Tuesday, January 3, 2017

An Accidental Food Renaissance - Part 2

It would be silly to say that a single momentary bit of shame would drive such a significant change in my lifestyle. There were a lot of hints dropped over the course of the years... little seeds of doubt here and there. Sometimes simple reminders like a Wii Fit weigh-in or some clothes that were getting tight. Other times there would be more serious reminders such as a terrible heart palpitation in the middle of a diner breakfast, where I would feel my heart skip for several seconds, followed by a momentary shortness of breath and then the most frightening shudder and cold sweat imaginable despite being in the middle of summer. These and more should have jolted me into action immediately, but as always... it was the ever present "one day" that postponed any kind of diet.

But at least the desire grew and grew, so perhaps "Mailroom Day" was simply the feather that broke the camel's back.

At one very normal day at work, as we were packing up for an office relocation, I came to the mailroom to get some bubble wrap and boxes. There, a friend of mine was somewhat horsing around with the package scale, a huge industrial-sized one for the kind of heavy boxes they would work with. Just for fun he suggested i get on it.

My friend was a big guy, easily over six feet tall, of average build and very jovial. As I was fully convinced I was 180-some pounds, surely this would be a shoe-in. I got on the scale, ready to show off the results of abiding by mainstream health advice, being the paragon of low fat, low glycemic foods, and healthy whole grains!

READ AND WEEP AS I HAD FULL MASTERY OF MY--!!!

196lbs...

My friend cackled and promptly weighed himself... 184lbs.

"How do you weigh more than me?!", he uttered amusingly as I feigned a grin. But at the time I recall that I was seething, embarrassed, aghast, and completely disappointed with myself. After all that, I was still not only heavy but actually HEAVIER than before? The heaviest I had been in my life, at least at the time. For whatever reason, that was the catalyst that jolted me into action.

But I was still tied to the old paradigm, and I never once thought to question the efficacy of conventional dietary advice. As was often the case, I assumed that I had not been serious enough with my diet... after all, I was all about laissez-faire, counting on tacit knowledge and common sense to keep my weight in check. No calorie counting or food obsessions for me, everything in moderation. But clearly, I thought, my intuition was flawed, and I needed a bit more structure. Perhaps the calorie counters were right? Surely I was on the right track, I thought, so I just needed to try even HARDER than before!

And so after some quick research to find anything other than Weight Watchers, I found a promising alternative: SparkPeople.com. I gave it a try, not expecting much, but... I fell almost instantly in love! It was like a game! I had my little scoreboard and goals... achieve x number of calories a day, ensure you don't surpass this level of fat or sodium! Eat these alternatives, look them up in this fancy database, of which it seemed it had THOUSANDS of fully-detailed entries! It talked about alien concepts such as potassium, and these suddenly started seeping into my lexicon... clearly there were things out there that we are woefully deficient in due to our modern diets, and for all its worth this would prove a valuable lesson to me later.

All in all, the over-analyst in me was in love with this crazy semi-starvation diet... it was like conventional dieting, but with a proper game plan, fictitious perks, and rewards. The first few days were amazing... I hacked and slashed my meals to death, cutting them down to their base macro/micronutrients. I wasn't eating whole wheat bread, I was eating 69 calories, 12g of carbohydrates, and, more importantly, 0g of fat and cholesterol. Mushrooms weren't mushrooms but simply a convenient source of calorie-cheap potassium, and I gorged on them. It was perhaps annoying to some friends and family, but the enthusiasm combined with its quaint conventionality made it okay, even admirable considering I also exercised more often than not, making the most of the largely-unused Wii Fit.

And for a while it did produce results, stunning results even! I got down to a pretty impressive 170lbs, albeit after a SUBSTANTIAL amount of calorie deprivation and adamant note-taking. If I would have gone a bit further, perhaps I'd be like John Nash in the Hollywood rendition of "A Beautiful Mind", decorating my walls with food journals and calorie estimations. I didn't mind that my waistline itself was hardly different, so who the heck knows where all the weight fell off from; but by GAWD the scale wouldn't lie! I was healthy! I had done it!! I finally could strut my triumph to the world!!

Well by now it's pretty clear that the opinions of others weighed a bit too heavily for me, and in fact that ended up being the downfall of this semi-starvation experiment. After a while I didn't get the kind of external validation I was looking for. I was at the end of a long-running relationship for me, and for reasons not known to me at the time, I was much more easily depressed about it. It became harder to deprive myself... and in fact, even when trying the same calorie-obsessing as before, I could no longer lose the massive number of pounds as I could earlier, my body refused to cooperate. Exercise became so much harder, I lost strength and motivation. There were no rewards, no more fun... it was just pain and agony, and I reveled in it.

It took me 1.5 years to lose the weight I did, but probably 1.5 months or less to gain it all back, with interest. Before I left for Chicago I straddled 198lbs or so,... and no matter how often I tried to restart the SparkPeople program, it fell on its face before it even began. My body couldn't do it, saw no point to it. I had achieved victory and let it slip through my fingers, and now I was back to being hideous and pathetic in my eyes, perhaps worse now that I felt more sluggish, depressed, over-sensitive and ill.

It never occurred to me that the semi-starvation diet scarred me metabolically... it was always the same excuse as with any conventional diet.

It was my fault.

I screwed up, gave up, and now I deserved whatever was coming my way. Now food was not just my enemy, it was potentially even the Grim Reaper for me. I watched helplessly as I broke past 200lbs, and, worse, had health issues gang up on me like a pack of ravenous beasts.

I could no longer afford to care about my weight, now i had to worry about just staying alive....

[TO BE CONTINUED]

Original at: https://pixabay.com/photo-476403/
 

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