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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Being Slim

by Max Roytenberg, October 2013, Dublin

Why am I writing about this, sometimes obsessed with our weight and shape, aren’t we?

I like to eat. That is a serious understatement of the facts. I LOVE to eat. I come by it rightly. My mother, of blessed memory, was not over-endowed with homemaking skills. Indeed very few dishes from my years spent under her care are remembered with culinary joy. One thing she knew to do-stuff the kids!. Her greatest joy, when I made an infrequent visit home as an adult, was to serve me food in abundance. I recall with nostalgia two veal chops-pounded to ensure tenderness, breaded and fried the way I liked them, overwhelming the plate in size, she insisted I consume.. She was very disappointed when I ate only one,

It is not that we went hungry when I was young. It was that I knew we were poor, and that what we had was counted to ensure there was “just enough”. I was always conscious that I had to restrain myself to ensure there was enough for all. This was particularly true for delicacies like processed meats or fruit. There had to be enough to go around and the quantities were small. After all, we lived in Winnipeg, in the middle of the western Canadian wilderness, and, in the case of fruit, some of these products came to us from thousands of miles away. I recall that one of the first things I did, when I found myself in Israel at the age of eighteen, was to buy a melon and devour the whole thing myself. In later life, I have always tended toward excess, waste rather than want.

Both my parents ran somewhat to flesh. I never ever saw my mother as the slim beauty depicted in wedding pictures. My father, of blessed memory, all sixty-two inches of him, was well fed, always sporting a paunch, reminiscent of my occasional sights of my grandfather.

I eat all the time-always noshing, picking away at something edible, particularly fruit. In the Jewish vernacular, I am a fresser, a gourmand. Consequently I have always been on the fleshy side since exiting my teens. Paradoxically, I find it difficult to see people who are obese, illogically considering the state as bordering on the immoral. In my mind, I worship an image of myself as a slim person-no doubt about it, I am really am as slim as a Greek god. I spend some time each day searching my body core for any bones I can find. Under  the care of Bride, seeking to keep me alive and around for as long as she needs me, I am under strict supervision. Demands for exercise and short rations pepper my life. We don’t drive, but walk everywhere. We use the stairs to our fifth floor apartment. No elevator for us. So she has had some success. I can indeed find exposed bones in some places.

Nevertheless, at the age of fourscore, I am rotund in some sections of my body. Not terribly fleshy, mind you, just a few trimmings, which disappear when I exercise fiercely, but undeniably rotund. My dimensions tell the tale. There is no question that when I stand sideways, looking at myself in the mirror, sucking in my gut, I am at best, straight down where I should be hollow, under my ribs. O woe is me! A divergent image is there to be carried around in my mind, different from the one I would like to see.

I recall that when I worked as a consultant in Africa, and was an inveterate consumer of street food, I did end up with a tapeworm. It did bloat me. I had to take measures to expel it from my body. I sometimes wonder if the cause of my round shape is not genetics, or the absence of discipline, but the persistent presence of an internal companion.

I continue to fight the good fight every day, transgressing only when my Bride relents. But, our fruit bowl is always overflowing at the beginning of the week, thanks to the market ladies on the street, And we have berries for porridge every morning. But, I am not a secret cheater. I am confident I will yet attain the ideal state I dream of. I am sure of it. Yes, I am!


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