Monday, May 09, 2005


I had never thought for a moment that I would ever yield to the will of the calorie/fat devil. Back in India, I used to laugh and sneer at my sister, when I witnessed her counting every single calorie and saying things like, "I will eat the chocolate but not the nuts" (and the next time, vice versa) or something similar. I used to look down upon the dietary paranoia which seems to have engulfed the United States and used to mock those incessant weight-watchers. And I used to excessively criticize the excessively detailed nutritional information which seemed be as essential as the food item to which it was tagged.

But, as old Morpheus said, "Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony".

When I came to the US, almost two years ago, I was not worried a tad about my weight or my diet. I never had had a tendency to put on weight, and I didn't think this state of affairs would change. But gradually, just like the Matrix took over the world and blended itself into the humans' psyche, so was I dragged into the Matrix of calorie land. The US seems, it looks like, almost tailor-made to make people fat.
About the Battle of Britain, Churchill said, "In no time in the history of human conflict, have so many owed so much, to so few". I would say, "In no time in the history of modern civilization, have so many put on so much weight, because of such little effort". Actually "little" seems to be a misnomer, given the humongous culture with which food producers and advertisers bombard us. What I mean is that it takes little to cross the boundary from being merely enticed, to falling into the black hole of chocolaty and nutty desire, past the point of no return. When I say 'little', I am talking about the extra effort that it takes.
Of course, consumerism is as rampant in India today as it is in the US. The difference, however, is that in the US, food is much more affordable than in India, especially the kind of snazzy food that's advertised on TV. So compared to India, it is much easier here to fall into the clutches of the foody ethos. (Also the fact that the important entities called "parents" are not around to keep a check on you here)

And so it came to pass that I too, had fallen into this trap. Note that I am certainly not overweight (although I am sure many may beg to differ on that contention, purely as a vacuous way of exacting revenge). However, over the past few months, I have realized that my weight seems to be a 'monotonically increasing function', no matter how small the increments may be, and I realised that I would have to salvage my being before I crossed over across the event horizon. As would be realised by all those stalwart survivors of the fat plague, it's not so much of what I eat that is making the difference, as it is of how much time I am spending thinking about food. Already when I have set out in the early hours of the morning, I am thinking about what snack for dinner would make the day have a perfect ending. These thoughts cajole me and linger around throughout the day, so that by the time I get home, I make a bee line for the snack joint, like a shark.

Now there is that one little thing which may help a good deal to circumvent the problem- EXERCISE. However, since that is the thing I hate the second most in life (the first one being 'Sex and the City') there is no question of degrading my sanity by submitting myself to that blasphemous activity. The second best thing for averting the weight catastrophe- a GOOD DIET. And it's then that I realise that I have relegated myself to become a part of those select and woeful calorie watching cults that I used to mock and have an extreme aversion to. Alas! How things change over time...

After a lot of exhaustive investigation, I think I have nailed down the culprit that has been largely responsible for this unexpected trauma. For some time, I was bemused at the monotonic weight increase, because for one thing, I almost never eat burgers from McDonald's and Burger King (or anything else for that matter), and I almost never touch french fries or potato chips- prime contenders for weight gain. That fact first singled out the other prime contender- fizzy, chilly, sweetened carbonated water a.k.a the king of all such beverages: Coke (which, by the way, for Southerners, means ANY carbonated drink). So first and foremost, I completely broke off my relationship with the wily culprit...a blow that I think I have taken quite graciously.

The second big problem- and this is a battle that I am still fighting- is that delicious item of food ('heaven on a roll') that I find myself getting addicted to: The Great Mexican Burrito (for the uninitiated, a burrito is something like a frankie except that it has ten times more stuff stuffed inside it). Among other things, a burrito contains lettuce, red peppers, and salsa (a quite unsophisticated form of tomato salad). However, given the mentality of the indulgent child, I was conveniently not paying attention to the other things that it contains- cheese, rice, sour cream, and the tortilla roll which holds everything together, all of which undoubtedly pack a hydrogen bomb worth of calories. My last thread of hope broke one day, when a not too kind friend of mine sent me an unsolicited mail, listing the amount of calories that these burritos contain- close to 1000. Although I am vehemently opposing his sources and criticising his research techniques, I am afraid that I am fighting a lost battle. Providence, in an ironically tragic way, has opened up the Mexican restaurant right across the road, and for the first time in my life, it looks like I really have to try... (On a lighter note, I told the '1000 calorie incident' to my Professor who unexpectedly showed up in the burrito line in front of me one day. He too was shocked; apparently, he too frequents the place more than he should. In fact he was so shocked, that after that, he kept asking me whether this was really true, almost every two minutes or so. On my part, I was wickedly and heartily laughing inside, having served my purpose of taking some kind of sweet revenge on him for some of those somnolent lectures that he had cruelly subjected us to)

So...sigh! These days, I too find myself constantly glancing over at labels on every food container, badgering those heroes and heroines who have survived the dietary famine to tell me how much calories a particular food (even water) contains, doing the calorie aritmetic which I always hated, and thinking twice or sometimes even thrice before venturing into a blissful snack villa. I even catch myself doing a push up or two everyday these days. Milk- that glorious gift of God that was my constant companion- has now become "Milk with 2% fat", a despicable fluid that bears little resemblance to its exalted ancestor. Sandwiches have become a necessary evil in my life. I have reluctantly made Subway Sandwiches (sans the chicken, mayonnaise, and essentially everything else but the lettuce and the onions) my savior. Chocolates and coke are to be looked down upon as the conceptions of Satan him/herself. And except when it comes to clicking photos, 'cheese' is a lost word.

However, I may have lost the battle for now, but I will win the war. I will trudge through these shackles of enforced dietary rehabilitation, and finally emerge trim and slim. As old Arnie will no doubt endorse, I just have one thing to say: "I WILL BE BACK...WITH A HERSHEYS"!!


Anonymous Sumedha said...

I can't believe you don't even play badminton; every second Maharashtran does :)

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Sumedha said...

I can't believe you don't even play badminton; every second Maharashtrian does :)

8:45 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

I DID use to play 'baddy'...about a zillion years ago, when I was in school. So I have justified being a Maharashtrian at least once in my life, by that token. :) It was only much recently that the anti-sports wave hit me. Running is probably the one activity I enjoy, but 'feet tending to flatness' preclude doing it all the time, although I substitute it with brisk walking now and then...mostly then!

3:40 AM  
Blogger Schrodinger said...

Ashutosh, you are not alone. The Battle of the Bulge for Punjabis, begins in childhood.

I need a healthy dose of swimming/aerobics or spinning to maintain a not-very-rounded profile, but the sights of lovely blonde women in aerobics or spinning sessions keeps me goin!!

Talking about calories, I never counted them much, but you have me concerned about my love for hot dogs and especially the large sized spicey sausage with french bread, add all the fried onions, mustard and ketchup you can, and you have what I eat almost twice a week!

I am drowning with guilt. But the first step to solving a problem is by openly acknowledging it!!!!!!

10:05 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

I can imagine how it must be for Punjabis indulged by effusing grandparents.
Unfortunately, I don't find American girls attractive enough to make possible the gargantuan efforts that would have to go into walking to the gym (it's a 4 MINUTE walk, for crying out loud!) and then actually WORKING OUT (God forbid I never do it)!! ;)

4:18 PM  

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