The Cleanse

Still losing weight! The Somae Health program is kicking my butt, but it’s working better than I expected it would.

So with Phase Once complete, it was time to move into Phase Two, which is a lot like Phase One, except with fewer calories. But prior to fewer calories, it was time for essentially, well, no calories. The transition from Phase One to Phase Two includes – THE CLEANSE.

Basically, a cleanse is a two-day non-religious fast where you can drink all the water you want, along with a wild concoction consisting of water, freshly squeezed lemons and limes, and grade B maple syrup, with just a dash of cayenne pepper thrown in. It sounds nasty, and it tastes… well, it tastes OK, actually. Sort of a rugged lemonade with a kick. You’re not supposed to add all the cayenne pepper at once, because you prepare a gallon of the stuff the night before, and cayenne gets hotter the longer it sits in water. So I mixed up a gallon, poured it into 12-ounce water bottles, and dropped in a dash of pepper before consumption took place.

The next two days did not allow me to separate myself from the food-eating public. My kids were in a huge group piano recital at the mall, and their piano teacher had bamboozled me into playing the role of “The Phantom,” a generically evil guy who would do dastardly deeds while a horde of prepubescent pianists accompanied me with a song by the same name.

I didn’t want to play The Phantom. In the first place, it was stupid. In the second place, it was very stupid. I grumbled and mumbled and made excuses, but she cornered me the day before, and when asked point blank, I found I couldn’t say no.

“Oh, that’s terrific!” she said. “Let me
make it up to you – dinner anywhere, on me.”

When your only dinner is cayenne lemonade, that’s not the most exciting offer in the world.

So, anyway, I phantomed, a process which involved me peeking around pianos and making goofy aces while dressed in black pants, a black turtleneck, a black wool trenchcoat, and black sunglasses.

The black pants were skinny pants that I hadn’t been able to squeeze into for several years. I should have given them away, but there they were, ready and willing to accommodate a phantom. My neck size has also shrunk an inch and a half, which allowed me to squeeze through the tight turtleneck without feeling like a cow. All in all, if the choice was between food and fat clothes and phantoming in skinny clothes, I liked my options.

(I should note that I took liberties with the costume. She wanted to put a kid’s Dracula cape on me and paint my face. I preferred the phantom-as-mugger look that wouldn’t require makeup remover.)

My parents came to the recital, ad my mother, the diet and fitness guru that she is, couldn’t stop congratulating me on how skinny I looked. She was also impressed that as he took my kids to lunch at the food court, where they gorged themselves on Panda Express and some mustard-covered bunned beef thing, I sat and ate nothing, dutifully sipping my pepper juice. That night, they took the kids to Sweet Tomatoes, an all-you-can-eat soup and salad place, and, again, I came armed with the drink that cleanses. I kept offering sips to my kids and my brother’s kids, who joined us at the restaurant.

“Do you know what that looks like?” my nephew asked.

“Yes, but it doesn’t taste like that,” I replied.

They weren’t convinced. I took another sip, and they buried their heads in all-you-can-eat frozen yogurt. Only my lovely bride was brave enough to sip from my cup, but she wasn’t willing to do it unless I avoided adding pepper.

Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me much. I was proud of myself for not cheating on the program, and while I was a little light-headed, I wasn’t insanely hungry.
I lost five pounds in two days.

But then came Phase Two…

(To be continued…)

Retrek

All right, at the outset, know that there will be spoilers. Not little spoilers, mind you, but big, freakin’ Luke-I-am-your-father-Rosebud-was-a-sled-it-was-Earth-all-along-damn-you-all-to-hell spoilers. In fact, I’m going to post a spoiler picture, so watch out for that, too. The point is that if you haven’t seen “Star Trek Into Darkness” and you want to see it without knowing what happens, you’ve probably read too much already. Look away! Be gone with you! Abandon all hope, or whatever. Seriously, why are you still reading this?

All right. So. “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

On Facebook, I posted the following mini-review: “Star Trek. Kids loved it. It made me mad.”

