Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fear & Loathing In The Kitchen: My Twisted Eating Saga

I've been making a concerted effort, since the beginning on November actually, to watch what I eat and actually commit to exercising on a regular basis. Why? Well as I've noted before, I have twisted relationship with my health in general and my weight specifically. Over the past ten years my weight as been as high as 260 and as low as 211 (and I'm 6'3.5" for the record). While I'm not going to quote any numbers at the moment, I will note that I've lost about 11 pounds since November 3rd. That's good, but not for the obvious reason.

It's All Mental

I once lost about 50 pounds the right way, namely through diet and exercise. It didn't, however, stay off. In retrospect, I couldn't keep the weight off because I had the wrong motivation. At the time, a member of my immediately family was going through some horrible health problems, and it seemed that so much of that impacted me greatly, yet there was nothing I could really do to impact that situation. What to do? I just seemed to mentally say to myself "well, if you can't get them healthy...if you have no control over that situation...then you might as well find something at you can control", which in my case was my own weight and eating. So there you have it, the Instant Karma of weight loss. Anyway, all-be-it convoluted logic in hand, I proceeded to work with a dietitian and lost the 60 pounds simply by exercise and limiting myself to about 1700 calories a day. In addition to the weight loss itself, there was one other benefit: I was at my lowest weight for my 20th high school reunion. What a score: not only did I have almost all my hair in tact, but I actually was fairly trim to boot.

So what went wrong? As I've noted before, I learned how to lose weight, but I wasn't motivated to keep it off. Over time, the weight crept back on as my eating habits slowly deteriorated. In retrospect, had I had the right motivation, I probably would have kept the weight off. Hindsight being 20/20, I'm not going to cry over what happened; I gained much of the 50 pounds back, and my health once again began to suffer.

Hitting Rock Bottom

I don't know that I actually hit rock bottom recently, but I did come to some kind of realization that I was slowly committing suicide via eating. Now there is something ironic for you: a guy who has had members of his family suffer from severe mental health problems, a guy who always seemed to have his "$hit together", a guy who could be counted on to be calm in the face of adversity was severely messed up in the head. Think about it: I would eat to the point of making myself ill, but yet I kept doing it. I would eat that cereal at 10 pm knowing that it was bad for my acid reflux, bad for my weight, made me generally feel like crap, but yet I would still do it. I really didn't seem to care.

What was wrong? I am really note entirely sure, but I do have some ideas. I do know that I've been under a tremendous amount of stress this past year at work. That's not a great excuse, but it has the benefit of being basically true. I also know that I have a lot of other stresses in my life, but yet none were worse than others face on daily basis. More than anything else, I think it was yet another form of internal rebellion: I knew what I should be doing to protect and enhance my health, but yet I loathed the thought of being "controlled" by having to eat right. I hate the notion of being controlled. When you deal with family members that suffer from mental health issues, you learn to absolutely, positively HATE that feeling of circumstances being out of your control and in fact controlling you. You deal with individuals who you just want to grab by shoulders and scream "suck it up God D^%$-It!" because somehow YOU manage to deal with reality every day. Yet the sum total of those feelings...be they of helplessness or being controlled by circumstances...take a horrible toll. I felt spent and void. I still do, at times, feel spent and void. So much seems to have come out of me, but yet so little goes back in.

Making Turns

I promised myself earlier this year that, if I ever decided to better manage my weight again, it would be at time when I could look myself in the mirror and know I was doing something for the right reasons. I had to be in a position where the motivation wasn't one of displaced anger, or some strange longing for control while the universe around me spiraled out of control. I don't know if I am really "there", as in fact I suspect that I will always harbor some mental baggage from my life struggles. We all carry that baggage anyway.

At the beginning of the month, a dear friend of mine began some medical challenges that I'm not even going to allude to, as that would be unfair to them. For some strange reason it just came to me that if this person could go through this, I could at least stop trying to eat myself to death. I know, more third party displacement, but it's not as if the thoughts were not already in my head anyway. Regardless, I decided to do four things:

1. Figure out the calories/day that I needed to lose, maintain, gain weight.
2. Make a concerted effort honestly count the calories that I ate every day.
3. Try to normally eat enough calories that I would gradually lose weight over time.
4. Become more active.

I also made myself a promise: that I would, from this time forward, actually LISTEN TO and ACT ON what my body told me about eating. Before I put anything in my mouth I was going to ask myself if I was actually hungry.

So far, things have been going well. In addition to eating better, I'm sleeping better, and a few other minor health concerns have noticeably changed for the better. I know I could screw up any moment now, but I also know that if I do screw up, that I can also make the decision to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try to do the right things again.

In The End

The one thing that stuck with me from my first adventure in losing weight is the simple fact that weight loss is much more of a mental exercise than it is a physical exercise. Two pieces of pie don't taste better than one piece of pie, so why over-do it? A coup of soup for me is just as filling as a hamburger, so why pick the hamburger?

I don't know if I will ultimately be successful in this round of trying to do right by my body, but as is implied by the title of this blog, for me it's always more about the journey than it is the destination anyway.

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