Trillian and I went to an event where she was promoting a new play and a few days later, someone sent us some photos. Being behind the camera you rarely see yourself and when I opened the email, there was no denying it ... somehow since the last time I'd frozen the mental picture of how I looked, I got fat.
There's no way to really put it delicately and it's embarrassing to say, but I can't really dance around it. I've battled with eating disorders since I was in college and lately my battle has been not to battle, and there were the results, staring right out at me. I've justified it while it happened by repeating in the back of my head "some people a are in front of the camera people and other people are behind the camera people" but what I really couldn't justify anymore was that I was physically uncomfortable using my body, I'd get out of breath walking up four flights of stairs, clothes that used to fid didn't fit, standing in line at the airport for an hour with 30 lbs of gear in a backpack six times a month left me sore and achy, my back hurt constantly. I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror and decided I was really unsatisfied with the person looking back, not just because of his physical appearance, but because of all the health problems I was likely to face and, in fact, already facing.
In America, for right or wrong, we judge people by their body types -- and I've long been a proponent of fat-acceptance and I've campaigned for it, and I found myself thinking that all I needed to do was re-evaluate where I was on the hero-scale. I'd be happy, I thought, being the funny best friend rather than the leading man, and found myself actively carving out this role. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was just an excuse for me to be happy being something I wasn't happy about.
It's a bit difficult to write about. It was one of those things that I knew was happening, but I was in denial about. I'd look at a photo of myself and say "that's not a good photo" -- not because it didn't look like me, or wasn't realistic, but because I didn't like the way I looked -- because of myself. That was a big thing to overcome, to realize the photo was fine but I was ... unacceptable to myself.
A few weeks prior I'd run into an old friend who told me he'd just had a heart attack and had been recovering for the past few months.
"What did it feel like when it happened?" was the first thing out of my mouth, "I figure I ought to know what the signs are." I realized that this was a subconscious admission that I was headed to wrack and ruin.
Who Do You Blame
Obviously, it's my own fault this happened, but there are a lot of places I can point fingers at, like the fancy beer store opening up next to my house etc. But I'm left thinking that one of the reasons this happened is that Trillian was happy with me however I looked, or, at least she never said "Dude, you're getting fat." And I've spent a lot of time thinking about this -- I'm not sure how I would have reacted to any way that she could have phrased that "I'm worried about your health," "How about we go to the gym," any of those sorts of things -- because my best friend wouldn't mention it for whatever reason I was happy to believe it wasn't happening. If she had, I might have said "Dude, you are so totally right, I need to fix this" or I might have said "Are you calling me fat???!" and gotten all defensive about it. I don't know.
But it brings up a very real point -- if I die of a heart attack, it's not just me dying, it's me leaving whatever family to their own devices. I'm not sure what that means, but I wouldn't want to leave Trillian any sooner than I have to....
But looking at that photo, I realized that I'd crossed a line -- I'd let things go too far and I needed ... now to stop it. In this I'm probably bolstered by my OCD which gives me the power of single minded determinedness to the detriment of EVERYTHING ELSE. I joined the gym & hit the machines with a rigor that would have pleased the German Navy.
1) Cardio for 45-90 minutes five times a week.
2) Breakfast & lunch raw fruits & vegetables
3) nothing fried for dinner
4) No alcohol, no chocolate, no cheese. (Yeah yeah, no fun, but neither is huffing up the stairs)
5) No bread.
5) No eating out, anywhere, anything, at all.
I found out two things at the gym, one was that if I went 100 times a year, my insurance company would pay for half my gym membership and two, was that the technology had improved a lot since the last time I'd been at the gym. Now the machines connected to my iPhone and kept a record of my workouts, I could watch movies on my iPad ... things like that. For me, keeping a record of what I'd done was a big key, it grabbed my OCD in a very helpful way. I saw a number, I knew that I wanted that number to go up, so I focused on that number. I knew that 3,600 calories was a pound and every day I could see how much of a pound I'd burned off. The tough part is trying to turn off your mind through the pain. A couple things helped this -- books on tape, and movies on the iPad.
I started in October of 2012 at
Oct 01, 2012: 225 lbs
Oct 09, 2012, 217 lbs
Oct 16, 2012, 213 lbs
Oct 23, 2012, 208 lbs
Really fast, in the first week I could feel my stomach getting flatter and in the second week, I could feel, seriously, my face getting thinner. I was losing about one belt notch a week and somewhere in the third week I could remove any pair of pants I owned without unbuttoning them first, so the belt became important. I went from a size 38 to a size 33 in the first four weeks. After that, I started gaining muscle mass so weighing myself became ... not the best way to chart my progress. The way my clothes fit was much more accurate.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gym
I'd planned on not talking about this until something had happened, but for whatever reason, I made a few posts about the gym to Facebook, at first mostly how hard it was, but later observations of other things that were going on, and eventually, I started posting about Magnum p.i. which is what I started watching on my iPad and people on the Interweb started sending me Magnum p.i. workout gear. Seriously. It helped to have people sort of following along, but it was a bit baffling that people got so caught up in it. People sent Magnum p.i. shirts, a headband, sweat socks ... it was weird. But kind of lovely. If someone wants to collect those facebook posts, feel free.
Chris' photo from a BBQ
Pre-symphony outfit, Twitter checkup, November 2nd, 2012
So there's the progress. It took saying "this won't continue" but it also took a fancy gym, which I'm not fooling myself is available to everyone, it took a support network, especially my wife, who said "i'll go on a 2000 calorie a day diet with you and help you make healthy food" -- it took a lot while masquerading as not a lot. It may have started with gusto, but, for sure, that's not all it took. It would have been more difficult without technology, it would have been more difficult without the dedication of my peers ... but the big step ... I think ... is saying I'm fixing this.
I'd love to hear your stories: how you've struggled, how you've succeeded, how you've failed, what would make things easier, what you see in the media that's helpful, or detrimental, or motivating, or thwarting, or plain WRONG, how you're happy, what you'd like to change (about you, about everybody else, about how we see things) -- the things you find awesome, the things you wish would be better ... what's best about your body, what people don't understand, what you did to lose weight, why you don't want to lose weight, your favorite healthy foods -- anything, about weight, body image, dysmorphia, weight lifting, superheros, whatever.
And thanks for being there -- especially those of you who felt engaged enough to send me Magnum p.i. workout clothes.
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