Sunday, August 23, 2009

Operation Brüno - Introduction

Twenty kilos is not a heavy weight in the grand scheme of things. In olden day parlance it is just over three stone. If I go to the gym I can bicep curl twenty kilos without too much panting. I can leg press three times that much, same for leg curls. It's five times for squats.

But twenty kilos of fat is a different proposition entirely. It's not so much what it weighs, it's about the inconvenient places on the human body it chooses to lurk. Therein lay the problem. Time would tell you my weight can fluctuate, usually in direct relation to boredom and lifestyle. Given my current lifestyle which includes walking and cycling as a necessity for my daily commute, and at work traipsing up and down lots of stairs. My bodyweight loiters between 93 and 96 kilos (fifteen stone). As I am 178 centimetres tall (five ten) this means, despite a relatively broad frame, I can in the wrong light sometimes resemble Paddington Bear.

It has not always been like this. Something weird happened between the age of thirty eight and forty, something changed. I think mostly it was my attitude. Now I am forty two and for my last birthday someone kindly brought me a body mass indicator. I hold it in my hand now, it has just estimated my body fat ratio to be twenty eight percent. Which given all the above means I am currently carrying almost thirty kilos of fat (almost five stone).

Fat is a necessity for most species on this earth, it is padding for internal organs and a store for energy when food is not plentiful. But I probably don't need quite this much, neither do I have any desire to spend the next twenty years as some red faced and portly old duffer. So I have decided it's time for action. And thus is born an idea, a plan to shed twenty kilos and reach a weight of 75 kilos (just under twelve stone). Which this body has seen only once since the age of fourteen. I also want to do it before Christmas, just because giving it a timeline makes it more interesting.

Knowing the worst of weighing 95 kilos is an uncanny resemblance to Paddington Bear and not wanting to put you or me through the trauma of before and after photo's. I have decided to title this quest: Operation Brüno. This way you can immediately conjure some idea of the intended body image destination. I won't be wearing the make-up nor platform shoes of course. I am allergic to cosmetics and can get giddy at height.

At this point a chorus of voices would quite rightly proclaim this is just a mid-life crises, be happy in your own skin, you are what you are. And more importantly – How the hell are you going to do this? Well, that last one is actually simple, quite literally, because losing weight is simple. It's just nobody ever said it was easy.

I could of course lose weight by attending meetings for the binge eaters equivalent of alcoholics anonymous, and go to Weight Watchers. But this mind exists for the detail. I don't want points, I want calories, protein and carb ratios, fat and fibre content, GI ratings. I want to know how I'm going to burn my twenty kilos. Not just have twenty daily weight watchers points I could use to chow down six Mars bars.

Of course typing Diet and Nutrition into Amazon will get you over eight thousand results, mostly get thin quick fixes that rarely work and are very light on detail. As with the Weight Watchers points system, I didn't want quick fixes or to blindly accept a plan. I wanted to know about the human body's need for energy, how it uses it, obtains it, stores it and how to most efficiently burn it.

Which is why I have previously invested a great deal of time researching the human body. Mostly because I have been struck by the number of fad/beach/get a six pack/look good in a bikini/speedo diets widely advertised. And made positively dizzy by the rumour and myths friends and colleagues churn out. Why shouldn't I eat pasta? What is so evil about banana's? What is it about bread that makes you fat? Is Guinness really a good meal supplement?

That research began in 2003 and over the subsequent six years and on/off experimentation I have conjured a essay titled: Losing Weight is Simple, but nobody ever said it was easy.

This essay will be the basis on which Operation Brüno is built. Updates on the mission will appear here over the following twenty weeks alongside the essay, in easily digested chunks. Hopefully along the way body fat will be shed with a good many misconceptions.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When I Grow Up…

Making a wild guess based on thirty seconds of thought as I sit here fingers poised over keyboard, I would say that for every year past twenty years of life, your recollections of childhood become narrowed to the photographs you have of that time and the infamous stories you are repeatedly told by family. To the point you eventually stop thinking about what your childhood was and just puzzle over the validity of those memories. Well that's me anyway. Very occasionally you read or hear something that jumps you right back into your childhood memories, the real ones.

Which is how my childhood memories of career aspirations came to be knocked loose a few days ago. Dusting them off, I took the time to revisit them for the first time in a very long time. Of course they were not career aspirations at the age of eight, they were what you wanted to be when you grew up.

Six Million Dollar Man

Steve Austin aka The Six Million Dollar Man, a man rebuilt with modern technology (circa 1975). Half human and half bionic, he could see like you wouldn't believe, ran really really fast and had a right arm that could punch holes in walls. I so desperately wanted to be like him, especially as I was quite ill as a child. So much so I spent quite some time considering accidents I could have that would necessitate someone rebuilding me. I knew having an accident like Steve Austin was off the cards at least for a few years because he was an astronaut.


Desperately wanted to be one of these for all the reasons stated above.

Deep Sea Diver

I used to be fascinated by books and pictures that showed a single scuba diver deep, deep in the ocean, surrounded on all sides by endless clear water. It is a concept that still echoes today with a fascination for models (plastic figurines) that depict characters suspended in the air. I have no idea why.

