Wednesday, March 3

Cooking, eating, doing gymnastics, repeating… has left me with great repairs | Food


THEOn the screen it appears as a white halo stained against the darkness. It doesn’t look like anything in particular, but this X-ray represents a lot about me: the parenting lottery, combined with certain behavior patterns, a soggy euphemism for appetite, which in turn combine with efforts to mitigate those behaviors. My consultant tells me that I have developed osteoarthritis in my right hip. Over the next year or so it would be ideal if I had a new one, pandemic permitting. Until then, limp.

The diagnosis is not a revelation. I have been suffering on and off, and more from time to time, for over a year. But I feel badly exhausted. The shallow depth of my hip joint made this more likely, as did my size, both a genetic inheritance, at least in part. But I am certain that my use of the stair machine in the gym is also to blame.

I am not a big man because of my work. I am a great man, and always will be, because I am me. The question is how to deal with my own essence. Some time ago I concluded that part of the solution was exercise. Massive amounts of cardio, sweaty, four or five times a week, my unruly hair trapped by a Bjorn Borg headband. First it was the elliptical for 45 minutes until I maxed out the machine. So, I combined that with climbing the stairs to nowhere machine, a brutal, high-impact exercise that made all my joints ache. The machines told me that I had burned 1,200 calories at a time. Even if it wasn’t accurate, it was a lot. It hurt but, as a self-flagellating priest, I took the pain as an indicator of effort. And it essentially worked. It would never be thin as sunrise, but I may not develop my own measurable gravitational field.

Then the pain stopped subsiding. At that moment the virus arrived and the gyms closed. We all drew the curtains. The phrase “comfort eating” is pejorative; Regardless, there is still unconditional comfort in eating. In a confinement of days without structure, unless you build the structure, one trimmed match at a time, meals can become the deepest of comforts. For the last 10 months, I have written about braising pasta, making custard tarts, frying gefilte fish, and much more. I have found cooking and eating very comforting, thank you, even as I’ve looked at my increasingly blurry reflection in the mirror and wondered if someone has smeared the damn lens with petroleum jelly.

During block one, I devised a step box routine, which was 40 minutes of rock impact. In confinement two I did sit-ups, planks and weights. Then they told me about the bastard hip that had hurt me trying to take care of myself and wanted nothing more than a bowl of comfort. But that ran the risk of increasing the circumference that he had done all the exercise to mitigate; exercise that had helped damage the hip. Here’s the gist of this terrible past year: the realization that life is a long, soggy set of consequences.

I bought a spinning bike, a beautiful cream-colored thing that sits behind the desk in my office. I hop on and turn on the iPad for a class led by an exuberant young man with rising hormone levels and glowing, peach-colored skin who can’t seem to grasp the notion of eating for comfort. I pedal to nowhere in hopes that I can finally get somewhere. But inevitably, like all of us, I know I must keep limping, at least for now.

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