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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Burdens Of Bliny and Black Caviar

This country is weighing me down. Literally. I have been carrying about 20 pounds of Russia with me for a few years now, and I'm starting to get tired.

In my former life, in the West, I was something of a health nut. My idea of a good time was an hour and a half on the stair machine, followed by some crunchy, low-fat, vitamin-rich salad. A real nerd, in other words.

Needless to say, all that went out the window the minute I hit Moscow.

I was full of good intentions. I joined a high-priced, New Russian gym, full of the latest equipment, with a bar that featured fresh-squeezed orange juice (into which Russians would inevitably heap several tablespoons full of sugar), and a sauna.

I persevered in the face of incredible odds -- such as the gaggles of sleek Russian beauties in the chicest of exercise gear, accompanied by thick-necked thugs in jogging suits who stood around hefting small automobiles while they waited for their molls to emerge, perfectly coiffed and with makeup still in place, from the steam room.

I would slink in and out, trying to hide my serviceable all-weather coat among the major furs slung carelessly over locker room hooks.

But the pace of life here is such that my treks to this exercise mecca became fewer and fewer. Given the astronomical yearly fee, I gauged that each session was costing close to $100, pennies perhaps for the normal clientele, but a bit steep for me. Subjecting oneself to embarrassment and pain is hard enough without having to go bankrupt in the process.

I swore I would take up running again. Hah. Besides the fact that there is snow and ice on the ground for six months of the year, the air is so bad that a 45-minute run is roughly equal to smoking a pack of unfiltered Camels.

My friend Tanya advises me to change my diet. I am supposed to consume kefir -- that sour, watery, yogurt-type drink -- for breakfast, vegetables for lunch, and nothing for dinner.

I'm sure it would help. The problem is, I despise kefir, have no time to buy, prepare, or eat vegetables, and come home from work so famished that I raid the refrigerator for whatever paltry supplies I have managed to accumulate. Mostly I live on kiosk scrounge -- from Ramen noodle soup and half-stale bread to Picnic chocolate bars (which almost count as health food because they have raisins and cereal in them).

If it weren't for pizza delivery I would have expired long ago. As it is, at one company they now know my voice, and my dog Sasha is on a first-name basis with most of the drivers.

My Russian friends feed me, of course, but the native cuisine is what got me into this fix in the first place. Pelmeni drenched in sour cream, bliny and caviar, butter-laden chicken Kiev -- it's not exactly the Slim-Fast diet.

Why can't I be one of those pale, diaphanous sorts who are too depressed to eat? I'm as depressed as the next guy, dammit, but it hasn't affected my appetite.

Perhaps one day I'll get my car fixed, my schedule will lighten up, a reasonably priced gym will open in Moscow, and I'll be able to buy low-fat cheese in my local grocery store. And perhaps there is a tooth fairy.

In the meantime, I'm going for another Picnic bar.