Cars and Abs

At my previous job, I used to tell my young, fit, attractive female coworker she needed to change her relationship with food. This is not why I am no longer employed there, and I have no pending litigation except a parking ticket at the Marina del Rey library that has nearly tripled while I ponder whether the posted sign offers a loophole.

Those conversations in the kitchen with the coworker were more about camaraderie than judgment. We’re wired similarly. Disciplined enough for exercise. Motivated enough for aspirational diets. Amateur enough to lapse and feel guilty about it.

My OCD drives the healthy highs and unhealthy lows to wild amplitudes, tidal waves instead of your typical ebb and flow of moderate consumption in a first-world country.

So really I was talking at myself, reflecting that I needed to change my relationship with food. The need became more pressing at my new job, which provides lunch twice a week, breakfast every day, and a gas station snack bar within my line of sight. I’ve visited Netflix and Pinterest cafeterias, which are on another level, and wonder if the anticipation of eating can ever fully leave the mind in those buildings.

It would be a severe problem for me. Even with more limited food inventory than IPO startups, here are some James Harden stats I put up on various days when I cared to keep track:

  • five bagels, four with cream cheese
  • nine 190-calorie bags of trail mix and five string cheeses
  • five hot dogs
  • 14 little Jersey Mike’s sandwiches, each 2.5 to 3 inches. So we’re still talking a gangbang’s worth of footlongs. Speaking of gangbangs, In-N-Out was for dinner, and I finished my wife’s fries.
  • 18 string cheeses
  • four bags of pistachios, five bags of cashews and one bag of almonds totaling 2,150 calories
  • four Double-Doubles
  • two donuts, which isn’t crazy but the jelly-to-dough ratio was like nine-to-one. Toward the end I was dipping crumbs into chunks of jelly and felt especially slovenly.

In years past, I balanced out these kinds of binge days with Lexus days. A Lexus day starts with a workout, and every bite of food in the ensuing 24-hour period must be natural, single-ingredient, without salt or sugar.

It’s like eating rocks. There is no joy or even stimulation in meals, just unadulterated sustenance. The Lexus nickname refers to the brand tagline “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.”

And it has to be perfect, or it doesn’t count. I once mindlessly started chewing a honey roasted peanut on a Southwest flight, realized the added sugar, and instinctively ejected the bits out of my mouth with my cheeks puffing out like a blowfish.

The nice thing was I got to use the napkin, which I always feel like is wasted. Then I made my wife finish the nuts, so I could put the napkin inside the bag in a tidy disposal without exposing soiled surface area to the flight attendant.

You want to get on my level of obsessive thinking, bro? I will take you to depths and heights that will make you feel like you’re in a fourth dimension.

Yet I can’t seem to channel this to complete Lexus cycles anymore. It’s such a challenge to block out the siren song of free delicious food in the vicinity, a mental war of attrition similar to what Ben Affleck must have felt as the nanny walked back and forth.

Moreover, nine years of jogging to 24 Hour Fitness in Hermosa Beach created an aversion to driving to the gym. It doesn’t feel right to get in a car before exercise. I can’t do it.

Instead of joining a gym in Orange County, I try to get creative using the small one on our work campus. I stretch and prance following Nike Training Club instructions, move some dumbbells around, and head on home not really sure what was accomplished.

Between pretend workouts and stress or idle eating so savage that I sometimes finish the snack on the way back to my desk and U-turn right back to the kitchen, I don’t feel good about taking my shirt off in front of people anymore.

That’s generally fine, as I don’t go to bars much in this chapter of my life and haven’t built the capital to let loose at the office holiday party. But there still are use cases. Some grade school buddies from Texas are visiting this weekend, and we got a condo in the Santa Barbara area for a dainty bro trip.

Suppose the beds are small and movable; the drinks and nostalgia are flowing; it turns into a Superbed situation at night; and we’re rolling around on each other in our underwear. Am I trying to bring Jell-O or a six-pack to that party? You have to remember to ask yourself often what you want out of life, or you’re never going to get it.

I want to be shredded for my bros, but one Lexus day a month isn’t going to cut it, or the abs. Currently I’m playing with a different approach based on a theory of equilibrium weight. Let me qualify this by saying I think weighing yourself is a waste of time versus looking in the mirror.

For the purposes of quantifying though, let’s take my equilibrium weight of 157. That’s about the point when I feel sexy, and the abs show up depending on strategic lighting. As I eat myself into the 165-170 range, at a certain threshold I feel gross and actually crave vegetables and exercise.

So I start an inspired health streak. But once I dip below 157, I simply get hungrier and less disciplined, craving anything that tastes good until I snap and binge past equilibrium again.

It’s a pendulum or yo-yo diet that makes all efforts seem futile, as I always gravitate toward an equilibrium anchor determined by genetics. What isn’t sustainable by definition regresses.

The further away I am from equilibrium, the harder it is to keep going in that direction (whether getting shredded or obese) because of diminishing returns. Trimming those last few pounds for a six-pack takes so much disproportionate effort that enlisting the 80-20 rule might make more sense. Give up a lot less to have a pretty good bod, but not great.

Instead of Lexus, I’m trying something more like Subaru — getting the job done efficiently without excessive opportunity costs. The Subaru experiment began after I hit a natural rock-bottom endpoint eating an entire loaf of white chocolate bread right before bed. No one can wake up feeling sexy after that.



I ran hill sprints for punishment and started my Subaru era of consumption. This means some Lexus meals and portion control on all others. For example, I had a burger and beer that first day, but only one of each.

After a week of decent but not exceptional diet and exercise, some decent but not exceptional definition returned to my stomach.



It was enough to feel good again though. I was “feeling myself” as the young Drake fans say and delayed work to take pics with different lighting and angles. I used my wife’s phone for one because surprise gifts are always sweet.

Here’s another one of me modeling a Target shirt, which I would have posted on the Gram and hashtagged with the “Expect More. Pay Less” slogan, but even my douchey-ness has its limits in public domain.



Plus I’m not expecting more. The idea is to pay less in terms of Lexus-level deprivation while accepting I won’t get dictionary-level abdominal definition. The Lexus abs are going to be better. I think the pics below are an example, but I might have just been dehydrated.



The difference doesn’t appear to be worth the incremental effort to me. Under the Subaru system, I stay within striking distance of a six-pack without exhausting my willpower, and then maybe I can rattle off a few Lexus days before important shirtless opportunities.

You might think of me as vain with all the pics and thought about abs. I am not vain. I’m just really into myself and find the outside of people more interesting than the inside.

If you care more to know about how my pregnant wife is doing, she’s great. She braves the discomforts of carrying a growing baby, presumably mine, while patiently listening to me recite a food diary after work every day like a compassionate fat camp counselor.

She has the most important stomach in the world to me, even more than mine. But I’m also not trying to mimic it.


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