30 July 2012

An Ode to Stretchy Pants or Why Metabolism Sucks

Ten years ago, my metabolism kicked ass. I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. Now, granted my near-constant hangover from the drinking bouts each night probably helped keep the weight off; turns out, you don't gain much when you're vomiting up vodka almost everyday before your 8am class. But still, you get what I mean. For most of my life, I ate what I wanted, sat around as much as I wanted, and still looked pretty damn good.

Now I'm 28. I still eat what I want and sit around a good deal. I still look pretty good. But that look might have to do more with the fact that, during the summer months, when I am off from work, most of my clothing involves pants/shorts with elastic waistbands.

Almost two weeks ago, however, I threw on a pair of jeans to go out with my sister. And gasped in horror.

They fit. But gaining even two more pounds was going to necissitate new clothing, and since I have a lot of clothes, I realized I could ill-afford to replace them all simply so I could continue eating Doritos. My wallet finally convinced me of something I have been long trying to deny: I need to work out.

Make no mistake--I am not overweight. I'm on the low side of normal, in fact, and I look perfectly fine. But losing 5-7lbs would give me--literally--a bit more breathing room. And besides, I am 28, closing on 30 faster than I would like. It's probably time to stop relying on the metabolism fairy and get healthy so I can avoid a heart-attack at the age of 35. I don't have the best genes in the world--my great-grandfather had his first heart attack at 27 and there's nary a genetic disease absent in my family history--so it's not a bad idea to get some control at this point. There's only one problem:

I loathe working out.

I don't just dislike it; I loathe it with every fibre of my being. I've been in the midst of a pseudo-work-out kick for the past 13 days, and common thoughts as I work out include: "Good God, this is really hard!," "Yeah, that's not going to happen," "Gross, I'm sweating!" and a string of cuss words it'd be best not to repeat here. Nothing about working out is fun or rewarding for me. Since starting my routine (yes, I know it's only been two weeks), I've lost three and a half of the seven pounds I set out to lose, and those were mostly lost in the first few days--probably from cutting out all soda and any and all chips/junk food from my diet. Since that initial drop, my weight has been constant.

I know it hasn't been long, but this is my problem: I go in for instant gratification. If I work out, I want to weigh myself immediately after I'm done and see the weight loss. I know it doesn't work like that, but after a few days of exhaustion and sweat and a steady scale, I start to get defeated. Frustrated. Angry. Convinced that I could probably afford to just buy new jeans.

I like instant gratification, and exercise doesn't provide it. Food, on the other hand, does. You see my problem.

Fitness enthusiasts claim that exercise releases endorphins, making you feel energized and increasing your sense of well-being in general. I've been working out for 30-60 minutes a day for two weeks. Fitness enthusiasts are asshats. Working out makes you feel tired, cranky, and in need of a shower.

That doesn't mean I am going to give up on my quest to lose these last three and a half pounds. They just don't make stretchy pants that are work appropriate (despite what some of the people who work in my school apparently believe) and so the weight has to come off. But lately, short-cuts have been starting to seem more attractive--SlimFast anyone?--and excersize more futile. I've been watching the Olympics nonstop for the past three days, and while I see the fantastic shape these men and women are in, I can't help but think the soft, pudgy South Korean and Italian archers looked pretty damn happy.

I continue to curse my slowing metabolism--yet another reason to hate approaching 30, as if I didn't have enough reasons already--and throw on my yoga pants or running shorts everyday for the next month to delay facing the truth: weight aside, I should be healthy. I should work out.

But there's something attractive about the idea of instead drinking a SlimFast and watching the Olympics while sitting on my couch.

In stretchy pants.

28 July 2012

Feeling the Olympic Spirit

I love the Olympics, irrationally and with wild abandon.  Sports 99% of the world couldn't care less about for 3 years and 50 weeks at a time suddenly have me at the edge of my seat. Fencing? Synchronized swimming? Archery? And oh man, please don't ever let me miss the table tennis, a sport in which, I am utterly convinced, I would be an Olympic athlete if only my parents had provided adequate training when I was a child.

One of my favorite parts is, of course, the opening ceremonies. I wasn't so much disappointed in London's pageantry as totally baffled by it. Why was there a 100 foot tall blow-up doll of Voldemort? And while I respect British history and contributions to the world, Danny Boyle (the director of Slumdog Millionaire and the artistic creator behind the ceremonies) was a little too conceptual for my taste. And it ended up making British history look--frankly--lame. An English meadow that morphs into a weird symbol of London industrialization that inexplicably turns into children jumping on beds and teenagers dancing outside a house? Anyone without commentary must had felt like they were experiencing a bad acid trip.

But--weirdness aside--that's not why I watch the Opening Ceremony. I watch it for the Parade of Nations; that to me is the epitome of the what the Olympics are about. And the idealist in me gets a little choked up. Last night was historic--though many people probably didn't know. For the first time in history, every country competing was represented by a female athlete. With the addition of Saudi Arabia's two female athletes, a barrier has been broken. Of course, Saudi Arabia is far from gender equality, but it's nonetheless something worth noting.

