Chewing the fat is a dangerous occupation
Politics has been bad for my waistline. My weight gain would have been less severe had I landed a job as a taster for Cadbury.
The public’s need to feed a politician is insatiable. Don’t get me wrong: I really appreciate it. But if politicians are in the vicinity then cakes, sandwiches and bickies are all on offer. Morning teas, openings, receptions and dinners combine to achieve death by hospitality.
This phenomenon has never been more pronounced than in my current role as the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs.
The Pacific is a big place full of big people with big hearts and big appetites. Hospitality is defined by copious servings of food. Yes, it is true that most of the time I eat this food with the same guilty look of pleasure that can be found on a child raiding the parental chockie stash. But I assure you, the only reason I feast like there is no tomorrow is because politeness dictates it.
On a recent trip through Micronesia I was accompanied by Sean Dorney – an ABC journalist with a camera. As I began to eat a sandwich at the opening of an education facility the camera pointed straight at me. Later I was nibbling a biscuit at the announcement of a sports grant and the camera caught the crumbs sprinkling down my shirt. Chomping a cake with a minister after a bilateral … the camera caught me again.
I began to feel like a one man locust plague steadily consuming the edible resources of the Pacific. Despite all the good Australian works in the region the only possible story here was how the Parliamentary Secretary ate himself from Nauru to Niue.
By the time Christmas arrived I had been in the job for just three months with a net mass increase of 8kg: roughly 2kgs every three weeks. My bum looked like a dead heat in a zeppelin race. At this rate, within a year I’d be big enough to become my own Pacific Island.
My shirts were so tight the act of doing up my top button threatened me with asphyxiation. My face would turn blue and my eyes bulge. This was hardly the look to take into a meeting with a head of state.
At my annual check-up my doctor was shocked. I complained of a sore back which I thought might be related to being fat and unfit. With sarcasm he said: “You reckon?”
Having complained about my situation I was met with a lecture about taking responsibility for what I put in my mouth. “You have a choice”, he said.
But do I? Everywhere I go people have made a real effort to prepare the food. When hours of labour have been spent in the making of the sandwiches, to simply pass them by without a taste is just plain rude.
True it is that decorum may not dictate that I have every dessert, but they really do have a habit of jumping into my mouth of their own volition. I am simply the victim of involuntary cake consumption not unlike a French goose being force fed to prepare its liver for paté.
The situation had become critical and so over summer I went on a crash diet. By playing lots of golf with my kids and a strict regimen of starvation I lost 6 kilos in four weeks. It further convinced me that the best way to lose weight is to put a whole lot on in the first place.
Now I have resolved to do what it takes to experience, for the first time in my life, a body that works. I will connect my mouth to my brain and make the right decisions: fruit instead of sweets, green tea for appetite suppression.
Yet losing weight on the holidays is one thing. Doing it now I am back at work is another.
On my most recent trip to the Pacific I desperately tried to be good. I took only a single sandwich at the reception. At dinner I knocked back dessert.
But on the second day I saw the caramel slice: the smooth, soft, delectable caramel slice. Someone’s hard work in the kitchen, showcasing not only their generosity, but their respect for all that my visit represents. One blemish surely wouldn’t spoil my copy book, would it?
It has. By day three I had become just like a marsupial fat-tailed dunnart: consuming my own body weight every day.
And so it is that I am sad to report: my mass is back on a positive trajectory.
This battle is being lost.
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