Category Archives: Eating Disorder

Food: The Battle That Never Ends

One of my weekly addictions now, pun intended, is Extreme Makeover: Weight Edition.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A person is ideally supposed to go from morbidly obese to, well, much less.

The most “extreme” episode I’ve seen spent the year with a man named James who began at 651 pounds and lost 313 pounds in 12 months. The first three months, the trainer, Chris Powell, lives with the show’s focus person. After that, the “contestant” is on their own but for the equipment they’ve been left, quarterly check-ins, and emails/phonecalls.

[Spoiler ahead.]

This week’s episode had 9 months invested in one morbidly obese man, who began at 490 pounds, lost 110 in three months, then 21, then gained 60 in the third quarter.

His food addiction came back stronger than ever.

The end of the episode had him checking into rehab 70 pounds below where he started, but 60 pounds over where he was after 4 months — and emotionally broken.

This is something I wish would shut all the cynics up who see weight-loss success on TV and go “Oh, but they had professional help, of course they lost weight.”

You know what? I don’t buy that. It works for a while, sure, but a show like this, it conveys that, left to our own devices, even with all the tools and means at our disposal, failure can find us because we’re our own worst enemies. Every person goes to bed alone in their heads.

Many people regain all their weight back, and even more, when life gets hard, because we’re usually heavy through unhealthy eating addictions that involve masking emotions or failed communications.

Enough About Them, Let’s Talk About Me

I’ve always been food-addicted, but I’m considerably less so in my old age. It’s still a problem. It probably always will be.

That I’m a pretty fucking confident cook sure as hell doesn’t help, but my ability to research and learn the science, well, that does help — a lot. I educate myself from time to time as well. Being a good cook means I take control, and I do so in an often-satisfying way with foods that are ultimately less addictive than fast food and commercial preparations.

Luckily, I somewhat like being active. If I weren’t so goddamned injured so often, I’d be unstoppable, and I’d probably get to keep eating the way I love but would continually lose weight doing it. Fortunately, I eventually battle past my distractions and usually maintain.

That’s me. And I know it’ll be a lifelong struggle. Fortunately, every year I get a little smarter about it, and have done that recently in the face of times that might’ve taken me down a more personally-destructive path in the past.

An Environment Created for Failure

The thing is, food’s an incredible struggle. It’s the hardest addiction in the world to overcome. It’s everywhere. Even skinny people drool over pictures like it’s porn. We even talk about the sexual ways we satisfy our hunger, we have “food orgasms,” we celebrate every holiday around a table, we communicate over tables, we have a national bacon dependency, and now we have sharing apps for cellphones that are all pictures of high-falutin’ drool-inducing food, and everywhere we turn is advertising showing the most sinful burgers and cookies and pastas and pizza (but read this about the dirty tricks photographers use to make that food look so yummy).

In this highly food-pornified world, losing 10 pounds is a massive achievement for some. Losing 313 in a year, no matter who’s helping you, even on a TV show, that’s absolutely mind-boggling — if done through weight and healthy eating, that is.

Add In Being Affected by Life’s Demands…

And putting a few pounds on in any given month or year, well, that’s human. Failing utterly? Also sadly human.

For me of late, I’ve not really been worrying about food, exercise, or whatever. I’m rehabilitating a back injury that scared me more than anything has in years. I had a week in April that was the darkest of my life. All I care about is NOT BEING THAT, and paying my rent. I’m rehabbing, getting my life under control, and that’s all the achievement I require right now.

In saying that, the last 10 months has included enough chaos that all I want to do is get into a routine where being active truly IS my lifestyle, and eating reasonably IS my way. That’s it. I want something I can follow for the rest of my life. I lost 70 pounds in a year doing it that way, I know I can get back to it, too, once my routine’s back.

Anyone who says weight-loss is easy during unemployment isn’t a stress-eater.

During my year of being often under-employed, I had pneumonia followed by a cancer scare that turned into a “dunno what that was, but it ain’t cancer” dealio, followed by blowing out my back. That I only gained eight pounds in two years since my drastic loss is fucking awesome, given my history of overeating for emotional reasons.

It is an addiction, and this has been the hardest year for fighting it. Have I won? No, but if this were a fairytale and the Big Bad Wolf was trying to get into grandma’s house, then I’ve been fighting that fucker back with a big-ass stick. He hasn’t gotten in, but I haven’t gotten around to doing much else with my time, either, time-consuming as fighting wolves tends to be, and all.

