According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the definition of the word “hobby” is “An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure."
Okay, so dieting and exercise doesn’t really fall into that category. No one diets or exercises for pleasure, do they? (If you do, kudos to you, but you probably won’t relate to this rant. You might want to try Googling “Jack Lalanne” or “Bill Phillips” for like-minded souls).
So I’ll just seize on the part of the definition that defines a hobby as being “outside one’s regular occupation.”
My “regular occupation” is writing and editing. Roughly speaking, this means that I get up at four a.m., turn on the laptop, and make a pot of coffee. Then I stare, bleary-eyed, at the computer screen, until I have to take my daughter to school.
That done, I’m faced with a choice: to exercise, or not? To launch a day of healthy eating, or not?
Sounds simple, but in practice, it’s a daily struggle. And like the Roman Empire’s battle against the Visigoths, it’s a struggle that I am slowly, inexorably losing, with the occasional shocking setback.
I once knew a guy who had an awesome physique. He went to the gym—every day—after work. I remember him talking disdainfully about people who joined the gym on January first, only to disappear sometime during the month of February.
I heard his complaint with a hollow pang of recognition. He could have been describing me: I was a January Joiner, and a February Failure.
Along the way, however, there are victories. While I may not actually be using my gym membership or counting my Weight Watcher points (until next January, that is), I have now incorporated diet and exercise into a new mystery series, called—what else? —The Fat City Mysteries.
The Fat City Mysteries are set in Durham, North Carolina, the self-proclaimed “Diet Capital of the World.” They feature a spunky, slightly chunky TV journalist-turned-sleuth, Kate Gallagher. Like me, Kate is forever fighting the Battle of the Bulge. But unlike me, she chalks up more wins than losses. The first book, DYING TO BE THIN, comes out in October. The second, A KILLER WORKOUT, comes out next year.
I relate to Kate. I once had to lose 90 pounds to land a job on camera as a TV reporter. And even today, I avoid the street that goes past 31 Flavors.
That’s because, when you’re a perpetual dieter, it pays to know your limits.