The VigilanceVoice     

Tuesday... January 29, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 140
The Terrorism Of Fat

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City--I've found Terrorism linked to many things--my most recent discovery is fat cells, those little vestibules inside the body that suck up chunks of concrete and clutch them tenaciously so when you step on the scales the numbers go up and make the waist of your trousers shrink.
            Gravity increases disproportionately with every new fat cell filling up.   An extra pound here or there suddenly feels like ten.   The steps up to the apartment become higher and while the number doesn't change, the effort to climb them does.
            Being overweight Terrorizes the self in many ways.   It creates additional chins you didn't know you had and puffs the eyes so you start to think you're turning into some porcine creature who likes to be the first at the trough and the last to leave.
           You grunt and groan more when you sit or rise and begin to think of yourself as some hirsute bear preparing for hibernation.
           My father, who was short on giving me philoSarahs or insights into life, did leave me with one legacy I shall never forget.   I was in college and  met him for the first time since he left my mother when I was nine months old; he looked at how skinny I was and said, "all veal turns to beef."
           At the time I was six-foot four, and weighed around 175 pounds.  I was a skinny kid, tall and lanky.   I used to lust the guys my size who were thick and solid, being intimidated by my lack of weight and being called "spider legs" and "slim."  Oh, I wished to be "thick."   So when my biological father warned me, "all veal turns to beef," I got excited.  Maybe, just maybe, I might morph into a real man.
          Not too long after that I joined the U.S. Marine Corps and went to Vietnam.   Today, I attribute my coming back alive and unscathed physically from being skinny.  I returned weighing about 160 pounds.   I figure if I was heavier, the Viet Cong might have sighted me in better.   At my current weight of 280 pounds, I would make an easy target for the most novice sniper.    In fact, my Indian friends joking call me, "He Who Blocks The Sun."
         People don't call me fat; they call me "big."   I guess I look more like an overweight linebacker than a fat old slob.   Fortunately, the weight distributes itself relatively evenly over my frame.   The stomach, of course, gets more than its fair share.   And the belt notches expand and the size 42 waist increases with each bite of Ben & Jerry's.
         I'm not sure which has the most power when it comes to being overweight--the idea of being "fat" or the "fear" of dieting.   Sometimes I think it's the "fear of dieting" that dominates my thinking.    There is a sense of helplessness that overwhelms me about giving up the goodies--the ice cream, the chocolate, the mashed potatoes, the delicious carbohydrates that any dieter knows turn into sugar and rush to store themselves in fat cells.
         Fear, Intimidation and Complacency (FIC), the key elements of Terrorism, seem to hold their sword over my head when I think about dieting. Dieting presumes I am going to "give up" the good life, and suffer the pain and anguish necessary to keep myself healthy.  
         I liken myself to the complacent person who sees Terrorism at his or her doorstep, and while wanting to fight it with Courage, Conviction and Action, likes the complacency of the routines of his or her life, and may give the idea lip service, but is not eager to take the Pledge of Vigilance and work daily at keeping Terrorism's cancer at bay.   It takes too much work.
        Dieting is like that.    I'm an Atkins Guy--and to diet I have to extricate carbohydrates from my intake.    That means I have to stop and think before I eat.  I have to deprive myself of those delicious pancakes, and mouth-watering spoonfuls of Ben & Jerry, and turn my head as I walk past Two Boots Pizza so I won't be lured by the sirens of a "Newman" or "Double Pepperoni Sicilian."
        And, worse of all, I have to drink lots of precious, life-giving water.   I'm a writer.  I smoke and drink coffee; habits I have developed and routinized for years.   Water, I realize, flushes the fat cells out.   It creates a flood of good inside the body, swirling out the swamps of waste.   It is vital to any diet, or any sense of good health.  But as a Complacent, a person who ignores the "right things" and pushes the envelope through laziness, I refute water.   I think of it as being weak, wimpish fluid.  It's not "he-man" to drink something colorless and relatively tasteless.  
      But I have to.  And as I drink water, I want more of it.   And it seems such a waste to pound water when I could be drinking Sprite or coffee, or a Starbucks double mocha, and chewing on a delicious muffin.
       Terrorism of changing one's ways assaults me.   It forces me into a state of confusion and a mindset that says: "I have to live my life worrying about a stupid carbohydrate...?"   Dieting upsets my daily balance, reverses my sense of being in a rut--being comfortable--and forces me to think of things I don't want to think about--diabetes, heart attacks, trousers in size 46, and the inability to want to move from one spot.
