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Running Narcissist

Most mornings it takes me longer to get ready than it probably should. I often find myself distracted, looking in the mirror and nit-picking all the details about myself that I don’t like. I know a lot of people are really down on the whole idea of allowing yourself to have a “negative body image,” but I can’t help feeling like mine is not only justified, but actually kind of earned. Because I enjoy cake, like, a lot more than is reasonable. And I don’t particularly care for exercise.

People often say to me, “Whatever, dude. There’s no way you don’t like running. You talk about it a lot. Why would you run so much if you don’t enjoy it?”

If  you’re close to me, you’ve probably heard me explain this before. But it’s the God’s-honest truth. About four years ago, when Will Smith was promoting his zombie movie, I Am Legend, I read an interview with him online. Will (and yes, Will and I are on a first-name basis, in case you were wondering) lost twenty pounds for that role. Here’s what he had to say about how he did it: “If you’re willing to run 30 miles a week, you can have whatever body you want.”

I’d never heard it put so simply before, but that made perfect sense to me. So I just started running, literally within a few days. It was slow going at first, maybe a mile and a half. Gradually I worked my way up to three miles at a time, then five, then even eight. But just so you know, what Will said was not entirely true. Even when I did finally make it up to 30 miles a week, I still didn’t have Halle Berry’s body. (In fact, she wouldn’t even return my calls. But that’s a whole other story.)

The background that led to me becoming a runner actually goes back even further. When I started working at an Air Force base several years ago, I had a Bowflex. I actually used it for more than just to hang clothes on, and let me tell you: those suckers do work. I was stronger than I had ever been, weighing about 175 lbs. My coworker friend Paul convinced me I should try the gyms on base, because we could use them for free, and they had everything you could want. He got me hooked on free weights, and I lifted regularly. At one point, I even sold my Bowflex. At the height of my regimen, I topped out at 196 lbs. (Now, that’s a lot—I am not a tall guy.) Certainly I was strong and had big muscles, but I hated any kind of cardio, so I never did any. So while yes, I was big and strong, I was also overweight. How I felt then reminds me of an old bit from Cheers. One time when Norm (the heavy-set guy) came in, Sam asked, “What are you up to, Norm?” Norm responded, “My ideal weight…for a man eleven feet tall.” I secretly worried that although I felt I looked pretty good—broad shoulders, big biceps—my heart was just going to explode one day.

After I left that job, for the next year or so I laid off the weights, went through several phases of eating healthier, even fasting regularly. By the time I heard Will make that statement, I was in the low- to mid-160’s range, and I guess I was just ready to hear it. His little insight was the catalyst that got me started. At my peak running condition a couple of summers ago, when I was routinely running 25–30 miles a week, I tipped the scales at a whopping 147 lbs. While I haven’t consistently maintained that wonderful-feeling weight, I remain convinced that running is my own personal magic weight pixie dust.

What have you done for your health that works for you? Do you stick with it? If not, why do you think that is? And if you do, HOW do you? Do you have a “positive body image”? If you could have anybody’s body, whose would you want? What excuses could you start eliminating today to move yourself in that direction?

Fast Food Napkins

As most of you probably know about me, I enjoy the occasional bacon cheeseburger—or pile of cheap tacos, or 18-inch long sub or chili dog, for that matter—just as much as the next guy. There’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for.” And most of the time, that’s true. But if you’re like me, a significant contributing factor to grabbing a quick bite at the drive-through is to fulfill a more basic need: I need some napkins.

Especially in my car. I try to keep a minimum of 300 fast food napkins in my car at all times, preferably stashed around in strategic places like the glove box, the center console, the storage bins in the doors, and if I’m really desperate, even some under the seats.

But it’s not just me. The Beautiful Kendra supports my habit, helping me hoard fast food napkins at our house like they’re going to prove more valuable than gold after the inevitable zombie apocalypse. (Anybody who’s seen Book of Eli knows that KFC wet wipes are a much better investment than any 401(k).) We have enough napkins to insulate a house—not a nice house, I’ll grant you. Occasionally when they start to get out of control, we’ll have these cycles where we use them at every meal. That seems a simpler solution than having to buy a bigger house.

I saw this article where this woman kept a Happy Meal for a year and it didn’t decompose. (I don’t possess that level of self-control. It would be a minimum of three months before that thing would be safe from me.) While that kind of longevity is of course a fine selling point in any food or food-like product, I’d honestly rather still have some of the napkins a year later.

