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Bill Barth
Something to chew on
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 Just think of all that time I wasted. Pounding up and down the pavement until my feet and ankles declared open rebellion. Chugging back and forth on the hardwood for competitive (if over-the-hill) basketball, until my knees began singing a symphony of protest. Pedaling along trails, paved and unpaved, like I had someplace to go, all the while ignoring the fact that my entire seat and mid-section were numb as a board.
             Even all those hikes with our dog, Scruffy. Wasted. Well, no, any time with Scruf is well spent. Why is it dogs are just slightly smarter than pebbles, but seem happy all the time? They’re so happy, they make us happy when we’re with them, blissfully lost in the moment.
            There’s a lesson there. Somewhere. I’ll mull that over when I have time.
            All these thoughts stem from that irritating cover story in the current edition of Time magazine, the one about how the experts have discovered that exercising will not make you skinny.
            That explains it! My stomach knew what my brain didn’t. Despite all the sweat and toil, all the time devoted to punishing this poor aging body, my waistline continued to roll up, kick back and taunt me: “Keep at it, boy. Push! Harder! Oh, by the way, we’re out of Cheetos.”
            Not that such an outcome should surprise anyone.
            Think about it.
            An entire industry has been created to wage war on America’s collective paunch. Exercise joints have sprouted across the urban landscape like the angels’ answer to McDonalds. There are mega-gyms, with pools and courts and saunas and more contraptions than a medieval torture dungeon. There are storefront gyms, workout centers catering only to women or men, and facilities boasting personal trainers to teach chubsters how to do the latest exercise craze — the ones that come with goofy incomprehensible names like Pilates or Pillow-toes or whatever it is.
            No one, of course, wants to be the poor sucker stuck without an answer to the question, “Where do you work out?”
            Sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Well, actually, my recliner. It’s soft leather, really comfy, especially when Scruffy jumps on my lap and snuggles for extra warmth.”
             Despite the wild proliferation of gyms, there’s just no delicate way of putting this: We’re a bunch of fatties. Look around. Now tell me I’m lyin’.
             Maybe it’s because the only businesses springing up faster than exercise joints are restaurants. Burger stands. Rib joints. Chinese and Thai and Japanese. Mexican. Italian. Indian. Seafood. Ice cream stands. Street-side hot dog vendors. Donut shops. Fancy coffee emporiums, where the humble cup-a-joe has morphed into a $4.50 concoction with enough caffeine to make a camel break into a gallop.
             So, no, it’s not surprising that science finally caught up with common sense, declaring that exercise won’t make you lose weight if you continue to eat like a horse. We Americans do love our feedbags.
            Years ago, when I should have been paying attention, my Dad tried to explain to me the proper exercise to shed pounds.
            While seated at the dinner table, he said, place one’s hands firmly on the edge of the tabletop and push away.
            If only I’d listened my feet wouldn’t hurt, my ankles and knees wouldn’t beg for ice, and Scruffy would see a lot more scenery on long, leisurely walks.
            And I might even catch a glimpse of my feet now and then.
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