The Singaporean Chinese owner/manager (which? both?) of a certain riverside bar in Singapore was sitting with The BiTP* at one of the aluminium (or are they wood?) outdoor tables, sporting a blue baseball cap that he kept adjusting on his head, and wearing a pale tee-shirt with a small Manchester City FC logo just above the left breast. The BiTP (Bruce and E@L in this instance) were closing the place, as they say, at just after 3am.
E@L didn't take in all the initial conversation, not completely (it was 3am after all), but he believes insert name, (also forgotten) splits his time between here and, was it Toronto? [Jesus, did E@L get anything?] The manager, let's call him Terry, didn't seemed fazed by the time, so Bruce and E@L were able to cadge yet another last G&T before the bar-staff pulled the shutters completely down and all left. (Bruce was on the verge of getting one bar girl's phone number, but another had him well pinned for the cad he can be [is].) The bar manager, a narrow thing who always wears a bikini top under her dark singlet, was languidly perched on the back of a chair she had reversed on the fourth side of the table. She was listening in and laughing at Bruce's lines and rejoinders to Terry's, and, with that bright grin and attentive nod and conspiratorial eyebrow raise, E@L was in no doubt she was wishing that we would all just shut the fuck and go home. But as Terry was with us, she had no option but to join and wait it out.
They kept chatting about things E@L has no knowledge of, nor opinion on, such as English football (soccer!) and, with Bruce being a mad Manchester United fanatic, and with ManU and City fighting it out over top spot in EFL... When he says 'they were chatting', E@L really means Bruce and Terry were good-heartedly (but teeth-clenchedly) jousting with each other about the season's up and down, highlighting the other's Downs and promoting their own Ups.
Maybe, at one point, the topic had turned to the FnB business, because something roused E@L enough for him to interject a line on how he is poised to become a squidillionare, if his private shares in Wooloomooloo (opening soon in Singapore, folks) keep capitalizing up. This turned Terry's attention to him for the first time. Terry paused.
(Fat chance of E@L becoming disgustingly rich. Some may consider him halfway there already - he's got the disgusting part down nicely.)
"Look at that belly, man!" says Terry, reaching from where he was perched - fit, alert (maybe a little bit pissed) and erect - on his aluminium (or are they wood?) chair to where E@L could barely maintain any plane approaching the vertical on his, and he patted the protuberant magnificence of the legendary E@L paunch, thrice. "You gotta do something about that belly.
"You gotta lose some weight. You are carrying too much weight. It's bad for you. Man! You gotta lose a lot!"
E@L knows what you are all thinking, that this is going to be a blog post about the difficulties of disposing of the bucket of crunchy pulp that was all that remained of Terry after E@L responded to his comments, but rest assured. E@L is used to this stuff. It's water of a fat duck's back now.**
(T'was not always thus. E@L is not going to rehash the arguments and elaborations and the multiple diversions in that post. OK maybe a bit...)
So E@L just nodded and smiled and said, "Yes, don't I know it!"
Yeah, of course E@L knows. As if E@L wasn't told a hundred fucking times a fucking day in a fucking hundred different fucking ways. Get over it, E@L thinks. I'm fat, I know, I know I'm fat and I know you know I'm fat. Just shut the fuck up about it. You have terrible teeth. You have a tic whereby you can't stop touching your baseball cap. Shut the fuck up.
Do you know why E@L mentioned this incident, and the one linked to above, among the many others like them in his eight (8, count 'em) years here? Before he be accused of being specifically anti-Singaporean let it be known that the only place no-one comments on his weight and/or shape in is America, and not because Americans are inherently more polite. But because they are FUCKING FAT SLOBS, like E@L.
Why mention it? Because it contrasts quite well with the comments he has been hearing from his friends in the last few weeks.
"You're looking good E@L, You lost weight, yeah?"
"Girlfriend says you are looking well, and wants to know if you have lost weight."
Three or four times, with slight variations, on that theme. Yes, E@L has lost weight. Quite a substantial amount. Well, 'substantial' is a relative term.
Always a peak period, post Xmas, etc... but scarey enough to set E@L on a something of a mission. He has spoken to you guys about negative incentives before. Not disincentives, which necessarily demotivate you, but incentives which are stimulated by a tangible, painful, negative outcome.
"Lose weight or you'll die", might be considered to be one? Right? No.
"Yeah, sure Doc, fatty liver, yada yada, heard that one before." But it is too vague and generalised a threat. The empirical cause-effect link, while undeniably there, is just not specific enough.
Lose weight or you will die, but of what? Of old age? Of necrotising fasciitis? Of your car getting stuck in the middle of a level crossing as a train approaches and a flaming plane plummets from the sky right at you carrying Al Queda terrorists, one of whom unbeknownst to his terrorist allies, not to mention the crew and passengers, accidentally contracted Ebola virus while training the Congolese
Stay the same weight, get heavier, lose weight, watch Final Destination III, and guess what? You're still going to die. Everyone dies in the long jog, no news there.
