Of all the punishments that lockdown has visited upon us, the expansion of my waistline is the most instantly visible. Going from a 34-inch waist to – at the very least – a 36, has resulted in more than a few concerns.
There are all the obvious health concerns, of course, but, more pressingly for me, when normal life finally resumes, I would rather not emerge looking like a sallow-skinned balloon animal version of my former self. My fiancée and I both used to go to the gym three to four times a week. Personally, I have always loathed working out – it’s painful, largely meaningless and takes up an astonishing amount of time. I used to look at the stats on my gym membership profile and say to myself: “Eight hours this week. I’m spending months of my life every year on a treadmill. Literally going nowhere.”
And so, secretly, I have been a little bit pleased with the excuse to sit back, stuff down profiteroles and watch “Little Fires Everywhere”. But, undoubtedly, we now look at one another and fancy each other just a little bit less. I don’t blame her: my stomach is making a break for freedom over the top of my trousers, like an old lag scaling the wall around Wormwood Scrubs.
It’s not attractive. It’s not “charming” or “cuddly”; it’s just a bit unwelcome.
And we can say all we like about appearances not mattering; that beauty is only skin deep, that it’s what is on the inside that counts (anyone who says that has never stood through a thoracic surgical operation; what’s on the inside would turn anyone off permanently) – but who are we kidding? For the vast majority of us, looks do matter.
If we are not physically attracted to the other one, we might as well be roommates. My fiancée and I don’t say anything to each other about it, of course, but secretly I feel we are both casting glances at each other’s midriff and thinking: “I wonder when that’s going to depart. I hope it’s soon.” And then we glance at our own reflections in the oven door and think: “Probably about the same time as that one.”
We have therefore started to do something about it. Long runs across Hampstead Heath feel almost like a holiday with the added benefit of arguing over which direction will take us home, rather than to a nest of muggers. This is despite the fact that in Hampstead, you will only get mugged if you have bought the last can of Elephant’s Breath from the Farrow & Ball shop.
Last week, our neighbors texted us. “Have you let a herd of elephants loose in your flat?” they asked. No, we were doing a Les Mills at Home step class. Since you ask, the experience can be summed up thusly: if being screamed at by a blonde Australian to go faster wasn’t shaming enough in a gym environment, why not add to the humiliation by subjecting yourself to it in front of your beloved? But throwing shade on the exercise program is the new dietary regime.
My fiancée has decreed that we have to collectively lose two stone to get back to normal. And that is going to come out of our food rations. I can object as much as I like, it seems, but the calories are being counted. One course only, and it’s not pudding. This is what really hurts. I miss the chocolate and I miss the ice cream and cake. But most of all, I miss the devil-may-care self-determination of it all.
Yes, we are supposed to be making decisions together, blah blah blah, but still, at the end of the day, I want to eat KitKats and not be made to feel guilty about it, damn it. But until the lockdown love handles have been lost, that remains a forlorn hope.