It Doesn’t Need to Stay That Way: Ebb & Flow

I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, as my stress has gone down, as my back injury has finally gotten to a livable place, that my tendency to eat excessively, and too often, has just naturally slowed down, as have my cravings. I’ve not been eating GREAT all the time, but I’ve really not had too much on the average day, either. I also find myself avoiding sweets or feeling compelled for pastries.

The effort now is to simply be more active in my food choices– making more effort in cooking it so I’m not just eating food but, if I overeat, I’m wasting my time and money. Instead of buying bread, the plan now is to make my own for a while instead of buying huge baguettes to indulge in. Every meal needs some kind of veggies with it, preferably more than half the meal being veggies. Using less fat again, I’ve cut back on cheeses, there’s no cheddar in my house (fact: “cheddar” is Canadian for “crack”). I had chocolate during my “girl time” but haven’t felt cravings outside of that.

I don’t care who might think I could’ve done more or I’ve somehow failed myself because I put a little weight back on instead of continually taking it off. I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as “success interrupted.”

What I know about myself today is, I can get through everything that’s happened in the last year (and that short “pneumonia-blah-blah” point there barely skims the surface, as we all know life’s more complicated than big talking points), and gain back only 12% of the weight I’d lost up till 2009, well, that’s not too shabby for an emotional-eating food addict when the odds are better that I should have gained it all back. I kept 88% off, yo!

I’ve been more aware, even in my failings. Now I need greater awareness. Thankfully, it seems to be rising in me, and the stressors seem to be falling.

That’s the ebb-and-flow of life. Like Rocky Balboa says, it’s about getting hit and knocked down, but keepin’ on moving forward.

When I see a man, in life or even a show like that, reduced to tears in his failures, knowing he’s let down his beautiful little girl and wife, checking into rehab and facing all those demons… well, for me, being knocked down but moving forward feels like it’s as good an accomplishment as I need.

We should all remember that. Setbacks are great, if we learn from them and treat them as practice against being defeated in the future. Welcome to life, where we don’t always get it right, but we almost always get a second shot.

Failure photo from Mindthis.ca.
Hand photo from Haley Bell Photography.

Building Blocks: Mastering Less as More

It’s been a long week and you’re probably wondering how it went, given my dreaded Month of Suck admission last week.

I’ve spent this past week slowly recalibrating myself, lowering my expectations, ditching my guilt, and focusing on the individual steps to take rather than being overwhelmed by the bigness of my journey…

Found on SciFiTV.com.And it’s been much, much better.

My workout with Le Physique’s Nik Yamanaka last Monday was really an empowering start to my week. She was empathetic, didn’t dwell on my admitted failings, changed the game up a little, challenged me, and provided great positivity, support, and encouragement during the workout. She also brought The Funny, and we like The Funny.

It wasn’t that she was babying me, not by a long shot. She pushed me enough, and god knows I felt it the next night as the Screaming Thighs of Fury set in a day after the epic “Let’s try some lunges” experiment, but she didn’t push me past what I could take.

Who cares about the Screaming Thighs of Fury, though?

Face it, anyone who doesn’t have killer-sore legs after doing their first-ever triple-set of lunges is probably immortal. We don’t like those people.

We really, really don’t like those people. But I digress.

Aside from letting me ditch my guilt and shame by playing me her version of the “everyone has reversals” record, Nik also provided a lightbulb moment when it came to stretching.

I think I know better than most people the profound difference that can come from tweaking a stretch angle by a few degrees, so I was really surprised to find that, a) I’m still being uber-overzealous in my hamstring stretching, b) it’s probably a huge part of why my hamstrings never stretch out, and c) it’s likely instrumental in why I have recurring back issues on a small scale all the time.

Nik drove the point home that the hamstring is a very gentle stretch, and one of the most important ones we can do. She said to wait while the hamstring naturally extends itself. Stretch the leg to the point of feeling it, hold, as it releases and resistance lessens, extend slightly further, hold, repeat, etc.

Okay, whoa, hold them technique-horses a moment.

This needs saying: I’m not a licensed kinesiologist, I’m not edumacatin’ you on stretching, and you shouldn’t be doing anything by way of my limited explanations here. This was a trained professional explaining the best way of stretching for MY body. Your body is a whole ‘nother thang, and this is why certified personal trainers are a wise idea for anyone embarking on a new life of fitness: Because every body responds a little differently.

(But if you’re like most people, you probably should be stretching those hamstrings more, honey.)

Anyhow, that slight adjustment, less-kamikaze approach has been making a difference in my legs and back this week, but there’s another stretch that’s proven monumentally important to me, now that I’ve been hearing Nik’s voice in my head all the time: “Drop your shoulders. Drop your shoulders.”

