x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A matter of mind

James Brennan's ongoing mission to get fit and stay in shape

It is difficult to get a decent steak anywhere where there are exercise bikes.
It is difficult to get a decent steak anywhere where there are exercise bikes.

Of course, getting fit isn't just about what you do, it's about what you eat as well. I've learnt that if you want to lose weight, you have to exercise more but eat less. You can run a marathon and lift the equivalent of a small farm vehicle every day, but if you still eat like a brontosaurus with Prader-Willi syndrome, you're not going to shift that gut. On the other hand, you can try all the crazy no-carb/blood-type/cabbage-soup diets you like. You can even swallow a tapeworm, should you be that way inclined (ie mad). But if you don't do any exercise, you're not going to get fit and healthy. It's just the way it is, I'm afraid. 

This realisation is the first hurdle you have to overcome: if you want to change your body, you have to change your lifestyle. And then you have to stick to it. My relationship with food borders on the obsessive, which is why this whole getting fit lark poses something of a challenge. When I first decided to do something about my health, a voice somewhere deep in my subconscious protested. It said it didn't like the idea of me limiting myself to healthy food alone, because what about all the tasty stuff? We didn't want to give that up, did we? Then it reminded me that all that time I was planning to spend in the gym could be better spent in restaurants instead. You can get a steak in a restaurant, but not in a gym, it said.  

The problem is that when I see a thick, crimson steak, comprehensively marbled with labyrinthine capillaries of flavour-packed fat, I know it's going to be more pleasing to me than an hour spent sweating on a exercise bike. So in order to change my lifestyle, I've had to change my mindset. And let me tell you, it's quite some feat of brainwashing that can convince me that a bowl of All-Bran with sliced banana and a session in the gym is better than a plate of roast potatoes slathered in mayonnaise and an evening on the settee watching TV. 

Usually, there's some life-threatening catalyst that jolts an indolent glutton like me into making a change. And that happened when my doctor told me my cholesterol was high. The mere thought of all that unctuous fat slowly chugging through my veins helped me to approach the All-Bran with courage and slice that banana with pride. With my mind sufficiently warped against the joys of butter, cream, fried food and the like, I've resolved to eat more healthily. I'm loving legumes and embracing the aubergine. I've even come to regard muesli as something more than the dust and debris that gathers at the bottom of lift shafts. And I feel infinitely better for it.

Although I'll confess it has crossed my mind to ask my favourite steakhouse to install an exercise bike at the table.