Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 19, No. 2, 2020
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
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Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Lynda Renée
Gary Olson
Howard Richler
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Chris Barry
Jordan Adler
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Daniel Charchuk
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Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

message in a bottle




Former lead singer of the legendary 222s, arguably Montreal's first punk rock band, Chris is now a freelance writer based in Montreal. You can check out his writing at where he combines the sardonic humour of David Foster Wallace and the deliciously contrived irreverence of Anthony Bourdain.

The road to health,
is paved with good intenstines.
Shirley Rogers


The same thing happens every spring. The sun comes out, the weather warms up a bit, and for the first time in how many months I start waking up mornings not wondering if this will be the day I finally work up the guts to take matters in to my own hands and jump off the Jacques Cartier bridge. Such is my relationship with Montreal winters. I fuckin’ hate ‘em.

You see, not only do these five godforsaken months of permanent darkness and sub-arctic temperatures mess with my mental stability, they also make me fat. All right, maybe not fat in the Rita MacNeil sense of the word, but, um, definitely a little softer than I’m comfortable with.

Not that it doesn’t make perfect sense that the season of misery has a way of turning my modest fall love handles in to a full blown winter tire. From December until at least mid-March I do my utmost to try and never leave the house, certainly lack the motivation to exercise, and spend every evening, sans exception, smoking doob in front of the television while stuffing obscene amounts of junk food down my gullet until I inevitably pass out on the couch. And while I recognize, ladies, that this presents one fuck of a sexy image, it’s apparently not the greatest diet strategy.

In years gone by I haven’t really regarded this seasonal weight gain as much of an issue. All I generally need to do come spring is start eating a little less, indulge in a modicum of exercise, and, since I’m no longer scared to leave the house for fear of perishing in the wasteland that is Montreal in winter, I tend to go out more, hence spending much less time stoned on the couch eating Cheetos. Most years, by the time I’m ready to start swinging my meat around at the local wading pool come late June, I’m pretty well down to my fighting weight.

Except with each passing year, as age intensifies it’s assault on my sorry old bones, it’s become increasingly difficult to reclaim my girlish figure in time for summer. Not yet prepared to abandon my vanity entirely and simply allow the flab to settle where it may, in recent years I’ve considered enlisting the support of various weight management products to help me carve said old bones back in to a thing of splendour. I am a lazy man, and if there are products available which will allow me to achieve my fitness goals without having to work very hard at it, well, yeah, of course, where do I sign up, baby?

So who would of thunk it when last month I indeed found myself, strictly by chance, in conversation with the manager of Flex Nutrition on Decarie and curtly informed that there’s actually nothing short of a goddamned plethora of exciting new weight management products on the market. Where the fuck have I been? According to this genuinely helpful salesman, not only are these nu-school fat burning pills and the like rooted in ‘revolutionary new technology’ that ‘really works,’ even if I had little to no intention of doing any exercise or significantly reducing my Cheetos intake, by taking them I could still expect to experience at least some weight loss -- although getting off my ass and exercising would most definitely help the process along.

Good enough, I reasoned, and with that raced on over to Flex Nutrition to promptly plunk down $115 in return for three bottles of revolutionary new diet supplements:

T3 by SAN, which, through the miracle of guggelsterones, is supposed to wreak havoc with your thyroid, apparently speeding up your metabolism and “taking the fat burning process to a completely new level!”

CLA by Ultimate Nutrition. CLA stands for conjugated linoleic acid, and though, according to Ultimate Nutrition, “it’s intricacies are not fully understood,” it’s alleged to burn fat while building muscle tissue.

And the third thing I scored was a little wonder called CLENbutical by Nutrabolics. At $50 for a bottle of 100 pills, CLENbutical is chock full of way cool elements like “the powerful thermogenic agent” Citrus Aurantium, and White Kidney Bean Extract, which, if you know nothing ‘bout nothing when it comes to chemistry, really sounds like it might work.

