A Personal Tale of Woe
By James S. Fell
Illustration By Jessie Mead
Never let it be said that I’m unwilling to suffer for my art, if you can call fitness writing art.
I used to be fat, but now I’ve got a flat belly, which I figure is pretty good for a forty-something beer-drinking family guy. Still, no fitness magazine is going to ask me to grace their cover because I’m too fond of drinking six packs to have the requisite six-pack.
The media inundates us with chiseled abdominal imagery, but they don’t tell us that the models have restrictive diets and rigorous training programs, are dehydrated, well-lit, waxed, fake-tanned and PhotoShopped. So just eat this magical food or pop that miracle pill and get both the rippling abs and the girl. What a crock.
Although having a large belly is bad, at a certain point fat loss becomes more about vanity than health, as there is minimal cardiac benefit to a visible six-pack over simply having a flat midsection. For the average guy I don’t think the sacrifice it requires to get a six-pack is worth it, but I’ve never been able to see much of my abs, so I’m not speaking from experience.
That’s all about to change and I have a strong feeling that it’s going to suck. This article is about me being a guinea pig, taking 10 weeks to get as ripped as I can and documenting the process to see if the result makes it worth the trouble.
With wife, kids, job, and no housekeeper the eight or so hours of intense weights, running and cycling a week I do now is about all I can fit in, so achieving this goal is going to come from dietary restriction. I eat a healthy diet that I happen to supplement with beer, pizza and potato chips. For this project my cheat treats and booze have to go — mostly.
Getting lean is easier for some people than others, but if you met my parents you’d understand that I’m genetically programmed to resemble a potato. Evolution made me a fat-storer, and my body is going to fight this every step of the way. I set a couple of basic rules for this endeavour:
- No pills or powders. I’m simply going to cut (most) booze and junk food.
- I’m not interested in what the scale says or what my body fat percentage is. The only number I want to know is how many abs I can see at the end.
I make the questionable decision not to inform my wife (who has her black belt in karate) of this project because I want to get her honest reaction to the leaner me.
While some people will hide drinking from a spouse, I am unsure how to hide not drinking, so I prepare my wife with the only statement I will make about the project; I make a show of patting my belly and say, “I think I’m going to ease off the beer for a bit.” Being a family physician she isn’t going to discourage me from reducing alcohol.
Days 4 – 5
Long weekend at West Edmonton Mall
Do you know that you can get beer in a 32 ounce glass at Boston Pizza? Well, YOU can; I can’t. Stupid diet. After five hours in the water park I’m having one of those giant freakin’ beers because . . . well, just because. Rickard’s White. Hold the fruit.
They order in pizza at work for everyone. Jerks.
Two days of single parenting without alcohol. Kill me.
Attending a work-related BBQ at Big Rock Brewery. I am convinced God hates me.
I’ve been eating so many mixed green salads that I’m ready to poop algae.
I think I see an ab. Hmm . . . I think it’s actually just a smudge of dirt from working in the yard.
Forty-second birthday and no beer.
I ran 27 kilometres and biked 60 kilometres in the past two days, and it’s sunny and hot outside. I’m having beer.
OK, I definitely see two abs, but it feels like I should be further along considering how much dietary suckage I’ve put up with. Although I’m looking slimmer, I can still see this roll of fat above my belt and it’s pissing me off because I’m concerned about my ability to get rid of it with only five weeks left. I grab the flab with both hands and squeeze. “Dammit! Why won’t you just go away?” Talking to my fat makes it official: This diet has made me completely crazy.
I hate my parents, and my parents’ parents, and my parents’ parents’ parents. It’s their fault I’m fat. And my wife? She hasn’t said anything about me looking slimmer. She’d notice if I cleaned the bathrooms.
“You’re looking pretty skinny these days,” my wife says. I am uncertain if this qualifies as a compliment.
STOP BRINGING DONUTS INTO WORK! Oh, and Ice Cream Man: I hate you.
I am craving something so greasy it causes my cholesterol to spike through the top of my skull.
Paintball bachelor party. That game really hurts when you play sober.
We’re staying at the Rimrock while attending a wedding in Banff with an open bar. There is a God, and He wants me to be fat.
Days 52 – 62:
Ten days of deep-fried drunken debauchery that I refuse to participate in, but next year I’m going to eat Oprah Winfrey’s weight in mini donuts.
After no further comments from my wife since day 40, I decide it is time to break out the big guns. I bring her shirtless strawberry pancakes in bed and say in my best Old Spice voice, “Now look at me. Sadly, your man is not me.” [Dramatic pause] “Oh, wait. He totally is.” “Shut up and make with the pancakes,” she says. Well, not really. What she actually says is: “You are looking slim these days.” “You like?” “I like.” Then she—We interrupt this article for none of your damn business.
There is a strange crease above my naval. It’s not an ab, it’s a crease, and I don’t like it.
26 C is too hot for wearing a shirt. I notice that my wife throws some appreciative looks my way, which pleases me. Later I go for a run through Nose Hill Park and see what I interpret to be another admiring glance from a woman who is not old enough to be my mother. I am ashamed to admit that this also pleases me. I also forget sunscreen, which does not please me.
I look in the mirror and see less 300’s King Leonidas than I do that Jason Statham Transporter movie guy. Meh. Close enough. I hand the draft of the article to my wife and say, “I have a confession to make.” She reads and is miffed that I would hide something from her, but I placate her by explaining what a colossal whining bore I would have been talking about my restrictive diet these past 10 weeks had she been in on it. She agrees and promptly forgives me. She takes my “after” photo and I commence inhaling beer, salt and vinegar potato chips, and extra cookie dough Hagen Daaz. “Wait!” my wife protests. “Does this mean you’re not going to keep the abs?”
James S. Fell, MBA, CSCS, is a national fitness columnist, healthy lifestyle consultant, and author of Body for Wife: The Family Guy’s Guide to Getting in Shape. For pictures of James’s transformation, visit www.impactmagazine.ca.