Whale V Fat

Fresh startBOY WONDER and I practised his new list of spellings tonight. When we got to ‘whale’, I added ‘like your Daddy, a big, fat mammal’. Bless him, he started spelling the word, pausing only to reply ‘you’re not fat, Daddy’.

But I am fat.

For men, that’s a hard thing to admit. We’re ‘big boned’, ‘stocky’, or it’s ‘just a beer belly’, like some lauded trophy.

The Duchess, bless her too, occasionally tells me Ray Winstone is attractive, which I think is a (loving) code. Mind you, in our 13 years together she’s never seen me sport yellow budgie smugglers. Nor has she seen those betting adverts.

I was first conscious of my weight when I started university, after a post-exam summer of indulgence, and the campus health advisor politely told me to lose a few pounds. The funny thing is, I was two stones lighter than I am now.

For most of my adult life, my weight went up and down without ever being too excessive. However, it shot up in my mid-thirties, beginning with our Italian honeymoon in 2006. Three weeks of gargantuan pizzas, robust pastas, steaks, red wine. Followed by a month-long world cup gala of pubs and parties.

Since then, I’ve often been disciplined at the start of the year, perhaps losing half a stone or more, only to gradually put it back on again. For example, by last summer I’d lost 10 pounds but ended the year exactly the same weight. As a friend says about himself, I’ve lost hundreds of pounds over the years. Yet, I’m still fat.

So, I’m interested in a new online community called Men V Fat. It was set up by a journalist who tried to get diet help a few years ago but found there was nothing out there for men. He says in a recent post:

Did you know over 80% of men are stressed at work, you’d be abnormal if you weren’t stressed. Did you know that issues with appetite are harder for men because they biologically need to consume more calories and because mass consumption is seen as a manly attribute (MAN v FOOD anyone?) It’s also painfully apparent that men get nowhere near the level of education that women do on how to cook healthy food and also advice on what constitutes healthy eating.

I’ve sought a little education over the past few years. I’ve read Gary Taubes and Tim Ferris. I understand that processed foods, so prevalent in the food chain, are destructive. Lager is no friend, either. Yet, they sure are tasty and convenient, hey?

I used to exercise regularly. Even after the kids were born, I ran up to 25km a week, to the point where I was chasing a PB in the 2012 Great North Run. Now I’m struggling to complete a 5k. Yes, I’ve developed asthma over the last few years but I’ve let it defeat me. Yes, I was studying intensely last year but in hindsight exercise would have alleviated the stress.

Too many excuses. (The same goes for updating this blog.)

I can’t afford them any longer. The kids are six and almost four. They deserve an energetic father, now and in 10 years’ time.

Men V Fat says that you’ve got to acknowledge you are fat – don’t laugh it off – work out why, set some goals and start doing something about it.

So, here goes…

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Learning phonics: ‘I’ is for Impatient

Learning phonics BOY WONDER is learning phonics. Hopefully, one day he’ll be able to teach me how it works. In the meantime, I’m doing what I can but sadly I’m showing far too many flashes of impatience.

A few weeks ago, he brought home his first reading book and the Duchess and I went into ‘this is where it starts’ overdrive. Previously, we’d held off, purporting to follow the Scandinavian laissez faire, ‘just let them play until they’re seven’ philosophy. Secretly, we didn’t want to be pushy parents, accused of ‘hothousing’ our poor son and pushing him towards therapy and heroin before his ninth birthday.

However, the moment his teacher handed us the book bag – a bloody book bag! – containing letter tiles and a book – can you believe it! – we went into full-on surrogate teacher mode.

Of course, the Duchess proved far better at it all. She put appropriate words on the stairs, filled in notes in his little school-book to let his proper teachers know how he was getting on. Remembered to ask him to read to her each evening.

Volcanic eruptions

Meanwhile, when it was left to me while she was working her evening shifts, I did my best but perhaps got a little carried away. The first time I drilled him for 20 minutes until he knew the word ‘volcano’. The next evening, I opened his notes expecting to learn the teachers thought he’d probably be off to university aged 12. Instead, they asked me to help him learn the word ‘is’.

The accompanying book, about a woolly mammoth in a pit, playfully repeated and varied the words ‘is’, ‘it’, did’, ‘in’ and ‘into’. There were about 10 pages. By page three or four, I realised I was nurturing a goldfish. Come on, Son, we’ve just done that word on the previous page. You shouldn’t even need to spell it out, you should just remember that one.

Phonics 2But spell it out, he did. Most of the words, on all of the pages. Finally, we limped to the last page, which finished with a simple ‘it’.

‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t…’ he gainfully chanted. I nodded, pinched my fingers, like Lionel Blair on Give Us A Clue, to denote he was practically saying the word. Just shorten the pause there son, you’ll have it and we can pretend this is all going well.

‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t…’ Yes, go on Son, close the deal, land the big fish. ‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t, i-t, i-t… DID!’

DID! Did you say DID? That’s DID, over there on that page? Does this word look like that one?

Thankfully, a few weeks later, thanks to Boy Wonder’s eagerness to learn and the patient support of his Mum and teachers, he’s racing through the books, correcting his mistakes almost overnight and demanding new words on the stairs.

Meanwhile, I’ve scratched ‘teacher’ from my fantasy career change list. I’ve got a lot to learn.