Is this just an excuse to get healthy?

I’ve been reading what I’ve written (someone has to!), and I find myself thinking, “Why is this guy insisting on going back to seventeen? How is this idea any different from just (1) picking up good habits he should have acquired years ago and (2) trying to feel younger?”

I won’t deny that good habits and feeling younger are a big part of the whole project. However, I think there’s a qualitative difference. I want to redo my seventeenth year, not just feel healthier and more energetic. (Okay, so technically my seventeenth year was the one that ENDED on my seventeenth birthday. When you’re seventeen it’s actually your eighteenth year. Whatever.) The motivation for the changes in my life and/or attitude will be based on what a seventeen-year-old should do, not on what a fifty-eight-year-old should. Luckily, what’s good for a seventeen-year-old is generally also good for a fifty-eight-year-old….

One thing you do (or should do) when you’re seventeen is to learn general “life skills”, things that will be useful in a variety of contexts over the rest of your life. Things like touch-typing, a foreign language, a musical instrument. Reaching an acceptable level doesn’t take too long — maybe a year or two — and the skill learned can be useful for the rest of your life.

The life skill I have decided to take on is one I tried years ago and never got very far with. I will IMPROVE MY MEMORY. There are lots of memory systems out there, mostly based on similar techniques, and they really do work. Sure, we have smart phones now to remember things for us, but they can only partly replace our own personal in-head RAM.

I am starting by learning to associate words with numbers. It is a very old technique, sometimes called the Major System. If you have a number you want to memorize, you replace each digit with a specific consonant sound:

  • 0 → S or Z
  • 1 → T or D
  • 2 → N
  • 3 → M
  • 4 → R
  • 5 → L
  • 6 → J, SH or CH
  • 7 → K
  • 8 → F or V
  • 9 → P or B

Then you upgrade this string of consonants to a word or string of words by adding vowels. For example, you change 32 to MN, and then add a vowel to make MOON. (Or you could use MONEY or MENU or MAINE or AMMONIA if you prefer.) Most of us find words easier remember than numbers, especially if the numbers are long. For example, METOR-TAIL-PINK is an easy way to remember pi to 7 decimal places. (Linguistic note: Although I live in Spain and speak Spanish fluently, I am finding this system much easier to use in English, as the variety of consonants used in all positions is much richer.) There’s a ton more information on the Web. If you’re interested, you can start with the Wikipedia article.

And that’s my blog posting for the NOSE of March NEWS-TOWEL….

Seventeen-year-old body

First step: I wasn’t overweight at 17, but I sure am now. I want more energy, and I don’t want diabetes. So, along with my ideal attitude, I need to return to my ideal weight. Here are some values I found on the Internet for a man whose height is 178 cm (5’10”):

  • Robinson formula (1983): 71.1 kg (157 lbs)
  • Miller formula (1983): 70.4 kg (155 lbs)
  • Devine formula (1974): 73.2 kg (161 lbs)
  • Hamwi formula (1964): 75.2 kg (166 lbs)
  • WHO’s Healthy BMI Range (for a 58-year-old): 58.6-79.2 kg (129-175 lbs)
  • WHO’s Healthy BMI Range (for a 17-year-old): 56.1-78.9 kb (124-174 lbs)

Let’s go for 75 kg (165 lb). Today, after going to the toilet, cutting my fingernails and exhaling as much as I could, I weighed 91.8 kg. That means I have to lose about 16.8 kg (37 lbs). Apparently, a reasonable rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds a week, so it should take me (ideally) between 19 and 37 weeks.

