An Empty Chair Interview with Laura

Da-da daaa [pause]
da-da daaa [dramatic pause]
danana da-nana [dramticer pause]
dun da-da…

Welcome back, sport fans! Today is all about health and fitness. In case you didn’t recognise the Rocky theme song, go watch those movies again because they totally hold up…

Today I’m meeting another of Bantaa’s regular contributors – Laura, who is responsible for the series on that very subject (health and fitness, not Rocky) among others.

I meet Laura at her local gym, a veritable closeted hideout of small-penised showboating which immediately sets me at unease. Judging from the looks I receive from the various muscular adonises, strutting their unnaturally defined buttocks as I enter, I realise just how very right my first impression was, or perhaps it’s the six pack I’m carrying with me… who knows?

I’m very aware of my prominent beer gut as I interrupt Laura from her morning workout, which apparently involves pumping three billy-goats worth of weight with indifferent ease.

She halts mid-rep and welcomes my out-of-place self to her personal house of pain. She directs me towards a table where we continue to attract looks of disapproval as I open my first beer – what’s their problem, seriously? Ignoring their stares of envy, our interview begins…


“When did health and fitness become a passion of yours?”

“I started the very beginning of my journey about 7 years ago, when I had no idea what I was doing, but I was trying. I started to get serious about my health and fitness about 3 years ago, when I started following structured workout plans, hiring a personal trainer, and following proper meal plans.”


“Would you describe yourself as a professional in the field?”

“I’m definitely not a professional. I’m just a regular, everyday person, trying to sift through the crap and scams, and find what actually works.”

Well that makes sense, but as a qualified drinker, I feel like I may have actual expertise on the art form if I ever wished to give advice on the subject. Who does she think she is?


“What makes you feel you are qualified to give advice on health and fitness?”

“What I’m posting is what I’ve discovered on my own journey, what works, what doesn’t work, and any research that I find interesting. I’m posting because weight loss can be daunting, and it’s very easy to get discouraged when you don’t make any progress. So if I share what I’ve found has worked for me, then hopefully the people reading it don’t have to go through the trial and error phase that I did.”

Daunting indeed – I recall my own attempt at getting in shape long ago. Needless to say, it didn’t work out too well. I open another beer and continue.


“Generally speaking, what would you consider to be a healthy lifestyle?”

“There are many different degrees of a “healthy lifestyle”, ranging from “I went for a walk today after work and didn’t have fast food” to “I hit the gym hard for 3 hours today and ate nothing but grilled chicken and steamed veggies”.

“Personally, I think that to be living a healthy lifestyle means getting exercise (for me it’s at the gym 3 to 5 times a week), eating the foods required to give your body the nutrients that it needs, and being happy and feeling good about the choices that you’re making. If what you’re doing physically for your lifestyle is driving you crazy mentally, that’s not sustainable, and will eventually fail. It’s important to maintain a balance of physical and mental health.”

I crack open another beer and light up a cigarette – don’t judge me, it’s Monday…


“Are you saying I shouldn’t be drinking and smoking on a daily basis?”

“I would say definitely not. It’s pretty clear that smoking and drinking in excess is bad for you. I certainly don’t want to tell people what to do, so this is just my opinion, but I think it’s okay to drink on occasion, a glass of wine with dinner, or a few drinks on a ‪Saturday afternoon‬, even a wild night out every once in a while is okay. It’s going to set back your health and fitness progress a little, but sometimes we need a bit of release, to let our hair down, and that’s okay.

But drinking every day, especially if you feel that you need to drink every day, that’s a problem. When I speak to people about their weight loss journeys, the number one thing that helped them, men especially, was cutting down on their alcohol intake.”

I kinda feel like a bit of a dope at this point. I quickly put out my cigarette and stash away my beers to which Laura nods in approval.

I’m about to take out my lunch, but decide to check first if I’ve made the right choice today…


“What about burgers? They have lettuce!”

“Indeed, burgers have lettuce. Look, there’s nothing wrong with burgers, it really depends on where they’re coming from. Fast food burgers are a no-no, homemade burgers, with lean beef, lettuce, beetroot, tomato, ketchup, and a little bit of cheese, go for it!

In fact, let’s compare the burger that I just described with a quarter pounder with cheese from McDonalds (similar ingredients):

Homemade –     Calories: 421       Carbs: 43              Fat: 12                   Protein: 34
McDonalds –       Calories: 520       Carbs: 41              Fat: 26                   Protein: 30

By making it at home, we’re saving 100 calories, and more than half the fat. So really, it’s all about where you’re getting your burgers from.”

Damn… I leave my fast food burger in my bag and make a note to go shopping later.


“What’s the single best piece of advice you can give to someone struggling with health?”

“No matter how many times you give up, you just have to get back up and keep going. Health, fitness, and weight loss is hard, and every time you start again, it gets easier and easier, so just keep going.”

Solid advice. I thank Laura for her time and she returns to her workout routine. As I leave, I take a pamphlet from the front desk titled ‘Personal Training’. Maybe it’s time to give this health and fitness thing another shot…

– Empty Chair Interviews