A 45-year-old fat man trying to find his inner skinny dude.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Individual or Society?

This is kind of a followup to my last post. Recently I've read about a couple of instances involving fat people suffering consequences because of being fat--beyond the usual health issues, etc.

The first was a woman who was charged an extra five bucks for a manicure because she is fat. Wear and tear on the chair was the justification. Have a look here: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/24708583/detail.html.

The other is about a weight discrimination case brought against Hooters: http://abovethelaw.com/2010/08/hooters-and-the-heavy-consequences-of-having-boobs/. Apparently discrimination against people based on their height or weight is prohibited by the Michigan Constitution.

So, first is the old dilemma--can you legislate morality? Probably not. People love to mock fat people, or at least see them as some sort of prehistoric creature. Kids are the real barometers of this behavior. I was a fat kid and thin kids were complete assholes to me. Adults do it, too. Don't believe me? Read the comments on the Hooters story above. People are merciless.

The theme of those comments is to blame the fat people for being fat. I think they're right, too. I mean, you don't have to be an asshole about it, but the only way you get fat is to put too much food into your body. (I'm not talking about medicines or medical conditions, here.) So, yeah, one must take responsibility for being fat.

But there's another school of thought that says that the Standard American Diet makes people fat, that it's not their fault. That they have no hope against the marketing muscle that is directed at getting them to eat. Look at Refusetoregain.com (on the sidebar), which is a wonderful website with great information. The doctor who runs that site has choice words for the people who market food, especially shitty food.

But what's true? Is it a balance? Sure, all that stuff looks great on TV. Yeah, it can make me want to eat. But it's up to me whether to do it.

I had a zen moment tonight. I went to the Fitness Grill in Brea, CA, for pizza. (Heard about it at a WW meeting.) It is a great place with good, healthy food options. I had a 9 inch pizza with turkey sausage and turkey pepperoni. But I ate three pieces (after a small salad), and I was fullish. More than satisfied, less than stuffed. I really wanted to eat the last piece. It was great stuff. But I stopped. I have the points, but I stopped because I don't like being too full. I listened to my body. And I can eat that last slice tomorrow. So nice.

So yeah, I made the decision about what to eat. I'm responsible for what goes in. I think that's how I come down on the debate. Yes, food companies sell a bunch of shit. Yes, portion sizes are much more than anyone needs. Yes, people market to kids who don't know any better. But when it comes down to it, it's up to me to take care of me. No one else is going to do that. No one is coming to save me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Christians to Lions

I feel ambivalent to the tv show The Biggest Loser. I really think that some of the stunts they have those people do (call them competitions if you like, but they fall short of a track meet or a basketball game) really seem to capitalize on showing very fat people moving ridiculously. There's one where they have to hold onto a rope while a platform tilts from angled to vertical, trying not to let go and fall into the pool below. There was one where they had to build and climb a tower to get a flag. Early in the season, the tasks are simpler. Once, I saw them competing in a one mile run. That sent one woman into the hospital for weeks. They often show people working out until they puke. High drama. Wholesome fun for the whole family.

I am much more physically capable than most of those people, at least when they are at the beginning. A typical workout for me is 30 minutes of hard cycling or elliptical, followed by 15 or 20 minutes of hard cycling or elliptical. I switch. I try for 90 rpm on the bike, 120 rpm on the elliptical. When I started three years ago, I could do the elliptical for maybe five minutes. I'm at 325 today, but I have been doing 45 minutes on the elliptical machine since I was in the 370 range, maybe a little higher, even.

I don't work out until I puke. Not even close. And I don't do things that would call attention to my size. I don't wear skintight clothing. I don't take off my shirt when I weigh myself in public (i.e. at WW meetings or the gym). I do not want to be a Christian in pre-Constantine Rome.

