COLUMN: 222 pounds OK -- for a 9-footer

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By Art Trujillo

A few hours ago, hundreds of millions watched the ball drop on Times Square, signaling the start of a new year, one of hope and promise, if not of prosperity.

As they sang an ancient lay — something about an elderly man named Lang who owns an old sign — many people celebrated by uncorking bottles of champagne and later waking up to a man-sized headache today.         

As for me, the real ache is a couple of feet lower.

Let me explain:

The distress that centers on and about my abdomen is self-inflicted. It’s not so much a pain as a gnawing concern that I don’t keep my promises very well. So please help keep me honest.

Specifically, it was on Sept. 11, 2003, roughly 273 weeks ago, 273 Works of Art ago and more than five years ago that I used the headline, My name’s Art, but friends call me 234.

That was supposed to be the epoch in which I became so concerned about my weight that I announced publicly that I felt and looked like a Mack Truck and wished to do something about it. I don’t know what the formula was, but about a year later, I was listing my weight as 204, yet was never able to go below that.

I could argue that my current weight, 222, which has held steady for practically a millennium, doesn’t really indicate being terribly overweight. In fact, I’d have the perfect weight — if I were 9 feet tall.

Like so many others, I’m painfully aware that a huge percentage of people who go on diets eventually fail and sometimes put on even more pounds. Doesn’t that sound familiar? And like so many others, I’ve tried many different diets and eventually become disillusioned.

Why is it that I can be faithful to a sensible exercise and diet regimen for a week, begin to feel good about the program, and yet undo  all the progress by simply plunging into a pizza, devouring a donut, swallowing a steak, consuming a candy bar, enjoying an enchilada, biting on a burger or sipping a soda?

It’s not with any particular pride that I announce my current weight with each column. I do it for me, with the hope that others in similar circumstances, or even different ones, will realize that — hey — carrying 40 extra pounds doesn’t conduce to good health.

So what’s a person to do, particularly one whose 70th birthday looms?

I’m faithful to moderate weight-lifting exercises and more so to almost-daily treks on the treadmill at the fitness center. Yet, few things seem to work.

I learned last week about a couple of Immaculate Conception High School classmates from the late ‘50s who are experiencing severe health problems: dialysis and full-time oxygen. Will people like me, who post their plenitude of poundage with the regularity of lottery numbers, end up like the classmates?

Well, this wasn’t intended to be a column “all about me,” nor did I intend to get into my diet-and-exercise persona. Rather, I’d like to think that the new year, which started just hours ago, brings hope to others who have heard the riddle: “Why are fat people always so jolly?” It’s because we can’t fight and we can’t run.

My wife Bonnie just recently came across a plan that might work. We are to weigh ourselves at the same time once a week, under the same conditions. If we lose more than a pound, we get to keep our money; if we don’t lose that amount, we pay.

And what/whom do we pay? It would be too easy to make a weekly $100 donation to a fund or charity we like, such as our church, a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a scholarship fund, an animal welfare group, an established charity. But the rub is in donating faithfully — every week until the pounds come off — to a fund we would never support while in our right minds.

The Klan comes to mind (but I could never feel good about such a donation). So, the chore becomes one of finding something to donate to, something we wouldn’t do of our own volition.

I once heard of a man in my situation who asked a health trainer, while cradling his ample panza with his hands, “How much will you charge me to take this off?”

The trainer fired back, “How much did it cost you to put it on?”

Well, I’m not going to attempt any foolish diet. Rather, I hope it will be sensible and tempered with the right amount of exercise. And I promise to make the requisite donations when I fail to meet the goal. Possibly, finding the right person or organization to donate to may be as difficult as shedding pounds.

Last year — and by that I mean yesterday — I stepped into recreation center to discover whether the four out-of-service treadmills had been repaired. A sign has been posted for several days, announcing that the staff expects the repairs to be performed by Dec. 30, bringing the level back up to eight functioning treadmills.

I’m glad to report that all the treadmills appeared to be working.

With its hundreds of members, the rec center can help the many people who will have resolved to attempt a healthier lifestyle in 2009. Working equipment can provide a great incentive for us to reach our goals.

Wish me luck, as I do to you! Happy New Year.

• • •

Regarding a recent question I asked in this column: The first word you spoke in 2009 was, obviously, “happy.” The last word you uttered in 2008 was “one.”

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.