I received several replies, including one very common-sense question: “Did you go actually believing you would like it?”

That’s a hard question to answer. Yes, I’m something of a Trek purist, but I thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 reboot, although My Esteemed Colleague, the purest of purists, did not. (More on him later.) I even wrote a column for the Deseret News scolding purists for their unwillingness to embrace the new Trek incarnation, thereby preemptively defending a movie I hadn’t seen. I had also wrote multiple posts outlining the reasons that Cumberbatch was going to be Gary Mitchell, not Kahn. Allow me to quote me:

Again, Khan makes no sense. Not an inside Starfleet guy; no reason for vengeance on Kirk in this continuity, and repeated, emphatic denials from everyone involved with the movie that Cumberbatch isn’t Khan.
– Stallion Cornell, “It’s Gary Mitchell,” December 6, 2012

Those emphatic denials left no wriggle room or gray areas. “It’s not Khan,” insisted Simon “Scotty” Pegg. “That’s a myth. Everyone’s saying it is, but it’s not.”

Oh, wait. Yes, it is. We lied.

See? Spoiler pic there.

I don’t like being lied to, but all’s fair in love and movie promotion, I guess. And the fact that they chose Khan as the baddie isn’t, on its face, a crime against nature. To borrow from Nicholas Meyer, who directed Khan’s last big screen outing, it’s not whether or not you use him; it’s whether you use him well.

Khan is utterly wasted in this movie.

That’s true whatever else you may think about the film. Khan isn’t really the bad guy; Admiral Marcus is – although we’ve seen his type before, too. He’s a Federation version of Christopher Plummer’s Klingon warmonger in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” Khan’s beef with Marcus is justified, and he ends up joining forces with Kirk, which, given the plot, makes all the sense in the world.

Then something stupid happens. It’s not the first time something stupid happens in this movie, and it’s certainly not the last.

When NuSpock phones up Leonard Nimoy for no particular reason, that sent up a red flag that the movie was about to go off the rails. He skypes old Spock in the middle of the confrontation with Marcus to ask about… Khan. Khan, who is currently on their side; Khan, who is ancillary to the dilemma they now face; Khan, who wants to bump off Admiral Marcus even more than they do. How about “Did you know an Admiral Marcus? Was he a power-mad loon?” No, the script has to feature Khan, because, well, he’s Khan, and we’ve wasted him up until now.

And what does Nimoy say? “Oh, Khan! He’s bad! Very, very bad! The baddest guy we ever faced.” (Which is not true, by the way, but I’ll let it slide. I can only get overheated over one thing at a time.)

So then the movie proceeds to fulfill its own lame prophecy, and Khan, who gets possession of the most powerful starship ever built, proceeds to blow the Enterprise out of the water because… well, he’s Khan! KHAAAAN! EEEEEEEEvil Khan! Remember what Grandpa Spock just said? Khan’s just so enormously bad, with a deep streak of incurable badness! He doesn’t want to escape in his trans-warp supership and go wreak havoc somewhere, no! He just wants to beat up on Kirk, because, well, that’s what Khans do.

And therein is the problem. This Khan should have absolutely no beef with Kirk. Which is why this movie falls woefully short of the film it’s so desperately trying to emulate. “The Wrath of Khan” was a masterpiece largely because it drew on fifteen years of history, on relationships between characters and fans that spanned two decades, and a long-simmering grudge ripe for an epic revenge.

This movie has none of those things. So what does it do? It tries to borrow “Wrath of Khan’s” gravitas and pass it off as its own.

Which brings us to… the scene. You know the one I’m talking about.

Up until Kirk’s “death,” I was having a rather pleasant night at the movies. There’s no denying that this was a well-constructed piece of entertainment, and I confess that I very much enjoy the cast, who have made these roles their own. Chris Pine is a bonafide movie star, and he carries the film effortlessly. Scotty had more to do, which was a welcome addition. I was disappointed that Bones was sidelined for much of the action, as he was the best thing about the first movie. But now, I even like Zachary Quinto, who bothered me in the first film, primarily because he was a tenor and Nimoy is a baritone, and I didn’t buy that he could be a younger version of the old Spock. But there was less older Spock to compare him to, which allowed me to accept him on his own terms. I thought he acquitted himself well, even as he was repeatedly forced to erode the integrity of the character of Spock. (More on that later, too.)

