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Okay, this may sound like a rant, but it’s really not.  This new column is meant to help a certain select group of the fan base that needs help with some basic issues, but are too embarrassed to ask for that help.  This column is not meant to talk down to fans, I’m not purporting to be perfect myself, but like many people in my family, I see a problem and I can’t help but want to fix it.  So, take this column in the positive spirit in which it is given, even if I can’t help myself and make a few snide comments here and there.  (I am, after all, a comedy writer.)

Life Skills for Fanboys:  Obesity at Cons

written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2013

There is an epidemic at comic book and sci-fi/fantasy cons and, no I don’t mean that guy in the denim jacket that’s always covered in buttons: it’s obesity.  And it’s a real problem in fandom.

Now, let’s be clear, I’m not talking about just fat people.  This is America, most of us are fat (yours truly included) and we could probably all due with a few walks around the block before we shove another candy bar in our faces.

Obesity is calculated by using BMI or Body Mass Index.  Here is a BMI calculator.  If your BMI is over 30, you’re considered obese.  35 and up is severe obesity.  40 and up is morbid obesity.  45 and up is super obesity.

Many of the fans I see rolling around conventions these days are in the latter two categories.  I’m no body fat scientist and Hell, you probably shouldn’t use me as a nutrition role model, but at least I can climb steps without a cane.  There are some serious obese fans out there running around on scooters and struggling to walk through the convention center with canes.  This kind of weight is incredibly dangerous.

I once saw a dealer setting up for a sci-fi con.  She was in this weight class and decided to carry some heavy wooden shelves to her table.  Her face was beet red and when she reached her table, she collapsed, huffing and puffing on it.  We all thought she was having a heart attack.  Fortunately, she lived.  A few other fans, where not so lucky.

I cannot tell you how many times over the last five years I’ve attended a con and noticed a memorial inside the convention pamphlet.  The memorial is often to severely obese fans.  As a publisher and vendor, I have a stake in this as well.  I don’t want to see my fans die!

Nutrition at Cons

Some conventions, especially those held in hotels, have already tried to get on board with healthier alternatives for food.  It’s nice to see a green room with things like humus and celery and seltzer, so I don’t have to shove Doritos and M&M’s in my mouth in between doing panels.

But let’s be real here: you come to a convention to have a good time.  That’s probably the ONE time you want to have some junk food and not have to think about it.  Eating healthy JUST at the cons isn’t going to drop the weight.  Nutrition starts at home.  You have to create a diet that isn’t just pancakes wrapped in butter and dipped in chocolate.

The Tony Tips

So look, you can go online and find real nutritionists to give you real advice that will completely restructure your eating habits.  But over the years, I’ve taken a few short cuts that’s kept me at least in basic fighting shape that I can run away from a zombie apocalypse for a few blocks.  So take my tips for what they’re worth.

1.  Stop drinking soda:  Soda is literally the only thing to drink at cons sometimes, but you should avoid it like the plague.  Web MD has the health risks, but I know from personal experience.  In college, I gained 15 pounds because I started drinking soda with dinner.  Once I realized that, I stopped and switched to water.  For a few days, it really sucked.  (“Hello!  Taste?!  Hello!”)  But eventually, I discovered flavored seltzers and unsweetened iced tea.  And for God’s sake, stay away from diet soda too.  It’s full of artificial sweeteners.  It’s just a bunch a chemicals and once you’ve given your taste buds a rest, I guarantee flavored seltzer will start to taste like the most amazing, sweetest treat you’ve ever had.

2.  Don’t smoke:  You must have a death wish if you’re morbidly obese and you smoke.  You’re just gonna die if you don’t stop and it’s as simple as that.  And it takes real effort to maintain your weight AND smoke, because usually cigarettes are an appetite suppressant.  Your number one priority should be to quit.

3.  Go for walks:  Look, I hate exercise.  It’s boring and I’m busy.  But going for walks is free and there should be someplace you can walk to in your daily life.  If you’re on a cane or in a scooter, this is another priority for you.  Yes, you are probably suffering from problems with your knees and feet because of your weight.  It will probably hurt at first for a lot of you heftier fans, but bad knees and bad feet is better than a bad heart.  Once the heart goes, you’re living on borrowed time and your doctor can only hand you so many blood thinners to get you through the week.  Start small and add a little distance each week.

4.  Stop overeating:  As a foodie, I love to eat.  Believe me, I know the joy of shoving pizza down your gullet until your stomach begs, “Stop!”.  It’s awesome, but it’s also incredibly unhealthy.  You need to slow down the entire eating process and become very aware of your portions.  I’ve always been a fast eater and that makes you eat more.  You don’t starve yourself, just eat until you feel satisfied and then stop.  Become more aware of your eating habits and you’ll know when.

5.  Stop eating crap and learn to cook:  Choose quality over quantity.  If you eat out of cans, bags and microwave containers every day, that’s not healthy.  That food is fast to prepare, but it’s filled with tons of salt and sugar to make it taste good.  Make all your meals.  Cooking it will force you to stand up and move around and you’ll never add as much salt and sugar as the shit you get out of a frozen food section.

As a bonus, making your own meals tends to be cheaper.  A bag of potatoes is a couple of bucks and some decent meat, not much more.

6.  Learn to love salad:  Salad should be mostly vegetables, not dressing, cheese and croutons.  Make your own dressing too.  It tastes better anyway and is better for you.

7.  Eat the salad first:  Before you entree, eat your salad.  In this way, you fill up a little before you eat the heavier food.  Remember, when you’re satisfied, stop.

8.  Learn to like celery and peanut butter:  These are two of the healthiest things for you.  Celery requires more calories to chew than it actually gives you.  Peanut butter is a healthy source of protein and is recommended with celery or an apple for diabetics.

9.  Throw out all that crap:  If you’re morbidly obese, I’d bet good money your house is full of crappy food.  Make a clean break, heave it into the trash, then walk to Produce Junction and buy yourself some healthy fruit and vegetables.

10.  Don’t slide back:  You’re going to want to return to your old habits of eating an entire Entenmann’s cake or a whole pizza by yourself, but don’t.  Give your new diet a few weeks and note how better you feel eating healthier and moving around.  A cake is a LITTLE treat, not a meal.  And don’t let a visit to the green room at a con give you the excuse to say, “Ah, the Hell with it.”  Until you get down to a healthy weight, remember, your life is on the line.

I’ll be back next week with some more tips.  If you want to ask a specific, embarrassing question about something, I’d be happy to answer it in this column and keep you anonymous.  Email me me here and yes, I am being serious.  Someone has to look out for you, bros.