By Michael Tsai
There was a period a few years ago when I vowed to boycott any magazine that used the words "killer abs" anywhere in its pages.
It seemed like a necessary stand at the time. Every zine looking for a few cheap sales seemed to be resorting to some sort of sleazy variation of "Killer Abs in just 10 Minutes a Day!" or "Get a Six-Pack in Six Weeks!" or "Chisel Your Middle!"
Killer Abs had become the line in the lard, the crossing of which (to me) signified a surrender of editorial dignity and a sure slide into the nether regions of frivolity traditionally occupied by the worst and most manipulative women's mags.
I used to read "Outside" religiously for its gloriously long stories of survival on snowcapped peaks, reflections on expeditionary history and all those geeky gadget updates. But then came the killer-ab come-ons — which soon begat "mountain fashion" spreads, which begat Sherpa iPod lists, which begat the half-naked-surf-bunny-of-the-month covers.
In quick fashion, I stopped buying "Runner's World" and canceled a gift subscription to "Men's Health." (In some sort of sick joke, the latter recently sent a comp copy of it's "Best of Abs" book to me at work.)
And on it went. "Rolling Stone?" Gather ye some moss! ESPN the Magazine? You are the worldwide leader of my circular F-I-L-E.
Alas, my little crusade got, um, crunched when I couldn't summon the will to dump "Sports Illustrated" and "The New Yorker" from my weekly reading list.
With defeat, of course, comes reflection. And as I sit here at the computer, the weight of too many double-bacon cheeseburgers jutting over my belt like an Arquette family overbite, I have to admit that my disdain for those guilt-inducing ab-monishments are rooted in a single squishy, sore spot (not my head).
I do my share of standard crunches, ball crunches, oblique crunches, when I go to the gym, but, on balance with my lousy diet and affection for the tall sudsies, my belly still looks like it was sculpted by Capt. Crunch.
Six-pack? Forget it. I bought the whole keg.
In some cultures, a round belly is a sign of age and distinction. In my dad's native China, a healthy pot symbolized wealth and prosperity. In America in 2006 it means just one thing: You're fat.
Maybe all those magazines I so righteously cast aside really had a point. Maybe they were just looking out for my lean, sexy best interest when they offered me "21 Days to Amazing Abs."
I just may have to sit on my glorious glutes and think about this.
Reach Michael Tsai at email@example.com.