But once they got to Kirk taking the Spock side of the glass door in an overdramatic death scene, I got bugged. Then I got angry. And the movie lost me completely, never to get me back again.

Here’s the problem. Thematically, “The Wrath of Khan” is, above all else, a thoughtful meditation on aging and death. Kirk has made it to middle age without ever face his own mortality, and he’s prided himself on his ability to cheat the Grim Reaper at every turn. When Spock dies, Kirk is forced to confront death in the most unsettling and disturbing way possible, watching his longtime friend expire right in front of him. The scene works on its own merits, but it has tremendous power born from the characters’ relationships with both the audience and each other.

By way of contrast, “ST Into Darkness” is thematically barren. It’s not a meditation on anything; it’s a loud, brash popcorn flick. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with loud, brash popcorn flicks. “Iron Man 3” was awesome. (More on that in another post.) In addition, the characters don’t have Shatner and Nimoy’s decades of association to draw upon, and the audience isn’t nearly as invested in them as they were in the old guys. So when they decide to drop a lead weight of bathos into what has, up until then, been a fluffy piece of cinema cotton candy, it’s clumsy and labored.

And then the stupidest thing possible happens: Spock, who has just bawled his eyes out and demonstrated no ability to contain his emotions, yells “KHAAAAAAAAAN!”

It made me laugh. Even worse, it was designed to make me laugh. How could it not be? Shatner’s “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN” shout is now an iconic element of almost every Kirk parody ever performed. This was a callback to something that’s become a joke. Who undercuts the dramatic tension of its most “poignant” moment with a punchline? Someone who sorely misjudged the nature of these characters, that’s who.

It reminded me of the terrible moment (amid a sea of terrible moments) in Shatner’s execrable “Star Trek V” where they come face to face with God Himself, who then asks to borrow the Enterprise, to which Kirk then asks, “What need does God have of a starship?” And the audience laughs, because they recognize the fundamental absurdity of everything they’ve watched until now. Seeing Spock’s Khan shoutout was the last straw. After that, the movie had abandoned all pretense to integrity. There was no longer anything worth caring about.

Once the roof caved in, I found myself questioning all the moments I had previously enjoyed. Yes, it’s exciting and fun, but think about how absurd the opening of the movie is. They don’t want to lift the Enterprise out of the water because the locals will see it, right? Well, wouldn’t they have seen it when it went under the water in the first place? Kind of a big ship, isn’t it? And why did it have to go under water? We can beam things to any spot on the surface from orbit, can’t we? They may have made up some hooey about the volcano offering interference or something, but they undermined that when they beamed Spock out of harm’s way. And, really, why did Spock have to be down there at all? Why not just drop the cold fusion bomb and let it blow up on its own?

Hey, if you really do need a guy there for some reason, why not use Harrison Khan’s ridiculously powerful portable “trans-warp” device which can zip you from downtown London to downtown Kronos in the blink of an eye? And when they discover that device, why not trans-warp beam a handful of Starfleet SEALS to Khan’s location, slit his throat, and then beam them back?

Why is Khan on Kronos, anyway? Sure, it’s convenient for Marcus, who wants to start a war, but isn’t Marcus Khan’s sworn enemy? Why would he accommodate him with a hideout that plays directly into his agenda, other than, you know, lazy writing?

And then there’s Kirk’s resurrection via Khan blood. McCoy even removes one of Khan’s crew to put Kirk in a cryotube. Doesn’t that guy from the tube have genetically enhanced superblood, too? Yes. Don’t they know that? Yes. Do they ignore it for no logical reason and go after Khan in an overwrought chase sequence instead? Why, yes, they do, in fact!

