With hindsight, I had missed some clues that my physique was developing a rather chubbier appearance. For example, when I boarded the train to Edinburgh last week, an ashen-faced young man who had forgotten to buy a ticket jumped up and ran out the carriage door. On Christmas morning, instead of receiving the annual replenishment of socks and Y-fronts, my children surprised me by presenting me with a tracksuit, two dry-fit running vests and a stopwatch. I wish I were making this up.
Becoming obese has been a journey, a breathless one at that. As a young footballer cursed with premature baldness, I had become somewhat inured to touchline cries of “kick that baldy b*****d!” In my twilight years of playing in the Stirlingshire league, I recall being a tad disconcerted when I heard, for the first time, a shout of “get aff the park ya fat, baldy, b*****d!” It confirmed my suspicions that there must be a logical reason why it was increasingly difficult to squeeze into size 36in shorts. Worse, I recognised it was my manager’s voice hurling the abuse.
Denial is the first refuge of the overweight scoundrel. When supportive friends politely inquired if I had considered a career in sumo wrestling, I feigned bemusement. I found comfort that the fuller face look contributed to an absence of the unsightly creases that criss-crossed the careworn visages of slimmer contemporaries; when I had dropped a couple of sizes several years ago, my deflated cheeks eerily resembled the route map of ScotRail.
I suppose I finally accepted I had a weight problem when, taking great care not to let any sugar from my doughnut fall onto my laptop, I googled the internet to find a supplier of a thinning fun-house mirror. Having previously scoffed at Weight- Watchers ads on television, I now found myself frantically searching through Sky Plus to find them. At these gatherings of the unhappy overnourished, news that a portly member has shed a few pounds is a catalyst for the sort mass hysteria one normally associates with a North Korean Humpty-Dumpty lookalike in a Crombie coat appearing on a Pyongyang balcony. Pity, though, the poor sod who steps on the unforgiving scales and discovers his body mass index is on an upward curve. Gasps from the judgmental throng are followed by a stony silence.
A thinking-outside-the-lunchbox solution is to relocate to Africa, where a pot belly is perceived to be a sign of wealth. Apparently, if I were to waddle down the backstreets of Harare, Zimbabweans might think there was a Secret Millionaire in their midst. But being a babe-magnet to sub-Saharan singletons is not my New Year’s resolution. In 2012, I resolve to get my old self back, the bloke who normally weighed 12st and didn’t need a team of redundant Forth Bridge painters to airbrush holiday snaps.
By letting things go, I’ve let people down, people like the heart consultant who, a decade ago, put me through my paces on a treadmill as he attempted to diagnose the reason for my chest pains. As he stared at the data coming up on his computer screen from the wires attached to my upper torso, I smiled and said: “Whatever the result, I promise you I will lose some of this weight.”
He stared impassively at the screen. “Everyone who steps on that treadmill says the same thing”, was his droll reply.
Two of my acquaintances suffer Type 2 diabetes, hence I am very aware that failure to control my size could have life-changing consequences. Being retired hasn’t helped. When I taught, I often walked/jogged/cycled to school, and strolling the classroom aisles must have burned more calories than I imagined. A 40-minute lunch break meant only enough time to eat a tuna sandwich. My existence today is not so much sedentary as prone, with long lie-ins and hours of being spread-eagled on the couch watching the History channel. Grazing has become my hobby and, as the Argos catalogue doesn’t currently have a breadbin with a combination lock, I will need urgently to address my lack of willpower to salvage what’s left of my dignity.
I have slim hopes.