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Week 12: The Count Of Monte Cristo Sandwich

My friend "T" always talks about how once a year he enjoys re-reading-- which describes a man who is wrongly imprisoned and then makes a daring escape. T. is also a prisoner inside his own head. He suffered a traumatic head injury. What does this have to do with diet and exercise? Everything.

I'm reading his favorite book to him, The Count Of Monte Cristo. "T." always talks about how once a year he enjoys re-reading this classic. The first half of the book is about a man who is wrongly imprisoned and then makes a daring escape. This is fitting because my good friend T. is also a man wrongly imprisoned, a prisoner inside his own head. And his family and friends are wishing and praying for his daring escape.

You see, T. took a fall the other night and suffered a traumatic head injury. While he lies in a coma, the master plan is that my stumbling narration of his favorite book will be so severe, the mangling of French names and places so impossible to take, that he'll spring up, rip the book out of my hands, and hit me over the forehead with it.

I have a hard enough time pronouncing English; how am I supposed to pronounce the hero's name, Edmond Dantès, or the name of the prison, Château d'If? My only strategy is to put a washcloth over my forearm and pretend I'm a snotty French waiter reciting the day's specials.

What does this have to do with diet and exercise? Everything.

Last week I mentioned some sage advice given to me by Mr. Friend, that the real goal here is to honor your vessel and take good care of it. By doing that with exercise and moderate eating, a secondary effect is that the weight should fall off naturally. But you might argue that weight loss is but a third effect. The true secondary effect is that a healthier body will bode you well when along comes an unplanned traumatic event such as a head injury or a car crash or a disease. You can't go through life wearing a helmet or seat belting yourself onto toilets (a shout out to South Park fans) to prepare for any and all possible calamities. But it does stand to reason that those of us who make an effort to do our bodies good are betting on the house -- literally -- that we'll recover from unforeseen events better than if we had chosen a life of Twinkies and Monte Cristo sandwiches instead.

For close to 50 years, I chose the Monte Cristo sandwich. For those not in the know, let me describe the beauty that is a MCS. Inside is a combination of turkey and ham along with lots of gooey swiss cheese. The outside is basically French toast. Sometimes the entire sandwich is battered in egg and then fried, or sometimes it's just the bread. Either way, afterwards, there is a sprinkling of powdered sugar and then the sandwich is served with a side of fruit preserves or maple syrup. It's like an orgy of breakfast and lunch and I'm betting the whole shebang is well over 1,000 calories. I bet some French prankster invented this as a grotesque example of American gluttonism only to discover it soon became his restaurant's favorite.

But gluttonism it is. You can't possibly eat a MCS and then say with a straight face that you're watching your weight or taking good care of your vessel. What would be the equivalent if you fed a similar concoction to your car? What would that look like? And how might your car react in the short-term? And in the long-term?

We're born each with our own vessel and we see it every day so we don't notice the changes very much. It takes a favorite pair of pants to suddenly feel tight before we realize, huh, either these pants are shrinking or my vessel is growing. I never wake up and think "Good ol' Vessel, survived another night. Thanks for being there for me."

But I know that my dear friend T. does, indeed, say that. He is a deeply religious and spiritual man. Often in his writings he would end his thoughts with something like: "Pal, if you got up out of bed this morning and had the capacity to make yourself some toast and coffee, there is nothing in this world you don't have."

It's unclear what lies in T.'s future, and for that matter yours and mine. I can tell you this: This was the first time I described a Monte Cristo Sandwich and phoned in my exuberance for it. I don't care if I never eat one for the rest of my life. I just want my pal to wake up and enjoy a nice breakfast.

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