I’ve always had my shoulders up too high during stretches — and now I realize my stretches are probably largely responsible for the “tension headaches” I get, or at least as responsible as other things, like carrying too many groceries or wearing heavy shoulder bags.

By keeping my shoulders down during the stretches, I’ve greatly reduced the headaches that were seriously cramping my style. Whew. Fantastic.

So, where didn’t my week go as ideally?

Well, everywhere, of course.

But “perfect” wasn’t my goal.

Sure, I didn’t exercise the “Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names” routine, but I decided to cut myself slack and instead just focusing on Doing it Right and Feeling Good Later. Nik seems to approve.

I still haven’t stretched often enough, eaten as well as I would like, but I really don’t care.

I really don’t — because I’ve done everything better, I feel better, and I know I can still do better.

The difference is, this time I feel like doing better isn’t going to kill me. I don’t feel the dread and fear I was feeling for a while, when I kept paying for my efforts with negative fall-out (thanks to the trifecta of overdoing it, poor sleep, and bad stretching.)

Now I think “doing better” might even have me feeling better overall.

Working out through my pneumonia recovery has proven challenging, but I’m finally at the point where pushing cardio may still have me spent and asleep on the sofa by 8:30, but a good night’s sleep recharges that battery, and I find myself with more to give the next day.

That’s a new thing — having more to give — and a good thing.

Will I manage the Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names program this week?

No, probably not, but I can get closer, do it better, feel stronger, and have the feeling that I’m adding to success rather than kicking myself when I’m down.

I’m listening to my body with exercise, and soon I know I’ll be listening to it for food, too. That’s always a 1-2 thing for me — I get the exercise sorted, then figure out the food.

All in all, it feels like the pieces are falling into place — or, rather, that I’m kicking ass and throwing them into place.

This week, less has been more.

By doing less and feeling like I’ve executed it better, or more well, or more promisingly, the emotional gains and the confidence I now have in going forward is both a pivotal and welcomed change in my life.

I knew I’d get here, but it was just such a rocky road with so many obstacles, and me with my lack of objectivity at the time.

Recalibrating, lowering expectations, and focusing on technique but working through obvious pains while trying to reduce unnecessary pain, have been a key in my week of regrouping.

Going into this week with a little less fear and a little more confidence will be a nice change, provided I remember that it’s doing less, but doing it better, that’s being my “more” right now.

Baby steps, baby.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.

Bouncing Back from The Month of Suck

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October was My Month of Suck.

Things went badly at the end — personally, financially, physically, spiritually.

Times like that, my struggle is with Emotional Eating. Growing up, if there was something we’d celebrate or mourn, we’d do it with food.

At 37, it’s still my battle.

Another struggle is the pressure I put on myself and the self-damning I do when I don’t meet those lofty standards.

What happens when I get angry or disappointed in myself? I eat.

When I eat, what happens? I get fat or feel like it — equally dangerous to morale.

My first mistake in October was not saying sooner that I’d bitten off too much, regarding my post-pneumonia recovery.

The problems with me getting something like pneumonia is, it’s easy to think the pneumonia’s just some “thing” I’ve created to get out of shit, regardless of how sick I actually was.

As a kid, yeah, I was in and out of hospitals, but I was also a lazy kid who loved the excuse of illness — I hated exercise. When it came to exercise, I was happy to play the “I’m too sick” card.

The last five years, the greatest “getting fit” struggle I’ve faced was overcoming “I Can’t” and those old excuses.

In so doing, when I thought I couldn’t do something, I often did better than I expected. When I thought I was too weak, I was strong. If I wanted to improve my time in how long it took to cycle someplace, I did. When I thought I was too tired or too sore, I proved I wasn’t. That’s how I lost 70 pounds on my own.

Sure, I beat “I can’t,” but I’m still not an “I Can” girl — and that’s what I want to be, via my work with Nik Yamanaka from Le Physique.

I want say “Sure, I can do that!” without blinking. Now? Not so much, more like “Maybe?”

A lot has to do with the “I Can’t” Girl legacy.

In October, when I first thought I was doing too much too soon, I didn’t take a break — I didn’t want to use the “I’m not well” excuse or to make allowances for being sick or recovering. I didn’t want to admit I’m weaker or less strong.

Now I’ve paid for it through too sore muscles, too tired body, and the emotional fatigue that comes from the too-much-too-soon lethargy one suffers after trying to bounce back post-illness or injury.

***

Today I see Nik for the first time in two weeks. She knows I’ve been ass-kicked by both life and myself of late. I think I really need a session to get my head from Where I Was last month to where I’d rather be now.

