I have a bike.  It is not a super-lightweight racing machine with slick tyres the thickness of knife-blades. It is a cheap, heavy mountain bike with tyres like a tractor. It has, of course, never been anywhere near a mountain. It has generally been pushed, not ridden, up the gentlest of inclines by its shagged-out rider.  It has never, to my knowledge, borne a thin, lycra-clad athlete. It carries a fat man in jeans. The fat man is me and it is an immutable fact that whatever I may do, I am a fat man doing it.  We are irrevocably conjoined by some weird symbiosis of thought, my weight and I: Colin McQueen/Fat, like Nelson Mandela/Hope, Usain Bolt/Fast, Idris Elba/James Bond, James Blunt/Turn That Bloody Racket Off!  I know I should take more exercise.  I know I should lose some weight.  Every expert on every TV program tells me so.  Every expert on TV makes me feel bad about myself.  I’ve got to be honest; the fact that the government tells me that I need to cut down on sugar, fat and alcohol is unlikely to sway me. This is the same government that tells me the health service is not in crisis, schools are better than ever before and that Brexit really does mean Brexit – whatever it is that Brexit means… 

I have calculated my BMI – 25.6, which means that I am overweight. Now, I put most of this down to my height.  If I was taller I wouldn’t be overweight.  I have considered hanging from a doorway in order to decrease my BMI. Frighteningly, I appear to have actually shrunk by an inch over the last twenty years, although I prefer to think that my tape measure may have stretched.  In fact, I still reach the same point on the garage wall – but I put that down to subsidence.  I eat less than I once did and I exercise more, but I still put on weight.  I don’t believe that any of this can be blamed upon a somnambulant thyroid (although, having said that, like an idiot I have just looked up the symptoms of an under-active thyroid, and I discover that I have them all).  For the time being, until I can get an appointment at the doctor’s (I’m free in March if she is) I am perfectly happy to lay the blame at the door of Messrs. Cake, Gin and Chocolate.  The answer is, I know, to exercise even more and eat even less.  Perhaps if I exercise enough, I won’t have time to eat.  Like most overweight people, I would like to lose a bit.  Like most overweight people, I know that the only way to do so is to ‘do’ more and to consume less.  Like most overweight people, I choose to do neither.  I’m not obscenely fat, but I am of a build that allows me two choices when buying a ‘T’ shirt: something that resembles a Bedouin tent or something that looks like it has been spray-painted onto a lifebuoy. My weight dictates my behaviour: I dare not enter a swimming pool without first checking for Ahab.

You see, I have reached the age when I look at the obituaries and think, “My goodness, that’s no age,” when I used to think “Oh well, he/she had a good innings.”  And I’m tired of hearing about people who were the “healthiest person I have ever met” just one day before they dropped down dead.  I remember reading somewhere that you shouldn’t take up any new form of exercise once you’ve passed 50 years of age.  Problem is, what do you do if your last real exercise was kiss-chase in the school playground?   The real challenge when commencing a new exercise regime at my age is finishing it conscious.  Like some of the medications I now take daily, one of the less desirable side-effects of exercise is death.

My mum couldn’t cook; she could burn water.  Combining the correct quantities of cornflakes and milk in a bowl was, for her, a culinary triumph.  But she loved a diet; the faffier and faddier the better.  Meals that had to be meticulously weighed and prepared really appealed – but not for long.  Unusual ingredients were always a bonus – particularly if she couldn’t find them anywhere.  “I looked everywhere, but nobody had Patagonian cumquats, so I bought a pie.” I remember her doing a diet in which she ate nothing but grapefruit.  Presumably you lose weight because the only thing you are allowed to eat is completely inedible.  One of the true benefits of taking statins is that I no longer even have to contemplate a glass of grapefruit juice with my holiday breakfast.  Scales were pounded weekly, daily, hourly and if there was no loss, exercise might be taken – normally a stroll around the block or, on Fridays, to the chip shop.  For my mum, a diet began on a Monday and ended on a doughnut.

My own approach to dieting is equally haphazard: I try to eat less, I try to drink less and I try to eat only at meal times.  And I eat fruit.  Tons of fruit, which my largely fruitless upbringing led me to believe was good for me, but which the experts now tell me is too high in sugar.  What happened to “an apple a day” and all that? I’m waiting for the for the catchy couscous or bulgar wheat epigrams, but they don’t appear to be forthcoming. No “do’s” only “don’ts”. Can you imagine your mum telling you forty years ago that drinking a litre of green slime a day would be good for you?  The nearest we got to a ‘Supergreen Smoothie’ was a pot of mushy peas.  And yet, as kids, we were all so skinny.  The only child in our class who carried above average ‘timber’ was known as ‘fatty’ for the rest of his life.  He was revered by all because he learned to sweat before the rest of us.  I was like a walking X-Ray: a badly assembled jumble of skin and bone.  I looked like somebody had tried to get me onto a Ryan Air flight as hand luggage by turning me inside out and emptying me.  My grandma, a Manchester woman who did not consider food to be of any value at all unless it “gave you a lining” had a mission in life to “put some meat” on me.  Sadly she didn’t see it, but in the long term, she succeeded…