Meanwhile, in February

Published 9:32 am Friday, February 20, 2015

Every winter it happens, through absolutely no fault of our own. Nature and society really insist upon it, you see.

It starts in November, comes to a bigger head in December, and January and February do not go by without regret. Every year, it seems, 20 to 30 pounds are gained, only to be lost over the spring, summer and fall. Well, perhaps it will be lost — one can never really know or understand the nature of how these things work.

It’s a vicious, unsurvivable cycle, made bearable only because no one can really notice thanks to winter clothing.

Every November, like clockwork, we are forced to consume a large quantity of food — food that lasts for weeks. Supposedly this extreme ritual of overdoing it is to give thanks for having it to begin with. Makes sense, we think, but more importantly, it’s time for that cathartic nap.

Once we wake up in December, it’s Christmas time, and we ratchet up the level of food. We add to that an endless supply of desserts. Every family member must bring one, or else! That fried turkey sure is good, but the real star is probably the chess pie. It’s pure, unadulterated sugar layered on top of pie crust, and perhaps some homemade vanilla ice cream — who cares what the temperature is outside! — will go alongside it. There is no getting away without taking home some of the leftovers, which will ruin our carefully organized freezers. Besides, it’s really the only way that you can make room for trying all the desserts that were there, such as the fudge and icebox fruitcake.

In January, a person typically resolves to be better. Eat healthier, work out, the usual empty promises and outright lies we tell ourselves. You know, it’s really too cold to go for a walk or run. So inside we stay, where we focus on work, watching TV and reading a good book; a trusty box of salty cheese crackers by our side through each of life’s struggles.

For lunch, we resolve to be good, however, sacrificing any satisfaction we get out of life by eating a plain turkey sandwich and some baby carrots. We reward ourselves for this action on the weekends, delighting in the salty goodness that is going out on the town for a good meal, perhaps a pound of pulled pork barbeque and endless fries. That is, until we get sick of turkey and replace it with something more spoiling in nature.

In February, despite all odds, somehow it gets worse. Chocolate, and lots of it, is forced upon us whether we have a valentine or not. In fact, it’s probably worse if one does not have a valentine. If we are single, the day after sales always make us feel better, as we post the spoils of war on Facebook. It’s so much that it overflows in our arms. But what a great deal we got on our thousands of calories of love that we will consume in between the streams of tears that will freely fall.

By the end of this season, we gaze at our scales with our eyes in suspicious slits. It is not our friend, and more than that, it and its foul creator are actively out to destroy us. Last year at this time, the numbers on its hate-filled digital screen may as well have said TILT.

This year, before Thanksgiving, months of intensive labor made it read something more reasonable. We’ll pick a completely random number, 195. In late February, with trepidation, we slowly work up the nerve to put our feet on it. Testing its icy surface at first with tip toes, one foot at a time — extremities that each must weigh as much as that holiday ham.

Once we open our eyes and look down, fear in our hearts, we see that it reads… 196? This must be some mistake. A joke, really, by whatever foul god this scale worships. We check it again. Aha, we exclaim, 196.6!

Somehow, we reluctantly admit to ourselves that we broke the cycle. We had resolved in October this time, before Halloween candy hit the shelves — oh, who are we kidding, but before we had purchased any — that we wouldn’t let it happen again.

So exercise happened, however inconsistently, and we gave up a lot of sugar and some salt during the short, short periods where we could breathe in more oxygen than MSG in the air. That’s it, really, no fads or anything complicated; just trying our best, and failing more often than not, to avoid processed foods.

It wasn’t a resounding success, by any means. But somehow, after four months of intermittent periods of doing terrible, terrible things to our bodies, we had gained only 1.6 pounds.

‘Huzzah!’ We do a fist pump. ‘Take that, scale!’

Cain Madden is the managing editor of The Tidewater News. He hopes he can survive Easter. He can be reached at 562-3187 or