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Monday 22 September 2014

Brendan O'Connor: The silver bullet for weight loss is simple ...

Mid-life Crisis

Published 25/11/2013 | 01:00

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EVEN at my great age, you still do things to try and impress the birds. So last Sunday I headed down to Cork to turn on the Christmas lights on "Pana", mainly to impress my mother and the two kids.

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I felt it was an important step in reassuring my mother that all is not lost and that I do have some class of a proper job. And I thought the kids would be impressed at my being up on a stage with Santa.

Of course, smart Dublin wags all made the same joke when I said I was going to Cork to turn on the lights. "Are they finally getting electricity in Cork?" We like that though in Cork. We like to be underestimated. Because it makes it all the sweeter when people eventually realise how superior we are to them.

The atmosphere was electric on Patrick's Street. I felt naked without a McCarthy cup for the 15,000 people who turned up (5,000 turned up last year, seeing as you ask), though it was all slightly ruined by the fact that the five-year-old couldn't even get near enough to see or hear. A happy meal from McDonald's seemed to help her to move on but I will be scarred forever by her little tears after missing it all.

Of course, I could barely get up to the stage myself. And as I did try and move through the crowd I got the usual – women of a certain age wanting to know how I lost the weight. I thought we'd been through this already, but evidently not. People still want to hear one thing. One silver bullet. And they get angry when there isn't one. They get angry when I tell them I'm not sure but I think it's to do with eating less and moving more.

If there is one silver bullet it is perhaps the fact that I finally found some form of exercise that didn't bore me too much. I notice that swimming is the last refuge of the boozer. A woman who wrote a book recently about the great American boozy writers like F Scott Fitzgerald and co noted that they all liked a swim too, something to do, maybe, with drowning in all that liquid, in finding some kind of oblivion. Because while we imagine that these men drank because they were social, their boozing was clearly a form of introspection and of cutting themselves off from real connection with the world too. So swimming is the closest thing to boozing in exercise form.

And it's a bit like boozing alone. I am not a good swimmer – and I will never be at this stage, I suspect. But I keep at it, and it provides some kind of cornerstone to my day. Whatever is going on out there disappears for a while as you give in to the basic struggle to stay afloat, to breathe and to keep moving forward.

And all the while, effortlessly, articles get half-written, grief and sadness get processed, anger gets resolved and the increasing toxicity of life in the middle ages gets washed away so you can face another day of the struggle. A dip in the pool is like a dip in the unconscious, as all kinds of stuff bubbles up and you effortlessly pop it.

And then you eat a bit better. You have the energy to walk to work. You are not dragging around a corpse with you for the day but are in some way connected with your body. Dare I say it, you maybe even respect it a little bit more?

Good habits beget other good habits. But we should never take them for granted either.

I went three days without swimming between turning on lights and whatnot, and it was hard to get back in. I ate a load of comforting wintry crap and it became easier each day to let go. So what is the silver bullet? Habits. And they are easier to lose than to build, so mind them when you get them.

Sunday Independent

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