Category Archives: Eats

Two Years And Another Life

Something I wrote two years ago: “I don’t look for exoneration, though I want it. There is no one in this world who can be both aware of my actions and the reasons for them except for me. Since I don’t pardon myself, I expect no less from others.” -X

I’m nudging up on the two-year mark of my brother’s death, and the ensuring bell ring/vision in my head. I’m eyeless to some of the underlying nonsense going on in my head. I’m more convinced than ever that had everything not happened in the unlikely sequence it did that I would likely be dead. Weight loss was just one component of it. Two years out, my explanation is the same: I don’t get credit for it. Something broke, and the vision I’d seen of myself would be the end result. It made me rigidly hyper-focused.

I still tell people, “Don’t give me credit for doing it. I should never have let myself go to that extent. It’s like a meth addiction; no one should embark on such a journey. It’s good that I stopped overeating, but terrible I let it go so far.”

I fluctuate around the mid-160s for my weight. I feel lighter than air at 150-155 lbs. That weight requires devout adherence to a healthier diet.

The trick isn’t losing weight. It’s figuring out what works long-term. It’s relatively easy to commit to weight loss for a few months. It’s quite another to develop a different relationship with food. Food is the in-law that sleeps in your bedroom.

Food Satan is always on duty, attempting to pounce on you. When you’re tired. When you want that sublime sensation of buttery smoothness. Or salty starch. At 11 p.m. when you really should be horizontal and not sticking your head inside the fridge.

Delicious food is ubiquitous and calls our name from the other room wearing a negligee.

It pains me to see people struggle with their weight.

I’ve watched many people make a list of ‘the reasons’ they can’t lose weight, even if they desperately want to. It’s eye-opening and mostly rationalizations. Heck, isn’t almost everything we tell ourselves?

When I lost almost all my weight, I added no additional exercise. It was immediately apparent that I was consuming an awful lot more calories than I was burning. My life was already active because of my job. Because of that, I focused all my enthusiasm on eating differently while avoiding going hungry. Being hungry is a sign that you won’t be able to maintain any successes you might experience. Generally speaking, you must eat and eat often.

I’m at the two-year mark. I’m grateful for those two years, even as I’ve had other struggles.

Primarily online, I catch hell for the simplicity with which I explain the weight loss problem. There are exceptions for some people; most of us eat too many calories versus what we burn. There is no escaping the math of it. People berate me by making specious arguments about the complexities of healthy diets. It’s not complicated at all! Less sugar, less fat, fewer processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions, and different choices. You don’t need to be 100% militant, but you do need to be 100% vigilant about your choices. Enjoy the allegedly ‘terrible’ foods from time to time, or otherwise, you’ll go bonkers. Especially if you sit and watch your friends and family eat an entire basket of buttery breadsticks or an entire large pizza.

I do enjoy the endless arguments online about the ‘best’ way, goofy supplements, energy drinks, and the myriad ways you can be made to part with your money. Whatever you choose, you must do it for the rest of your life. Find what works. It’s not a sprint. It’s a french fry-scented marathon.

I recently looked into the beer-and-sausage guy. He does a weird diet once a year, every year. He always loses weight because his caloric intake is less. His bloodwork also improves in tandem – no matter WHAT he is eating.

It’s not a comforting idea to know that we can probably only eat 1600-3000 calories daily. If your limit is 2500, a sugary soda contains about 150, which is 1/16th of your average limit. A 2 oz. Snickers bar is 280 calories, well over 10% of your intake limit.

The simplest way to say it: most overweight people eat too many calories.

I don’t blame them. Food is amazingly delicious and brings happiness.

Fresh french fries or pizza? Oh my god. You won’t find a bigger aficionado of some types of potato chips than me. Chips and salsa? Yes, please. Two baskets if you’ve got them.

It wasn’t hard for me to practice “Choose your hard” when I started.

My vision, or whatever it was, took control.

Afterward? Remembering that food choices now bring unwanted results or continued success depends on how strong the siren voice of negligee-clad food is.

As Fat Bastard eloquently quipped, “Get in my belly!”

X
.

There Is No Secret

This is a piece of motivation. Nadine, if you’re reading this, imagine that I’m an expert and not the goofball you know.

