Stranger in a Strange Land: The Beer Belly Consequence

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Beer Belly Consequence

Ever since returning to Dubuque there is something I have been avoiding like a trip to the doctor’s for a latex wrapped physical. No, I am not talking about learning to play euchre, eating a Mulgrew’s chilidog or taking on the Central Challenge. I’m talking about getting in shape.

In Iowa City I was a fitness addict. I was the captain of the University of Iowa triathlon team and champion of the Iowa City Run for Schools road race. My workout regiment was brutal: biking in the morning, weight training over lunch, and running at night. I may have been insane, but at least I was in shape.

Today, however, things have changed. As I stand before the mirror of truth, I see that my old self is rapidly being consumed. Around my waste are the first signs of carbohydrates’ well-planned revenge. I have tried to regain my physique, or at least maintain the status quo, but thus far all such attempts have been embarrassingly futile. For example, I was a member of the YMCA…for about a week. I was always too tired after work to go and, despite my good intentions to return in the evening, either the night got too late or the Y was just too far away to justify driving there. I even became the Vice President of the Mississippi Valley Running Association. Unfortunately, as I nearly pass out from an exhausting jog around the block, I discover that mere titles of running importance do absolutely nothing for getting your ass back in shape. Clawing my way up the incline of the driveway, saliva dangling from my mouth and shadows of vultures circling somewhere above, I realize I have hit bottom.

Lying face first on the pavement, I hear the mailman step over me as he tosses the mail next to my sprawled out body. In the midst of bills, coupons and the latest mysterious edition of Parenting Times (which I believe is sent to me as part of a well established conspiracy between my mother and mother-in-law in hopes of inspiring me to make them grandmas) is a shiny flier announcing the grand opening of a new fitness center. I slowly sit up and in the not-so-very-far distance I can actually see the new facility. No longer having an excuse, I go and sign myself up.

Immediately I am put through a full-fledged fitness assessment. The uber-fit staff, who epitomize all-around health and even seem to perspire organic sweat, measure my body fat, take my blood pressure and cast judgment on my scrawny arms that haven’t seen a dumbbell in over a year. As I flail away on a treadmill, hooked up to various gadgets that gage my heart rate and tolerance to inhumane pain, I am lectured on what it takes to live a healthy life.

“Every morning you should start the day by drinking several large glasses of water,” I am told.

“I do,” I think. “Mine just happen to be laced with caffeine,” which I later find out is a cause of dehydration and, of course, not healthy.

“Limit the amount of sweets you eat. Instead of junk food, snack on crisp green vegetables.”

“Does celery come cream filled these days?” I wonder.

“And most importantly,” my trainer continues, “limit your consumption of beer as it is nothing but bad carbohydrates.”

“Nothing but bad carbs!” I stop in my tracks and begin to explain that a fresh pint of Guinness is actually a well-rounded liquid meal. But before I can fully explain my logic, I am abruptly hurled backwards by the treadmill’s still running conveyor belt.

I hit the ground with a thud. Somewhere between consciousness and oblivion, my life flashes before my eyes. I see myself sharing a round of Guinness with friends in Ireland, dancing until the sun rises in Spain, waking up with the potent assistance of café con leche in Costa Rica, and curing the munchies in Holland with a snack of buttery french-fries topped with mayonnaise. Returning to consciousness, I slowly sit up. I have seen the light: In order to live a truly healthy life, I must give up everything that makes life worth living. I look down at my infant beer belly and give it a loving little pinch. If this is the cost of living, well, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.


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