Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I'm Fat Again

This post, like most of the other posts in my blog, is about addiction. But the drug being discussed here isn't marijuana, prescription meds, cocaine, or heroin. It's food. And the person who suffers from that food addiction isn't my son, a friend, or someone I know from the Internet. It's me.

The reason I'm writing this post today is simple.

I'm fat again.

I haven't always been fat. As a kid, I was beanpole skinny and could eat anything I wanted, anytime I wanted, and I never gained weight. Maybe that was because I was always active, riding my bike everywhere I went (remember when kids did that?) and playing sports with my buddies all day long.

Whatever the reason, I remember being extremely self-conscious about being so thin. When I took off my shirt, you could see my ribs wanting to poke through my skin. Yeah, I was that skinny.

I started gaining weight when I was about 19 or so. I'm sure a reduction in physical activity was a major factor. After all, at that point my friends and I were driving everywhere we went. Not to mention the fact that some of the places we went were bars, which meant drinking a lot of beer, which meant consuming a lot more calories. Oh, and let's not forget the late-night, post-bar stops at the local greasy spoon.

Less physical activity + More calories = ____________

I've always sucked at math, but even I can figure out that problem.

Throughout my early and mid-20s, I was heavier than I wanted to be. I don't remember what I weighed, but I do remember wondering where those love handles around my waist had come from. For a short time, in my early 20s, I actually joined a gym. I would go work out religiously at least three times a week. Looking back, I can't believe I ever did that. But I did. I started to lose weight and gain muscle. Unfortunately--or maybe fortunately--my brief love affair with the gym came to a screeching halt when the place burned down.

Fast forward to my late 20s, when I got married and my wife and I had our first son. I had been a smoker since the age of 14 and decided to quit 10 months after our son was born. My plan all along was to quit smoking, but my doctor lit a fire under me one day when I went to see him with a bad sinus infection. "Quit smoking today," he told me. "Not tomorrow, not next week...TODAY." So I went back to my office, went into the bathroom, and smoked my last Benson & Hedges Deluxe Ultralight Menthol. (According to an app on my iPod, that was exactly 9,000 days ago.)

After I quit smoking, I realized that for years I had been using cigarettes as a stress reliever. With that stress reliever now gone, I found myself using food as a substitute. I became a stress eater extraordinaire, and I started to pile on the pounds (or, as my friend Jim calls it..."chuck").

I never got to the point where I was obese or anything. (At least not my definition of obese; the federal government may have classified me differently). I was just fat. I had to keep buying bigger clothes, I was very self-conscious about how I looked, I started wearing my shirts untucked to hide my "spare tire," etc.

I think my weight peaked sometime in 2009. I remember going to see my psychiatrist, stepping on a scale, and hearing him say, "235."

"Holy shit," I thought to myself. "I'm FAT!"

Then in early 2010, I ended up with a bout of diverticulitis. I spent a few days in the hospital, hooked up to IVs. Then I was on a liquid diet. Then I graduated to a very limited diet. A few weeks later I followed up with my primary care doctor and, to my amazement, weighed in at 204.

I was flabbergasted, because that was 31 pounds less than the previous time I had been weighed. (Did I mention we didn't own a bathroom scale at the time?) Suddenly, I was inspired to keep losing weight. I had already kicked my Diet Coke habit in the hospital. Now I wanted to start eating better, too.

From somewhere deep within, I summoned the willpower I needed to make some big changes in my life. Water became my drink of choice and I was drinking almost a gallon of it every day. In addition, I stopped eating foods that had been a staple in my diet for so long. I admit it: I've always been a sucker for carbs, and it was tough for me to stop eating bread, chips, crackers, pizza, and the like. Needless to say, I couldn't eliminate carbs altogether, but I came pretty close. (I actually remember ordering a pizza for my boys one day and not eating a single bite of it. WTF?)

I was on a mission to lose weight. So much so that I even bought a bathroom scale.

Instead of eating a sandwich and chips in the cafeteria at work, I'd eat a salad. Every. Single. Day. I avoided snacking during the day and, even more significant, late at night. There were no more binges where I'd find myself eating an entire bag tortilla chips, a sleeve or two of cookies or, God forbid, an entire pint of ice cream. I was a new man. And I kept it up for quite some time.

On August 4, 2012, I weighed in at exactly 175 pounds. That's 60 pounds lighter than I was in 2009. I  was incredibly proud of what I had accomplished. I didn't even mind having to spend money on smaller clothes. I had never had to do that before, and it felt great.


Once a sucker for carbs, always a sucker for carbs, right?

Today I weighed in at 208.8. Somehow, I've managed to gain more than 30 pounds back since August of 2012.

According to the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, my BMI is 28.3, which makes me "overweight." And I'm only 1.7 whatever-the-units-of-measure-are away from being "obese" (a BMI of 30 or above).

In other words? I'm fat again.

Eating continues to be a crutch for me. Combine that with the fact that I love to eat, and you can probably figure out how I've managed to put all that weight back on. I'm addicted to food and I overeat. Plain and simple.

Most people have pizza and eat a slice or two. Not me. I have pizza and routinely eat four or five slices. If it's available, on most days I would have no problem eating an entire pizza.

And forget that guideline that says a serving of meat should be the size of a deck of cards. When I have a steak, I inevitably eat three or four decks of cards.

Yes, I suck at portion control. But apparently I'm pretty good at a number of these food addiction symptoms listed on the Healthline website:

  • Constant obsession with what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and how to get more food
  • Overeating at mealtimes
  • Constant snacking
  • Eating at strange times like the middle of the night
  • Hiding eating habits from friends and family or eating in secret
  • Bingeing and then purging, exercising, or taking laxative pills to “reverse” the binge
  • Eating even when full
  • Eating to accompany pleasurable activities like watching TV or talking on the phone
  • Associating food with punishments or rewards
  • Feeling shame and guilt after a binge or after consuming particular foods
  • Consistent failed attempts to control eating or eliminate bingeing episodes

I need to try and reign in my eating habits again, because I want to "drop some chuck." I don't need to get down to 175 again. A lot of people--including my wife--told me I looked too thin at that weight. But I wouldn't mind seeing 190 (or maybe 185?) on the scale again.

Part of me feels weird for sharing my food/weight issues with you. I know there are people out there who have much more serious food-related problems than I do. I see shows on TV like My 600-lb Life and my heart bleeds for those people. I can't imagine being so heavy that I couldn't leave my house or do simple things like bathe myself. Compared to those people, I'm pretty normal. Hell, my wife still tells me I'm not fat.

That doesn't change how I feel, though. I just don't feel comfortable in my skin. So I'm going to try and do something about it. Again.

In the meantime, pass the pizza. Wait, I mean...SALAD!

"It would be so nice to go out wearing soft canvas, strap-on oatbags, filled with M&M's, which I could nibble nuzzlingly like a horse." --Anne Lamott

On the left: April 6, 2008. On the right: June 8, 2012. Somewhere in
between the two would be nice.

1 comment:

  1. Dean you have just described me and my life perfectly. I have gain and lost the same 30-50 pounds at least three times in my life. I have no other substance abuse issues and never considered myself an addict. But for sure if there is food around I will eat it. Hungry? Who has to be hungry to eat? Not this girl. I'm tempted at times to say, screw it I'm almost 60 and very healthy. But the truth I hate how I feel when my clothes don't fit or I see myself nekkid. My wife says she loves me no matter what but it's hard to feel lovable when you don't love your appearance. I have to come to terms with the fact that I AM an addict and find the tools to be a recovered one. Thanks for this blog