My "Classic Pickwickian Morphology"

I don’t know exactly why I’m writing this. I don’t know if it’s a plea for sympathy or attention or support or help or what. But the Dopers always come through.

Item 1:

I went to the doctor the other day. I hadn’t been seen by this particular doctor before and, in the course of examining my throat, he asked if I suffered from sleep apnea (I don’t). He said I was a likely candidate because I had a “classic Pickwickian morphology”. (He actually said “Pickwiggian” but I’ve read enough Dickens to translate.) I thought at first he meant the shape of my throat but of course he was referring to my general body shape. “Pickwickian” is apparently modern medical terminology for “pear-shaped”. (Oddly enough, the last time I bought a suit the salesperson referred to my figure as an “athletic fit”. Each industry has its own euphemisms, apparently.)

Item 2:

My parents and siblings and various offspring had a family reunion last summer. One afternoon was spent posing for a photographer and one of the pictures was of just my parents, my one sister, my three brothers and I. When we were reviewing the photos I was struck by the general similarity of body shapes: Classic Pickwickians every one! Apparently there is a genetic component.

Item 3:

This morphology was arrived at over time. As a child I was skinny. Not thin – skinny. Scrawny. Ninety-eight pound weakling morphology. Skinny AND uncoordinated. It wasn’t till I was out of high school that I ever felt my body was more or less normal. That lasted till I was about 30. And then, as if someone threw a switch, my metabolism metamorphised and my morphology was magnified. Since then my weight has gone up and down slightly on a long-term upward trend.

Item 4:

I have dieted from time to time. The most successful I’ve ever been was losing 60 pounds a few years ago. But without altering my eating habits significantly from the earlier diet I’ve managed to get it all back with a little interest.

Item 5:

Whenever I’ve seen a really heavy person I’ve wondered to myself why someone would allow themselves to get so heavy that it severely impacted their lives. It seems to me like it would be worth their while, whatever the sacrifice, to at least get to the point where they could lead more or less normal lives. I recognize the arrogance in this statement but I guess the underlying thought was that they COULD do something about it if they wanted to.

Item 6:

My weight is beginning to impact my life. Most of my middle-aged medical complaints are related to, or at least aggravated by, my weight. My wife worries all the time that I’m going to drop dead of a heart attack. (My heart is healthy but being overweight and having a positive family history puts me in a high-risk category.) I take blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications which my doctor tells me I wouldn’t need if I would just lose weight. I take an anti-depressant and the doctor says (and I believe him) I could use a smaller dose or do without it if I exercised more. I sometimes have trouble fitting into places, notably booths at restaurants and airplane seats. It’s not that I can’t get in them, but I know I’ve reached the limit of normal sizes. I don’t have to buy big and tall (yeah, that’s it, I’m tall!) clothes yet, but I’m at the last size that’s available in regular clothing stores.

This is where you come in.

I’d like to lose some weight. But I’m not sure I can. I waffle between being more accepting of who and what I am, just as I am, and going on a self-improvement binge. There are significant reasons for losing weight (see above) but I’ve also got reasons for not doing that: 1) It affects my personality – I get, um, “snippy”. I’m not generally a pleasant person to be around when I’m dieting. And I like to be pleasant. You’ve heard of jolly fat men? 2) I tend to get carried away. As long as I’m dieting, why don’t I also organize my life, write that novel I’ve been waiting to write, bring about world peace, etc. 3) I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t succeed. I mean if I really want to do it but can’t, then what? 4) It takes time and energy that I’m not sure I have.

So you can kind of see the problem. I tend to see things in black and white. Either I’m a cheerful fat man, a la Drew Carey (and I get that ALOT!), or a thin obsessive-compulsive perfectionist.

A few extra details. I’m 6’0". According to height/weight charts I’ve seen I should weigh 180 lbs. I weigh 280. If I could get down to 215 I’d be satisfied. I’m in no hurry. A pound a week would be great, but I’d settle for a pound a month. I’m really more interested in going the right direction than I am in the goal.

