Fat v. Lean. Pivoting me
In May of 2014. I was approximately 205 pounds +/- the weight of a pizza.
There was no eureka moment that drove me to radically change my diet and lifestyle. Instead there were lots of little sharp things.
The two most irritating bits of shrapnel were:
1. Appearance: My weight has always gone from lean, muscular 175 to fat and puffy 220, wild swings that in hindsight probably exhibited my casually self diagnosed, mild manic depressive tendencies.
Youth is very forgiving of extra weight, of 100 pounds of rice in a 50 pound bag. The bag was elastic, accommodated and stretched itself, conforming to the burden but keeping its features recognizable. Then, in drips, I became older, and undeniably fat.
2. Sloth and torpor. My energy level was crap. I felt old and I could not maintain a high output for the duration that I was used to and expected of myself. I was a Yugo going uphill.
I saw the undoing of my life plan. I am a very methodical, deliberate and planning type person. My strategy was to work hard until a certain age, and then continue to work hard but with more discretion as to my own effort. I had reasonably succeeded in the first part, but in the latter I was failing. I had no energy to do anything beyond what was essential and absolutely required of me. Big problem. It was depressing but also aggravating because I knew the remedy was in me. It’s hard for adults to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. We get lazy and content. We become that person that we warned ourselves about.
The ingredients in my pantry of sorts
a. I have an obsessive quality: I am lucky that it is within a reasonably ‘normal’ zone. I can turn a switch on in my head and, when it’s time, I can turn it off. I think it’s a gift.
b. I really like to do things really well.
c. I am a creature of habit: I enjoy eating the same foods every day. This can be good/bad. Obviously, when you are eating like crap its bad, because momentum will keep you on a certain trajectory, but I was also aware that a one or two day change up would lead to new habits formed.
d. I must always have an opponent. Sherlock Holmes had his Moriarity. I need to have an idea, an ideal or a rallying cry. There always has to be a reason that compels me to have to do something better.
e. I like change, there is something thrilling to it. This is kind of intriguing to me because it collides with “I am a creature of habit”, but people are complex things and I think maybe I like to continue to challenge myself to succeed in a new environment or under new conditions (or whatever the circumstances are)
There are many books, columns, posts, videos and other miscellany that I can’t contribute anything worthy to archives about diets, exercise routines or how-to’s.
I can only offer my anecdotal and very personal science of body and mind, compiled from a sample size of 1.
a. Lethargy was my biggest obstacle and I had trouble distinguishing what was ‘real’ or a convenient deception. I overcame this by re-calibrating. The exercise went from being an activity to a ritual. When it’s something you have to do as part of the sequence in a day it’s a lot easier to do it as it quickly becomes a mechanical motion.
Pick your enemies wisely:
b. Salt is really bad. I try and intake the absolute minimum. The mythology is that it is primarily canned foods that are high in salt and it’s used as a preservative. Well, if that’s true then how come places like Prêt a manger (with its haughty French name) that market themselves as a healthy fast food alternative where food is made fresh daily, have so much salt in their food. Read the labels, it’s shocking. Don’t believe marketing lies. Salt will weigh you down, make you tired and lazy. When given a choice, choose no added salt or don’t eat it.
c. Sugar is also really bad. It gives me a quick energy boost and then shortly after a crash, and to restore my prior level and feeling, I need more sugar. Only way to end this cycle is go cold turkey. My diet is extremely low in sugars. Even fruits have lots of salt so be careful there, oranges, in the wrongs hands at the wrong time of day is just a big juicy candy.
d. Breads: cos they have sugar and salt and other things that go bump in the night.
e. Frenemies (incidentally, this word now acceptable in Scrabble play as it has been included in the Scrabble dictionary)
Like everything else, there is some part of the human population that has too much opinion. Because weight is such an intimate element that affects and is affected by the deepest parts of our identity and concept of ourselves, be determined to strike out the peculiar comments people might make. Know where you want to get to and be determined.
The people I appreciated are those that came over to me, introduced themselves and observed my weight loss as I progressed, said something kind, were willing to discuss some parts of their own experience, would let me watch them workout, train, stretch and whom I trusted for answers. They were sincere and truthful and gave me great guidance and hope.
I now include one spice into my every recipe, acknowledgement of the other person, their need to ‘see’ that it can be done, that their own progress is noticeable and that doing ‘it’ is a most personal achievement.
So I wrote this to say thank you to them, and there is no better way than for me now to be that same person for whoever might find this post.
Before when I would lose weight and be in top shape, it was mission accomplished, my objective was completed and it was okay for me to slide out of shape because it allowed me to challenge myself again. Like the thrill a kid might have as another tooth becomes loose and they may push and pull at it in their mouth
Now I have learned that the goal, that slim destination, is in staying put here, where I am.
That wanderlust to travel someplace else and infrequently visit was mistaken and I must stay here, home.