Maybe napkins aren’t your thing. Lots of “freebies” and “extras” are off the menu at fast food places. You just have to look for them. They’re usually hiding around the soft drink refills station. We used to keep piles of McDonald’s ketchup and Taco Bell salsa packets in our fridge for safekeeping. Not to mention the odd extra straw in the silverware drawer. I’ve walked out of Subway with what some might call a fistful of toothpicks before. I consider all of these treasures kind of like the swag you can get at conferences, only far more useful.

But it’s always the napkins that keep me coming back. Fast food napkins are the Swiss army knife of the inevitable car mess. I always seem to need them, whether it’s to sop up a spilled Route 44 Sonic Cherry Limeade with extra real cherries or my Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine with sorbet instead of sherbet with an energy boost. I don’t know how many times a couple of spare napkins have saved me when I’ve spilled ketchup on my pants. Unfolding one or two and laying them across my lap like a makeshift paper table is a great option when I need to have a slice of pizza or a calzone on the go.  But now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I wouldn’t actually need them…if I didn’t always have so much food in my car. Hm. Food for thought.

What’s your favorite free swag from “restaurants”? What do you hoard? Do you ever eat on the go, or are you one of those Commie Pinkos who think people shouldn’t eat in their cars?

Addictive Chemicals

TONY: So who’s in this Pentaverate?
STUART: The Queen, The Vatican, The Gettys, The Rothschilds… AND Colonel Sanders before he went tets up. Oh, I hated the Colonel! With ‘is wee beady eyes, and that smug look on ‘is face: “Ewww, you’re gonna buy my chicken! Ohhhhh!”
CHARLIE: Dad, how can you hate… the Colonel?
STUART: Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes ya crave it fortnightly, smart@$$!

From So I Married an Axe Murderer, probably one of the  most underrated comedies ever. Starring Phil Hartman as “Vicky,” and Mike Myers as both Charlie and Stuart (Charlie’s dad).

KFC’s Double DownAnd I know exactly how Stuart feels. I myself have had a love/hate relationship with KFC for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t even begin to estimate how many pounds of their Original Recipe and Extra Crispy pieces I’ve succumbed to over the years. My earliest fond memories are of the chain way back in the day, when it was still actually called “Kentucky Fried Chicken” (the way God and the Colonel intended), sharing Mother’s Day festivities with our extended family—along with about half of Oklahoma City—at Stars and Stripes Park.

Now, I can’t say exactly when our relationship soured, but it was sometime in adulthood. Something changed in the magic formula. Oh, it still tastes like the chicken from my memories, but it affects my digestive system in a profoundly negative way. Even so, I pressed on, just not quite ready to break up and move on.

You see, for all the joy that KFC has brought me, it treats me like it’s my abusive girlfriend. She seems all beautiful and shiny and glistening at first, promising wonderful things. It’s even fun hanging out with her…at least for a while. Everything will be going well, and everybody’s happy. And then…KFC’s recipe has one of her crazy (although by now completely predictable) mood swings, bipolar-like, roughing me up with mindless violence.

Kendra and I will be sleeping in our bed, and hours later, here KFC will come, kicking the door down, waking me up and dragging me off to the bathroom, where she’ll just start whaling on me for an hour or so. I’ll still be pretty jacked-up the next day, too, washing my face over and over to try to de-emphasize the bags she left under my eyes, keeping me awake till the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes the day after, concerned friends will ask, “Hey man, are you okay?”

And I’ll answer weakly, “Rough night. We had KFC.”

And that’s all I have to say…because everybody knows about her.

After a few weeks, the injuries heal up, and you start to forget a little. We’ll see her when we’re out driving around, and she’ll promise she’s a new woman: “Hey, baby! I’m business partners with Long John’s now! I’m all cleaned up. We’re best buds. Why don’t you come add a piece of fish, get some crumbs…maybe have a piece of chicken?” Or, “Look what *I* have…” and she’ll hold out those two succulent fried patties with cheese and bacon sandwiched inside. She’s the devil.

I look to Kendra for strength. She reminds me that she loves me, that she wants only the best for me, and that KFC’s just no good for me. But the longer we’re away from each other, the more her siren song beckons to me. And I know: It’s just a matter of time.

What food do you love/hate? Have you SEEN the “nutritional” information for the Double Down? Seriously? Have you ever had one? (I haven’t.) If so, is it really as delectably lascivious as it looks? Do you like it when chains partner and have both menus (or even more) all in the same building?