Stress will never disappear from your life. Neither will the obstacles that frequently jump up and surprise you. You’ll always be tired at times and not want to prepare delicious food that feeds your body. You’ll always be tempted to stop at some place quick and delicious on the way home. Given the certainty of those variables, you’ll have to come up with incremental changes. They won’t feel natural at the beginning. Nothing does. Continuity and comfort work for us. But they also work against us when we’re motivated to do something different.

If you want to eat less or eat more healthy so that you’ll look better, embrace it. Anyone who tries to discount the vanity and self-esteem aspect of looking better is fighting human nature. If you think you look better, you will almost always feel better. It will translate to energy and optimism. If you want to eat differently just to be more healthy, that can be amazing too. We all know that the food we eat is the fuel that helps our body protect itself. It’s equally important to know that you can do everything perfectly and still have illnesses and unexpected calamity. As we get older, all of us are forced to confront that.

Everyone who tries something new eventually hits the wall of the reluctance curve. You won’t see as much progress as you would like. Or you will have days where you fail. It will feel like those days of failure far outweigh any progress you’ve made. It’s not true. You have to exercise that muscle of habit. If you do things incrementally, over time, even with days of failure, you’re improving yourself and your habits. There will be days when you will drink an entire bottle of wine and probably eat half a cheesecake too. But over time, you will see that there are simple ways to eat a whole lot of food and be happy with them. It does require you think and plan ahead so that you’re not creating obstacles. Chances are if you’re smart enough and motivated enough to make such a change, you will be able to do it. It will be easy to point the finger at the people around you, because Lord knows they’re going to be eating entire pepperoni pizzas and ice cream while you are choosing better options. At the same time, there are times when you should go crazy and a pizza with them. Because life is short and food is delicious.

Try not to start habits that you cannot do for the rest of your life. Because once you start them and have some success, if those habits fall to the wayside, you’ll start eating unhealthy and put the weight back on. Diet and nutrition is pure mathematics. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn long term. It’s not so much about the individual days as it is the arc of your progress. It’s one of the reasons I advise people to not weigh themselves more than once a week or once a month.

For most of us, if you don’t have underlying medical conditions, no matter how bitter the truth is, most of us can hit an ideal weight simply by changing what we eat. Our bodies have developed over thousands of years to survive. Exercise has its own benefits, ones that overlap into other areas of your life. But you do not have to do any exercise changes to achieve your goal weight. You have to swallow the truth that your weight is nothing more than putting more calories in your body then you are burning. No matter how many calories you burn through exercise, the physical truth is that the overwhelming majority of your weight is diet and daily activity. I can’t stress enough that I am not saying don’t exercise or go to the gym if that benefits you. I am saying that we only have a certain number of hours in a day. If you can achieve your goal without using those precious hours in ways you don’t enjoy, then try to wrap your head around the fact that you can do it without activity that doesn’t bring you joy.

If you don’t have any medical conditions, you can be the way you want to be.

Read the last sentence as many times as it takes to believe it.

Will it be hard for you to eat differently? That depends on how you use your intelligence to learn new ways of eating and stick with them.

Choose your hard.

When we don’t choose, we are pushing the consequences to our future. We still have to deal with them.

You can do it. But everything hinges on you making the decision to invest in yourself.

If you’re happy with the way you look and especially so if you’re mostly healthy, embrace it. Don’t try to lose what you see as extra pounds. You can be happy with that if you have a happy outlook. If it is about your appearance, find someone who loves you. That kind of adoration is transformative for your self-esteem. It becomes easier to see yourself as they do, even if you are plagued by self-doubt.

Whatever your goal is, do not attempt to go from 0 to 60. Incremental changes are best. You can experiment as you go and find the things that work for you and skip the ones you don’t. That is what we’re supposed to do in life. We often skip the second half and forget to remove the things from our life that detracts from it.

Don’t bother with spending money on supplements or anything you have to pay for. It can all be done with delicious food that you like. In this modern age, we have more variety than we ever have. Take advantage of it and use your intelligence.

People ask me what the secret is. The secret is… There is no secret. Simplicity in your life and simplicity in your diet. Eat fewer calories than you burn and live a good life.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re starting. No one changes until they do. No matter how you got to where you are or the way you are, it took a lot of years of habits to get there. If we thought things could not be changed, it would be a horrible cynical world.