For me, returning to anything after injury or illness is a struggle. The longer I’m out of the game, the harder it is to get back — especially when my body doesn’t like the pace I set, since I normally like to take my angst out on a workout, but my body doesn’t like that approach.

That said, almost every time I “return,” I do too much too soon.

I warned Nik that a former chiro labelled my tactics as “KAMIKAZE”. I mean, I know I do this shit.  I told her, “I know this about myself, I’m gonna be careful”, but, boom, there it is: History repeating.

This time, my bounce-back wipeout coincided with Heavy personal stuff on a few levels, and a bout of food poisoning, all within 10 days. I got knocked on my ass — hard.

Coupled with emotional baggage and the caloric hell that is Halloween, it’s been a doozy of a three-week stint in which I’ve been visiting all manner of feeling like a Failure.

We’ve all been there.

Still, I know my abilities and what I’ve learned about my food relationships, and my physical accomplishments with cardio and strength-training over time.

Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to accept such a rocky return.

Up side? Nik’s got a crash course in Steff’s Fitness Foibles 101 — my determination, roadblocks, how connected food is to my emotions, how I pay for my stubbornness.

Down side? It’s a disheartening start to what I hoped would resonate with awesomeness from the get-go. I have to recalibrate my expectations, and I will.

The I’ll-take-it side? I’m reminded I’m not God, I’m not even immortal, and while deities might allegedly be able to create whole worlds in seven days, we take longer to create what we dream, and more realistic aspirations make the road less arduous.

***

I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve started it six times now.

Why? I despise admitting that I’ve failed myself, but it’s more disheartening that it came after I tried too hard and hit the wall, only to fall back into old habits just ‘cos I emotionally roll that way.

That’s what I had a hard time with: feeling like I was being punished for working too hard. It’s tough to swallow that you’ve achieved what you wanted to do, but then suffered consequences as a result — and then revisited bad habits of old out of weakness.

To whatever end, it all comes back to listening to the trainer when he/she says “Listen to your body.”

They don’t say “Listen to your neuroses.”

Woefully, my neuroses speak loud and clear. Listening to that’s hard not to do.

And sometimes we don’t understand our bodies. Don’t understand? Or maybe we just don’t listen. Success usually isn’t a switch we can flick on overnight.

Some learn these lessons harder than others.

My lesson is in finding a middle ground between what I want to be Tomorrow and what I’m able to be Today, and for me it can be the hardest part of fitness.

Part of a trainer-trainee relationship comes from learning where you’re at with each other, and the trainer knowing when you’re really trying or when you’re just phoning it in. This is a tough beginning, and I know Nik’s being challenged with having to interpret that about me. I can respect that.

Still, my journey’s not just the physical roadblocks I have to contend with. I know I’ll be in a difficult place emotionally for a while, so my food struggle will be tough. That’s when training will be good, and social media/blogging also helpful, so I can get advice, support, friendly prodding, and experience accountability to others.

Because I can’t work out at 100 per cent, I’m learning I never overcame my food demons, despite having lost 70 pounds.

I didn’t. Food’s the devil, always was. This is the reality check I needed.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my aspiration soup. Check, please.

Yet, Food Demons can be beaten into submission. People do it all the time.

And, pneumonia can only hamper my efforts for so long. I’ll get there a little more each week. I’m just impatient.

***

So, today? Training looms.

My Catholic upbringing makes me dread facing people after I feel like I’ve failed them or myself, so showing up to see Nik will be a bit heavy at the beginning, but another part of me can’t wait to just get in there, see her, and turn the page on my October.

Something I’ve learned in recovery/rehab, and forgot until now: It’s best that I do cardio at the end of the day so I can recover after, rather than early in the morning, when it might take a lot out of me, since, frankly, post-pneumonic life isn’t brimming with energy just yet.

Sometimes we need to find new normals.

I’m finding mine.

***

Failure happens. We don’t choose when. Life’s tough, we deal where we can, and sometimes fall down elsewhere.

At the end, know what matters?

Not that I ate badly or didn’t exercise sometimes, but that I’ve been more honest with myself about food than I have in months, and that I’ve been active more regularly than I have in a while.

I’ve improved. That’s the point.

I haven’t improved as much as I’d wanted, as quickly as I’d hoped, but I know why I haven’t, where I can improve still, and now I’ll do better than I did last time.

In the end, sometimes just continuing to improve is the best result we can hope for.

For now? I’ll take it.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.

