LOOK-BACK: 200 FOR THE 2000s.
Five years in China, partly ’cause I walked everywhere and pounded basketballs on car-free pavements, helped me climb down from a high-level status I’d never asked for and never fully believed. When I went there in 2009, I was still tipping my bathroom scales a little too ferociously. In Dalian, it was a lot harder (or, in a few cases — I’m looking at you, Haagen-Dazs! — the price tripped my cheapness alarm) to get sweet treats that met my lofty Canadian-consumption standards. Summers back home were exercises in box-ticking (can’t get that in Dalian, gotta do it now!). Um, and in not exercising that much. My personal record: one summer, in our seven weeks home I put on seven kilos — 15 pounds!
So now we’re back for good, and this summer’s victory is that I’ve kept my balance, dietarily, and though I’m not where I’d like to be, I’m still well under the critical threshold that so alarmed me at the beginning of my Chubby Decade, towards the end of the 20th century. The piece below, another one that pre-dated this website and never saw the light of readership day, was my reaction to realizing I’d hit 200 pounds. The words below were indignant and disbelieving, fun to read years later, and pretty much useless in getting me to actually do anything about the ballast I was packing. Not right away, anyhow.
Two hundred? Now that’s just a lie. Hah! Hah! says I to myself, it’s an el cheapo scale, and besides, it was on a carpet, and shoot, it’s been cold and I’ve been sick, and besides, hey, I like to eat, it’s not like I drink or smoke so I deserve the occasional treat and I just need to get working out a little more regularly and by the way, I’ve never cracked two hundred and I still have pretty good moves for an old guy…
Okay. So this new level of larditude is not exactly one of the “firsts” I’d envisioned for the (pre)Millennial Me. Plea-bargains and pitiable denials aside, one nasty bit of gristle in the stew of midlife is unrequited affection: I love ice cream but it doesn’t treat me right. (There, I’ve said it.)
Hewitt’s Dairy—bless it, curse it—has squatted seductively by the side of many of the roads I’ve travelled. Fine, technically it is just one road, but everything, from our ’67 Merc with the nifty-cool rear window (it went up and down!) to at least one of my bicycles to the suburban baby bucket I drive now, has made remote-control turns off Highway 6 south. Every baseball and hockey road game for many childhood years led us to Hewitt’s for a five-scooper, at a nickel a scoop. Sigh. I was a prodigy; to this day I’ve never dripped a drop, or vice versa. I always felt more than a little disdain for the unwashed, weak-kneed, snot-nosed snivellers who couldn’t hold their cones straight. (Yet not long ago, in a stunning spasm of neglect, I left two litres of burgundy cherry on top of my fridge, and I can still see the terrible purple stream running down the sides. It haunts my memory the way a bargeload of Chocolate Pecan Divinity stalks my midsection. Foreshadowing. I see it now.)
Somewhere along the buffet line, meals became my Olympics, my theatre, my war. Even as a tyke, my appetite astonished my mother and older sisters, while in my big brother’s holiday mountains of mashed potatoes, I found my own private Everest. I got as much notice for making groceries disappear as for home runs or touchdowns. When brother Bill was 16, he noticed a challenge too delicious for he and his crony to resist. The late lamented Fountain Carnival restaurant had a Gi-Normous Sundae Spectacular Mighty Arctic Mountain Blast Supreme (not its real name), a glass pail the customer could fill with his choice of ice cream flavours and toppings, and if he could eat it all, it was free!
I was the 11-year-old emperor of ice cream, and Bill and Smitty were conspirators against my throne. Ten scoops? Twelve? All I remember is that they chose the flavours (chocolate, butterscotch, lemon-lime, pork chop…) and drowned them in every available syrup. My sweet tormentors watched in lewd fascination, and I got so close, but the toxic soup at the bottom of the bucket defeated me. This meant they had to pay, served ‘em right, but I was too glum and dazed to take any pleasure in it. I think they even got me to promise not to tell.
Despite the setbacks, though, dairy delights and I had a good relationship, right into my thirties. At least, I thought we did, but aren’t the loyal always the last to know? I didn’t treat it any differently, but ice cream began to abuse me in small and not-so-subtle ways. Weighing in at 175 pounds in the nimble years, I came to accept 185 as a mature man’s marker. 190 was a disturbing plateau I climbed down from many times, but The Big Two Oh-Oh has been a brick in the belly. (Okay, I hear you, thousands of ‘em.) And then I discovered, searching for the Magic Button of Youth and Health, that according to traditional Chinese medicine, ice cream is the axis of dietary evil. It’s dairy. It’s sugary-sweet. And it’s cold. I always thought that was the good news!
So, maybejustmaybe I can’t treat every meal, and especially the sirens of sweetness, as a call to arms (“Spoons at the ready!”), ‘cause the days aren’t filled with ballgames unending and three hour gymfests any more. At some point, it seems I decided that if food was left over, it was my fault, and if I wasn’t groaning after supper, I hadn’t tried hard enough. So. There. Enough is enough. I miss my abdominals, so ice cream and I are in counselling. I think we should just be friends.