Love, X
.

Taste Torture Love

During the cheesecake fiasco at Whole Foods the other day, I bought a reasonably-priced jug of protein powder. I should have known!

Anything reasonably priced at Whole Foods is 100% a mistake. Trust me.

It’s like buying your auto insurance from a guy named Honest Pete. You just don’t do it.

This brand is plant-based. Today, I made ten servings of it. The label said “French Vanilla.” The flavor is so opposite the label that I decided it is a new form of reverse marketing.

I made mine with skim milk. When I took the first gulp, the truth is that I thought it tasted like a chalky fart.

Yes, you read that right.

You know how you drive past a weird part of town and realize that the municipal wastewater treatment plant must be nearby? It was exactly like that but without the nostalgia. You have to drive a mile to rid the smell from the interior of your car.

The grit and residue left in my teeth was remarkable. Had someone thrown an urn of ashes in my face, I wouldn’t have noticed, probably even if threw the actual metal urn in my face, too. I decided that it reminded me of a mix of flatulence, diet tonic water, black licorice, and the tears of Tibetan monks.

As I stood there drinking it, I read the label. I couldn’t find “bile” anywhere in the list.

By the time I finished the serving?

I realized that it tastes so terrible that I LOVE it.

Just ignore me if I swallow and shiver as I imbibe it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I grow horns or an extra ear after drinking this stuff.

It’s rancid. I’ll buy it again if I catch it “on sale” at Whole Foods. Or possibly in their dumpster. Yes, I’m conflicted!

Love, X

Misadventure At Jason’s

Misadventure At Jason’s

Having a horrible experience at a restaurant is a first-world problem; that, I acknowledge. Covid doesn’t factor into my latest mess. Few people working or visiting the eatery in question wore masks yesterday. That’s okay by me. Having survived attempted strangulation by my bowels makes it hard for me to throw stones at external threats beyond my control.

Yes, Tammy, I should have opted for Sam’s rotisserie chicken. : ) Now that I’m out of the hospital, I wanted to enjoy a calorie and flavor-rich simple meal prepared by a restaurant that c-a-n make delicious food. It was to be my first post-surgery restaurant experience. It was late enough past the post-lunch crowd that the most significant impediment would be circumvented. Or so I thought. After realizing that Renzo’s was closed on Sunday, my friend and I immediately agreed on Jason’s Deli. We used the app to simplify the process and paid online. I took a large cash tip with me to reward the employees involved. Curbside pickup would make it easy for me to avoid unnecessary strain and bypass any covid issues. (Not that I’m worried, as so many vaccinated people are getting breath-through cases.) I wasn’t in a hurry, and I left to go pick up the order.

Calling the number on the Curbside pickup sign, I immediately knew that I might have a bad experience. The employee answering the phone lashed out. My response was both surprise and a little laughter. I tried to picture what Hell she’d already experienced by 1 p.m. to motivate her to practice that degree of insult. Avoiding any humorous snark, I answered her as best as I could. The details don’t matter. I called my friend, laughing, telling her what the Jason’s employee had said. Since I work in an environment where customer service often morphs into malicious compliance when an employee gets angry, I easily recognized that the employee in question would have gladly jumped off a building to get out of there. I lowered my expectations and waited.

After 30+ minutes past the initial “order-ready” time, I went inside to the to-go area. I wasn’t upset, just confused. At this point, I was still laughing a little at the unlikely outcome I’d got myself into by choosing Jason’s. I called my friend who was going to share the meal with me. I apologized for laughing. It was so ridiculous I didn’t know how else to respond. I sent a picture of the lop-sided layout; 99% of employees on the dine-in side and one lone guy attempting to keep up with the to-go/curbside/driver end that comprised at least 50% of the business.

People were waiting, frustrated. A lone male employee was manning the entire ‘out’ portion of the long prep bar. He was hustling against piles of half-prepared sandwiches, missing items, and dozens of order tickets thrown and stuck everywhere. A dozen employees were helping dine-in customers get their food quickly.

A couple of food delivery drivers expressed their frustration and walked out. One announced, “Okay. I don’t want any of these orders. I don’t care about the money or the food.” And he left.