My next birthday is on Wednesday, October 21st, thirty-one weeks from now. I’ll weigh myself every Wednesday, and try to hit 75.0000 kg on my birthday (my 18th birthday?). If all goes according to plan — there’s nothing wrong with being optimistic, is there? — this should be my progress:

Date Desired weight Actual weight
kg lbs kg lbs
18-Mar 91.8 202.4 91.8 202.4
25-Mar 91.3 201.2
01-Apr 90.7 200.0
08-Apr 90.2 198.8
15-Apr 89.6 197.6
22-Apr 89.1 196.4
29-Apr 88.5 195.2
06-May 88.0 194.0
13-May 87.5 192.8
20-May 86.9 191.6
27-May 86.4 190.4
03-Jun 85.8 189.2
10-Jun 85.3 188.0
17-Jun 84.8 186.9
24-Jun 84.2 185.7
01-Jul 83.7 184.5
08-Jul 83.1 183.3
15-Jul 82.6 182.1
22-Jul 82.0 180.9
29-Jul 81.5 179.7
05-Aug 81.0 178.5
12-Aug 80.4 177.3
19-Aug 79.9 176.1
26-Aug 79.3 174.9
02-Sep 78.8 173.7
09-Sep 78.3 172.5
16-Sep 77.7 171.3
23-Sep 77.2 170.1
30-Sep 76.6 168.9
07-Oct 76.1 167.7
14-Oct 75.5 166.5
21-Oct 75.0 165.3

Might I be setting myself up for public embarrassment? Hey, that’s a tired old man’s attitude! It’ll be GREAT! I’m gonna LOVE weighing what a seventeen-year-old should weigh.

It was(n’t) a very good year….

It’s ironic, actually, that I should choose the age of 17 to return to. When I was 17 the first time, it was in many ways the worst year of my life. I had acne and bad posture and a lousy self-image; I hadn’t had sex yet and could think of little else; I was frequently sullen on the outside and depressed on the inside. Two months before I turned 18, on my first day of college, my stepfather died suddenly and left my mother alone, just when SHE had presumably been counting on starting the best years of her own life. Her depression was terrible for her and pretty rough on me too.

I can’t fix any of that, and I have no reason to expect this year to be a bed of roses. Who knows, maybe I am tempting the evil eye by going back to that year. Well, if history repeats itself and things turn to crap for me, at least it will give a nice symmetry to this literary masterpiece….

Some ground rules

Going back to 17 doesn’t mean total freedom. I choose to follow some basic rules:

  • I will treat my body as if it were 58.
  • I will continue to fulfill the responsibilities of a 58-year-old husband and grandfather.
  • I will not use my new age as an excuse for saying or doing anything bad.
  • I will not be surprised or embittered when bad things from the real world invade this fantasy.

Haven’t decided yet whether I will get a year older every year or just stay 17 permanently. What do you think?

Let’s go back!

Back to seventeen — why not? I am 58 years old and can hope that, with a little bit of luck, I might live for another thirty years. Why not live those three decades as if I were 41 years younger? Okay, my body — and presumably my mind — will certainly deteriorate, but my ATTITUDE doesn’t have to.

DISCLAIMER: Okay, this idea isn’t new. Turning back the clock is a very old fantasy. I just Googled “back to seventeen” and found, among 69,299,998 other results, a movie (which I haven’t seen) called 17 Again and a book (which I haven’t read) called When I Was Seventeen: If I Could Go Back. Actually, I was quite surprised to find that the domains back2seventeen.com and backtoseventeen.com were available. (backto17.com is taken, but it’s just parked somewhere.)

So originality isn’t the purpose of this blog. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what its purpose is. (Does it have to have a purpose?)

In many ways, being 58 is a lot better than being 17. But — let’s be honest — in some ways it’s worse.

Advantages of being 58:

  • You’re wiser.
  • You understand the world better.
  • You’re more independent financially.

Advantages of being 17:

  • You’re going to live longer.
  • Life is full of new experiences.
  • Nobody depends on you.

Advantages of pretending to be 17 when you’re really 58:

  • All of the above except living longer (assuming your kids no longer depend on you).

So let’s get cracking! In October of 2014 I turned 17, okay? Time to try my first beer….