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Thursday, Jan. 8, 2004 02:20 pm

Grace about town


How're those resolutions coming? Diet going well? I thought I'd do some actual research this week and count the diet books at the bookstore, but I quickly got bored. There were about 300 different selections. Some of my favorite titles include Life Without Bread (I, personally, don't think life would be worth living without bread, and some good brie to go with it), Outwit Your Weight (just how smart is it?), Escape Your Weight (it will always find you, no matter how far you run), Fats That Heal/Fats That Kill (I'd be happy to participate in a study to determine the healing properties of Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream bars), and my favorite, Stop Stuffing Yourself.

There were plenty of exercise books, too, but I stopped looking when I came across one called The Truth -- The Only Fitness Book You'll Ever Need. A very attractive man clad only in yellow boxers graces the cover, and I decided, no matter what was inside, this definitely was the only fitness book I'd ever need. The guy (he's the author) is Frank Sepe, and the inside jacket says he's an actor, model, columnist, one of the nation's most formidable bodybuilders, a personal trainer, and he's been on the cover of romance book jackets.

Whew. It looked like an OK book -- diet, exercise, blah blah blah, but there were plenty of photos of Frank inside, too. Excellent marketing strategy.

And then there are all the women's magazines -- they give you the no fail way to slim down and shape up, so we can all go to Hollywood and fit in with the perfectly built actress/models littering the landscape out there. I checked out the men's magazines while I was at it, and aside from Men's Fitness, most of the men's mags were devoted to stories with lots of photos of actress/models, no mention of diet tips at all. Nothing about pleasing your mate, either, but that's another column's topic entirely.

OK, here's why this whole diet/exercise thing is such a huge scam: you can lose weight, feel better, fit into your jeans, with no need to shell out any money for books and magazines if you just heed these four little words:

Eat Less. Exercise More.

The books and magazines take many words and photos to tell you this; it's an infinite regurgitation of the same stuff over and over and over again. I guess they have to do this; if we didn't shell out lots of money for all the stuff, the industry would collapse and the economy would spiral downwards and the country would melt into a tub of lard.

But I'm telling you: eat less, exercise more -- and you'll lose weight.

Now that we've got that cleared up, let me just say that one of my favorite places in Springfield is the Fit Club South. It's spacious, it's airy, there are plenty of machines, the people who work there are friendly, and they have a great whirlpool, which is usually empty.

Judging by the wall-to-wall people running on treadmills to nowhere and climbing never-ending Stairmasters right now at the Fit Club S., I'd say New Year's resolutions are going about the same as last year, and as next year will be. But by the end of 2004, things will be right back to where they were a couple of weeks ago.

It was the Saturday after Christmas, and it was just me and a handful of other exercisers. People who don't go to health clubs have this weird idea they're "meat markets," full of scantily clad young people preening and scoping out other scantily clad young people. But the place is always filled with old people, young people, thin people, and fat people. I guess you could go there to check people out, but it looks like people mostly there to exercise. And the only two people on the Stairmasters that day were me and an older balding guy with very white legs and knobby knees.

He was reading Illinois Times, as a matter of fact, and I kept glancing over at him, hoping he'd turn to my column. Maybe he'd even laugh! And then he'd glance over and somehow recognize me without the tiara, and we'd have a scintillating conversation, and he'd have a single, brilliant, attractive son who is also crazy about my column and would love to meet me. But instead he lingered on the Calendar for a while, and then tossed the paper to the floor. Oh well.

Anyway, besides the Fit Club, there are other fitness clubs you could join, or you could exercise outside if you're so inclined. The point is to get off the couch and move, and then keep going. Besides all the weight loss stuff, exercise is 100 percent fabulous for helping your mental state. E.L.E.M. -- Eat Less. Exercise More. Simple.

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