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When I was young I was taller and didn’t have a weight problem. Now I’ve shrunk at least an inch and have for years been engaged in the mid-life Battle of the Bulge. Of course at 51, mid-life is over as 102 isn’t in my genes or my game plan.
Seth Davidson/Kare Dehlie Thorstad
With the exception of runway models, jockeys, and wrestlers, few people obsess about their weight as much cyclists. Even though the rest of the world generally looks at us and says, “Fit,” we invariably look at each other, and especially ourselves, and say, “Fat.”
Of course in the Old Person racing categories, weight is largely irrelevant in crit racing, the predominant race type. A certain champion who shall remain nameless regularly smashes everyone even though he barely fits into his skinsuit without a hoist and two giant, greased shovels. He is very jolly about it, too, and he should be, because half of the 84 people he just smashed are fanatical weight obsessives, which is to say completely fuggin’ miserable. He not only gets to win, he obviously gets to eat, and eat again.
In road races weight plays a role, but not really the way you might think. In the hardest climbing races of the season, the old farts in contention are indeed lean, and one or three, who shall also remain nameless, have the terrible stunted and corpse-like figure of someone who has wasted away for years in a prison camp. Gaunt, bony, stringy, and not-good-to-eat-even-when-cooked is how these guys look.
What’s instructive is that when it comes to getting on the hilly road race podiums, it’s always the same guys, give or take a manorexic, which means that the other forty riders who really are starving themselves in preparation for their DNF or 28th placing are not getting any meaningful benefit from their weight obsession and diet misery. Why not just have another helping of butter to go with your ice cream bacon burger and be satisfied with 30th, or with being the 10th-placed DNF, or even the 1st-placed DNS?
Answer: Because weight obsession is another of the simulacra that, along with full carbon wheels that are 100% carbon, fosters the illusion of “We’re pro, too.”
In the past my dieting has followed the pattern of all diets: Quit eating and quit big, wait until the body begins to digest itself, declare success on the scales along with a 50% drop in power, daily energy, and sex drive (make that 95% for the last one, okay, 99%), do a couple of races at the new Cooked Chicken Chris Froome weight, DNF, check into the ICU for intravenous fluids, and then as soon as possible hop back on the burger-and-fries express.
Of course like any problem that you’ve had for a long time, it can’t really function unless the people around you have adapted to it. They are called enablers; mine is Mrs. WM, and she enables me thus:
Me: “I’m going on another diet. Nothing but apples, water cress, and almond skins.”
Mrs. WM: “Okay.”
Me: [three hours later] “I’m tired.”
Mrs. WM: “You want me to fix you a snack?” The alleged snack, of course, has already been fixed, and it is a three-course, 6,500-kcal meal.
Me: [longingly] “Okay. But only a small half-plate.”
Mrs. WM: [shoves fully loaded half-plate in my face] “You gonna get onna wiener droopies if you don’t keep eatin’.”
Me: [after fifth half-plate, groaning] “Dammit! I didn’t want to eat all that!”
Mrs. WM: “Don’t holler onna me! If you don’t wanna be eatin’ don’t be chewin’.”
Throughout the diet, each day of which begins with the utter hell of awakening with the thought of “Diet,” Mrs. WM punctuates every Box Moment of the day with, “You wanna eat some —- ?” The “some” is freshly baked bread, or avocado dip with chips, or bacon-wrapped asparagus, or ice cream bacon burgers topped with carbon sprinkles.
The “Box Moment” is that moment of hunger pain during which, if you want the diet to succeed, you have to crawl inside the box and suffer the hunger. It is the Box Moments, strung together, that lose the weight, and they are about as much fun as eye surgery with an ice pick, only less.
So my enabler makes the diet doubly hard because I not only have to endure the Box Moments but I also have to refuse the mouth-watering fare. What diet can survive this dual assault? None.
In other words, I’m 12 pounds down and have begun digesting bone and hair. And I’m hungry. And we’re all out of water cress.
Where the hell is my enabler?