But The Biggest Loser makes me think it's possible to be thin, really thin, not just "thin for me." I have seen people start heavier than I have ever been and look amazing when they're done. I don't think the amount they lose in such a short time is a good idea, but maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe if they've changed their lives, it's ok. Some of those people undoubtedly put the weight back on. We don't hear much about them. But still. It can come off without surgery. It can come off when one eats less and moves more. I'm counting on it.

It's ok to mock fat people in the U.S. I can't speak to the rest of the world, but I bet it's ok everywhere. I sometimes imagine a show like The Biggest Loser based on race or sexual orientation. (They do it based on sex--look at the Real Housewives series.) Nothing like this is kind. I know people justify The Biggest Loser by saying it justifies the participants' accomplishments. But I don't think people would watch a show that starts with a bunch of thin but non-athletic people and turns them into marathon runners. How much fun is it to watch thin people run? Well, ok, the Olympics. But isn't watching fat people run more interesting, in a train-wreck sort of way? Sure it is. That's why it's on tv.

People are unkind. That concept clouds my world view. I believe it. Children are vicious, and people don't change as they age. They get more subtle. They get better at it. Fat people are never the cool kids. Fat adults don't get into the Viper Room or whatever the club du jour is.

A facebook friend of mine posted the following as her status on May 1: "you wanna lose a few pounds? yeah? frustrated? just can't seem to do it? here's an idea: how bout you stop putting so much FOOD in your mouth! ...crazy, I know." I was not aimed at me, but I sure felt it. I have no idea what was going on in her mind. Maybe she was struggling herself, even though she's tall and thin. That's what the subsequent comments suggest. But no one said anything bad about it. (Neither did I.) It's ok to say such things.

I'm between sizes these days, between and XXL and an XXXL. I just put on a shirt that was a gift. I've never worn it. It's pretty cool. I'm going to keep doing this. I want to see what happens.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rich and Famous

I like a blog called The People's Therapist. The guy is a lawyer who left the practice to go back to school. Now he's a therapist. What I find from his blog is that I'm (as usual) smack in the middle of the bell curve of lawyer insanity (yeah, I'm a lawyer).

Here's an excerpt from his August 15 posting about people wanting to be rich and famous:

The problem with chasing wealth and fame is that it’s a child’s mission, not an adult’s. At some point you must step out of childhood – that long, helpless period of your life – and move onto the independence of maturity. Instead of needing reassurance that you are loved, you can achieve independence by learning to love yourself. That big step into adulthood is an affirmation that you deserve love, and deserve to receive it from those you call friends or partners.

You needn’t crave attention as an adult, either. It feels nice, now and then, to receive praise for your work. But if you have your own attention – you’ve done the job of living consciously as your best self and winning your own respect – you no longer have to cry for mommy to watch you perform on the jungle gym. You can learn to feel safe and secure in your own abilities and achievements.

Security within yourself is worth more than being rich and famous. The ultimate goal is security in the knowledge that you have friends who deserve you and care about you, meaningful work that you enjoy and a partner who is a true friend and ally.

I put this here because I think the sentiment--about taking care of oneself is important to health in general and weight loss in particular. Overeating for emotional reasons--and really, what other reasons are there?--is how someone tries to take care of himself or herself. If you do this, you might be rebelling against something or someone. You might be trying to make yourself happy, to get some kind of pleasure. But that pleasure is fleeting and counterproductive.

I've seen some doughnuts lately that I wanted. But I like seeing my wrist bones more than I want a doughnut. I know that long term, I'm taking care of myself. I'm trying to convince myself I'm worth that.

I have lots of good friends who seem to think I'm a great guy. I like to say that the only red flag about my wife is that she likes me so much. The secret is, I'm kind of serious. I really think she settled. I don't know why she did, but I'm glad she did. Having said this, I feel compelled to say I don't feel sad or depressed. I'm just saying how I generally feel about how I measure up. I've been working for a long time--years and years--to feel about myself the way my dogs feel about me.

I read once that people who commit suicide are making a statement to those who are supposed to care about them. The first person who gets that message is the person who kills himself. So I'm trying to take care of myself, of my inner child as it were, so that I can live a happy life.

