AUDIO – IT’S WHAT’S ON THE OUTSIDE THAT COUNTS –
May 11, 2022 – …guzzling chips, chocolate, chocolate chips, peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate chips, chocolate peanut butter ice cream sprinkled with peanut butter chocolate chips. There were a few bad moments, over the course of a few bad months, that led me to download the weight-loss app. These will probably sound trivial to anyone who is not me, and of course theyare trivial — but we are talking about bodies here, and about my body in particular, and one of the defining features of having a body is that it is a fire hose of tiny humiliations blasting you constantly in the face, never allowing you to look away, even when you most want to.
One bad moment happened in Los Angeles. I had flown out, during a lull in the pandemic, to visit my great friend Alan, a friend so close he is basically a reflection of my own soul — and as Alan and I wrapped each other in a big hug of ecstatic reunion, he suddenly reached down to my waist and playfully pinched my love handles, probed them in the way a fishmonger might assess a large hunk of priceless tuna, and he said: “What happened here? Did you eat my friend Sam?” I chuckled, but in a complicated key.
And so, bulge by bulge, lump by lump, my body grew all the infamous mounds and blobs our culture likes to invent insulting nicknames for: a muffin top, moobs and — most especially — love handles. As an inner-circle friend, Alan had every right to make that little joke; I probably would have said the same to him. Still, it lodged in my mind, and sometimes, late at night, it clicked on like a broken flashlight.
But this was when things took a turn. The man at the counter, a slim Cape Cod fashion plate with tanned arms popping out of his tank top, looked me over gravely, lowered his voice and confided something amazing.
“You know,” he said, “that’s exactly where I was six months ago.”
“Really?!” I said.
I felt as if I had stepped into a weight-loss commercial, and I was unable to stop myself from saying the next line in the script. “What did you do?”
“Dude, I’ll be honest with you,” the shopkeeper said — and still, all these months later, I find it touching that he addressed me as “dude.” It was, in a vulnerable moment, an unexpected little charge of tender masculine care. He hated to admit it, he said, but what enabled him to lose all his pandemic weight was a weight-loss app. It sucks, he told me, but in his experience it was the only way: You have to log your meals and count your calories until everything is back under control.