There’s a medical definition of “overweight,” and it’s not “cannot see your feet” or “induces laughter in school children.” It is “body mass index.” I knew I was hitting the Snickers hard. And this week, I weigh 178 pounds, since I remain 5-foot-10 ¾ — since no amount of eating makes you taller — I have a BMI of 25. So, for the first time in my life I have to say:
I. Am. Fat.
“You’re not fat fat,” said Spoonie (the girlfriend). We were sitting on the couch. Tears of self-pity stained the fabric, wrappers of the 12 Snickers I’d eaten in an attempt at self-soothing scattered around.
“What you mean?” I said. “Government says. I’ll have to sneak into the Elephant Seal cages to find a mammal willing to snuggle me. My blood type is Kraft Mayonnaise.”
“You’re deranged by love,” I said. “You’re a horsefly looking at a pile of dung. When I come out of the shower, I look like an Idaho potato on top of two pillars from a highway overpass. How long before I won’t be able to go down water slides or fit into shower stalls without needing a team of firemen to pluck me out with the Jaws of Life? Before the doughnut of neck fat interferes with proper laryngeal functioning and I talk with Fatty-Neck Voice like Mitch McConnell or Jabba the Hut?”
“You sound fine.”
“It’s embarrassing. I used to scoff at overweight people. Now I’m too fat for McDonald’s commercials. Unforgivably, I’m the exercise and outdoors columnist for Yellow Scene magazine, a job Larry the Cable Guy wouldn’t get. I’ve told my dear svelte and sexy readers how to stay in shape, that they toss a football around as they walk down the street, bounce in place at their desks, park at the end of the parking lot, and turn their housecleaning into a workout routine. Over the last eight months, I’ve done none of them. I’m a fat hypocrite.”
“You’ve been busy: the job, the house, the car, the wedding.”
I turned away, denting the couch cushions irreparably. She continued: “There are two types of chubbiness. One is born of bad luck: an injury that keeps you from exercising, or your career got wiped out in the Great Recession so you can’t afford a gym and so your only exercise is lifting 12 ounces to your lips, Gorditas and government cheese.” I had trouble hearing her; the fat built up in my ear canal blocked the sound. But my gut felt a little lighter. She went on:
“The other type is born of good fortune. Stray dogs on the street are mangy and thin, but house dogs poof out. Plants thicken before they flower. Even mushrooms spread out during the rains. You have me. Yes, you’re supposed to exercise and be fit all the time, but everyone in love gets fatter. It’s OK.”
She was just making me feel better. But she was also right.
Maybe you, my dear fortunate readers, are in a similar boat. You’re busy with career and volunteer, too busy to squeeze in exercise. You have a kid or three — nothing makes you fatter … or happier. You gave up your own exercise to coach their soccer. And you have a partner, and so you don’t go on long solo jogs anymore, you stay home and cuddle. You live close to your family and they cook you meals of full-fat coconut curry and hot buttered rolls. You can afford chimichurri. These are joyful things. So even if our boat is sinking under our collective weight, and we’ll die 10 years earlier of a heart attack, it’s a happy boat.
Now that we’re in this boat, though: let’s start rowing. We need the exercise.