To be fair, these plot holes are much smaller than the first film’s were. But I don’t mind plot holes as long as the thing can still hang together as a cohesive whole. This movie couldn’t accomplish that. It tries to be all things to all people, and it hurled me out of the moment with its clumsy callback to a film it admires but doesn’t understand. It’s sad, really – we only get new Star Trek every few years, and it seems such a waste to use one of those outings to retread what has gone before.

My Esteemed Colleague refuses to see it, and he insists that it will ruin Trek for generations. He may be right; my kids loved the thing, and they think I’m just a geek with no life for feeling differently. But I don’t think this is the Trek death blow. As I said, the cast works, and, given a decent story, they can get this franchise back on track. The movie ends precisely where the series begins, with the onset of their five year exploration mission. Maybe next time they’ll get it right.

Because they didn’t get it right this time.

Marriage Advice

So a family member is officiating at mixed-faith wedding. He put together pieces of advice he had foraged from various sources and asked me to compile it into counsel he could give at the wedding. So I did. And I quite like it, so I’m going to post it here.

A few bits of trivia – the silverware story comes from a talk by F. Burton Howard, which can be seen and read here. I’ve edited it and paraphrased somewhat liberally, as I didn’t intend to publish it. I don’t think I’ve altered the narrative much, but I’ve probably broken some journalistic rules by altering the text slightly, as I intended this only to be spoken, not published.

The young physical therapist referenced in the story is none other than my own lovely wife, the bright and beautiful Mrs. Cornell.

And the church leader mentioned later is David O. McKay, my great-grandfather and the ninth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So here it is. Imagine a pastor/rabbi/priest/bishop saying this to you as you tie the knot.
______________

There’s an old saying that a man’s life isn’t complete until he gets married, but once he’s married, he’s finished. That’s good for a laugh, but it’s just not true.

In the first place, married life is far more fulfilling than single life could ever be. But more importantly, marriage doesn’t finish anything. It’s the beginning of a journey together that will require all that you have and give back more joy than you can now imagine. But don’t kid yourself – marriage takes work.

One man compared his marriage to the precious silverware his wife had been collecting since their wedding. I want to share part of his story in his own words.

Here’s what he said:

“As is common today, when we married my wife registered with a local department store. Instead of listing all the pots and pans and appliances we needed and hoped to receive, she asked only for silverware. But when we opened the presents, there wasn’t a knife or fork in the lot.

“Two children came along while we were in law school. We had no money to spare. But when my wife worked as a part-time election judge or when someone gave her a few dollars for her birthday, she would quietly set it aside, and when she had enough she would go to town to buy a fork or a spoon. It took us several years to accumulate enough pieces to use them.

“This lead to many discussions at dinner as to which utensils to use. In those early days I would often vote for the stainless. It was easier. You could just throw it in the dishwasher after the meal, and it took care of itself. The silver, on the other hand, was a lot of work. It had to be hand washed and dried so that it would not spot, and put back in cloth pockets so it would not tarnish. If any tarnish was discovered, I was sent to buy silver polish, and together we carefully rubbed the stains away.

“Over the years we added to the set, and I watched with amazement how she cared for the silver. My wife was never one to get angry easily. However, I remember the day when one of our children somehow got hold of one of the silver forks and wanted to use it to dig up the backyard. That attempt was met with a fiery glare and a warning not to even think about it. Ever!

“For years I thought she was just a little bit eccentric, and then one day I realized that she had known for a long time something that I was just beginning to understand. If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by. Marriage is just like that.”

A family member had a conversation with a 95-year-old man that put all this in perspective. Very early in her career and in her marriage, she was working as a physical therapist, and her elderly patient asked her if she had a husband. She told him she did. “Well, don’t you ever get divorced,” he said to her. “Remember, someone else will bug you just as much.”

That’s not a romantic thought, but it’s a practical one. It’s like what the wise man said: “Before marriage keep your eyes wide open. After marriage, keep them half closed.” Sharing a life with somebody creates opportunities for emotional intimacy that can’t be found in any other way. At the same time, it requires patience and a good deal of compromise. It can become far too easy to criticize or find fault with your spouse. Once you start down that road, it becomes very difficult to find your way back.

