This innocuous question was posed to me twice during a recent week of traveling. The first by an early 30’ish, relatively slender men’s buyer at a retail clothing company where I was presenting our latest men’s button-down shirt collection. During a coffee break in their lounge, he asked me “Freddie, after all this time, how have you managed to stay so thin? What’s your secret?” (I couldn’t help but thinking that what he meant by “after all this time” was “how does an old fuck like you….”)
He was displaying an unusual amount of cocky swagger and it was evident he wasn’t after anything more than a short answer. He clearly wanted to remain the center of attention. I told him my secret was chasing down stray dogs at every opportunity. He wasn’t amused and insisted that I must have a secret or that I was blessed with good genes. I shrugged my shoulders and tried to change the subject. Determined, he went on to say that if he didn’t have his little belly protrusion, which, he claimed, was owed to his Indian heritage, that he would don tight shirts, skip wearing jackets and “really flaunt it.” At least he was honest as he admitted what is part of our culture’s warped perception.
It wasn’t but a couple of days later that a middle-aged man asked me the same thing. While padding his generous girth he wanted to know my secret for maintaining a slimmer gut line.
I didn’t have a satisfactory answer for either one. The truth is, while I may think I have an idea, I have not studied, at least in depth, human biology and physiology. The truth is, I think the topic is fairly complex, with no correct answer, or secret, that fits everyone. There are most likely many secrets. Apart from the obvious factors like not eating junk (and knowing what junk is) and being generally active, logic says that staying on the slim side is a result of a chosen lifestyle, including well-balanced mental health. Regardless, thinness and overall long-term health are mutually exclusive. There are loads of less-than-healthy thin people. But overall health is not the principal goal for many. Thinness is.
My 50-something NYC neighbor has been laser focused on his newly attained physique as he prepares for life post-divorce. His secret, he says, is grunting through 1,000 daily push-ups and kettlebell swings. He also goes through at least 10 packs of zero-calorie sugar substitute every day with his coffee. His dinner drink is diet Pepsi. But he has gotten thin and is happy about it.
We all want to look our best — that’s natural in our “looks” obsessed world. What may not be natural is our conception of “best.” Why would a woman choose to walk around with her heels several inches off the ground, her feet in a distorted position? Because our appearance matters, even at the expense of substance.
If I had a secret to long-term vital health, I would not have had to deal with a nasty health issue a few years ago. As we all know, looks can be deceiving, that’s no secret. But maintaining optimal, vital long-term health? That’s a secret worth knowing.