Twenty minutes later, I finally got to the to-go register. “Can I speak to a manager?” She looked at me, angry. “No. She’s working the line for dine-in.” And she answered the phone, ignoring me. I stayed in my spot. The woman looked back up to see me and walked off, leaving her spot. Another employee came up a minute later, and I said, “I’d like a refund, no harm and no foul, and thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “We don’t have time to issue refunds. You get what you get.” I’m paraphrasing. “Wait, ma’am, I’m sorry it’s so busy, but I’m tired and stressed. I need a refund.” She walked off.

Customers and delivery drivers watched and listened. For the second time, I thought maybe I was on an episode of “What Would You Do.”

When the first woman came back to the register, she didn’t make eye contact. “Move. I can’t help you. The manager is working the line and can’t come up here.” Stunned, I stepped slightly to the side as the employee helped someone else. I’m omitting things that would make this encounter worse. You can imagine the other words said to me and around me. Each time the phone rang, the workers recoiled and had an epithet to utter.

I waited a few more minutes. Order tickets, half-prepared food, and boxes continued to pile up as the single male to-go person fought against a tide of orders. Another driver said, “Hey, you’re supposed to treat this like a drive-through and process us out. I’ve been here an hour and have orders sitting in my car getting cold/hot/old.” No one listened.

I was sorry for everyone, workers and customers alike.

All the energy and enthusiasm I’d had evaporated. My body just wanted to sit down, even if I had to eat slices of bread for a meal.

I cut through and walked around to the dine-in register, now empty. The lunch rush was well over by then. No one wanted to come to the register. An employee walked up, exasperated. “Can I take your order?” I said, “No, I’m sorry. Look, I need a refund. I’m sorry.” I’m editing this portion, too. The employee, a young female, didn’t quite know how to do it.The long to-go order person walked up, answered the phone, and said, “#$#@ I’m working on it!” before I said anything. He threw a piece of paper at me. It said “$0” on it. It wasn’t a canceled receipt. “Sir, I’m sorry, I need a receipt cancellation, something indicating my order was voided.” Angry stare, followed by angry words. He waved me off, telling me to leave and shut up. Incredulous, I repeated, “Sir, I apologize it’s so hard here, but I need just a second…” He said something bizarre to the caller, held the phone against his chest, and screamed down at the manager working on the prep line, “Come take care of this asshole! He won’t shut up.” He shook his fist in the air in front of me. It was not a polite gesture. I took a breath. I remained standing there, waiting to give it one more try.

The to-go order employee screamed at the manager again. I won’t cite words here, either. Whether you believe me or not, I felt sorry for him. Work shouldn’t push anyone to that point. I’m pretty sure a few people in my position would have thrown a punch.

The manager walked up and said, “It’s always this way.” I said, “The details don’t matter. I just want a refund. I know it’s busy, but your employees have been rude, cursed at me, and treated me and others like we’re not human. I wasn’t in a hurry. I feel bad for everyone. Is this a receipt?” She looked at it. She gave me another explanation.

And I tried to make a human connection: “You know how you never know what someone else is going through? I’ve been respectful, calm, and patient. I waited 30 minutes outside and well over an hour here inside. I apologize that everything is impossible in here, I truly do. Let me show you that we have our own issues.” I lifted my red t-shirt and showed her my long, jagged metal staple wound. “I don’t think I’ll follow-up about this visit, but if I do, please remember that I was polite, didn’t raise my voice, and my only crime was trying to get food and celebrate. I’m so sorry for all of us.” I meant it.

She apologized. I felt terrible for her, the workers, and everyone else who found themselves in an unexpected retail Hell.

I left, feeling like I’d been at Jason’s for the equivalent of an entire afternoon, even though it had been at most two hours. Another Uber driver spoke to me outside. I told him a ten-second recap and wished him well, knowing his afternoon had already crashed. “I’ve got orders in the car, ones I’ve had over an hour.” I smiled. “I’m so sorry. There’s no fix for this.” And there’s not. The corporation won’t staff adequately, and the employees don’t know how to go from incredible anger to communicate the mess effectively.

I drove back to the apartment.

Within a little over 30 minutes later, a local Chinese restaurant delivered a mountain of dishes. I ate like a king. But the mess and melee of Jason’s stayed in my head all afternoon. More than anything, the most significant realization is how a retail encounter put so many people in the position of being lesser than any of us should ever be with one another.