Even small things in marriages can become big problems if couples get complacent. It’s not hard to let practical, day-to-day concerns smother the romantic spark that was there in the early days. When things get hard, some couples start to mutter things like, “Well, the honeymoon is over.” The honeymoon doesn’t have to be over. It should never be over. But if you lose your way, and the honeymoon really is over, it can be rebooted. Just know that all of this requires commitment and effort.

A church leader at his own wedding anniversary referred to his marriage as 65 years of “wedded courtship.”

“Let us ever remember that love is the divinest attribute of the human soul,” he said. “Love must be fed. Love must be nourished; love can be starved to death just as literally as the body can be starved without daily sustenance. Enticing voices will speak to us of worldly achievements and acquisitions that may lead us on dangerous detours from which we can return only with great effort. Small, seemingly insignificant choices along the way will have large consequences that will determine our eventual destiny. Giving ourselves to one another in an eternal marriage is an unconditional giving of the whole person for the whole journey.”

That’s the key. You’re in this together, and nothing should tear you apart. Nothing else matters more. As distractions come your way, and they will come in forms large and small, you might be tempted to forget that. The same church leader once famously said that “no success can compensate for failure in the home.” Nothing you have done, and nothing you will ever do, will be as important as strengthening that unconditional, unwavering love that binds you together.

What you do today has profound consequences that you can only begin to understand. It has been said that marriage is ordained of God. I believe that is true. I also believe that through marriage, you begin to understand God’s purposes for you in ways that you never thought possible. God loves each of us with a purity and power beyond our comprehension. We get a taste of that love when, through marriage, we devote ourselves completely to someone else, when their life is more important to us than our own, and when the sole object of our lives is to make another person happy, no matter what price we must pay ourselves to make that happen. That’s the kind of love God has for you, and the kind of love you need to have for each other.

So don’t ever be satisfied with a mediocre marriage. Don’t ever let it settle into a domestic routine where you take each other for granted. Marriage isn’t a business partnership; it is a union of souls. On this beautiful day, as you two beautiful people see with clarity the power and purity of your love for one another, remember that this is only a glimpse of the deep joy that awaits you as you build your lives together.

Phase One

So the Somae Health plan works in phases. Phase One begins with three servings of fruits and three of vegetables – 1.5 cups per serving -and three servings of lean meat per day – either 4 oz. of fish/chicken/beef, or 2 eggs. You eat about twenty raw nuts, and you take some multivitamins and digestive enzymes, along with some probiotics. You only get one serving of grain, which consists of a single piece of unbuttered whole grain bread. You can drink herbal tea sweetened with Stevia, and boom! That’s your meal plan.

This frightened me.

My custom was to eat all day long – when I was hungry, when I was bored, when I was watching TV, when I was reading a book, when I was inhaling or exhaling. I wasn’t necessarily big on meals, but a steady stream of chips and salsa makes the day go faster.

I also didn’t realize how many personal rituals I had built around food. Wednesday, you may or may not realize, is the day new comic books are released. I read far fewer than I used to back in the day, but there’s something extraordinarily satisfying about getting the latest issue of Action Comics and perusing Superman’s latest exploits while chowing down on a combo meal at the fast food franchise of your choice.

That’s not to mention the things normal people do, like, you know, go out to dinner with family and friends. “Waiter, I’d like precisely four ounces of unsalted, grilled meat and 1.5 cups of unseasoned steamed broccoli, please.” I mean, what’s the point?

So I started phase one with trepidation, but I dutifully complied. And the first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t hungry. The piece of toast, apple, and two hard-boiled eggs I ate for breakfast constituted a larger morning meal than I usually ate, and it was more than enough to get me to my 10:00 AM morning snack, which was a handful of nuts and another serving of fruit. That got me to noon’s lunch of fish and tomatoes, and I found I was satiated all day long.

Keep in mind, this happened on the first day.

