Mr. Chatterbox

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“I’m Mr. Chatterbox, and I’m a fat pig.” Yes, now I can say those words. It’s taken me years to gather up my courage. I’ve been in denial, thinking I could stop any time I wanted. And I could—for a day or two. Then one little thing would go wrong and I would be back, […]


“I’m Mr. Chatterbox, and I’m a fat pig.” Yes, now I can say those words. It’s taken me years to gather up my courage. I’ve been in denial, thinking I could stop any time I wanted. And I could—for a day or two. Then one little thing would go wrong and I would be back, back at the Oriental Buffet on Bee Ridge and Macintosh.

Yes, I was the Star Jones of SARASOTA Magazine. All bubbly and happy on the outside, but on the inside finding love only in the innermost reaches of my refrigerator. Thank God my co-workers finally staged an intervention.

I came back from lunch one day around four in the afternoon, trying to get the duck sauce off of my T-shirt, and who should I find in my office but all the other editors sitting there with grave looks on their faces, along with a strange man who had “health and fitness” written all over him.

I turned to run.

But executive editor Kay Kipling got to the door first and bolted it. Then I had to sit there and listen to them as they each poured out their stories—how embarrassed they were to be seen in public with me, about that time at the bridal shower for Nichole Callaghan in the art department when I ate so much cake I passed out on the floor next to my desk, how the magazine had hundreds of dollars invested in me and I’d better shape up or I would be moving my fat ass across the street to SRQ Magazine, where the entire staff is overweight.

“I’ll try,” I promised, but they were beyond listening to any more promises. They remanded me to the custody of the health and fitness guy, who turned out to be Ernesto Santana.

Ernesto runs that new gym downtown in Courthouse Centre. It’s called Evolution Health and Fitness. Next time you’re at the Hollywood 20, turn around and look up on the second floor. That’s me waving from the treadmill. Actually, that’s one of the things I like best about the gym. You get to see all the action on Main Street. Michael Saunders buying a movie ticket. Cliff Roles looking for somebody to interview. Anybody. One afternoon I even saw a mob of angry Democrats chasing a woman who looked like Kathy Dent.

For some reason the magazine just doesn’t trust me, so they sent along Rebecca Baxter as a sort of “handler.” Ernesto evaluated both of us, and while Rebecca barely needed a fine tuning of muscle tone and minor weight loss, I—and I can barely write this part down—I met the medical definition of “obese.”

I can’t pretend it wasn’t tough. But if I can do it, you can do it. Here are some tips I learned to get you through it, when your time comes.

1. Get help. Don’t try it all by yourself. Get somebody like Ernesto, who can design the right exercise routine, and get you on a schedule, and encourage and yell. Ernesto comes from the Dominican Republic and used to play baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox. All the girls love Ernesto. He and Rebecca would do the merengue in between sets. He also knows how to massage you so you won’t be sore the next day. (That’s one of the reasons I always quit before.)

2. Change your eating habits. This was the hard part. Ernesto and I tried a couple of different plans before we came up with the one that worked for me, and I am constantly refining it. Everybody’s is a little different, but here’s what works for me. First of all, the “no’s”: no potatoes, no pasta, no bread, no sweet drinks, no sugar. Instead, lots of chicken, fish, vegetables and salad. It’s really that simple. And portion control! Just because it’s sitting on your plate doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Stop when you’re feeling satisfied. And cheat every once in a while. I still sneak into Dairy Queen every 10 days or so for a chili dog and a root beer float, as many of you may have noticed.

3. It has to be a pleasant experience. With all due respect to the big gyms in town, they remind me a little too much of high school. Evolution is much more “boutique-y.” It’s small, elegant, personalized. Everything is beautifully designed, even the locker room, and the equipment is new and state-of-the-art. It never gets too crowded, and by eavesdropping as the other patrons talk on their cell phones or chat with Ernesto, you can pick up the most interesting pieces of gossip, like who Laura North is dating and all about Matt Orr’s social life.

4. It’s an ongoing process that you have to integrate into your life. The first month is the hardest. I actually gained weight. Ernesto says that’s muscle and it’s good. Finally, though, the weight starts coming off, the energy increases, and, in my case, anyway, your pants start sliding down and you have to wear a belt. I’ve lost 21 pounds so far, my arms and legs are much firmer, and I can walk all the way across the office without wheezing. People are amazed. And Rebecca has lost 11 pounds and seems to have found a reason to live in Evolution’s Pilates classes, led by instructors Karen and Michelle.

Whether I’m still a fat pig or not is an open question, but at least I’m a recovering fat pig. And I owe it all to my editors, to Rebecca, and most of all to Ernesto. Let’s face it, once you’re over 6– ah, 55, you can’t put it off any longer. Get on that treadmill!

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