When I was a kid, I was beyond skinny. I was a beanpole, a stick, a rail of a boy who could eat and eat and still be blown over by a strong March wind. Calories weren't my problem. In fact, calories meant one thing to me: “fat people.” In my partial view of reality, the only people who talked about calories were “fat people.” March forward a few too many decades, and I'm talking about calories, and I'm one of those “fat people.” Maybe you are too? We're all fat now, from what I read, and from what I see on the streets and in the stores and everywhere I go. We're fat, waddling creatures who have eaten ourselves into a caloric overload. It's America. It's fried, fast, and frequent food. And we're all fat now.
My doctor knows I'm fat. He suggested I go on a diet. He said, “1,500 calories.” That's not a lot of food, but I've finally taken his advice, and I've been tracking my meals, counting calories, and actually cooking my own food at home, foregoing my usual restaurants, cafes, lunch counters, and booths. And I'm feeling amazing, but who knows if it's the diet or a hallucination from the meager amount of food I'm taking in per day? Fifteen-hundred calories doesn't buy you a lot. You can forget your candies, cookies, cakes, pies, colas. Well, I guess you can still have them, but you'll have to eat a bowl of chalk dust for dinner if you want to keep to that 1,500 calorie rule. Do you know how many calories there are in bread? How about in cereal? I know now. I'm tracking calories, and I seem to constantly find myself mumbling. “One-hundred-ten calories per cup. Ten calories apiece. Seventy calories a packet.” Mumble, mumble, mumble.
I am losing weight, but I'm also losing my mind. “This bread is 60 calories a slice? That's righteous! The other bread I was eating was 80 per slice!” I get excited when I find a few free calories hiding here and there — calories that I can save to eat later. You can get two whole wheat cookies for 100 calories. You get a pouch of tuna — in spring water — for 70 calories. It's like playing poker. “Alright! I'll see your 70 calorie tuna, and I'll raise you two slices of bread at 60 calories each.” You add, and you subtract, and you live your life by a spreadsheet.
But I am feeling better. I've already said that, but it bears repeating. And I'm saving money by cooking my own food. And
I'm getting very angry at advertisers. “Try our big, fat, sugar loaf. You'll love it!” “Come and try our monster dinner with all you can eat this and that.” “Drink this sugary colored syrupy bubble juice.” I'm angry because these food monstrosities are way beyond my caloric budget. I feel like a poor kid in an upscale mall. And I'm angry because of the manipulation and marketing that powers the food being shoved at us. And I'm angry that I used to fall for it. And I'm losing weight. And I'm feeling better. And I'm seeing life differently now. And I doubt I can ever go back, even when I lose my weight. And I'm fine with that. We're all fat now. But we don't have to be.
David McCoy is a lifetime resident of “The Glorious South” and a repeat winner of the Georgia Press Association's Joe Parham Trophy for his humor column, Pecan Pie for the Mind. David lives in Covington, Georgia but can often be found among the North Georgia mountains, depending on the weather and the availability of clean towels and fresh, hot coffee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org