I am not allowed to eat carbs in the evening.
Having pasta for dinner is almost as bad as punching my grandmother in the neck. If I eat bread I might as well shoot myself in the face. I ate an Easter egg last week. I’m actually genuinely ashamed to write that.
I am under the influence of fitness magazine disciples and diet-plan Googlers who uncompromisingly and unremittingly chastise me for what I eat. And yet, I continue to listen. I have reached the point where an avocado is a bobbly fat-bomb and cheesecake is a kind of plastic explosive.
You cannot win. If you say you eat steak, the experts tell you to eat chicken or fish. If you only eat chicken and fish they'll tell you to eat less chicken and fish. They'll grill you for grilling vegetables. Steam them instead. If you steam them, you should eat them raw. Potatoes are not vegetables, they are obesity grenades, only ever to be eaten at the start of the day when the evil sugars they force your body to create can be worked off. Rice is made of chocolate. Fruit? Filled with sugar! Grapes are podge-bullets. Beer? Just stick a straw in the fattest pig on the farm and suck.
This is madness, peddled by fitness magazines and propagated by a clutch of irresponsible rogue personal trainers and nutritionists who change the goalposts week after week after week with every new piece of pseudo-scientific research just to make sure that even the skinniest, most ripped fitness obsessive feels like they're failing, whilst slightly less ripped people, such as myself, feel like hopeless ribbed and wobbling monsters. As I walk to the bathroom at night I imagine myself looking like something from Pan’s Labyrinth. These fanatics and supposed experts are feeding my obsession with food, while I neglect to feed my stomach.
Take this example: If you want to stay trim and build muscle, you eat protein rich, low fat meats, right? Chicken for instance. Nope. Actually, bison is better. Meanwhile, chicken is superior to beef as a source of protein, natch, so probably best to avoid burgers and junk food, right? I mean, don’t eat fatty, sugary foods if you want a six pack. Nope. This article tells us that eating high-calorie foods once a week gives your thyroid a good kicking and increases leptin levels thus preventing your body from going into starvation mode and storing fat. So a burger is okay once a week? Sure, if you want colon cancer.
I am a fan of exercise magazines. They offer helpful tips and their content is merely signposting and exploring the latest research, no matter how tenuous that research might be. And I don't doubt the expertise of the quoted nutritionists. I'm certain they are highly qualified and sincere in their mission to make us all look like Michelangelo's David who, I enthusiastically imagine, did a fair few squats crunches.
Unfortunately however, my obsession with trying to look like a shrink-wrapped abacus has left me in such a state that I am now unable to eat a single thing without feeling guilty. I want to look ripped. I need to get those lines that run down your hips to your gonads. I desire a six pack.
This is my illness and it’s a condition which, I believe, is peculiar to men. Sure, both the boobed and the moobed worry about their weight. But in my experience it’s only the boys who have this particularly competitive and self-destructive obsession with stripping every last bit of fat from their bodies whilst, and here is the difference, simultaneously pumping muscle. This isn’t anorexia is it? It’s something else. A kind of deluded, narcissistic vanity complex where the body becomes a machine to be stripped back, remodelled and souped-up. It’s not just about hating the inherent weakness of your own body it’s also about loving it…too much.
In the past I have discussed the calorific value of an orange. Last Saturday I found myself in the supermarket holding a tin of tuna and wondering how much fat is in brine. I must lose that little wedge of fat under my bum which no one else can see. I have to shave the plumpness from my lower back just above my belt. That is why my lunch today was a carrot and three peeled chicken legs. But I know that, when I see my mates on Friday, they will tell me I am eating all the wrong things and I’ll have to reset my diet all over again. In the meantime I continue to grow an increasingly negative relationship with food. It doesn’t nourish. It threatens, poisons and abuses.
If it’s an illness it’s now pretty widespread amongst younger men. In my case, my doctor once suggested I discuss my body image with a counsellor. He mentioned body dysmorphic disorder but, as I pointed out to my portly GP, I’m hopelessly vain and I tend to think I’m stunning in an almost God-like way so it can’t be anything so serious. He neither confirmed nor denied that I was ethereally beautiful but I left determined to be even stricter with my diet.
The uncomfortable fact that my fellow food-obsessives and I cannot accept, is that it’s healthy to have a bit of fat on you. My lovely mum tells me so very regularly, whilst looking me up and down and tearfully bemoaning the ruin of her ‘sweet little lad’. She likes me chubby when I’m only happy skinny. Mum, I’m sorry. For me the best thing about cake is…not eating it.
So yes. I ate an Easter egg last week. But I'm thinking about it now. I thought about it when I forced myself to run an extra 5k at the weekend. I thought about it today when I did another set of sit-ups. I thought about it when I made myself walk home rather than take the bus. I will think about it tonight when I go to sleep and feel my stomach to see if it's any less squidgy.
And tonight, before I turn in, I will eat grilled vegetables and plain chicken and try, desperately, not to feel guilty about it.