Man in the Middle – Chapter 52: My diet got stuck in the buffet car

A middle aged man realises his elderly mother can no longer cope alone, so she moves in with them. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.52: My diet got stuck in the buffet car

I am standing naked on the bathroom scales with my eyes shut tight and my head bowed like a criminal in court, waiting for the judge to pass sentence on me.

I already know the verdict: guilty. The only question is how severe the sentence will be. My crime? My diet has gone off the rails and got stuck in the buffet car and I have broken all the dietary vows I made so recently to myself and my family. Again.

My diet had been going so well. I had shed a lot of tummy tonnage thanks to a home-made puritanical regime in which I basically stopped eating and drinking for three weeks. Fasting not feasting, I said to myself every morning, like a monk reciting a litany.

And for a while it worked, kilograms folded away like salami slices at a deli counter.

Unfortunately, the last four days have been a dietary disaster. I have put back on all the weight I had lost in a Bacchanal of liquid lunches, saucy dinners, cheesy snacks and takeaways. This morning I have to face up to the fact that my Götterdämmerung against my gut is heading towards defeat.

I started to lose the battle a few mornings ago when I ate Mother’s half eaten bacon sandwich, which her carer had left on a plate next to the recycling bin. Unconsciously, I picked it up and then it was gone. From that moment on, it’s been one long Fresher’s week for me and a few other like-minded, ‘getting-to-be-old-timers’. In short, I have been on a four-day Boomer bender of stupendous self-indulgence.

I have drunk stouts, ales, beers, lagers, wines and even a quarter of a bottle of Madeira, sometimes at the same sitting and from the same glass. I have eaten out at lunch time and dinner (even though Dishi Rishi’s foodie sales promotion is over) and filled my face excessively with a complete disregard for portion control or carbo-counting.

I have sampled platefuls of pleasure from France, Italy, Spain and India and, best of all, I have discovered cicchetti, those small Venetian snacks, which would bring about World Peace instantly if they were made compulsory at every diplomatic shin-dig across the globe or wherever else people with power gather.

Mae West said: ‘You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough’ and, in the last few days, I have done my very best to live up to her epicurean philosophy, in a social distanced way, of course.

Frankly, I don’t think I have had so much fun since I stayed up all night with a bottle of brandy replaying the news footage of Teresa May holding Donald Trump’s tiny hand so he could make it down a staircase without tipping over.

Of course, the family will be disappointed by my self-inflicted dietary defeat. This isn’t the first time I have made them promises about my beer gut and ended up on the losing side in the Battle of the Bulge.

But this time, I feel more guilty than usual. They are genuinely worried that my bulk may increase the risks of me suffering badly if I catch Covid19 and they’ve have been gently nagging at me for a while to do something about it.

‘Lose the love handles before the next wave,’ said my daughter, a marathon running, yoga loving girl whose idea of a blow-out is a Caesar’s Salad without the croutons or mayo dressing.
‘I can’t help it if I am a gourmand,’ I replied.

‘Gourmand is French for greedy pig. You mean gourmet,’ she said. ‘But whatever you want to call yourself, it’s time for a change.’

Faced with this caring onslaught what father would not try to do something to reassure his family that he really does want to carry on living? The question was how to lose weight? Every diet I had ever followed has been a failure. What could I do?

‘How about some gentle fasting?’ said my wife.

‘In the siege of Stalingrad, the Russians were allowed only 250 grams of food a day. If you copied that you’d lose the pounds pretty quick,’ said my son.

‘That’s inappropriate in so many ways,’ said my wife.

A light breeze comes in through the bathroom window and I realised I am getting cold standing naked on the scales.

I lift one eyelid open a millimetre at a time, like a weightlifter slowly raising a heavy barbell which may be too much for him. My wife calls from the bedroom.

‘What do the scales of justice say today?’

‘Are you sure these scales work?’ I reply, having spied the number staring back up at me from the bathroom scales.

‘That bad?’ she says.

‘It’s a small set back,’ I say.

‘Sounds more like Dunkirk,’ she says.

She’s right. The number staring up at me from the bathroom scales represents a full-scale retreat. As Joe Strummer might have said if he had made it to middle age: I fought the gut and the gut won.

‘Today’s a new beginning,’ I say. ‘I’ll soon be back on track.’

Behind me, I hear something that sounds like ‘hah’.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 53: Midlife Crisis

Read the previous one – Chapter 51: My teacup overfloweth

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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