Drugan-Eppich: Fitness winter woes

Bret Belden

From the Loser
By Tim Drugan-Eppich
Staying in shape is effortless in the summer. The warm weather and the sunny days beckon you outside to enjoy nature and move your body. Whether hiking or playing frisbee, you burn off that cheesecake without a second thought. Your weight stays constant no matter what you eat, and all seems right with the world.
In the winter, it’s a little different.
The winter air does not beckon you outside for romping adventures; it demands with a frosty wind that you stay inside underneath a blanket on the couch. And the food, the food becomes so much more tantalizing, to the point where you make snacking a constant part of your day. All of the activities in summer remove food from the equation. It is difficult to play tennis while eating donuts. But in the winter, food is an intrinsic part of every activity, always available and always calling your name. I hope you can see what I’m getting at here. . .I get pretty chubby in the winter.
Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas is when I start to get concerned. On Thanksgiving I convince myself that a layer of fat would be a useful amenity for the winter, for warmth purposes, giving myself free rein to pack myself to capacity on the holiday, and for a couple weeks afterwards. It is in the area of two weeks later I realize my chub is getting quite noticeable, and the effort to slow the weight gain begins. But like I said, that’s easier said than done in winter.
I am not terribly interested in exercise for the sake of exercise. Other than a brief period freshman year when I convinced myself I could quickly become a bulky sex icon, I have successfully avoided the gym. It was a phase I left after realizing that instead of surrounding myself with women fawning over the amount of weight I lifted, I was sharing close quarters with other grunting, sweaty men.
My strategy is tricking myself to exercise, like bike to school, take the stairs, or call someone much larger than I am stupid and have them chase after me. This way, I can eat what I want without having to deal with locker rooms, spandex, or feeling self conscious because of the curious lack of hair on my legs. But this only works if there is the opportunity to move naturally throughout the day. In the winter, the possibilities are cut down considerably. It is much too cold to bike anywhere, so instead I get my morning exercise behind the wheel yelling at old women to drive faster. Extra walking outside to enjoy nature is now out of the question. In fact I will do anything I can to avoid exposing myself to the elements. I’m an expert at talking myself out of commitments, because really, how important is participating in society anyway? Winter is a time to stop actively having fun and hunker down to watch others take care of it for me on TV.
If I simply ate less during the winter it would all balance out, but the food I crave in the winter is much denser that what I want in the summer months. Fruit is delicious in the summer, but in the winter what really hits the spot is a chocolate brownie, accompanied by some hot chocolate, and perhaps with some shredded chocolate sprinkled on top…with some extra chocolate. What I’ve found is chocolate doesn’t sit as lightly as fruit, and the side effect is starkly noticeable weight gain.
You may be thinking when I just said “starkly noticeable” I meant starkly noticeable to myself. You’re probably picturing me standing distraught in front of my bathroom mirror, prodding and poking my doughy midsection. While I am sure that is a comical image, it is not what occurs. For some reason I cannot begin to understand, when I start to get fat, it all goes right to my face. Not my face so much as my jowls, or the area just beneath my jaw line. So the moment my body figures I have enough extra calories to set some aside for later, it slaps the fat right out in the open where everyone can see it. Like I said, starkly noticeable.
This has the obvious side effect of prompting a rapid change in dietary choices. Very quickly I am back to eating my oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and rice and beans, because where most people can get away with gaining 5 or even 10 pounds with nobody noticing, let alone commenting on it, I have had my mom say “Jeez, your face is getting fat!” after just a couple of extra pounds. In addition to a fat face, I have a brutally honest mother.
So when you step on that scale this winter and are distraught with the number that pops up, knowing you need to overhaul your diet, get back to the gym, or risk needing a new wardrobe, just remember this column. Because you may be getting a little chubby, but at least you don’t have a fat face.