A member of the Famous Five

At the age of five I learned to read but very quickly forgot again because nobody gave me anything interesting to read. At the age of nine and approaching the summer holidays I still could not read. Placed in remedial my teacher recommended my parents take me to the library and hire a famous five book. I do not remember which of the twenty one books it was but it did spend all summer beside my bed unread. Out of abject boredom in bed one night I picked it up. I knew words because I spoke English but I did not recognise them on the page. I did know the alphabet though so I worked phonetically. It was brilliant. Not only was I learning to read again but this amazing story was unfolding in my mind. Addicted by this wonderful world that I held in my hands, all twenty one books were finished by October, at which point I started on Jaws (which had just come out at the cinema and I was not allowed to see), which I might have convinced the woman in the library was for my dad. I have seldom been without a book since that time.

Looking back at the characters, it is interesting that even then I was in awe of Julian, a little besotted with Anne and wanted to be just like Dick. I might even have become him, I wonder how much of these things do shape our unconscious intention as children?

Caine aka Kung Fu

I really wanted to be like David Carradine when I grew up. His Caine character in the Kung Fu series fed this child mind week over week, I loved it. I remember sitting cross legged on the floor on Saturday nights as the theme tune started up and Carradine climbed some random sand dune with that almost dance like effortlessness he possessed through all his life. Me and my friends used to replicate the scene at the beginning where he dodges spears by throwing practically anything we could lay our hands on at each other, which seldom ended well. When I got older I studied Aikido and Tae Kwon Do and for while I did achieve a kind of grace. But then I discovered girls and alcohol and wanted entirely different things.


I appreciate that Superman is not indigenous to earth which is why he has super powers and therefore was never going to be him, but it was not really his super powers I was interested in. Lets face it, what's the point of being able to deflect bullets with your chest, melt ice with your eyes (my wife can turn stuff to ice with her eyes and she's from earth, I think) and fly faster than the speed of light and time, if a little bit of green rock incapacitates you. What I did want though was Lois Lane, without ever really knowing why. I just yearned for her and simply saw being Superman as a conduit to achieving that.


For the life of me I have no idea where this came from, or what the Genesis of this was. I have always wanted to be an angel and still do, to the point there is barely a fictional story I write that does not contain a thinly veiled angel somewhere. My dream would be to write the books about angels I have long dreamed of writing (I haven't as angels are not currently commercial). Nor by the way would these angels by the temperamental sort you find in the bible or the imp like ones you find in a lot of fairy art. My angels are beautiful (men and women), vengeful, redemptive, very powerful and bloody big. I think it might come from a frustration of being a child, of being ill so much, being intensely frustrated by the whole child parent experience and wanting to be free. Flying might also have been a factor.

Adam Ant

This one from when I was a little older. Mostly because he looked really cool with a white stripe painted across his face and lots of girls liked him a lot. Or appeared to. I wanted some of that.


I was sixteen in 1983. On that birthday I had forty pound which was destined for new gears for my racing bike. Between me and the bike shop was Boots and in the window was a small black and rather sleek looking device called a computer. I never made it to the bike shop. I went though every page of the computers manual that night and very soon after decided I wanted to be a programmer. Which I achieved a few years later, setting this life on its current course, despite the road deviating wildly at times and often running circuitous routes.

Jack Reacher

Not having been a child now for twenty four years does not mean I do not dream and aspire. What would be the point of life if you could not? As such I would very much like to invent a fictional character as charasmatic as Lee Child's Jack Reacher and have the subsequent number of bestsellers Child has achieved with that character. Of cause mine would also have to be an Angel...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Summer Reading - Lockdown by Sean Black

About ten years ago there was a moderately popular computer game called Sin. It featured a wise talking cop called Blade and his sidekick JC. This book was similar in style and depth which lead me to think it might have started life as a script for a game or a comic. Sadly it lacked the visual flair that makes those mediums compelling.

Ryan Lock is an ex British Military Policeman that now heads up a close protection team for a large American corporate called Meditech. When a protest by animal rights demonstrators becomes the scene for an assassination and then carnage, Lock finds himself in hospital and out of a job. With a young boy also missing and his father an ex employee of Meditech, Lock begins to hunt down the kidnappers and finds himself in a world of hardline animal rights activists and a lot more besides.

Which makes this sound like it could be a lot better than it is. The problems start with writing that is sparse to an extreme and a plot, and characters that are two dimensional at best. As a central character Lock is very flat, not even managing cliché. His partner Ty has slightly more of a presence. Half way through there is a kind of twist that anyone paying moderate attention will not be surprised at. With every mundane story thread I kept waiting for the story to turn around and surprise me. But it just ploughed on. I could go on and on.

What did work? The dialogue will very frequently make you smile, Ty the partner has some appeal and the midpoint change was a welcome relief to a plodding story. There is a section just past the middle where Lock spends some time with Mareta, a Chechen rebel fighter called the ghost. It is by far the best sequence of the book. In fact Mareta is by far the most vivid character in the story. The end sequence does show a little promise.

The shame is that somebody will have invested a great deal of time in writing this book but for me it equated to a disappointing Friday night action movie. The themes are so cliché you might think this was written for young adults, if it was not for the severed heads and bleeding eyes etc. In that context it might appeal to some males under the age of twenty five. Parallels to Lee Child are scandalously short of the mark.