I treated everyone I came into contact with kindness and regard. It was supposed to be a simple meal, one to celebrate being out of the hospital.

Instead, it was a reminder that staffing is too low everywhere – and that it’s easy to use stress as a lever to be hateful.

I’m not sure I can indict Jason’s Deli too harshly. But it now holds the title of worst retail restaurant experience of my life – and that’s quite the feat at my age.

Did I go too far showing the manager my surgery incision? Maybe. But we always hear that we don’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. I put myself into the shoes of every Jason’s Deli employee during and after the mess of yesterday. Except for the manager, none of them imagined why the soft-spoken guy in the red shirt looked so forlorn about humans being unable to stop the madness and reset.

I haven’t processed some of these same lessons from being in the hospital last week. People are stressed, understaffed, and unmanaged. Many of us don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to respond to situations that force us to forget that we’re just momentary flashes of life and need to do better.

Love, X
.

My Date With Fast Food

Because I’d dropped to too low of a weight, I decided to have my first full meal at a fast food place: Burger King. I ate an impossible Whopper and fries. I’ve eaten the patty from an impossible burger about once a month, but never the sandwich and especially not french fries. I don’t count calories, but the Impossible Whopper is about 600-800 calories. I love them. (The calories and the burger.)

Most people who skip eating such things for a while say that eating it the first time makes them queasy. Not me. It was delicious. I didn’t feel nauseous. And I don’t feel guilty. I’ve said 1,000 times that I don’t believe that foods are intrinsically healthy vs unhealthy; it’s just quantity and frequency that cause us problems. I’m rounding the corner in a few weeks to making my health plan succeed for a year. I’ve paid a hard price for all of this and don’t want to compound those failures by derailing my success.

Even though I wasn’t hungry, I just ate a healthy meal of fruits, vegetables, and yes, meat. I also drank a V-8 and ate a banana. I drink 1 or two V-8 every day, take fiber, the best multivitamin I can find, and a couple of other supplements that were recommended for someone like me with my activity level.

I was so proud that I’d listened to someone who was telling me to “pull up” on the eating scarcity. Instead of conveying that message, I inadvertently came across as snarky. The dumb lesson is that I communicated with a picture instead of an explanation. I thought, for once, I’d forego torturing someone with my inability to say something simply. 🙂 Yeah, I failed. It turns out, sometimes needless explanations are preferable to succinct ones.

I didn’t eat Burger King to make a point: I ate it because it’s delicious and a great way to eat calories.

I went to Harps over by the campus a little bit ago. I finally bought a package of Oscar Meyer Smokies, which for a lazy vegetarian, are about the best snack item I can imagine.

I also limited myself to 500 pushups today. That’s another success, too.

The people, the noise, the traffic, the joy of people celebrating. I’m not a sports fan, but I was taken with the sheer enthusiasm in all the hubbub. It was so contagious even I’m beginning to believe we could pull off an upset.

What Is Too Thin?

This post is personal. Please forgive me if my tone is harsh; it’s not my intention. Like I always do, I write vaguely at times, use a word or adopt a tone carelessly. Read this with the idea that you’re getting to know me better. If you read it looking for errors or a fight, you’ll of course find motive.

I woke up this morning to find myself weighing 146.9 lbs. I was shocked. I knew my day yesterday had been intense. I walked over 40,000 steps and managed to do 2,500 pushups. Not to mention an insane amount of physical work during the day, too. I’ve always imagined 165-168 as the control setpoint, with 170ish as the upper limit.

I am a little amused that anyone would lecture me by saying, “You’ve lost too much weight.” From my perspective, it is a great compliment. Losing 35% of who you were makes for interesting stories.

I’m sorry you don’t see my weight as normal. That’s a problem.

Not for me. You. 🙂

My cousin is concerned, and rightly so, because she recognizes how easy it is to let a goal turn to obsessive madness. I’m not anorexic or suffering from an eating disorder. There are days when I burn as many calories as an athlete. Work alone is so intensely physical that I look back over the last 16 years and wonder how I managed to be obese so many times. My cousin has earned the right to be the chiding voice in my ear. Her voice is in my head, reminding me to eat a wider variety and more calorie-rich foods in the process.

