Monday, June 1, 2015

I Cook, therefore I Eat...

Aldo: June 1, 2015: 314.5 Pounds

And I exercise, therefore I eat. And I drive, shop, pray, argue, write, play…you get the idea. I was raised in one of those big European households where conversation was lubricated with butter and argument punctuated with a pan-fried chicken cutlet.  Good food was weaved into every aspect of my life; eating sharpened the highs, softened the lows, and served as a trusted companion always.  When, after high school, I took my senior trip through many of the capitols of Europe, my journal may have mentioned the occasional museum, ruin or monument, but the bulk of the entries focused on the fabulous out-of-the-way trattoria, amazing biergarten, phenomenal poffertjeshuis, or spectacular sidewalk café that I found along the way.  I only realized how distorted my priorities were when my then-girlfriend (now wife) laughed out loud at the absurdity of taking a life-altering journey, only to focus on the menu.

As I’ve aged and learned to cook for myself, food – more specifically, the creation, sharing, and eating of delicious, complex meals – has become a source of pride and accomplishment. As a skill, cooking and eating are some of the increasingly few things that can’t be taken away from me. So, in my world full of joy and sorrow, abundance and hardship, ease and challenge, food, much like family and faith, has become not just a constant companion, but also a good friend.  And for the last several years, it seems, this good friend has been trying to kill me. Or at least make my life miserable.

As in Michael’s case, my doctor chides me about my weight with every annual checkup.  Her concerns over my weight and increasing insistence that I do something about it are replacing the dreaded gloved right hand as my greatest anxiety about visiting the doctor’s office. She diagnosed me as pre-diabetic, assigned me to a nutritionist, urged me to consider stomach sleeve surgery, and threatened me with a lifetime of insulin injections should I go much further down the path of unbridled gluttony.  I suspect she’s just waiting for the other foot to drop.

Then there’s my wife. As a couple, we’ve been saddled with parenting and financial pressures for over two decades now.  Both pressures are on the downward slope – the last of our four kids graduate high school in two years, while my wife’s career is hitting it’s stride.  She, naturally, want us to enjoy the good life together after so many years of struggle (OK, maybe “struggle” is a little dramatic in the grand scheme of things – no death, disability, drugs, or dictators marred our days.  And the finances have been ok for a while now…but indulge me in creative license.).  She doesn’t want me to die. Moreover, she wants me to be able to join her in the things happy, financially stable, healthy couples do: travelling, hiking, watersports, skiing, antiquing, museums, tantric lovemaking (yes, I threw that last one in).  For all of these activities, she wants me to be healthy enough to enjoy them with her.  And if my excessive girth forces me to require a motorized scooter, she’s gonna ditch me in favor of the cabana boy.

Finally, there’s the mirror.  What I see coming out of the shower in the morning looks not so much like a man, but a steamed bun skewered by a pair of chopsticks.  I am the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man made flesh.  If I were my wife, I’d have gone with that cabana boy long ago.  Some people may feel comfortable making excuses:  big boned, robust, zest for life, that sort of thing.  Others may simply be less vain than I am, more accepting of what God gave ‘em.   Some may find their bliss in the Disney “Big Al” solution:  “She’s not pretty, but I ain’t, too…”.  For me, though, the problem is that my wife IS pretty (and fit), I AM vain about my appearance, and when I look in the mirror after my shower, I CAN’T see the excuses, just a drippy, morbidly obese man looking back at me.

So food & eating, I love you, but you done me wrong.  We’re through. I’m ending this. Not quite sure where we’re going from here, but one thing is certain: the relationship we’ve had in the past is over. Michael, hug me!