Writing Practice 1/7/2019

Curled up on the couch on a cold, cold night…

My cat sleeps. He is on his side, curled into a tight ‘C’, nose buried in back paws, tail curled up across his ears. His shape is more “lump of soft clay” than “athletic, powerful feline”. He purred, half an hour ago, when he first showed up and lay down beside me, the edge of his back just touching the outside of my thigh.

That is all the closer he gets, even on these cold nights. Just a slight touch – just an edge – to let you know he’s there, but he’s not interested in snuggling. Just – proximity.

I can accept that. I have enough snuggling. My partner lies on my other side, her head resting fully on my lap. My fingers stroke her hair; one hand is buried to the first knuckle, gently gliding along, feeling the rasp and tug as I catch the occasional tangle, hearing the whisper of fingerprints on follicle, watching as the thick brown mass parts seamlessly before the prow of the ship that is my hand. She was awake, twenty minutes ago, when she lay down; but her breathing has slowed, as if she has reached that peak rest state, that human hibernation which is a combination of relaxation, comfort, and trust, in which you can feel at peace and protected from all that is outside – wind, rain, weather; and all that is inside – doubt, fear, worry, inadequacy, incapacity.

I sit, flanked by two loves, and participate in a third. I hold a book in my free hand, gently turning the pages with a thumb. I would pay more attention, but the story is not intensely riveting. I read to complete the book, to check it off my to-do list, to achieve something and thus feel as if I do not waste my time. For is that not the American Way? Busy, busy always, make every second count, do something, anything, and thus, by your success, prove your value as a person, as an individual, as worthy of the life given to you and the resources expended to make you, to raise you, to get you to this point.


Suppose I did not read tonight. Suppose I did not “make every second count.” And simply, plainly, relaxed, rested, held these two parts of my life with both my hands. Would I lose out? Would they?


And no.

So. Do I dare? Do I resist the temptation for more, more? Do I put down the book and simply be, in the moment, with those who love me and share with them my heart?

Or do I succumb to the societal influence and grasp, grab, mutilate, suck every last ounce of profit out of every last breast of opportunity?

You know what? I do.

I put the book Down. I place a hand on a shoulder and stroke gently. I place the other on a head and scratch, equally gentle.

Purrs come from one. Contented signs come from the other. And I bask in the moment, restful, plain, calm, accepted and accepting, for this – THIS – is living.

4 Simple Steps to Lose 20 Pounds

Step 1: Lose 1 pound

Step 2: Lose 1 pound

Step 3: Lose 1 pound

Step 4: Lose 17 more pounds.

And it’s a little facetious, I know, to just say it so flippantly. But that, apparently, is how people think. They think it’s easy to lose weight. Just eat less, exercise more, it’ll come off.

Sure, it does. It comes off. But losing 20 pounds, or 50 pounds, or 150 pounds, is not a simple process. It must happen one pound at a time, and it must be consistent progress, and you’ll get bored along the way, and you’ll get injured, and your internal homeostatic systems will conspire against you to stop your own weight loss (because your brain will think it’s headed for lean times so it will actually do whatever it can to avoid starvation, including hoarding more energy and burning less of what’s available), and your friends will tell you “You look great!” when you haven’t really done anything, and because of that you’ll be afraid to admit that you’ve cheated on your diet in the past two days and actually gained a pound, and you know in your head that it’s really just water weight, that pound, it’s not like you actually put 3,600 extra calories within your body from that doughnut, but now you start to wonder whether it really is worth it, I mean, damn, who gives a shit if you’re ten pounds overweight or if your doctor wants you to lose 20, I mean, really, he could stand to lose like 30 himself, what the hell does he know? He’s never been in your shoes with a full-time job and three kids and a shrew of a mother-in-law and no real time to exercise and just happy that the kids aren’t pouring their milk on their heads anymore at dinner time, that’s a victory in itself, no way you even have time to plan going to the gym and just forget about a sex life, goddamn, both of you are so exhausted after the day that just even the thought of trying to get excited is a no-go, I mean, really, who has time to think about all those things and plan meal schedules and hit the gym and track everything like they want you to and report your progress to your accountability partner and remember to encourage them, too?

So you look for the “easy” way. You look for “tips and tricks”. You look for the next 5-step, 4-step, 3-step process that will get you the results you want, without doing the work necessary to get there.

Let’s face it. I’m in this same boat too. I want to BE thinner, I want to HAVE six-pack abs, but I don’t want to GET thinner, I don’t want to BUILD six-pack abs.

I want the secret sauce. I want the magic beans. I want the Ab Roller to actually roll my goddamn abs into place! I don’t really want to work and sweat and measure my food and manage my sleep and say “no” to that doughnut or that sweet, sweet ambrosia of a culinary delicacy called the Five Layer Burrito.

Here’s the real deal: there are no 4 Simple Steps to Lose 20 Pounds. There are 20 steps, and they are simple, but they’re not easy:

  1. Lose 1 pound
  2. Lose 1 pound
  3. Lose 1 pound
  4. Lose 1 pound
  5. Lose 1 pound
  6. Lose 1 pound
  7. Lose 1 pound
  8. Lose 1 pound
  9. Lose 1 pound
  10. Lose 1 pound
  11. Lose 1 pound
  12. Lose 1 pound
  13. Lose 1 pound
  14. Lose 1 pound
  15. Lose 1 pound
  16. Lose 1 pound
  17. Lose 1 pound
  18. Lose 1 pound
  19. Lose 1 pound
  20. Lose 1 pound

Each pound of fat is worth approximately 3,500 calories. So, in order to complete step 1, either: take in and process and metabolize 3,500 fewer calories than your current baseline without changing anything else, or expend an additional 3,500 calories again without changing anything else. How do you burn 3,500 calories? Let’s say a rule of thumb is that you’ll get 100 calories per mile. But remember, we need to do ADDITIONAL miles over and above our baseline. If you’re running 15 miles a week already, you’ll need to add 35 miles to lose 1 pound. That’s 5 miles a day. Ain’t gonna happen.

Alternatively, how do you take in 500 fewer calories without changing anything else? If you’re already taking in 2,500 (not unreasonable), you’ve got to cut out 20% of your food intake. Every day. All week. No cheating. No extra “because I earned it” granola bars. No extra beer “to treat myself”. No extra dressing because “it’s just salad, there’s no calories there”. No mistakes, no slip-ups. No falling off the wagon. No regerts! Do all that –

To lose 1 pound.

And then you have to do that 20 more times. And then you have to hope that your body, this homeostatic system that has adapted over millennia to survive droughts and famine and starvation times, won’t sabotage you by producing less energy, burning less while you sleep, converting your current muscle cells into fat cells and storing more for the apparent lean times ahead, or harvesting more from the foods you do take in.

So, it’s the without changing anything else part that is the toughest. Actually, no, I take it back. It’s not. It’s the repeat 20 times that’s the toughest. Actually, no, I take that back. What’s toughest is to change the mindset, from I want to BE thinner, to I want to GET thinner.

Actually, no, I take back my take back of my take back. What’s toughest is to pretend like I don’t give a shit how I look and it’s all about “how I feel”. Let’s be honest. We all care how we look. We want to be fit. We want to be sexy. A lot of the current mindset of “feel” versus “looks” is pandering to the mindset that isn’t willing to work for something. And it works. I’ve bought into it. I’m more concerned with how I “feel” versus how I “look”.

But it doesn’t make me healthier. It doesn’t make me sexier. It doesn’t make me a better person.

It just makes me able to get through the day.