It was in part due to my cousin that I started doing pushups on June 1st. If you’d told me that I’d do 2,500 in a day 13 weeks later, I would have said, “You’re crazy!” But I did learn an invaluable lesson: there is no upper limit to how many I can do. At the outset, I had to be careful of my right shoulder. Work is intense and taxing. The pushups have largely eliminated the pain. I’m going to do my best to limit myself to 500 a day for a while. Yesterday will be in my head for years, though, because I surprised myself. That can’t be taken away from me when my body finally gets old and surrenders.

In October of last year, I had an epiphany. I saw myself as thin. Explaining the certainty of it doesn’t translate well when I talk about it. While my goal shifted increasingly downward as my vision became a reality, I didn’t plan on going past 170 in my wildest fantasy. While other parts of my life exploded, whatever happened to my head in October didn’t fade. As the months passed, I was amused that people attributed my success to willpower. It wasn’t that. It was clarity and stubbornness. Looking down at the scale and seeing “155” is a fantastic feeling. 146.9 is a bit disconcerting. I’m working on that without succumbing to many bad eating choices: Doritos, thick pizza, cheese, 54 pieces of chocolate, that sort of thing. I eat “unhealthy” food at times. (I hate labeling food as healthy or unhealthy; it’s volume and frequency that are the culprits.)

There are a couple of precursors to my “moment.” In February of last year, I started the process of losing weight, in part due to Covid. Stress took its toll, and I regained most of the weight I lost. Not all of it, thank god. At some point, I replaced the relatively new stove in the house with a bigger, better one to be able to more easily cook batches of healthy food. That drive to finally kick the fat bucket was brewing inside me. I know that reeks of an excuse. In October, my brother Mike died. Thereafter, I thought I had Covid and felt like I was dying. That morning is when the light bulb went off with an explosion in my head.

I often think about what would have happened to me had I not lost the weight. Would I have experienced a health issue? Or died? I know that losing weight during the long stretch of the Covid run saved my bacon on countless days. It let me stop feeling my knees hurt and my back. The converse of that is whether or not the rest of my life would have blown up had I stayed obese. It’s a real question for me. How much did my massive weight loss and attitude change have to do with my marriage imploding? There’s no question that staying so fat was going to cost me a part of my mobility – and perhaps forever. Being so overweight takes away a bit of so many corners of a person’s life. It’s because we gain incrementally and in ways we don’t notice. From there, we realize, “I’m fat. Oh my god.” We choose the hard that we’ve learned rather than embracing the hard of making positive choices.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, the feeling of eating healthy and making endless good choices is sublime. It’s a self-reinforcing mandate. This is true for any personal goal.

Today was the lowest weight I’ve hit. I got close Monday night after foolishly running five miles. Upon returning, I had to drink a gallon of water and then attempt to sleep. I think I dreamed about a running river, and that made me nervous for reasons that should be obvious.

For weeks, I’ve been in the low 150s. This week has been a barrage of work, running, walking, and pushups.

I get a lot of compliments. Questions. And some criticism. Some people are waiting for me to balloon back up. When I started, I repeatedly objected with, “Let’s see in a year.” The year is coming fast upon me in October.

One morning, the wife of a friend passed me in the hallway. “You look amazing, X!” We both laughed. Yesterday, someone said, “If you lose any more, you’ll dry up and blow away. You look great.” She lost a lot of weight herself for health reasons not too long ago. There’s rarely a day that passes where someone doesn’t notice that I’m thin. Today, a security guard who resembles me was standing by the elevator and saw that it was ME standing there. He thought I was someone he didn’t know. “You need to tell me your secret and how to do it.” He patted his stomach. “I’ll call you,” he said. He’s going to be disappointed when I tell him the big secret is to choose healthier food and to listen to what his body actually needs. “Keep your mouth closed” is a terrible name for a diet book.

On a recent morning, someone asked me in all seriousness, “How did you do it? You’re not sick, are you? Or did you have the surgery for weight?” I told her that it was simply eating well and that I didn’t have a secret. I told her about my friend Tammy, who managed to do what I did and that she was also about my age- and that if she could, I had nothing except excuses. I indeed started doing pushups on June 1st. But I had already hit 150 by the time I started.

“Just don’t lose any more weight, X.” My coworker meant it in kindness.