I was somewhat tempted by the sights and smells of more decadent foods, especially the open bag of tortilla chips that my daughter regularly leaves on the kitchen table. But the temptation was about a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, which is considerably lower than how tempted I am to yell at the television any time some cable news talking head says something stupid. I can handle a 4.

As the days wore on, even those temptations faded. I was able to cook for my kids and handle tasty foods without partaking, and I could synchronize my meals with the fam and sit down to dinner with them. When my lovely bride told me my grilled salmon and steamed brussel sprouts looked better than what the rest of the family was eating, I knew I was on to something.

This program includes the support of a live mentor, who steered me in the right direction when I went astray. (I ate pork once. Not kosher.) I journal what I eat on the Somae website, and she can review what I’m eating and provide encouragement, support, and suggestions for different food choices. She introduced me to the wonders of Stevia, an all-natural zero calorie sweetener that makes my daily herbal tea break the highlight of my evening. I have an official check-in with her every Monday at 1:30, which provides support and keeps me accountable.

I also get daily phone calls from an automated phone coach that gives me an extra nudge in the right direction.

Bottom line: it’s been less than two weeks, and I’ve already lost 15 pounds.

Phase 2 starts on Monday…

And So It Begins…

On a Sunday night, as I contemplated a new life free of the burden of eating whatever I wanted to eat, I recalled the words of my mother on the occasion of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary at the end of last year.

All the family had gathered at the downtown Marriott Hotel in Salt Lake City to honor our folks, and some of that time was spent in the pool and the hot tub. It was my appearance in a swimsuit that prompted her to tell me I could stand to lose a few pounds.

“Come on, Mom,” I shot back. “It’s not like I’m morbidly obese.”

She frowned. “Yes, you are.”

Well, no, I’m not. Not in technical terms, anyway. Morbid obesity is defined as being 50% – 100% above your ideal body weight, being 100 pounds overweight, or having a Body/Mass Index (BMI) of 39 or higher. For my part, I’m nowhere near that 50-100% threshold, I’m only 30 pounds above my ideal healthy weight, and, being 6′ 4″ and weighing 230 pounds, I have a BMI of 28, which qualifies me as being officially “overweight,” not obese.

So there. Not that it matters. I’d rather be at my target weight, thanks. But in wanting to prove my mother wrong, I’ve added a “revenge” component to my weight loss quest.

So how am I going to do it?

Well, Somae Health claims that their clients lose, on average, 5-7 pounds per week for the first three weeks or so, slowing down to drop 30-40 pounds over a twelve-week period. That works for me, assuming I can keep the weight off at the end of that. They way to achieve this is through eating “whole” foods, which is a concept I didn’t initially understand. After all, I’ve eaten whole cheeseburgers by the dozens, so why shouldn’t those count? But, no, a “whole” food is a food that is a food unto itself without extra ingredients. An Oreo, for instance, consists of SUGAR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), VANILLIN – AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY.

Compare that with, say, a banana, which consists of – well, a banana. It’s a whole food. Whole foods are easier to digest and are generally better for you. So I’m supposed to stick to those.

Of course, some whole foods are better than others. A steady diet of potatoes, for instance, isn’t considered the right way to go. And, in this first phase, I’m steering clear of dairy. I get to eat three servings of protein – in 4 oz. lean meats – along with three servings of fruits, three servings of vegetables, one serving of grain that takes the form of a single piece of whole grain toast, and a handful of nuts. I get to drink water, and lots of it, along with a shot of apple cider vinegar every morning. (Yuck.) And I also take a Somae multivitamin and digestive enzymes with every meal, along with probiotics before I go to bed.

Oooh boy.

So the night before I begin, I chow down on two hot dogs (with mustard-slathered buns), a couple diet Cokes – ’cause, you know, I want to watch my calories – and several handfuls of potato chips, topped up with a big slice of cake. Not to be blasphemous, but it was my own personal Last Supper, if you know what I mean.

The next morning, I pay for it with my first official weigh in – 231.5 pounds, 1.5 pounds more than I had weighed the day before.

Yikes.

Can I do this? Will it work? These are the questions I ask myself as I swig back a nice helping of apple cider vinegar and choke it down.

