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Body Worry : Fat Dangers Grow by Leaps and Pounds

BODY WORRY Third in a series

September 26, 1986|REMAR SUTTON

GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND — I have been gaining weight quietly for about six years--grains of sand steadily piling up. The insidiousness of the change made it even worse, for I was never bothered by the gains--except when I changed closets each season.

In 1980, my winter 32s seemed tight. In 1982, spring 34s just wouldn't fasten. Thirty-sixes felt nice in 1983, tight in 1984 and caused strangulation and a move up to 38s in the spring of 1985.

At first I attributed the tightness to heat shrinkage in my closets

(they just didn't make clothes like they used to), but I finally faced a version of reality in June. That was the month I first considered writing a book about redoing myself, and I instantly used this as an excuse to worry even less about my weight and shape.

My 38-inch stomach didn't seem big enough to deserve its own book. More important, I theorized that muscle was simply rearranged fat. A little weight lifting would, in essence, tie a string around two ends of a blob of fat, thereby shaping it--the way a water-filled balloon can be shaped with a knot or two. Ergo, more fat meant more muscle.

My theory didn't carry much weight with the doctors who are remaking me, fortunately. My excess 27 pounds of free-floating, greasy-smelling fat--just like the fat I hope you pull from a chicken before cooking--had already jeopardized my health, a hazard that was multiplying geometrically, not arithmetically, with each new pound.

Two weeks ago I therefore undertook new eating patterns with the utmost purposefulness. Nothing unpure would touch my lips. For a couple of days even the juice I drank was extracted seconds before with my new $90 juicer.

Liquefied apple, banana, plum, peach and sapodilla fruit were delicious and supposedly teeming with vitamins and other terribly healthy things; each four-ounce drink took only a minute to make, too.

Unfortunately, I figured each four-ounce drink cost about $3 in fruit. Also, it took 20 minutes to clean the juicer every time I wanted a four-ounce, $3 drink, something I tired of quickly, so I traded the juicer to a fisherman friend for 30 lobster tails (about $120 worth) and started buying juice at the grocery store. I feel just as healthy and eat a lot better.

Fruit and Vegetables

In addition to lobster, fish and lots of chicken, my diet consists of many vegetables, either lightly steamed or raw, and lots of fruit. I eat pasta at least twice a week, wheat pancakes smothered in a heated sauce of fresh orange juice, crushed bananas and cinnamon on Sunday, the day we pretty much forget our diet. Conch salad, low in fat and calories, is in the fridge at all times for snacking.

We do not count calories. Instead, we eat generous portions of nutritionally productive foods and small portions of the delicious-but- unproductive foods like double- chocolate cake with chocolate icing. We also keep our snacks to fruit or vegetables most of the time.

Even though we don't count calories per se, every single thing I eat or drink is logged in my computer with a code that identifies the item, quantity and time consumed--records one of my doctors asked me to keep.

So if you want to know the truth, I attribute my weight loss in the first three weeks solely to the fact that it's a damn lot of trouble to write down everything I eat or drink, so I eat and drink less. Of course, 24 solid hours of exercise each week may have a little something to do with it also.

Is a little fat all that bad?

Probably not from a health point of view, but the problem is in the definition of a "little."

We need fats to live, but too much fat places a strain on our hearts and joints simply from its weight, probably causes increased cholesterol--a fat itself--in our blood and may lead to "adult onset" diabetes. It also may lead to high blood pressure, arthritis, gallbladder disease and lung problems.

So how much fat is too much fat? Doctors generally agree that 5% above your age group's norm would be considered dangerous. For instance, for me, 16% of my weight in fat would be an ideal and hunky-looking amount, and 20% would be considered normal, according to Dr. Kenneth Cooper, president of the Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas. At the start of my program I was 30% fat.

Determining your percentage of fat: Underwater weighing is the most accurate method; skin-fold measurements are reasonably good. Most health clubs can help you here. But an objective look in the mirror will probably do the trick. Strip. Don't hold it in. Large rolls of fat, a stomach larger than your chest and a memory of a far thinner body when you were younger are all good indications of too much fat.

Body Worry chronicles the weekly progress of a bald, overweight man who, in the course of one year, tries to transform himself into a "hunk." Write to Remar Sutton in care United Media, 200 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10166.

Vital Statistics

Beginning Third Week Waist: 43 inches 39 inches Right bicep: 12 3/4 inches 12 1/2 inches Flexed: 13 inches 13 inches Weight: 201 pounds 190 pounds Blood pressure: 128/68 120/68 Pulse: 64 67 Bench press: 55 85 Hunk factor: .00 .04

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