Oh my God! What a relief! Things are coming back into place. The other day when I got back from the godawful trip from Simsbury, Connecticut to Madrid, seventeen draining hours from door to door, I dumped my bags on the floor with an exasperated sigh and went straight to the bathroom to take a much needed shower. When I got out fully refreshed and recovered, I dried myself off, let the towel drop to the floor, looked at myself in the mirror and nearly screamed. What the hell was that in the reflection?
The question really was: what the hell had I done to myself? I didn’t look like that when I left a month before. I didn’t even look like that a week before. And here I was running three miles a day in sauna-like summer conditions, thinking that all those gallons of sweat dripping off of me as if I were a basted turkey were turning me into something fit to play a role as a Spartan in the movie 300. You know,the kind with all the rippling abs.
Instead, the final result was something entirely different. Deceptively normal up top and below, the middle part, right around where my belly joins my hip expanded as if it knew no frontier. ”Jesus!” I exclaimed. “I look like a bee. No, I look like a beehive.”
What had happened was that I had succumbed to the worst of the American way of life. And I was liking it. Here was the reason. In the final six days: 4 trips to McDonald’s, 2 meals at Chili’s, lunch at Friendly’s, a massive burger at Cheer’s in Boston, pizza, ice cream, beer, buttered popcorn, coke, Reeses peanut butter cups, some more beer, Chimichangas and extra guacamole, spring rools and sweet-and-sour God-knows-what, smiley fries, steak fries, hashbrowns…all gently digested amid the gentle sedentary lifestyle and plenty of driving, driving and more driving. By then, running was of no good if, after showering up, you devoted the rest of the day to breaking the 10,000 calorie barrier.
It wasn’t intentional. I just kind of got carried away. At one point, as I felt things were getting out of hand, I decided to put a stop to it. Sitting down at a booth of one restaurant, I picked up a menu and went straight to the salad section, telling myself it was time I took control of my life and prepared myself for a great Spinach Caesar without any dressing. Not a drop. The young smiling tip-hungry waitress named Amy (they all seem to be called Amy now) came and asked. “Can I take your order?”
And without batting an eye, I replied, “Oh, yes. I’ll have the half-pound cheddar and bacon chili angus burger.” If I were an Angus cow these days I’d be taking prozac.
“Great,” chirped Amy. “Would you like a dab of sour cream on the side?”
“Two dabs, please.”
My life of decadent gluttony was now complete. The fact there were only a couple of days left before I returned to Spain led to two deadly reasonings. 1) I could eat as much as I want because soon it would be over; and 2) I had to make the most of it because soon I would not be able to eat these things for a long time. I needed to eat crap food more and more often and in ever-greater quantities. I found myself eating my “last” burger of the trip for seven burgers in a row. I would suggest my daughters that they skip the kiddie menu and order the adult portions just so I could help with the leftovers. Nothing was sacred anymore. All scruples were thrown out the window, unless, of course they were edible.
All of thismade me recall Morgan Spurlock’s famous seething documentary “Super Size me!” in which the writer/director embarked on a mission to eat only at McDonald’s for one straight month. The physical damage was shocking, almost to the point of disbelief. But after a week of nearly emulating his feat, I now realized just how crazy things could get.
The ironic thing is that Americans can be incredibly healthy and health-minded. They do far more exercise than most people I know in Spain and have at their fingertips a ton of delicious and nourishing food. But it is also one of the most dangerous lands to eat in if you don’t watch your step. That prepared food is so tasty and so addictive, and in a way so damaging, that it takes but a handful of days to start adding pounds as if you had to fatten up for hibernation. It’s effortless. It’s delicious. It’s hazardous.
Now in just three days, I’ve dropped 5 pounds without even trying. I really, really miss those burgers, I tell you. I’m just glad they are 3,000 miles away!