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Time for a little self-motivation

May 26, 2009

It really was quite tasty. Really.

I devour the turkey breast and ham on a honey toasted six-inch sub as I sit waiting for the late-running 1659 form Gerards Cross to London Marylebone. As well as savouring every bite of the first thing I’ve eaten all day long, I weigh up the advertised calorific content of the product against its perceived nutritional value.

If it is this six-inch sub really is as little as 236 calories (perhaps a little more if you include the splash of mayonnaise I insisted the man in the shop daub the product in to make it more palatable), then I don’t quite understand why it is more people eat them. I can’t necessarily corroborate the claims of the retail outlet who sold me the sandwich. They certainly seem very tasty even if the “meat” is a little on the thin side.

I’m thinking more and more about calories today. I also know exactly why.

I made public my latest obsession as I sat at my computer plumbed into Twitter. A thought flashed across my mind and before I knew what I was doing, I was condensing my thought into 140 characters. The message was clear: I don’t like being aware of skin hanging over my belt. I don’t like it one bit.

I’m vain, you see. If you hadn’t realised it already, I am the very worst kind of thirty-something homosexual. I feel put upon by the seemingly near constant reminders of the growing chasm between my developing body shape and the supposed body beautiful. They are the images which sell magazines, apparently must-have underwear and gym memberships. They are everywhere and they’re getting on my under-developed tits.

They are the images of beautifully sculpted men splashed across front covers and roadside hoardings. They’re annoying. So too the people who imitate the look, displaying their midriffs and waistbands to the rest of us who look on in envy at their ridiculously and much-missed wafer thin waists. These images and those who achieve the look are a constant source of irritation solely because they remind me of what I need to be doing to achieve that look myself. Then when I start thinking about that I ask the inevitable question: do I really want to look like that and if so, why? I rarely find the answer.

Magazines targeted at my demographic appear to make the situation worse for me. I’m not on the pull – I don’t go out on nor have a desire to go out on “the scene” – and yet peer at any one of the gay titles and you’re almost certain to see considerable amounts of flesh across the cover. They’ll be images selling the “sex issue” or the “naked issue” as if this is the edition which will completely blow the others out of the water. Just how much more naked and how much more appealing can a naked body be exactly?

I do from time to time – normally on a Friday evening with the prospect of a weekend spent vegging with a few magazines and a large cup of tea – pick over the magazines in the newsagent. I see the covers, bite my bottom lip and then start thinking about the tyre around my waist. If I bend over to pick up that magazine off the shelf, I can actually feel the fat collect in smallish ripples at the side.

Yes, the latest edition of Attitude magazine may well feature a photoshoot of a selection of reasonably “normal” looking men naked, but looking at it doesn’t make me feel any better about myself. I look at the pictures and think to what extent I’d feel uncomfortable doing the same. (Don’t worry I shan’t do it. That’s self-promotion too far.)

It’s worth stressing that I’m not obese. I’m not fat either. I am in fact a mere 13 stone which given my height of six feet should be of absolutely no concern.

And yet it is. And to complain about it is a little melodramatic. It’s not a serious thing in any way – a mere illustration of an obsessive vain so and so with precious little to occupy his mind – and it’s certainly not new either. Given that women have long complained about the effect the body beautiful has on their own self-image, some might even argue that men have had this coming for years. Given the length of time women have suffered, maybe men will have to suffer for a long time yet too. 

6 Pack and Abs all for £7.75

Even so, I know I shouldn’t give in to that predictable pressure. That’s what the machine is about. That’s what sells magazines. Make the audience feel like they’re lacking and they’ll spend the money on the publication in the belief that they can make themselves better. I can see how it works and I should, really, resist it. And yet, I find it difficult to resist. I’m a sucker for it.

The truth is however, it takes considerable more energy to resist that pressure and thus embrace the inevitable effects of age. Merely acknowledging that I probably drink rather more alcohol than I should would be more difficult and that I could do with just doing a spot more exercise is – bizarrely – the more difficult thing to do. Accepting things and going with it would be the sensible, the reasonable thing to do. But being reasonable doesn’t necessarily motivate me. Being reasonable certainly doesn’t inspire blog postings.

Thus, conscious that my mind has focussed on two things today – the most urgent demands made by job and the state of my waist (often concurrently during working hours) – and suitably spurred on by the sight of an acquaintance at the weekend who’s clearly spent a good deal of time down the gym and looks all the better for it, I’ve set myself a personal challenge.

The details of that challenge are yet to be finalised but I figured I’d make a start shortly after I left the sandwich shop in Gerards Cross late this afternoon.

That’s why I’m sat on the London-bound train from Gerards Cross staring bitterly at the two fitness magazines I’ve purchased from WHSmith, both magazines adorned with models whose bodies are so taught and so defined you could set a jelly in the ridges. The magazines cost a total of £7.75. That hurts like the idea of a 25kg bench press right now.

I’d be an idiot if I thought that fitness, good health, reduced waistlines and a balanced state of mind can be found in fitness magazines. But in the spirit of thorough research and given that I need some other kind of inspiration now the Eurovision is over, I might as well start seeing whether the likes of Mens Health and Fitness Magazine really can contribute to a slightly leaner me.

Naturally, I will report back later. You can be sure of that.

  1. Chris permalink

    A quick visit to
    reveals that you have a Body Mass Index of 24.72 = healthy. When I put in my vital statistics I got a BMI of 26.59 = overweight.

    I’m not remotely proud of being overweight, but what I am pleased with is the fact that about five years ago if I had done the same calculation I would have got 31.62 = obese.

    Personally I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about. Your little bit of flesh overhanging the belt is a sign of a loving and being-loved home life, sensible clothing and a growing maturity.

    There is, however, a way of keeping it down – and this is how I lost weight. Watch the calories. And this doesn’t mean going without. In fact, never go without, because you just end up resenting it. Just always go for the lower calorie option of two. If you have no preference in the taste, take diet coke and slimline tonic instead of regular. If you fancy a night with crisps and dips, pick the dip that is 100 calories per pot instead of 500. If you yearn for the sauvignon blanc, drink the bottle that’s 10.5% instead of 13.5%. It’s amazing how you can control your weight if you do these things.

    That’ll be £250 for the health consultation, thank you.

  2. I love Subway. No, *adore* Subway.

    That is all.

    Oh, and good luck. I’m in a similar position, but much shorter and therefore beginning to resemble George from Seinfeld. Hence the triathlon.

    The agony…

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