I have a couple of people in my life who resent that I lost the weight. It’s a bit bizarre to me, even now. I made it clear when I started that I was a bystander to my transformation. While I did adopt a diet that I experimented with, a big part of what happened was as if it happened to someone else while I observed it. All I can is that obsessively following a system yields results.

I’ve tried to avoid being too evangelical about weight loss. Some people do have medical issues that make it impossible or difficult. For those who’ve been less than enthusiastic about what I’ve done, I attribute it to that odd human proclivity toward pettiness. Watching someone do it renders many objections that it is difficult or impossible to be completely moot. With enough motivation to move from ‘wanting to’ toward ‘making it a reality,’ most people can do it. Anyone who decides that it is a ‘must’ will find a way. Or try. I remember a cartoon from years ago. A man was sitting on the pavement, having stopped halfway through the race. He said, “It’s too much. I can’t run 26 miles.” The next panel showed a man with prosthetic legs racing past. The people with the “sitting on the pavement” mentality often don’t appreciate it when people go racing by, ignoring objections. I used to find myself being that type of person, too.

It’s tough to be around someone who steps into a new motivation. Though I never intended my weight loss to be an insult to anyone else, it did happen. This sort of journey inevitably changes a person. A success in one arena drives them into others. Of course, the person is going to change. Sometimes fundamentally, especially as behaviors become habits and a new way of life. A common complaint in relationships is “You’ve changed.” A trite but true rebuttal to that is, “And you haven’t.” We’re not meant to be static. If you’re in a relationship and one of you will transform themselves, my word of advice is to have frank conversations about it – and go to a counselor if you see that it’s becoming a wedge.

One critic insisted that people were constantly saying how ill I looked. That I am too skinny. Relentlessly adamant. They quoted the anonymous “they” to me. When I’m ready to hire a consultant about my choices, I’ll let them know immediately. IF such people care for me, they will find a way to communicate it to me. Since they didn’t, I have to attribute what ‘they’ allegedly said to a polite conversation with my critics. There’s no crime in honestly talking to someone about their weight if you care about them. The bigger sin is not to do so.

So, of course, despite having the tools to show otherwise, I visited a nutritionist. She said, “Oh baloney!” She agreed that some of it is attributable to the fact that I was obese for so many years and that the change was abrupt and substantial. She looked at my pictures at 252 and 232 and then as I am now. “You’re great, X. If you do add muscle, your BMI will seem off. But it won’t mean you’ve become unhealthy. You have to balance your body against more than a simple BMI. If someone still incorrectly tells you that you are underweight, send them to me. I’d be shocked if they don’t realize how overweight most people tend to be now.”

If I continue to be as active as I am now, muscle mass will increase, resulting in a higher weight without the associated fat content.
I chose 168 as my set point. My job is very physical, and I’ve kept my leisure time activity rate higher than average, too, without going to a gym. I’ve channeled my anxiety into exercise. As the counselor I saw told me, short-term measures are warranted; if they become long-term measures, you’ll have to figure out that, too.

I lost a lot of weight that year, as part of an intense 3-way weight loss bet.

Most of us don’t have a realistic idea of how much we should weigh, nor how many calories we should eat on an average day. I look back at my pictures and shake my head. I missed out on a lot by being so overweight. I can’t get that time back, so it’s on to the next goal of ensuring my habits remain permanent – without risking developing a food issue. They are rare in men who are 54 years old. Food is too damn good and calls me by name like everyone else.

The majority of people around me don’t think, “Ugh, he’s TOO thin and looks terrible.” They think, “X looks normal.” So, if you’re in the minority who feel like I’m too thin, get online or talk to your doctor.

Or get a hobby.

The consensus is overwhelming: I’m at a normal weight, with a buffer of loss and gain comfortably on both sides.

This is how I’m supposed to look, so get over it and be enthusiastic for anyone who can do it. If you love me, of course, you should step in and tell me I’ve got my head up my ass if I continue to lose weight.

To be clear, I’m not talking about my face; whether that’s normal is up for the monkeys to decide.

My weight, though? I’m good. It’s not just my body saying so. It’s science.

In time, people will see this as the new normal. It looks normal, but it feels fantastic to be able to move with agility, walk for miles, do pushups, and run even if I stupidly decide to do so.

There’s always the danger of forgetting the lessons I learned.

