scales last week, I was down to 94. It’s still a bit much for a man of my stature to be carrying, but my favourite shirts all fit me again and I actually needed to buy new boardies for summer.
We’ve got a new grown-up challenge coming our way in May 2021 – our Harry will have a little brother or sister to watch over – and that may bring a stark realisation of just how much time 300 minutes actually is over the course of a week.
But it’s also a good excuse to keep the kilos off and stay healthy.