However, "Lose 15kgs by the end of April or I'll kill you with this formidably large weapon", that is more what E@L is talking about. It sets a specific goal and ties it to a specific, um, reward - brains splattered everywhere.
In his present case, the less violent negative incentive is some cash, currently held by Bruce, and if E@L fails to loose those 15kgs, that cash, S$5,000, will go to a Traditional Chinese Medicine hospital or university of Bruce's choice.
The prospect of such a heinous anti-Enlightenment forfeit has sent E@L
No white rice, and E@L lives in Asia? Tough, yes, it is tough. Some places do serve brown rice as an alternative to, well, to none.
No alcohol, and E@L is an Expat? Tough in-fucking-deed!
The date for this 15kg loss has pushed back to his birthday, late June, on the not unreasonable grounds that too rapid a weight-loss might reflect an unsustainable period of deprivation and starvation that would quickly end and the weight would yo-yo back up, and even higher.
Whereas a six-month plan could promote a more moderate and sustainable change of life-style.
E@L spend most of February on a zero-alcohol binge. March, a few wines here and there, April, not so much on the wagon and running behind it, but hand on the rail, ready to jump back on at any time. It was in this period that E@L realised a strong association with alcohol and some gastrointestinal problems which, unlike his normal oversharing attitude, he is unwilling to explain - not time for the gory details. He was pleasantly surprised to find these chronic issues disappear for the period in question. Okay, E@L is allergic to alcohol. His intestines don't like it. Lesson there. Can E@L learn it?
The knowledge that he will suffer more than just a hangover has had a considerable impact on his ability to keep the frequency of boozing with the BiTP down. It has helped immensely that many of the other BiTP were on a quiet February as well. E@L generally doesn't drink spirits, beyond the "I'm too distended for more beer, I'll have a G&T" stage (such as 3am. Hey, we've all been there) so even though he has a duty-free store full of spirits in his Antique(tm) Chinese (tm) shelves, these offered no great temptation. Wine? Well, he's just come back from a Barossa wine splurge, so this was tough, wine fridge full to bursting with amazing old vine Shiraz's and GSMs, and you name it. Let them age a bit more, let's pick one every now and then, for a special occasion.
And he has stood his ground. Running behind the wagon while standing his ground, note, and not running to the loo.
So was E@L taking commercial so-called diet-drinks for his social fluids instead? When his former flatmate Izzy send him a link about the counter-intuitive dangers of his favorite low-calorie, non-alcoholic imbibement, Coke Zero (and its ilk), he has gone off that sort of stuff as well. More tea, (green, ginger, English Breakfast), coffee no change, and at the pub it was lemon, lime and bitters with soda water. To drink at night, lime and bitters in soda water.
And Mademoiselle, the envelope please...
Yeah, the other scales died in the interim (did not break apart, smart-arse!) so one can't be too exact about the delta here, but the irrefutable fact is that E@L is down close enough to 12kgs. That's 26lbs for the two readers E@L has in the States. Another way of looking at it is that he is down by 10% on his previous weight. This is lowest he has been since a drastic reduction (to 114.5kgs) for his 30 year school reunion in 2005. He was still told he was fucking fat though, by someone who was a fatty at school, now thin - rudeness is not exclusively Singapore thing after all.)
Probably that loss is bit faster than the revised plan, but he has plateaued for a while, so it remains encouraging that, come "all the fives", E@L might be able to purchase some clothes off the rack.
E@L won't bore you with any more details of what he is eating more of and less of, but one of the big surprises for E@L in all of this, is that he does have the will-power after all to do something... something at all.
He just has to make the decision, finally, then believe that he made the decision. So often it is a pretend decision, one he knows he will break (write that novel) like a traditional New Years Resolution.
But anything he wants to do, he can, if he does, as they say, set his mind to it. And now he knows he can follow through on it. This is not Tony Robbins bullshit here, this is E@L learning the hard (and cheaper) way of what great achievements he is capable if he could just shut the fuck up and do them.
Two months to go.
* BiTP = Boys in The Pub. One of Indy's. Remember Indy?
** His favorite incident was back in 1998. E@L was probably the largest man in Vietnam at the time. As he got out of the taxi at the gate of his designated hospital, he saw that an old man, who had been sitting down doing nothing (maybe playing checkers with bottle tops) like the twenty thousand other people along the streets they had driven, was looking back at him in the car window. The man arose from his stunted, square, blue-plastic stool (you know the ones, right?) and, still in a slight arthritic stoop, opened E@L's door for him. He was smiling toothlessly. E@L thanked thanked the man as best he could: "Cah-mon, cah-mon, thank you." But that is not the incident...
A woman and her children were negotiating the path of chairs and old men and irregular paving as E@L alighted, when one of the children stopped. In awe, his face a picture of wonder and disbelief, he instinctively moved towards E@L as if in a trance, with his right hand forward... he rubbed E@L's belly in a circle two times before his mother dragged him away by his other arm. He must have thought E@L was the Buddha made incarnate. 5555!