Beanpole. Lanky. Skinny. Scrawny. These are just a selection of colloquial monikers that I used to get called between the ages of 0 and 23. I am 6 foot tall and rather under-muscled. At 23 my waist measured to a desirable 28 inches. I could eat an extra large pizza glazed with Big Mac’s and sprinkled with lard and still my slender frame cut through the air like Thrust II. Ah yes, the thin years. I look back with fondness in the same way that parents of raucous teenagers look back at pictures of their offspring when they were innocent babies; before the rebellion.
I used to walk, run for the school athletics team, play football with a keen but incompetent flare and I used to race karts with 30kg of lead bolted to them. My skinny stature was my trademark, that and my Gary Lineker ears and Ronald McDonald feet of course. Then one day I found myself living in the UAE and all of a sudden bending down to pull on my socks started to become a sweat-breaking chore. The bulging continued over the course of the next few years and now, as I sit here on a stressed and creaking chair I look back and wonder where it all went wrong.
I am, according to a recent poll, one of the worst cooks in the entire world. No salad goes un-burnt and no meal is free of cheese. Cooking is something I have had to learn by myself, in the same way that a monkey learns to write bestseller novels. The best way to get around the whole cooking business is to order out. The high street names are frequently called upon to provide me with fatty sustenance. If I don’t fancy high street gluttony I will opt for the expensive, ghee drenched hotel food instead. I think it is fair to assume then that my diet over the last 4 or so years has been abysmal. How I have not succumbed to scurvy thus far remains a mystery.
Another cause of this equatorial waist line can be pinned on the absence of exercise. Back in the glorious towns of Kinston-upon-Thames and Surbiton I would walk to, from, and between pubs. It was fabulous. I would leave the house, walk for 9 minutes to the Victoria for a pint, then on to the Coronation Hall for another few. After that my friends and I would walk towards Kingston via the Grove Tavern, and then on to the Slug and Lettuce before going to the Bishop out of Residence and then onto the now fallen giant; Oceana, and then walk home again. That was a total of about 8 miles, 12 if you include all the zig-zagging across the pavement and 56 if you were running from a knife wielding drug addict.
Here the concept of walking between bars is absurd. First of all it’s too hot. It serves no purpose going into a bar reeking of foul body odour and drenched in sweat. The bars are also too far apart. Thirdly if you are caught lurching drunkenly down the street then you’ll be locked up in the cells quicker than an Iranian scotch merchant. Lastly, taxis are jolly cheap and are usually in vast abundance, so it makes sense to use the service.
Since the turn of the year as I have continued my struggle to find my toes, I have started to make some changes. I no longer take comfort from the much discussed “Dubai stone”, which is about 6 kg and apparently happens to everyone over here. I have caught Dubai stone 4 times so I have now said enough is enough.
The first change is the diet. By the grace of God my girlfriend is a tremendous cook and is very savvy on what can make you look like Mark Wahlberg, and what can make you look like Fatty Arbuckle. So the white bread is in the bin, the brown bread is served in elegant portions. Eggs are now poached and not fried. The cheese has been replaced with lettuce and the Big Mac replaced by Shepherds pie. Just having eaten well for 2 weeks the difference is amazing. I have been able to spot my toes, which I previously believed to be as well hidden a myth as Higgs Boson…
I have also, and queue the canned laughter, finally paid to join a gym. What’s more interesting is that I am actually going there regularly. What’s even more interesting is that I am still alive. The blubber in my cheeks is disappearing, my toes and feet have now been rediscovered and I feel the best I have felt in years. It’s only been a month but already the results are plain to see. I work hours that don’t really give me the opportunity to get into a set routine and I am always rushing around all over the place. In the past this would have been a perfect excuse to “miss one day” and eat a pizza instead. But no, through the packed schedule I find myself making time.
It was reported this week that the UAE has the 5th highest level of obesity in the entire world. And this is something I spotted a while ago. But how can that be so? People over here, well, the offenders, have so much free time on their hands. At what cost is 1 hour in the gym 5 days a week?
…More expensive than a Big Mac ok, but if you insist on going to McDonalds at least order a Diet Coke instead…