As the athletes paraded in, I couldn't help but think about the places where these men and women had come from, and what many of them must have endured to get there. Athletes from Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, North Korea, Iran and Iraq should leave the world speechless. These men and women have endured political upheaval and uncertainty, revolution and danger, and no matter what their stories, these people walking into the stadium are proud of who they are and where they come from. And no matter what their politics or religion, for one night they are all in one stadium--united.

The Olympics, particularly the Opening Ceremony, reminds the world that our differences are perhaps not so profound. I am not naive--I know that history, religion and politics will always divide us--but there is something beautiful about seeing every athlete from every country on a level playing field that night. Here, hajib or miniskirt, the world is united in excitement and pride. Before the medals and races, everyone is equal and reduced to a teary-eyed child, honored and excited to be representing their countries.

For one night, Palestinians (their very title and inclusion as a separate nation a source of controversy) stand next to Israelis. Iranians file in mere moments before Iraqis, and stand together, waiting for the flames. North Koreans stand peacefully in the same stadium as Americans and South Koreans.

For one night, politics and religion are set aside and in one place on earth, the nations of the world stand together. Peacefully.

Of course, that doesn't stop politics as usual in the rest of the world, but it is a symbol of which it is worth taking note. Our differences and disputes are not the core of our humanity. Far more unites us than separates us. Our world is not perfect--nor will it ever be--but there is cause for hope. And seeing our nations of the world standing together is perhaps the reason that we keep fighting for a better future and a little more peace in the world. Because the people of the world united under one flame may seem impossible--but it's an ideal worth working for. The cauldron created by London, made up of a small copper piece carried in by each country, is a reminder that our world is a mosaic of experiences, beliefs, and futures.

And when united, they can come together to create something beautiful.

06 July 2012

Just Your Average-Leader-of-the-Free-World-Type of Guy

There is a question that has been plaguing me since George W. Bush began campaigning for his first presidential term over twelve years ago. I have noticed, during this current presidential campaign, the same issue popping up in a much subtler--but no less annoying--manner, the idea that the best thing our president can be is a "normal" guy.  Why, oh why, in our country do we want our president to be so average? Are we so threatened by our own fear of being "average" that we have to demand our politicians meet us here, in the middle?

Governor Romney has had to battle against President Obama's "everyman" status throughout the election; Obama, as the child of a single parent, with his charming stories of college debt and normal dad-of-two-young-girls-who-still-have-to-make-their-own-beds-even-in-the-white-house image, is hard to fight when you're the son of a former Governor who sent you to one of the toniest private high schools in Michigan. But, alas, Mitt is going to give it the old college try. In an April Washington Post opinion piece, Mitt Romney was praised for being such a "normal guy." In fact, the author referred to Governor Romney as "a normal, middle-aged American guy." Someone who we would "all like to have as our neighbor."

Well, I definitely want him as my neighbor because that means I get a kick-ass mansion, right? I get to be worth $250 million? Totally down with it; move right in, Mitt. Bring your yacht.

Let's be honest, neither Obama nor Romney are "normal, middle-aged American" guys. Both of them are worth millions (okay, so Obama's $6 million net worth looks paltry next to Romney's $250 million, but speaking as a solidly middle-class teacher living in a household with a combined income not yet hitting six figures, I'm going to go ahead and say millions are millions). Both are internationally known and haven't been more than six feet from a heavily armed secret service agent in months. Both have more power than most people can even fathom. This is not normal. But they're our leaders; they're grappling with political, cultural, and economic issues 99% of humans could never understand. I'm okay with them being in the 1%.

Many people praised George W. Bush for being such an "average guy," while disparaging those running against him for horrible crimes like being "too rich" (::cough cough:: son of a president:: cough cough::) or being--gasps of horror would be appropriate here--"too intellectual." Because why would we want a president who knows things?

I must be the minority. I want a president with the Chuck Norris of intelligence. I could care less about him being normal. Okay, so maybe it's best if our president isn't a raging cross-dresser, but really, what do I care if Obama shows up in the situation room in an A-line halter that hits just below the knee as long as he gets the job done?

The bottom line is, our country needs to stop being afraid of people being exceptional. Our politicians should be the best and the brightest. So what if they don't seem like someone you'd sit down to have a beer with? You're never going to have that chance anyway. He's too boring? Who cares, he's never going to talk to you, so let him bore the pants off some foreign dignitary; he's probably boring, too. We need to stop looking and encouraging mediocrity in this country, especially if we want to believe we live in the greatest nation on earth. We need to expect our politicians to be smarter. We need to expect them to know more things than we do. We need to demand that they know more so they can do more. They've always been richer than most Americans, now we need them to be smarter.

Because I am an average American, and I know I sure as hell shouldn't be running the country.

No offense, but I think I can say the same for the rest of you normal guys.