Additional note. These are things that help me every day:
Food is fuel.
Americans eat until they are full. Europeans eat until they are no longer hungry.
If you make a mistake, why give up? If you forgot to brush your teeth one night, you wouldn't stop doing it for the rest of your life. (That was from a WW meeting.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Things I like about eating better and getting thinner

I like finding out that a shirt I hate is a good shirt. I just hated that it didn't fit.

I like traveling on a plane and not asking for a seatbelt extender. Similarly, I like figuring out that I take up less space (say, on a bench) than I thought I would.

I like not being too full when it's time for bed.

I like seeing how clothes fit better and then get too big. Even my watch band!

I like getting looks from women out in the world. (I'm delighted with my wife and this is not about stepping out. But it's nice to be noticed in a good way.)

I like the way my legs and ankles look. (Weird, right?)

I like the fast recovery from the exertion of going up stairs (or anything else).

I like it when movement becomes less of a chore.

I like feeling as though I'm in touch with my body.

I like feeling as though I'm in control. Over the food, at least.

I like getting into old clothes. I REALLY like getting new clothes.

I like seeing my jaw.

I like feeling like I'm taking care of myself.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


MsBitchCakes has an interesting post today on food addiction. She also links to a May 14, 2010, called "I can feel again. And I hate it." No doubt.

Shame is something I've felt in abundance my whole life. When kids at school fell down on the job, my family made it clear to me that being fat was shameful. I was an embarrassment to everyone. I remember when I was a kid being called names wondering "how do they know?" What I meant was, I think, "do I really seem all that different from everyone else?"

Yeah, I did.

I didn't understand why that made me worth less than everyone else, but it did. I remember kids poking me in the stomach, asking, "Can you feel that." Oh how I could feel that. I still do.

A few years ago I separated from (and eventually divorced) my wife. In the ensuing six months or so, I spent a lot of time eating ice cream with Tony Soprano (on DVD). I was putting on weight, a lot. But I didn't notice it. I wasn't exactly in tune with my body. One night I was supposed to go to an alumni event and meet friends. None of my dressy pants fit. I was shocked. Really. I didn't go to the thing, and my friends kept calling to make sure nothing was wrong.

I felt the same way I always had.

Ever have to ask for a seatbelt extender on a plane? Same shame as always. But here's a win. I traveled by plane this week to Spokane, and I didn't need an extender on any of the four legs, even in the "regional jet." I'm at 330, give or take. That is the upper limit for flying weight for a six foot tall man.

Shame is terrible, and if you eat for comfort, it is a well-fitting piece of the food-addiction cycle. Feel shitty-eat-realize what you've done-resolve to do better-slide into feeling shitty/embarrassed-eat. Something like that.

When I was a kid, my dad told me that if I lost weight, I'd feel better. I figured out years later (in therapy) that even though he was no doubt correct--that I would feel better--he was also saying that he would feel better.

One of the problems was that no one knew why I was fat, why I was eating the way I was, and no one could tell me how to lose weight. Essentially, I was wrong to be fat, was not a good person because of it, but I was on my own.

My folks sent me to a shrink who purported to hypnotize me and told me about riding my bike thirty minutes a day. I can't remember how old I was for that one.

The summer I was 13, I went to a Weight Watcher camp in Wisconsin for seven weeks. My parents were not completely straight about it. I thought I was going for four weeks until I got there. See ya. I know they had my best interest in mind, but I felt as though I were being punished. I lost 33 pounds. It's the last time I was ever under 200 pounds. When I got back home, I was on the program for a while, but I fell off eventually. I learned new habits and eating methods at camp. But at home, nothing had changed. I was twelve. I was not going to change anything there.

I'm not blaming my parents for how I am now. I accept that the last 25 years or so are all on me. I'm just trying to explain how I got here. Even though I've lost almost pounds in my adult life, I feel as though I'm learning for the first time how to do it. Paying attention to the way I feel physically and emotionally is key. This is not something that comes naturally.