One of those lessons is to stop letting critical people get inside my head. They can make fun of my brooches all they want. Just not my weight.

And if I get off track or fail, I proved to myself that my objections and excuses about why I couldn’t do it were all dumb. And that I could do it again. We all fail until we don’t.

No matter who you are, you can do something today. That’s enough, no matter how small. Tomorrow, a little more. The law of increments seldom disappoints.

If you see someone finally get past their excuses? Take the time to applaud. We need it. We’ll return the favor when you succeed.

PS For my cousin: I don’t plan to stay quite this thin. I love you. Please keep an eye on me, though.

Love, x

.

.

Extras…

In Cancun…

Cigars and Sashimi

I got accused outright of having a sheltered life earlier in the week.

The accuser wasn’t wrong. I thought quite a bit about it, and to sit and steep myself in the allegation. I indicted myself in agreement with the conclusion.

To be clear, I have witnessed some sh!t in my time. All of us have in varying amounts. Most of our lives probably overlapped a great deal. Thankfully, not everyone had a wild ride of it and each of us disparately experienced what I would label as “fringe” events.

But there’s a lot I don’t know. Obviously. My spell checker reminds me every day, as do my co-workers, neighbors, ex-wife, and even the mailman drops by every couple of days to shake his head in bewilderment at me.

Even at 54, I’m still finding out that there are worlds within worlds all around me. Words, foods, drinks, ideas, a cauldron of ceaseless wonder.

When you don’t eat sushi, for example, the barrage of specific vocabulary one must learn to order it for someone else becomes overwhelming, like signing up for Beginner’s Spanish only to later realize that it was in fact “Belgian Spanish.” I have no problem insisting that I’m ignorant and therefore need guidance. Otherwise, people will be eating a can of tuna and crackers. I won’t even get started on how they price the stuff. The sushi, not the canned tuna.

Food and flavor are 100% opinion.

NO, I don’t care what the various kinds of sushi, sashimi and blah, blah, blah are actually supposed to be called. That you like it is all that matters. I don’t have to like it. I like it that YOU like it. That’s pretty much how all of us should respond to friends and family when they love the stuff we wouldn’t eat if the human race depended on it. I know for a fact that some of the stuff I eat would make Bill puke until next Tuesday. Sorry, Bill. It’s true. Besides, you’re definitely not busy next Tuesday anyway. Yes, I read your calendar, the one by the fridge.

But the prices? I know for a fact that in a dark basement, probably in New Jersey, there’s a really big man who spins a wheel and randomly determines the definitions for both ‘quality’ and ‘price’ of sushi. The worse it looks, the more it costs. (Note: it’s a shame that isn’t actually true for a lot of things, right?)

For those who aren’t around smokers, there are twenty-two million kinds of tobacco and specialty products available now. I remember in the early 70s when you could easily memorize the main twenty or so tobacco products. Now the racks look like Heidi Klum’s makeup room. There are so many adjectives you need to know to ask for the right thing that I feel like I need a thesaurus when I’m around it. Things that look cheap are obnoxiously expensive. Things that look expensive… well, they are expensive too.

The point of this is to forcefully point out that I am very ignorant about more things than you’d realize. I am very knowledgeable about a lot of things, too. But it is a lot of work hiding my ignorance – not that I make much of an effort. I’d need a big box for that.

Because I’m rejuvenated, I’m going to share another vow with you, exactly like the one that allowed me to lose all this weight…

I am going to say, “I don’t know” a lot more often.

I am going to say, “You probably need to show me this again, for the fifth time, unless you’d like a disaster.”

And if you need me to go buy good seafood, lord help you until my ignorance abates.

I’ve always been quite ignorant. You just might not have realized how much. I’m here to help you with that misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, be yourself. Smile, laugh, and growl sometimes if that is what is needed. Eat the foods you love even if your mom vomits, and let everyone eat the foods they love. Take that same acceptance and throw it into all the other areas of life where we encroach needlessly on people’s ability to live freely.

P.S. I have not been drinking. But I am going to have a bit of vodka and homemade sweet and sour.

And those index cards on the floor leading the rocking chair were part of an elaborate ruse that I couldn’t execute today. I have optimism for tomorrow. You’ll note the rocking chair is in front of an open door, leading to a balcony and a whole new world.

Love, X
Amen