in Columns Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times

Your Definition of ‘Laps’ May Vary

Asheville Citizen-Times 10/28/2015 – Ted Alexander, Columnist –

Ted M. Alexander

Ted M. Alexander

Uh oh. I suddenly realized I had developed the world-renowned abdominal slide. You know the look — the waist of the pants is too small to extend across the mid-section, causing trousers to head south. That leaves the stomach sticking out over the top of the belt. Never, never a pretty sight.

I had been in denial though several major clues surfaced.

First, there was the bedroom mirror. When I stood in front of it, I had a Teletubbies’ profile, which I quickly dismissed as being the result of cheap glass that was distorting my image. Kind of like what you would find in an amusement park fun house. One thing I knew for sure — I didn’t resemble what was staring back at me. Chalk that up to my wife buying an inexpensive mirror. Her fault, not mine.

Then a couple of months ago, I leaned over to get into an airline seat. The button on my pants, succumbing to intense pressure, fired off my waist and landed in the lap of the lady sitting next to me. She graciously picked it up and handed it back, then resumed reading the newspaper.

I was embarrassed and wanted to apologize, but wasn’t sure what to say. “Sorry, my pants exploded,” didn’t have the right tone.

Something else, too. I was barely able to bend over to tie my shoes without losing consciousness. What’s that all about?

Then the horrific thought. Could I possibly be overweight?

No! No! No!


Here we go again, diet and exercise. I’d been down that road before and it’s not fun. Right away, it meant ending the six-slices-of-pizza dinner.

Friends told me to begin exercising by doing laps. Laps? Everyone said the same thing — do some laps. But each had a different idea of what a lap was. To the end of a swimming pool and back was a lap. Circling an outdoor track, a lap. Running around Beaver Lake, another type of lap. Very confusing. I woke up at 2 a.m. and decided to complete my daily exercise requirement by walking around the coffee table 20 times.

Next day at the office, “Hey, I did 20 laps last night.”

The response was universal. “Good cardiovascular workout.” “Nice job, man.” “Looking good, getting those laps done.”

“Yeah, I’m into it,” I replied, athletically hooking a crumpled piece of paper into the wastebasket.

The following night I did 30 laps. I was feeling awesome and began thinking I should consider joining some kind of team.

When I tried to get back into bed, the dog was sleeping in my place, spread out, snoring. I pushed him to the side and got in.

By the way, just a small sidebar — did you ever notice when you’re sleeping next to a dog and shift ever so slightly, leaving a crack of unoccupied sheet, the dozing dog promptly fills it? If I take a deep breath, leaving a half inch of space, he immediately slides into it. And if I dare roll over on my side, an instantaneous and massive canine sprawl covers the vacant area, complete with paws against my back, bracing, if I try to push and regain my territory.

But back to weight loss. Many years ago, I tried Dr. Stillman’s diet, which consisted of drinking eight glasses of water daily, along with a mostly protein diet. I lost pounds, but I also almost sacrificed my job because I couldn’t get any work done. I was always running to the bathroom.

Today, companies will ship meals so that the buyer can have a disciplined eating plan. But I’m a realist. Sticking to their schedule wouldn’t work for me. I’d eat the whole case, beginning with every dessert, promising myself that I’d abstain the next day. Oh sure, I’ll fast tomorrow. That’ll happen.

There’s always the highly unusual theory that eating in the dark means no calorie intake. Let me save you the trouble. I tried it more than once. It doesn’t work.

How about padlocking the refrigerator door and hiding the key? Real smart. I’m the one who hid the darn thing. And I cheat.

So now I’m eating 95 percent protein. Unsalted peanuts, chicken; forget carbohydrates. I’ve ignored the eight glasses of water for the aforementioned reason.

And I’m walking in circles around the coffee table.

But I must be doing something right. My pants can almost cover my stomach — a very significant event and cause for celebration. Another good sign, the bakery called and wanted to know where I’d been, their donut inventory was not shrinking like it used to.

And finally I had enough sense to talk to the expert. My doctor is slim and athletic. “What’s your secret?” I asked.

“Diet and laps,” he said. “I do lots of laps.”

“Thirty a day enough?”

He nodded. “More than enough. Less if you like.”

“I do 40.”

He shook his head. “Wow, you do 40 laps? You’re an iron man.”

I nod modestly, but now I’m encouraged and decide to double my workout production. I’m heading over to the furniture store to begin a regimen of laps around all the coffee tables. I’m sure the manager will understand. Heck, he may even join me. He looks like he could lose a couple of pounds too.

Ted Alexander lives in Asheville. His second novel, “After & Before,” has just been released and is available at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café and online book retailers.

Ted Alexander lives in Asheville. Contact him at

Learn more about the author and the novels online at