Medical science tells us fat people are doomed to die before their skinny brethren, cut down by diabetes, heart disease, and old floors not built to accommodate a man who weighs as much as a herd of wild horses. The portly should be wary of entering structure that predates the invention of the Big Mac. Health experts suggest being larger than life is synonymous with being on the verge of death, but it’s actually the skinny who risk extinction. “Love handles” got their name because there was a time in human history when they gave you a better chance to hang on through another season. Coincidently, ancient women were more willing to love a man and let him sire their offspring if he looked like he was going to live through the winter. I might not have abs fit for the cover of a magazine, but I’d be one stud of a caveman. Despite my newfound belief that I would have been sexy 10,000 years ago, I must admit I was perturbed when I found unexplained pockets of fat on my body near the end of college. I felt betrayed by my metabolism, which previously allowed me to consume entire farm animals in a single sitting without consequence. Ever since my body started following basic laws of physics, my weight has fluctuated wildly. I’ve alternated between exercising and sitting around while gravy is intravenously injected into my body, and after experiencing both ends of the spectrum I have to say I’d rather be filled with coagulated meat juices than self-respect. Physical fitness, like honesty and literacy, is for chumps.
I didn’t always have the physique of a diabetic walrus. By my sophomore year in high school I had reached my current height of a hair shy of 6’2”, but I weighed in at an impressive 140 lbs. To this day I have no idea how that was possible. The math only comes out right if my bones had negative weight. During this period I often ate half a tray of brownies for breakfast, two-day’s worth of sandwich matter for lunch, and the children of my enemies for dinner. I loved dinner. My body’s seemingly magical ability to destroy food was hardly unique. If all teenage males were exiled from the planet world hunger would end in an afternoon, assuming of course that 13 to 18-year-old boys are solely to blame for the unstable governments and inefficient agricultural practices present in sub-Saharan Africa. Evidently, the only use my body had for food was as ammunition to blast out my colon. Some of the bathrooms I encountered during that time period are to this day still considered to be major disaster areas by my parents, local clergy, and FEMA.
It is important to remember that during this time I was a distance runner, and there is no more useless shape than distance running shape. You’re not strong enough to fight off an attacker, but you’re also not fast enough to outrun one unless said assailant is willing to pursue you at a slow and steady pace for many, many miles. There is no practical application for having thin, wiry leg muscles and an atrophied upper body, unless your life depends on squeezing between some prison bars and then playing an impromptu game of soccer. This knowledge didn’t make me train any less because it wouldn’t have made a difference; I thought I was already the worst runner I could be. Then I discovered weight lifting. Trying to get better at running by lifting weights is kind of like trying to get better at flying a plane by shaving cats. Coaches have never quite grasped this concept, however, and most remain solidly positive about lifting weights and ambivalent about shaving cats.
I entered college weighing 160 lbs. and managed to add about twenty-five pounds to that total by my junior year. All that muscle – and all of it was muscle, save for the twenty-four pounds that instantly went to my head as fat – would have been useful if I didn’t run like a T-Rex: I feebly clutch my arms to my chest as I gracelessly amble forward, occasionally devouring goats and SUVs full of tourists as I progress. The stronger I became, the more sluggish I got, which is how I discovered the only way to go slower than being stationary is to move backwards. The extra muscle didn’t help me with the ladies, either. Lola started dating me back when I still regularly lost arm wrestling matches with twelve-year-old girls with polio. What muscle I did eventually acquire was mostly hidden anyway. I wear baggy clothes and move with an awkward slouching lope that should be an impossible form of locomotion for an upright primate. The only muscle that was visible through this elaborate façade was in my shoulders, and even then you could really only get a good look at it while I was lifting weights. At some point working out for the sake of looking good while working out seemed counterproductive. I stopped exercising, my metabolism shut down, and my body instantly started converting muscle into fat and fat into armored shell. I have a theory that turtles are actually just lizards that got really fat.
It seems the only time my muscles are noticeable is in retrospect. Lola, who never once commented on my weightlifting while we were in college, occasionally brings up how I used to have big shoulders and six-pack abs. Evidently all the exercise in the world can’t compare to the body-shaping power of a faulty memory. My fellow cross country runners and I usually ran with our shirts off, so I have literally dozens of witnesses who can attest to the fact that not during one day of the four years I spent at an institute of higher learning was the outline of my abdominal muscles visible. Rather than working out now, I should just wait for Lola’s recognizance to get worse. Eventually she’ll wistfully look back to a time when I had a cape and a handlebar mustache. Rather than relying on Lola’s rapidly progressing dementia, I could actually grow new muscle and facial hair, but that sounds like an incredibly bad idea. If you really think about it, there is no activity quite as pointless as exercising. Studies suggest it can extend your life, but even the most ardent exercise proponent wouldn’t argue that an hour of exercise will give you an hour of extra life. But even if we take this absurdly optimistic estimate of a 1:1 ratio of life extension as truth, it doesn’t make sense to waste time doing crunches and squat thrusts when you’re young just to have a few extra days sitting around doing nothing when you’re old. I’d prefer to use my precious hours to sit around doing nothing right now.