Quantum Enigma

I am such a simple guy.  My thoughts are not on wars, or political struggles on Capitol Hill, or even bad weather events that seem to dominate our lives.  No, my attention is squarely on calories, and, most recently, what I consume at night and why I falter in the late night hours just prior to going to bed.  It seems to me, my binging in the face of my daily struggle over my diet and the endless evenings of aerobic exercise is truly a “quantum enigma.”  

I discovered the term “quantum enigma” in a book on physics, and I decided it describes my situation to a tee.  A spectacular conundrum!  That’s me.

I heard it said, if you take a tablespoon of honey, it will help your muscles recover from a hard workout and, at the same time, burn fat too.  I am not a big fan of honey, but tonight, prior to sitting in my easy chair, I ate two large tablespoons of the sweet stuff to burn off a ton of my fat, and now I am crashing…

…It’s like I drank three glasses of scotch.  I am so groggy.  I can’t decide if it’s from the long week of workouts or the large tablespoons of honey.   Either too much sugar is surging through me to be healthy, or I am exhausted from all the exercises.  Either my body is burned out or my brain is boiling over.

– Now that’s a quantum enigma!

This idea of gulping down direct shots of honey I blame on an old, runner friend of mine.  I bumped into this guy at my gym – literally, he is out of my distant past.  Back when we both were younger – I guess, I am about seven years older than him – we used to run together when we would meet, by chance, on the local cross country trail.  The other night, it had been so long since I had seen him I had to ask him his name again.

Shaun.  That’s right.  We ran well together back then.  Our pace was similar, only he had more stamina than me.  Like no hill or course could stop him.  The advice he gave me on my running technique and even on how to stretch, I remember, was invaluable.  I was shocked at how little I knew.  I thought running was simply a matter of going out and doing it, but, really, like an informal coach, Shaun made me think about how to get the most out of my runs and, to be frank, much of what he taught me I have retained ever since.

So it was fun seeing him again.  The other night the moment our eyes met, we recognized each other and laughed at bumping into one another twenty years later at – of all places – the Health and Fitness Center – you know, the gym for broken down, old, athletic has-beens and now, way-over-weight wan-a-bees – you know, people like me. 

Shaun, on the other hand, who is about 5-8 or 9, I guess, looked to be in good shape, maybe 140 -150 pounds.  He has the same wiry build as I remembered him.  Though his brown hair is greyer, he now sports a cool goatee.  That’s what I want if only I could grow one!

When I asked Shaun if he still was running, feeling guilty for having stopped so long ago and now only recently getting back into it, he shrugged his head ‘no’ and, then, admitted with a slight smile and a roll of the eyes that he had had a heart attack a few years back.

Wow!  Shaun had a heart attack!

Turns out, before his heart attack, during the period when I was living the slovenly life slumbering on my couch, he had progressed from cross-country to mountain climbing.  He even went to Europe to climb mountains there.  He laughed at my reaction, but said the mountains he climbed were the ones that most serious climbers ignored.  

Well, out of the blue, back at home, Shaun has this massive heart attack and can’t figure out why – he’s in great shape, no history of heart attacks in his family, and no warnings from his doctor.  He fully recovers, of course, and, now, several years later, he’s at the Health and Fitness Center under the watchful eyes of the trained physical therapists.  He says, in fact, he doesn’t have to be here, but he likes working out with older people. 

As you can imagine, Shaun says he now is super thoughtful in what he does – not only with which aerobic machines he uses and how much weight he lifts but also, most importantly, in what foods he puts into his body.  

So here is the point of this story: Shaun says because his doctors were at a loss as to why this happened to him, he decides on his own to search the Internet for an explanation.  One night he discovers a website that finally makes sense to him – the site says foreign “oils” in the body can be a leading culprit of heart attacks; if you had a heart attack, it strongly advocates removing all oils from the body to negate the risk of a second one. 

Shaun says, no one, and I repeat, NO ONE who has eliminated oil from his or her body has ever had a second heart attack – now, get this, IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND!  

I am impressed. 

While Shaun continues on and on about the bad attributes of oil, my mind contemplates the history of mankind, going back to the Stone Age, and where one would find such a dataset.  Next to the Rosetta Stone?  On a cave wall in southern France?  To me, it is amazing even that statisticians were around back then.  How would they know what a heart attack was, let alone a second one?  Now that’s a quantum enigma!

Shaun interrupts my thoughts.

‘Jonathan, the bottom line is, all oils are fats, and you don’t want to eat fat, do you?’

Okay.  Okay. Forget the Cro-Magnon or Mesopotamian statisticians – ‘You’re right, oil is nothing more than liquefied, mummified, glorified fat.’  

Listen, I am the Pudge Man – as much a novice at this stuff as can be found anywhere and still be alive to tell the tale.  I am an innocent struggling in a sea of ghastly germs and wiggly amoebas and gross tiny things, like fat cells and calories sleeping slug-like under the skin.  Now I’m told, the sea consists of billions and billions of bubbly oil globules!


Hey, hear me, I never said I knew anything about the human body.

My only encounter with Health was back in eighth grade, and I would have flunked it if the high school football coach, you know, Coach Asshole, hadn’t passed me. 

Coach What-the-Fuck hated me for being a screwball – “screwball,” in particular, was the word he used when he kicked me out of class one afternoon and knocked me senseless against the row of lockers along the school hallway.  

“Do we understand each other, Screwball,” he said to be sure I got his point. 

