A lesser man

Right! So, the weight loss thing.

I started going to the gym last month, because I know my fate – hearts seem to be at the heart of the reason people in my family eventually depart. Two weeks into that, the HR department announced a company-wide weight loss competition. I found it hilarious, and just for fun checked my BMI to see if it was high enough to qualify for the competition – and lo and behold, it was 28, solidly overweight.

I was surprised. I don’t have a bad body image, but I figured, hey, if the little chart is going to represent me by a slightly more aggressive shade of orange than those people in the happy yellow “healthy weight” sliver, then what do I have to live for? So I decided to give it a shot, and see if I could manage to reduce myself to a lesser man.

Funny thing – I don’t think I’ve ever done that. Ever. There is probably no time in my history that I’ve weighed noticeably less than at any previous time. Chinese friends, who often like to comment on weight, often tell me, at random intervals, “ni shou le!”, which means “You lost weight [skinnied]!” This, however, I take with a grain of salt, because at equally random intervals, other Chinese friends tell me, “ni pang le!”, which means, “You gained weight [fatted]!” This means that either they’re sensitive to much smaller changes in weight than I am, or that every time they see me they’re stricken afresh by my majesty, and cast about for a way to explain why I seem so much more marvelous than I was before – is it that I’m more slim and dashing, or that I’m more solid and imposing? I just average the two, assume that I’ve been exactly the same for years, and that I’m equally dashing and imposing, or as I might like to say, dashposing, which calls up images of the Heisman trophy, which I never won.

So I decided to see if I could prove to myself that I can implement planned lifestyle changes that will have a positive influence on my health and well-being. That’s not something that should be taken for granted. All the big changes I’ve made so far – studying music, going to grad school, dropping out of grad school, moving to China, learning Chinese, going on a dating show, taking this Beijing job – have all been whimsical, one-shot sort of things, decisions that you make once and then just kind of follow them along. Losing weight, not so. It requires you to decide to do it again every time you go to the gym in the morning. It’s will imposed over time on yourself. It’s hard. It’s good. It’s something I would like to prove to myself.

And it’s not just going to the gym (though I do so every morning now, and most evenings, and do jumping jacks and core exercises at home during the lunch break), it’s also eating. I drink four cups of green tea a day (I could say that I extrapolated that based on the recommended 2-3 for normal-sized people, but really it’s just because my thermos is just about that big) to keep my metabolism going and my appetite down. I snack on broccoli whenever the hell I feel like it. I cook fish fillets and chicken breasts – mostly poaching them without salt. And here’s the thing – it’s delicious. Maybe I’ll get tired of it after a few weeks, but right now, in my rice cooker, there’s a concoction of diced tomato, mushroom, garlic, pepper, and a bit of potato boiling away, waiting until it’s ready for the thawed chicken breast to be dropped in and simmered. It smells awesome and I can’t wait. I think I need to eat some broccoli just to keep myself from salivating all over my keyboard.

I can feel the reduced calories, though. Last week I had an afternoon at work where I realized it was slightly hard to focus, so I snacked a bit. This afternoon I played ultimate frisbee, and it was much harder to run than before. Maybe it was just me, but my muscles also felt warmer. I could feel my body more. Maybe that’s because I’m more in tune with my physicality now, or maybe it’s the sensation of my body burning off fat for energy. I don’t know, my body doesn’t speak English and can’t tell me. What I do know is that it feels good, when I can make myself run through it.

Weird thing, though, it’s now almost impossible to meditate. I used to do about 10 minutes, but now I can’t get through about 5 without my mind wandering off and I end up subconsciously moving around. Is that because my brain has fewer calories to focus with? Does that mean that trying to focus or think hard can also speed up my metabolism?

I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s just about time to put that chicken breast in that broth before I give up and drink the spicy garlicky tomatoey broth by itself.

Oh, and the prize for the company’s weight loss competition (which ends on Jan 20, I believe) is a golden iPhone, known as the “tuhao jin iPhone” that you may have heard about on American news (link below). It’s so weird being on two sides of things…


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