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Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008

JAPAN LITE

Autumn is for 'metabolic syndrome'


In the face of the increasing problem of "metabolic syndrome," in Japan, they really ought to revise the phrase shokuyoku no aki (Autumn is for eating). Another popular axiom is, dokusho no aki (Autumn is for reading) so if you put these two messages together, one can only conclude: Eat, and when you get fat, read it off.

So, now in the middle of autumn, I recently looked into my refrigerator for something to eat. I spied a few bottles of Australian beer next to a few more bottles of another foreign beer. Next to them was a six-pack of happoshu. Next to that some 200 and 250 ml cans of chu-hai.

Way in the back of the fridge was a small bottle of vodka a Russian friend had given me that I've been saving for Thanksgiving. Then there's the amazake waiting to be made that my neighbor gave me. Other than some organic edamame soy beans, there really wasn't much food in there at all.

So how is it that I've gained weight these days?

I looked in the fridge again, then down at my bulging stomach. That's when it hit me. I'm not suffering from metabolic syndrome, I'm suffering from diabolic syndrome: a condition brought on by drinking too much! I'm getting a beer belly like old men get.

My beer belly is not that big yet, however, so there's still hope. But it's still sticking out as if I'd added a large accessory to my abdominals. It was hard to admit, but it was true: I was beginning to look like an old man.

And to tell the truth, I haven't gotten much exercise lately either. The hamstrings have been on vacation for a while now. The quadriceps? Well, they're in there somewhere. The glutes? Haven't seen or felt them in years.

So, in my own fight against diabolic syndrome, I recently started a 70-minute exercise torture DVD. This DVD features five female "master fitness instructors" who guide you through grueling workouts while managing to smile constantly through the whole thing. I'm convinced that the reason they call them "masters" is because you are their slave.

"Guaranteed visible results in 10 workouts" the DVD says on the package. But after just one I could already see the results — crawling on my hands and knees to my bed. I can imagine what I'll look like after 10 of these workouts — I will have become a part of my living room floor, laid out like a bear skin rug.

I have to admit I wasn't prepared to work quite this hard.

"Get out your box," the master instructor says. My box? This is a box to step up onto and off for stair-climbing exercises. I ran to the bathroom and retrieved the Japanese stool made for sitting on while taking a shower. "Now, pick up your weights," she says, "and climb the box!" Yes, Master.

After a couple hundred of these stair-stepping exercises with weights in hand, I'm thinking that surely this must verge on physical abuse. What if I die right now in front of her? It's times like these when you realize you don't know where the nearest AED machine is. "Lunges and dips!" she calls out and we do a thousand of these.

I notice that each exercise segment follows right into the next, but the masters change with each one. Aha! They're taking breaks! No wonder they've got big smiles on their faces.

"More lunges and dips!" cheers the master as if another few hundred couldn't hurt. Yes, Master.

"Now, get out your dowl" another master instructor says. My dowl? The only thing I have that is even close to a dowl is my tsue, or walking stick, I use for Buddhist pilgrimages. This stick represents the revered Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi (774-835 AD) and thus when carrying this stick, it is said that Kobo Daishi is with you. It was comforting for me to know that Kobo Daishi was with me during my workout. Talk about a religious movement. And at least he would be on hand to give the last rites and welcome me into the afterlife if need be.

We did several million squats with the dowls after which the master said, "Prepare for abdominals!" and a new master instructor came on to take over. Another several thousand abdominal exercises and the 70 minutes of torture were finally over.

I'm almost finished with the first 10 workouts and, as the DVD rightly claims, there are visible results: crawling on my hands and knees to the refrigerator to get another beer.



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