When he hit me the first time, I was so surprised and so caught up in sucking for air, I suspect I didn’t say anything, but I swear, after the second time, I totally got his point.  Still, he smacked me a third time for emphasis – to which, by this point, I felt like passing out, desperate for anyone who might save me from my health teacher. 

Coach Crazy-as-a-Loon, obviously hated verbal, pudgy kids who couldn’t listen to complex directions, like “Hey, you in the back, shut the hell up!”

Nevertheless, at the end of the year, he passed me.  In truth, though, I still couldn’t tell a thighbone from a hambone, even being handed a chart comparing the human body to a pig.

My point is, forty-eight years later (give or take what age I was back then), I simply don’t know anything about oil, never thought about it, good or evil.  However, that night, on Shaun’s advice, I decide to cut “oil” from my diet. 

Well, when I arrive home that night, to prove my new commitment to my wife, I pull out the salad that has been sitting for a week in the refrigerator and rather than reaching for the ranch dressing, I pour on it balsamic vinegar, which has been sitting next to the stove for, like, forever.  Most noticeably, as far as my wife is concerned, I put no oil onto the salad at all – no olive oil, no vegetable oil, no motor oil – no oil what-so-ever!  I am so proud of myself; I can see she is impressed too!  That is, until I discover – balsamic vinegar by itself is horrible – on top of the bitter taste, it stinks!  This must be what a kitchen smells like in Istanbul!

Consequently, I swear off salads!  No oils.  No salads – that’s it! 

Okay. Okay.  This story is not about salad dressing.  Another quantum enigma!

My story is about this: PEANUT BUTTER, god’s very own nectar.

That night, after throwing out the salad, I resolve to cut peanut butter from my life.

Shaun emphatically points out that peanut butter, the very same stuff that I have eaten and loved every day of my life, is stuffed full of oil – and oil equates to fat – peanut butter, therefore, to be blunt, is nothing more than peanut-disguised fat!  

Suddenly, at the gym I have an epiphany, I realize, given my age, peanut butter fat must be everywhere my body!  Like a layer of skin: dermis, epidermis, peanut butter – Oh… my… god!  If we knew this throughout the HISTORY OF MANKIND, why didn’t someone tell me?  

Maybe it’s in the Old Testament.  I don’t know.  I haven’t read the Bible, so shoot me.

Eliminating peanut butter is a major change in my life, a personal quantum enigma through and through!

I have lived the greatest moments of my life with peanut butter:  when I first met my wife, I swear, I had been running my finger through a jar at the time.  When we were married, brown peanut butter residue was under my fingernails.  When my daughter, Helen, was born, I was pulling crunchy peanut butter nuggets out of my teeth even while personally sweating though my wife’s twenty-four hours of labor.

AND, besides, it’s not just about me.  I know for a fact, I am the only one keeping George Washington Carver’s bones from turning into dust!  Yes, the very same man who discovered two billion uses for the peanut just so I could have a happy childhood and a oil-filled, high-caloried lifestyle most of my life.

This, then, is the ultimate quantum enigma: if peanut butter is so bad for you, why did George Washington Carver find so many uses for mankind, and now, even more significantly, now what do I eat? 

Shaun says he eats lots of honey.  He says he takes a tablespoon every night.  He says I would be smart to start eating honey too! 

I hate honey.  What is honey but a syrupy, gooey, messy, sugary, liquidity substance that is like nature’s very own Elmer’s Glue.  When honey gets on something, that “thing” becomes sticky and hard to deal with and often you discover that, on its own, that little bit of honey, which you thought you had under control, has gotten onto – and into  – other stuff too, all sorts of stuff.  Stuff that your wife says, “Why is this stuff so sticky?”  

It’s like being found out after being alone in the kitchen!

Honey, in reality, I swear, is not a sugar at all.  It’s only bee-discharge.  Why would I want to eat bee discharge?

So, here I am, “Mister Quantum Enigma” in the flesh.

Between the debate over the value of my aerobic exercise classes, the struggle with my weight gain, the realization that oil is lurking around out there giving cool guys like Shaun heart attacks, and now the ongoing argument over peanut butter, which I have known and loved, versus honey, which I have not, I am setting up for a massive heart attack myself, or, rather, a brain aneurism.  Jeez, this health stuff is killing me.

Thank god, I go to the Health and Fitness Center.  Get the jumper cables ready!

Karen listens to my argument and says I can’t espouse/embrace the “oil-free” lifestyle as I am totally out of my league.  She says I have no idea of what I’m doing.  I can’t even list my favorite foods that are horribly bad for me, let alone identify what substance has oil in it and what doesn’t.  She wants to know if I have ever read a nutrition label?  She says, I’ve never seen a ‘sell by date’ that didn’t seem like a good time to buy, so why should she expect I would know anything about trans-fats and no fats and fatty fats and fats that follow you home handed to you by enthusiastic little girls in brownie outfits…      

Anyhow, my wife!  She’s got me to thinking – who knows anything anymore.  

Maybe, in fact, Shaun is caught up in a quack program on the Internet designed to give heart attack victims hope that they still can climb mountains.  

Maybe, Shaun needs to live his own life ‘– and butt out of your’s.’ – so says my wife.

Maybe, just in case he is right, I’ll continue my resolve not to eat peanut butter.

Maybe, to keep my brain from bursting, I’ll stop with the tablespoons of honey.

Maybe, finally – now that I’m approaching sixty – Pudgy Me is on the move to better health.

Maybe, even, I’ll read a book on human anatomy.


On second thought… maybe not.

Ah, there’s that quantum enigma again!




Categories: Pudgy Me

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