[NB. This is more finished than the others but still needs to be edited so that I at least appear to be more caring/sensitive/PC/whatever than I suppose I actually am. But, what the heck, here goes. The Landscope thing refers to the expedition going on this week at Muggon Station which we left yesterday afternoon, six days ahead of schedule, due to poor organization and lack of wildflowers.]
- After the Landscope expedition last week, my weight has now dropped to 207 pounds (or 94kg). Now, to give you some idea of just how strange this is, the least I have weighed in my adult life was around 220, which was all the way back in 1996 when I went on some wild cave tours at Carlsbad). This is a very, very strange thing indeed. Not only have I had to give away virtually all of my clothes (thankfully, Australia is rife with clothing donation boxes), but the ones I bought as replacements just a few months ago have already started to sag in visually extremely unappealing ways. As a result, I’ll probably go on a shopping spree in Perth. (I imagine clothing will be less expensive in Bali next month, but I really don’t want to come home looking like a Phish fan.)
- The most interesting question, of course, is why I wanted to do this in the first place. On the most basic level, I have always been somewhat uncomfortable with my weight, although never particularly so. Yes, when I got my driving license in 1985, I put a completely unrealistic number down on the form, but I corrected that in 1994. I’m also finding out that no matter how much weight I lose, I still have a tummy, and still feel like I’m pretty heavy. Sadly, when I was much heavier, at least you might possibly mistake some of the fat for muscle; now, I just look kind of dumpy (as opposed to possibly muscular, assuming poor lighting &c.) As a result, the whole vanity / visual appearance reason for losing weight is a no-go. So: why else, then? Well, as I’m moving well into my thirties at this point, you can be sure that health issues are slowly becoming more important to me. After all, it probably pays to make sure you aren’t doing anything terribly wrong now that will result in a huge cost later on in your life. Plus, the US government (and others) are starting to realize that obesity in the general population is reducing life expectancy greatly, to the point where it’s a significant problem. However, true to US form, some health-care providers (love that term) have chosen to just kind of ignore the problem (witness the pamphlet Kaiser Permanente gave me in the summer of 2001, telling me how it’s OK to be moderately overweight as long as you walk to the mailbox instead of driving… uh, OK, sure). Now, what I read in the general media is pretty straightforward: a BMI between 20 and 25 is good, up to 30 is not so good, over 30 can cause serious health problems. When I made the decision to lose weight, I was at 280, which is a BMI of 35.47. Not good. Even more disturbing, the maximum healthy weight was calculated at 197, which seemed patently absurd to me – I mean, 197? Hell, I’d never thought to even try to go that far. But, when it became clear that a year in Australia was going to happen, it seemed like that was the perfect time to get serious about the problem.
- Part of the reason is almost certainly that I have a real weakness for games that involve numbers. Even when I applied for college, the essay I submitted was essentially a long list of fifty-one items (which didn’t get me admitted anywhere, but that’s probably because it a) sucked complete ass, b) plagiarized John Waters badly in parts, and c) did I mention already that it sucked complete ass?), but the scene was set for the rest of my life. Watching Drowning by Numbers in college was a revelation, as was reading Queneau’s One Hundred Thousand Million Poems. I like things that take a long time, involve big numbers, and which require the artist to act methodically and carefully in the fact of boredom (usually mostly on the part of the audience…). So, one year, 52 weeks, 52 pounds to lose (more or less; it’ll actually be closer to 45).
- One question I’m acutely dreading about the job hunt coming up next February is this one: So… why did you decide to take a year off? Now, is it just me or does ‘Because I wanted to take time off to improve my health’ sound better than ‘I made some money on Netscape stock options and I wanted to go fool around for a while’? Throw in something about volunteering for CALM doing plant recon work in the Outback and presto, I’m not quite Mother Theresa, but maybe a little bit like Bob-her-uncle. Besides, I find it’s a lot easier not to overeat when you’re busy driving long distances, listening to CDs, talking with Dan about Phytophthora.
- Finally, I won’t deny that part of the impetus for my changing my body so dramatically has been to quietly complain about the tendence in the, ahem, Bear community over the past ten years to go from bearded, furry, with a little bit of extra body weight to bearded, furry, morbidly obese, and with a CPAP machine attached. Now, I think it’s dandy that many folks feel good about their weight, and do their best to feel that good about themselves, but on the other hand I do believe that you also have to look at it from a medical standpoint. No matter how sexy you look, it isn’t healthy if you’re severely overweight. A lot of the fat empowerment movement talk (if that’s what it’s properly called) that’s turned up recently in the USA scares me, just as much as the talk of gay men who feel that it’s their God-given right to have unprotected sex. Yes, it’s your right to eat as much as you want, but at the same time you’re part of a greater society, and the health costs you’ll be imposing on the rest of society due to your personal decisions are every bit as real as those of smokers…what it comes down to is that I believe that each of us should, where possible, minimize the damage we do to the rest of society, or (even better) work towards contributing more to the greater good of our communities.
- This leads me to my final point: a few months ago, I realized that the money I was spending on food had dropped to a very low level, and that the food I was consuming (in terms of kilojoules) was quite a bit less than what I’ve consumed for much of my life. And: you know what? A common complaint about First World societies is that we consume too damned much. What better way to start to remedy this than to reduce consumption? It was a start to use a clothesline at home, and forgo an air condition for a ceiling fan in the house; why not keep up the good work and aim towards reduction of other uses of the planet’s resources? Back in my university days I even went vegetarian for a year or so in an attempt to minimize my impact on the planet (remember, eating meat is a very poor use of the Earth’s resources as it is a very inefficient way of getting food calories from the Sun); I won’t go vegetarian again, but why not just stop eating so much in an attempt to, well, just use less?
- Anyhow, I need to get down to Kmart. There’s a sale on underwear.