Right, the festivities are over, and that means the indulgence must stop and the power walking must start again. There’s no point in trotting out excuses about “needing a winter layer”, “defending myself against the cold with a ring of blubber” or “walking conditions are too treacherous to even consider setting foot outside” – although, believe me, I’ve tried them all in the past. I’m not sure when middle age actually sets in but I’m determined to do my utmost to avoid it, or at least delay it, by ensuring that its associated “spread” doesn’t claim me too early.
OK, I should obviously mention that I’m not, by any means, the most susceptible when it comes to weight gain (in the kind words of a dear friend, “you’re no Carnie”) but all the same, gentlemen of my age group must guard against complacency, and resist falling back into bad habits, or even into those tins of Celebration which still seem to be hanging around after Christmas. Trouble is, not being a smoker, a big drinker or a carnivore, there’s not much more I can feasibly give up – so now it’s all about the dreaded ‘portion control’.
I don’t know about anyone else but, as a fan of The Sopranos. The Godfather Trilogy and any other films full of fat Italian-Americans, like Casino and Summer Of Sam, I really can’t abide small portions of my beloved pasta. I just can’t face tiny amounts – they only make you hungrier. My motto has always been pile your bowl high, then eat most of the rest out of the pan before the washing up. Oh, and leave the rest in a bowl in the fridge to eat just before bedtime to stave off starvation during the night. They say between 50g and 75g of dried pasta is a portion but that is so ludicrously tiny when you see it in the centre of a bowl it beggars belief. I’ve always been a 150g-200g man myself, depending upon the sauce. But it’s just not sustainable any more. [insert 😦 here]
Yes, people have suggested I buy smaller pasta bowls (see above photo of a recent dinner ), but where’s the fun in that? Even my 6-year-old daughter, a great respecter of her varied heritage, says she likes the “Italian restaurant” experience of sitting before a huge bowl of spaghetti, and who am I to deny her that? Especially when I like that whole deal just as much: operatic soundtrack, bottle of Chianti, oversized napkin tucked into shirt and all the rest of it. And to anyone who suggests I stop eating pasta – vaffanculo.
So, my days of eating like Peter Clemenza or Bobby Baccalieri may be over but how on earth does ‘portion control’ work? The only plan I can think of is to add more, less calorific options like vegetable accompaniments and/or heftier salads. Of course, it’s hard to eat less in cold weather but if I can bear one piece of food consumption advice in mind, it will be: “Oh no, I couldn’t, what would I look like on the beach?”
If there was one image last year that summed up the ‘thin’ line between “letting oneself go” and “maintaining a healthy lifestyle”, it was the re-meeting in Dublin of Italia ’90 World Cup rivals, Ireland’s Ray Houghton (aged 47) and Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci (aged 45). OK girls, if pushed, which one would you kick out of bed for eating rigatoni..?