       Fighting Terrorism is like dieting, I think.  It requires us to change our habits, to get out of the rut, to think about the "worst cases" if we don't.   What will motivate a person to take the Pledge Of Vigilance and continue to follow its principles day after day after day?   If we don't have a September 11th again, and we think it's over, will we go back to our ways of living prior to that event?   Will we fall back into the customs of living where we put Terrorism on the sidelines and let Complacency own us?
       I do that all the time with my food intake.   I go on crash diets to lose weight, and when I've achieved my goal, I just let up.    I don't think about my weight coming back.  I don't think about the attacks on my fat cells as I climb back up the weight ladder and my knees begin to ache, and my trousers get tighter, and my energy starts to dissipate from carrying the extra pounds.   Then, when I reach my "waist limit"--i.e.., the point where I refuse to enter a "new size"--I rush to the Atkins bars (not a place to drink, but simulated candy that have no carbs), and pound the water, and starve myself of carbohydrates.
       Perhaps, I think, I need to design a Terrorism Diet.   In it, maybe we cut down on our Complacency just a little here, and a little there.   Also, we lead groups talking about Intimidation, how we look for the government to protect us and our children, and abdicate the right to defend ourselves through our taxes, and expectations that "someone else" is watching out for us.    And "Fear," the great hidden haunting element of Terrorism, it is the carbohydrate that dominates us.    Fear transforms into that sense of being powerless, that we can't do anything to stave off Terrorism so why try.   Instead, we hide our heads, as we do to our dieting, pretending it will go away.
       But it doesn't.   Each day we awake and look in the mirror and don't like ourselves or our life or what we "don't have," or "wished we had," Fear gnaws at us.  Terrorism of the self grows its fat cells.  One day, if gone unchecked, we find our lives a wasteland, our discontent for ourselves and those around us intolerable.   
      I find myself focusing more on the Terrorism of the self than I do that of bin Laden, or the physical attacks from without.  I become more concerned about the Terrorism I create inside my own mind about how I feel toward life, toward this day, this moment of life.
     Dieting from Terrorism means I need to address the Terroristic thoughts that life is oppressive and I'm a slave to it, and wash them from my mind as I do the fat cells when I drink water.
      I need to turn those thoughts of self-Fear, self-Intimidation and self-Complacency into thoughts of Courage, Conviction and Action.   I need to not let the Terror of life grow inside me, turn me into a grump wishing my life was different, and see the beauty that surrounds me.
     But that's not easy.    To take a breath and thank the Heavens you're alive another day requires an appreciation of life itself.   If I have convinced myself life sucks, or my life sucks, shifting that viewpoint may be like Sisyphus trying to roll the rock up the mountain.  
     Finding the good in everything that happens to me, or the message of growth, requires even greater effort.    When I have become accustomed to being a victim in life, to be "just another grain of sand on the beach everyone steps on or over," it seems virtually impossible to see myself as a rock of courage, a beach of conviction, and a man or woman of action.
        Yet, if I am to change who I am, I must change my thinking.   My actions are the result of my thoughts.  If I think less of myself, I will act in lesser degrees toward myself and others.   I am my thoughts. 
        So as I physically diet to remove from my body the fat cells that hang heavy within me, I also am going to undertake a Terroristic Diet.  I'm going to take time the time to think through my thoughts, as I think through what I'm going to eat.   If I find in a thought about myself something that depreciates myself or another, I'm going to try and flush it out of my body of thoughts by finding some value in myself or another than can counter the "bad thought."  Maybe it's just their shoes or the color of their hair, I don't care.  I'm going to try to shift my viewpoint on everything.
         Terrorism, like carbohydrates, is insidious when left unchecked.  It can take a vibrant, happy human being and turn them into a grumpy, unhappy slug.   I know.  I've been there.   Discontent is another word for Terrorism, for it means one is trapped in a world they feel there is no escape from except perhaps by eating or drinking or just giving up.
         The attacks of September 11 gave us a foundation for looking at our fears, our intimidations and our complacencies.   If we are wise, we'll diet both physically and emotionally. 
         I'm gong to try both.  Wish me luck.


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