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Monday, August 9, 2010

The Night I Jumped the Shark

I had been living on a 1700 calorie diet for most of a year. My weight had gone from about 260 pounds down to about 211 pounds. At the time there was so much stress in my life. It was as if losing the weight was the only thing I could control. Why so much stress? Well a member of my family had some very severe medical problems, I had three young daughters, and my job took a lot out of me.

The weight loss became something of an obsession. It was my way of saying a glorified "f&^k you!" to a world that just seemed to be doing everything it could rub me down into a little nub. No, I'm not saying I was disadvantaged, down-trodden or mal-treated. I came from a housing project, so whatever I had as an adult was a step up from what I had as a child. I wasn't about poor me. It was about me vs. circumstances, and I was going to win, no matter what.

I did win. I lost the equivalent of five 10 lb bags of flour (my dietitian thought of that reference). I could have kept going, but the reality was that at 211 pounds the weight wasn't really coming off any more in buckets. But I could continue forever, or so it seemed. The good habits had become ingrained, and I knew what to do and when to do it.

Then I went on vacation to Wildwood NJ.

It wasn't the temptation of bad food. Hell, for most the week while in NJ I was still eating 1700 calories a day. In the end, what caused me to jump the shark really had nothing to do with food. This proves, by the way, the one truism about eating well that has stuck with me all these years: weight loss is 90% mental and only 10% physical. Anyway, what was it? I was lonely. Pathetic, huh? The family was in the hotel room, it was 8pm, and I was alone in NJ. I don't go to sleep all that early and I don't watch much TV, so I did my usual wandering on the beach by myself. Finally it got to me. Yes, I walked up to some dive restaurant on a pier and had a hamburger, fries and a hot fudge brownie sundae. I think just that one meal totaled more than 1700 calories.

It went down hill from there. It was as if the air was slowly deflated from my eating-well balloon and I began to sink a couple of feet every few months. Over the course of several years my weight crept up: 220...230...240...250 pounds.

Then there is the anger aspect of it all. In reality I should have known that I could never maintain the angry edge that I had originally used to lose weight in the first place. I just don't have that kind of anger in me. That's not a great trait by the way, as there are times when I wish I could be angry and stay angry, but it's just not in me. It's as if I never got that piece of genetic code. Note that my mother has managed to stay angry at some people for most of her 75 years of existence, so that genetic code didn't come from her.

Back to the weight. It was at 254 pounds this past November where I drew the line in the sand. The fact that I had a dear friend go through gastric bypass surgery also helped. This person had their body opened up and altered to do something that I could do by just simply not freak'n eating so much. It was kind of pathetic in a lot of ways. I realized again that the mental/physical equation of weight loss was as true now as it had been years ago. I over-ate because I wanted to think about having to eat right. I didn't want to think at all. It was Wildwood NJ all over again, except this time I was fat to boot. Food was my self-medication of choice.

Since November I've managed to get my weight back down to somewhere near 227 lbs. I have good days and bad days, but mostly I seem to be able to slowly lose weight over time. I'm trying to think more about what I am putting into my body by counting calories, trying to understand why I over-eat. I also exercise for about 30 minutes each day. So far it's working. I've lost weight and I've managed to do it without being all that angry. Maybe this time it is for good.

Now I've told this story before and I will tell it again. In fact I need to tell it again. You only get one shot at this thing, and if the lesson doesn't sink in the first time, then you have to keep trying, because some lessons are too important to ignore.

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