According to the Nutrabolics sales pitch, “White Kidney Bean Extract blocks the absorption of the starchy foods you eat and also blocks the action of an enzyme called alpha amalyase. This is the enzyme that breaks down starchy foods into glucose molecules so they can be absorbed, and if the enzyme is being blocked, the undigested starch will pass into your colon and you will not absorb the calories from that food.”

Sounded like pretty good science to me. Encouraged by the literature, for one month I faithfully swallowed all this muck twice a day, in my heart not really expecting to see much by way of results, but hoping nonetheless.

Yet after only a day or so on the stuff I was practically won over, incredulous that
the wild claims made by the manufacturers of these products might actually be true. For starters, I definitely had more energy, which is something CLENbutical promised it would give me, and, judging by the unspeakably horrible smells that kept firing out my ass the first few days, I had little doubt something truly profound was going down inside my colon, just like I’d understood might happen.

And then the real miracle transpired. With my newfound energy and the arrival of an early spring I was moved to join the gym. True, I only went maybe six times all month, and then for never more than 45 minutes, but I’m sure it was the effect of the muck that inspired my resolve to join. Within a week, I noticed that my appetite had been somewhat reduced as well. I was stoked, it looked like I was well on my way to physical perfection without having to work for it. By the end of the month I’d be totally stylin’.

It’s now the end of the month. Almost five weeks since I first started knocking back my diet concoction and guess what? I’m one pound lighter than when I started. Big fuckin’ deal. An inspired bowel movement could have exacted the same results.

Bewildered, this week I started calling around to various academics and dietician types to get the 411 on these products and see just how badly I’d been duped, if at all. To be fair, the Flex Nutrition guy did say exercise was a key part of the process, and it’s not like I’d done much of it.

“It’s all crap,” came the unanimous response from “the experts.” “Of course it doesn’t work.” Nobody, outside of one naturopath I spoke with, had anything even remotely positive to say about any of these products -- other than if taken as directed they probably won’t hurt you.

“Why might they not hurt you?” I asked Gerry Zavorsky, professor of Exercise Science at Concordia and a man who clearly knows his stuff on the subject. “Because there’s nothing substantial in them. Everything in these capsules can be had a lot cheaper if you just eat properly. Losing weight is really quite simple. It’s a matter of diet and exercise.”

“But that’s not what I want to hear,” I told him, “What about the guggelsterones? What about White Kidney Bean Extract, the horrible farts, the new found energy I experienced?”

“Placebo effect -- except maybe for the energy, but you could get that just as well from a cup of coffee. And listen, there’s no such thing as guggelsterones, that’s just something the manufacturers of T3 made up. It’s not anything. And really, white kidney bean extract? Come on, what do the colour of the beans have to do with anything? Besides, if it’s those properties you want, why not just eat kidney beans instead of spending all that money on a diet aid?”

“Um, uh, because it implies on the bottle that I’ll lose weight without really having to do anything?” I offered.

“Well, trust me, you’re fooling yourself. Let me send you some literature, from recognized medical journals, that explains in great detail why all this stuff is crap.”

Which he promptly did, and which I’m currently perusing and gradually coming to accept as quite possibly the real deal on the subject. That said, however, I’ve still got one third of a bottle of T3 and another few weeks worth of CLA which I have every intention of finishing. Hey, until the day comes when I can afford liposuction, I’m ready to cling to whatever hope this crap has to offer. I mean, what are the alternatives? Working out? Ha, I don’t think so.

Also by Chris Barry:
Coming Out: Is It Any Easier?
Head Trip Story: My Inner Idiot
Ballet Boxer: Milford Kemp
Like Young
Loving Hard Times
Feed Your Head
Talking 12-Tone with Patti Smith
Beauty Pageants: The Golden Years
Swingers' Clubs as Safe Zones
Bust a Move
Trapeze - Swinging Ad Extremis
Hells in Paradise
The Cannabis Cup
Colonic Hydrotheraphy


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Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
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