I’ve tried a low-fat diet. That’s when I lost the 60 lbs. That worked pretty well. I’ve used Weight Watchers (and, unless I find something better I probably will again). Their approach was sensible, but I didn’t follow it very well. I am not interested in single focus diets. (“Cut out all meats/sugar/fats/carbohydrates/etc.”)

I just need to find a way to eat less and, most importantly, exercise more. The only exercise I get is walking back and forth to my car from the parking lot. Does anyone have any tips on exercise? The real problem for me with exercising is that it’s such a mindless activity. I’ve tried jogging, walking, swimming. The battle to exercise has always been mental not physical. It’s sooooo boooooring! I’ve thought about getting a stationary bicycle so I could watch TV while I exercised but that seems a little conflicted.

Any advice?

Sorry. No advice, I’m sure some people will be by shortly with some. Just wanted to say good luck though, whatever your goals may be. Just remember, it’s better to be overweight and fit than your ideal weight and out of shape.

While being overweight has health problems. Overwieght people who exercise regularly live longer healthier lives than skinny people who do not.

I suppose that is a kind of advice.

Yeah. Exercise. That’s it.

Advice? Yeah. Post more. I’ve missed you, you big lug.

Okay…why don’t you move to New York City? I’m your height, approximately your age, and I weigh in at 190. Between obsessively cooking meals from scratch and walking everywhere I go (or jogging up and down the subway stairs) and the general teeth-clenching sweaty anxiety of big-city life, I keep fit and trim. Or only minimally lumpish.

I agree with you about the mindlessness of most popular exercises. So pick something constructive. How about bicycling? You live near Seattle, right? Buy into the neo-hippie lifestyle! Sell your car and go everywhere on your bike! Or walk.

Cut back on meat-eating and chow down on beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. No more snack foods, processed foods, fast foods. Fry your own chicken. if you want it. Join your local food co-op. Buy lentils in bulk. Make 'em into soup.


      The TV/Bike combo is good. They do that in gyms now. They call it "Cardio Theater" when it's just a gimmick to keep people from getting bored. Anything that keeps them on the stepper/bike/treadmill. I had a friend who lost a lot of weight by buying a small TV with his new treadmill and setting them up together in his basement. Worked well as long as he stuck to it.

Sell your cars. I’m quite serious, just get rid of them, and buy a bike. You’d be surprised how much more carefully you consider your food if you have to carry it all home in bike. Getting to work may take longer, but you’ll be much much more fit just by doing so, especially if either end of your commute is on a hill.

If that’s totally impractical, try sport. Not mindless, repetative excersize, but sport, something competetive. Try raquetball or squash. Either will keep you on your toes mentally and force you to move to be competative.

Thanks for your advice, one and all. Bicycles are prominently mentioned and, as it happens, there is a good bicycle commute for me. I purchased a bike a year or so ago but “leant” it to my college-bound son who allowed it to get stolen. (“I just left it outside for a few weeks, Dad!”) That sounds like it may be the best solution.

Thanks for your input, Uke, regarding fruits and veggies. (Actually I’ve been around but mostly in GQ lately. I am, however, planning an MPSIMS celebration very soon, to which you are invited. Cordially.) I don’t eat much red meat any more and sweets aren’t really a problem but I have about the same problem with vegetables that I do with exercise – boooring! But I’m willing to explore new recipes til I find a few that are relatively easy and still tickle the taste buds.

So maybe if I make a few small changes: 1) buy a bicycle (and use it!), 2) increase the fruit and vegetable to meat and potatoes ratio, and 3) Hi Opal!

I could live with those. As you know, if they’re not permanent (lifestyle, in the current parlance) changes they’re not going to be effective. Actually I think I’ll start a couple of independent threads to see if I can get further input without all the autobiographical preliminaries. Thanks again.

Take my advice…I married a Greek. Catchall vegetable side dish:

  1. Steam vegetables to your taste.
  2. Sprinkle LIGHTLY with good olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle LAVISHLY with fresh lemon juice.
  4. Salt & pepper.

Mmmmmmmm good.

Another thing to try is upping the veggie count and downing the meat count in a stew or braise. If you normally make a stew with two pounds of meat, cut down to one and use more carrots and zucchini and whatnot. Remember that most peasant cuisines use meat to flavor the dish, rather than as the main event.