Friday 28 October 2016

It seems that we must avoid death at all costs

Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30

Brendan O’Connor
Brendan O’Connor

I have become squeamish around illness. My first instinct on everything is that it is something really bad. Bad is cancer, heart, brain. The serious ones. With everything now, from gum pain to digestive matters, the first thing I want to know is that it's not, as they say, sinister. I feel reckless even writing about it. Superstitious. Isn't this the kind of thing that comes back and bites you in the ass?

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It's not that I'm actually a hypochondriac. I rarely go to the doctor and I am ignoring plenty of things I probably should get looked at. But like many people, I have this notion that cancer is there waiting to get us all.

It is slowly dawning on me that I will die. It hasn't fully sunk in yet. I mean, logically I accept that I will die, but it won't be for ages yet, will it? I still have loads of various phases. I better have, because otherwise why I am forgoing all this pleasure and focusing on paying off all these debts?

Men react in different ways to the middle-aged realisation that death is actually a real thing, not an accident that happens to some unlucky people. When you are young, death is a freak occurrence, the exception rather than the rule. As you get older, death become the norm. Some men process this by deciding to live to the max. Some of them do an alleged Brad Pitt, and start partying. But for most middle-aged men these days, living to the max is about triathlons and cycling up hills and whatnot. I'm not up for that. That's not avoiding death. That's inviting it. When it comes to that kind of thing, I have decided to take as my inspiration the odd example of a middle-aged guy who gets a stroke from exercising too hard.

But the weight thing is becoming problematic again. I'm finding it very easy to put on, and not so easy to get rid of now. Then again, I suppose you have to actually try to get rid of it. It's not going to just magically go away, is it? I asked around for tips. A guy I know who lost three stone told me he burns up 5,000 calories on a cycle.

Now I don't know if I told you this, but I've been cycling to work. Well, not all the way. I have to walk first to get to the Dublin Bike stand, and then I cycle. Given that I usually have a swim before this, I'm pretty much doing a mini-ironman before I go to work. So I decided to time the cycle this morning to see how many calories I'm burning. I knew it wasn't a long cycle but I figured it gets the blood up and it's probably longer than I think. So I timed it. It's eight minutes. The average calories burnt cycling is 650 per hour. So I am burning 85 to 90 calories on the cycle. The walk is shorter now due to the cycle, so it turns out that on the 15 minute walk to the bike stand I am burning about 45 calories. And a half-hour swim is about 200. So my total exercise regime is burning roughly 330 calories. Which is less than two pints. So I think it's fair to say that if we plot my exercise against my drinking, it's no wonder I'm gaining weight. And that's before we put the food into the equation.

There's a part of me that doesn't care. There's a part of me just wants to enjoy my life and let the weight creep on organically as I mature. There's a part of me wants to wear loose clothes and flop around. In a previous generation I would have been allowed go to seed at this point. But then again, in a previous generation I would have been dead or much closer to death. And death, as we all know, is now something to be avoided at all costs for as long as possible. That is the new definition of success.

So I guess I'll read Michael Mosley's guide and work on losing a stone.

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