My father grew up on a farm, and one of his favorite sayings about strength and fitness was “if you lift a calf every day, pretty soon you’ll be lifting a whole cow.” The imagery on that one is amusing, at least, but though the implied lesson of the benefits of consistent effort is sound, there aren’t many people outside of the Marvel or DC universes who are actually going to be able to lift a cow. No matter how many calves they lifted.

No, the human body will peak out long before any of us start bench-pressing a longhorn steer or Angus bull. There are a host of changes we can make to improve our bodies both for overall health and aesthetics, but there are limits to probability if not actual possibility. And besides, ask any farmer — calves themselves are no lightweights.

Unlike many reptiles, which can grow as big as their food source will support, the human body does have some limits. Humans are mammals, and mammals have a genetic preset, if you will, on how tall we can grow. My father’s genetics, for instance, topped him out at around 6-foot even. My genetics dictated 5-9 to be my maximum height, assuming I don’t slouch.

Now these genetic dispositions do not mean that humans can’t get bigger; or to put it rather indelicately, larger. Take me, for instance. The best I have felt in my life, which is to say healthiest, was when I weighed around 190 pounds. I was working 10-15-hour days and eating pretty much anything that was not moving too fast. I took in the fuel and burned it up with very little left to use the next day. But that was OK because I ate again the next day and repeated the process.

Somewhere along the line, however, my feet gave out ... and knees as well, and the back wasn’t doing that great, either. These issues and age began to rear their collectively ugly heads and guess what? I slowed down. Those 10-15-hour days became eight- to 10-hour days, then six to eight, and then, well, you get the idea. But guess what didn’t change during all of this! That’s right; I still ate the same amount.

You know, perhaps, if you had started lifting me when I was a baby, you would eventually be lifting a whole cow.

OK, that is a bit extreme. But the point is this; I am still 5-9, assuming I don’t slouch. But I don’t weigh 190 pounds anymore. I forgot the key — the cardinal rule to everything, which is balance. I ate more than I needed to eat, even when I was younger. I enjoy food because, well, it’s food. And I don’t plan on giving up food anytime in the foreseeable future, cow jokes notwithstanding. But I am going to take the advice of a knowledgeable woman I quote in an article in this same edition.

I am going to pay attention to my body, and maybe balance out the amounts and types of food I eat. Just because ice cream comes in a quart (and larger) container doesn’t mean I should eat it all ... at least not in one sitting. But I’m not even going to try the cow-lifting. Maybe I’ll start with something smaller though, like bench-pressing cats. If I can figure out how to keep them on the bar ...

Reach CHARLES ROMANS at cromans@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2655.

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