I’ll let both you and Mom know.

I Need to Lose Weight

Let me share with you my personal incentive to lose thirty pounds.

I was part of a church performance called “A Night of Broadway,” where I was asked to sing “Mama Says,” a song from the stage musical “Footloose.” I had never heard it prior to being assigned to it, but it seemed goofy enough for my personal oeuvre. I asked if I could accompany myself on the guitar rather than perform with a prerecorded track. What I didn’t do is ask whether I could tell a joke at the beginning of my number – this was a one-night-only gig, and I figured there wasn’t much they could do to stop me.

So here’s the joke:

A cowboy walks into a saloon and says, “I’m lookin’ for an outlaw.”
The saloon keeper says, “Well, what does he look like?”
Cowboy says, “He was a guy wearing a paper hat, paper shirt, paper spurs, and rode in on a paper horse.”
The saloon keeper says, “Man, I’d have remembered a guy like that. What’s he wanted for?”
(Pause for effect)
“Rustlin’.”

I told that every night in Jackson Hole to warm up audiences at the Grand Teton Mainstage Theatre. It’s stupid, but you can’t help but laugh. I figured the other performers in this show were taking themselves way too seriously, and I wanted to break the ice.

From what I could tell, it worked. I got a great response to my number, and I was quite proud of it. It had been quite some time since I stood in front of an audience and sang by myself. I thought I acquitted myself well.

The director of the show set up a Facebook page to post pictures of the performance. She didn’t post everything it once, but the first phot of my performance showed up rather quickly.

Here it is:

285371_10151345525469075_313178636_nI was quite pleased with this photo. I thought I looked good, despite the double chin. I liked the goofy face I was making, and I quickly made this my Facebook profile picture.

The director soon started to post video of the performances, too. Being the Facebook addict I am, I couldn’t wait to post the video of the whole performance to show off my chops. I considered this evidence that, after all these years, I’ve still “got it.” I’m not sure what it is that I’ve got, or if it’s worth getting, but whatever I had gotten before, I still got.

About two weeks ago, the video was posted. I’ve never shared it with anyone – until now.

Here it is. I’m betting you’ll see why I wasn’t eager to have this on display for public consumption.

I look at myself every morning in the mirror, and I never see a fat person. Oh, sure, there’s a little bit of gut there, but that can be sucked in. And if I just stick my neck out a little, the double chin sort of goes away. And I walk around with the illusion that I’m really not that very removed from the geeky beanpole I was before sometime around my thirtieth birthday, which was when the pooch started to grow. (Cleta, my oldest daughter, affectionately refers to my gut as my “food baby.” You’d think I would have taken the hint by now.)

Watching this video, then, woke me out of my stupor. From the moment I waddle out on to the stage, you can see something’s up. Unlike the photo, this was filmed from the side, so you can see the guitar resting on my generous belly at a 45-degree angle. And the double chin is omnipresent. I couldn’t look at anything else. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who reassured me that “the camera adds ten pounds.” If that’s the case, there must have been four or five cameras on me that night.

This was particularly problematic for me, as, for the past two years, I’ve been working with a company called the Belief Workout, which uses cognitive tools to teach people to change how they think in order to change their weight. I’ve personally been teaching the classes – looking like the guy in that video. Nobody ever complained, and the results of our teaching have been great – but I never really bothered to change my own thinking or change my own weight. Oh, I made some half-hearted gestures in that direction, but I didn’t really see it as an urgent issue. That was someone else’s problem, not mine.

Until, of course, I saw this video.

So I’m now applying the ideas we teach, as well as using the automated phone coach that’s part of our program. We’ve also partnered with a company called Somae Health, which uses live mentors to help you follow their whole foods regimen. I’m diving in to the Somae program, which means adios to cheeseburgers and diet Cokes. My kids don’t think I can do it, and my wife, while supportive, is also skeptical. But I don’t ever want to watch a video of me singing like fat Elvis. My goal is a lifetime of skinny Elvis. I’ll keep you apprised of my progress.