It all began with the grapefruit.
One night, as I walked out of the gym with half a grapefruit in my hand (I had eaten the other half) a trainer called me out and scolded me.
"You can't eat fruit at night,'' he said.
I was overcome by guilt and doubt. I enjoy eating fruit at night, especially tropical fruit. They are healthy, and that's one of the reasons why I work out. But I don't want the effort to be useless. At that precise moment, I said to myself, "I have to lose weight.''
2010 has been another year in which I have faced a vain and superficial culture in Miami Beach that devalued my figure because I am not made in its factory of aesthetic clones. Of course, the problem is not the culture, but me, because I am at its mercy, just like hundreds of thousands of other Floridians who are unhappy and frustrated because they don't look like magazine cover models.
I have tried diets that offer you the Promised Land; detox products that assure a renovation of body and spirit; and traditional diets incapable of defeating my Jewish-Polish genes so devoted to sugar and carbs.
Well, at least with my excess pounds -- only a few, though -- I preserve my individuality, because in Miami the market's identity ceased long ago to have a face.
It seems that a growing number of youths and adults wants to look just like everyone else, go to the same plastic surgeon, think the same and talk about the same vain topics. It's the collapse of individuality, a collective renunciation of the right of being yourself.
I have laughed a lot in the past few weeks listening to radio marathons of plastic-surgery ads, even about the most intimate parts of the body. Yes, exactly in those places you're thinking. One of the commercials says that ``if you want to have a happy Christmas, you should call right away to make an appointment with the surgeon.'' They even offered a Christmas discount.
It's an illusion. Neither the breast implants can buy you happiness nor the six-pack abs. Nor the make of your car, the most expensive eyewear, whitening your teeth. Buy you happiness? Not even your reputation.
However, those are the ``values'' that allegedly garner admiration, something that in the end won't fill your void, either.
A few months ago I walked into a sports nutrition store in South Beach to buy whey protein. The product had five grams of sugar per serving, which for me is as if it was sugar-free.
``Five grams is a lot of sugar if you want to have a body like his,'' the store clerk said, pointing to a photo of a muscular man in a swimsuit hanging on the wall. ``Everyone here wants to look like him.''
``Everyone but me,'' I responded.
In fact, I am happy not to look like him. But sometimes I forget. Especially, when the advertising industry tries to convince me that I am the one who is wrong for not spending my life building muscles and smoothing my skin.
Those who put too much value on material and corporal things are less happy, have a lower self-esteem and feel pressured to live a certain way. That is why so many people want to have the same look as their friends. And if you walk through South Beach and Las Olas you will understand what I mean.
As a matter of fact, I was eating a grapefruit recently, and this time someone approached me to tell me that it was not good to eat grapefruit when you are working out because it lowers your blood pressure. Poor grapefruit, it's not wanted even in the gym.
And as I suffered lifting weights, someone said, ``Beauty costs a lot.''
I thought it was free!
When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, most of those who spent the year without eating fruit at night or visited plastic surgeons' offices will be smiling, showing off their best attire at all kinds of fancy parties.
But deep down inside, they will not be completely happy with their appearance, because there will be someone there who will have less fat or more muscle, better curves, a more Mediterranean tan and an more artfully sculpted nose.
With beauty and money one is never completely satisfied.
As for me, I will welcome 2011 in my pajamas, with my two cats, Gala and Dalí, and a good book. At arm's reach I will have a dozen chocolate rugelach from the Jewish pastry shop in my neighborhood and a jar of organic peanut butter.
And believe me, I plan to enjoy every single calorie.
Have a prosperous New Year!