Get fit with Proust and Byron

Actually, that should read ‘Get fit with Proust’s dad and Byron’. Proust was not fit. He had always been a sickly child, and suffered from asthma, but as an adult decided the daytime air was part of the problem, so he became nocturnal. He was always cold but hated rooms to be heated, so would wrap himself up in coats and blankets as he lay in bed writing, but able to see his breath in the air, and commented in one letter of three pages that he had wiped his nose eighty-three times since starting it.

He liked to keep the curtains and windows permanently shut, and was constipated apart from immediately after his bi-weekly powerful laxative administration. He ate once a day, describing a typical meal to his doctor as two eggs in a cream sauce, a chicken wing, three croissants, a plate of chips, grapes, coffee and bottle of beer. He then spent the rest of the day in agony as his body tried to digest that mess. Roughage Marcel, roughage!

A close friend and his stockbroker, Lionel Hauser, finally lost it with him and told him he was a spoilt child, and by refusing fresh air and daylight, it was all his own fault. Proust was generally shut up in his apartment, but did occasionally go out for dinner, and after one such party, caught a chill waiting in the snow for a carriage, and died. His father would have been livid, as a renowned doctor and author of an exercise program, he believed the complete opposite of what Proust did to himself. Here are some delightful diagrams from the book I’m getting all if this from, ‘How Proust Can Change Your life’ by Alain de Botton. It’s an interesting read, Botton loves Proust, and sees life lessons in his work, especially when dealing with heartbreak, and rather like reading a self-help book without having to read some god-awful cringe-worthy self-help book.


Behold! I would much rather do this than Zumba, the outfits are better for a start. Hopping and bringing aircraft into land is my idea of fitness fun.


I am also reading (slowly, and for ages now) an eight hundred page brick about Byron. Seems he was quite a chubster when he was young, and his doctor put him on a diet of no booze, and only two ‘animal’ servings a day, a minimum four mile daily walk, and regular drinks with ‘powders’ and baths with ‘powders’. It seems these ‘powders’ were likely mercury for syphilis, and so not necessary for the weight loss, but don’t let that put you off trying the rest of Byron’s plan. Byron got more into boxing and swimming as his weight decreased, and what I like best of all, it seems he couldn’t stop telling people. His change was so vast people didn’t recognise him, and he’d delight in revealing his identity to them. His letters were full of detailed accounts of his poundage lost (with the same evangelical zeal of the alternate fasters, juicers, the ‘I have one shake for breakfast, another for lunch, then a sensible meal’ people, all of which I have been guilty of myself at some point). He wrote to a friend –

I wear seven waistcoats and a great coat, and run and play cricket in this dress, until quite exhausted by excessive perspiration.

Which reminds me of those people who run or gym in plastic outfits. And I don’t fancy doing either of their laundry.

And finally, this post was brought to you by relief that my cat has returned. She is 60 in cat years and comes home every 24 hours for her dinner and a good few hours kip in a cosy spot, I had throught her days of disappearing for a week were over, and was scared she was locked in a barn or portacabin or worse still, had snuck into the cab of a farm delivery lorry and not been discovered until too late. That happened once, the man was nice enough to come back, but not all would, they’d just let the cat out at the side of the road. However, there she was on the doorstep, rained on and hungry, waiting for me when I got home from work. Hurrah!