Fat-Fat, Skinny-Fat, & NonFat-Big-Fat Meanies

Thanks to Catherine Winters, you can now “Like” my blog posts & share on Facebook — which, if you like me, is a nice way of giving me somethin’ somethin’ for my work ’round these parts. Look the “like” button at the bottom of each post, where you can also “share” through many other services. Thanks!

***

Uncredited photo on NEWSONE.COM.

FIRST: This Washington Post blogger suggests “fat” as become an offensive word. Offended? Don’t read. If you’re foolish enough to give the words power, that’s your choice. Go to a tap-dancing show if you think I should dance around this topic. I’m hitting this, yo.

***

A blogger for Marie Claire online, Maura Kelly, has had a shitstorm of no compare land upon her since she decided to take on Mike & Molly, the chubby show about a couple who hook up at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

Long story short, she said things like:

I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other… because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

People are calling for her job.

Really? Because she’s hurting people’s feelings, or…?

You’ve got to be kidding me if you think she’s alone in that thinking.

I’ve heard people say it to my face before. I’ve heard people in my company say a person has “no right” to wear a certain kind of clothing because they’re “too fat.”

Me, I’ve been about 300 pounds and a cozy size 24.

Don’t you DARE tell me that Maura Kelly is ALONE in how she thinks. Do NOT tell me people aren’t fat-phobic or disgusted by obesity.

And don’t you DARE tell me everyone’s all shocked that someone actually thinks this.

Where the hell do you people live? I’m on Planet Earth, where really fat people are still perceived as walking stereotypes by a moronic media who thinks they only roll one way.

Half the time there’s a “fatty” in the movie, they’re a messy person, they keep missing their mouth with food and wearing it. I mean, hey, scriptwriters, how do these fat people become fat if they only wear their food and not eat it? Mad science, that!

When Hollywood’s concerned, the token “fatty” is almost always a cute but bumbling idiot.

Now and then someone like Oliver Platt comes along, who’s as graceful as he is oversized, but, for the most part, you’d think fat always equaled clumsy slob with no life ambitions. Thanks, Hollywood!

What the hell’s with this sanctimony now?

It’s just ridiculous there’s SUCH a furor over Kelly’s words and not enough anger about the program itself.

And where’s the anger about magazines like FHM, who hatefully call this undercover-camera footage of a fat man eating cheese “comedy gold”? Raise your hand if you don’t think this guy’s seen this footage and ever wants to exit his home again.

Face it: People are mean. They’re cruel.

Okay, was Maura Kelly an asshat in how she worded her rant? Yes.

Was she saying what a LOT of people probably agree with? YES.

Was she likely baiting people for a reaction? Yeah.

Does that make it right? Not really.

Should she lose her job? HELL, NO.

So where’s that leave us?

Finally friggin’ talking about it.

Here’s how I see this issue, on many levels:

One, Maura Kelly’s pretty wrong but there’s some truth to what she’s saying. Obesity can’t be allowed to become normalized. We can’t sit back as a society and say that what we’re doing to our health is okay. We can’t keep eating ourselves to death because we’re too lazy to chop up some vegetables.

Two, the problem with being horrified by “fat” people making out is, they’re not the only people with bad eating habits, they’re not the only unhealthy people. Are Kelly-type people grossed out by the “fatty” lack of health or just the fat? How hypocritical is that? IN FACT, there are “fat” people who eat healthy meals and can probably haul ass further than you. Don’t judge the chubby books by their ample covers.

Three, by keeping the perception of health on how we LOOK, a lot more “skinny fat” people will keep feeling validated in their habits because they have smaller than a 34 waist — much to the chagrin of the 5’4, 125-pound type-2 diabetic I know who drank himself into the disease by way of two full-sugar Big Gulps a day over a decade, and much to my chagrin as as a very-healthy-but-chubby taxpayer.

Four, is the show really doing “fat” any favours by making it a sitcom about fat people who meet in a fat-people place and who live their life around a lot of fat-people issues? I’m not so sure we should be celebrating the program while demonizing the critic, if the show’s reinforcing stereotypes. Know what “sitcom” is short for? “Situation comedy”. This situation, for Mike and Molly? Fat man meets fat woman at a fat meeting and they go home and are fat and awkward together. Oh, win, Hollywood — just made of win. The plot development seems a little, well, thin to me.

Five, when Maura Kelly likens seeing fatness to that of seeing a heroin junkie or an alcoholic, is she that far off the mark? Most weight situations are insanely difficult to be reversed, like a lot of addictions are, but they can indeed be reversed. Not all cases of obesity are caused by poor lifestyle choices, but many are. For me, she would NOT have been off the mark. Food is, and always has been, my primary choice of drug — be it my undying love for butter or passion for anything cooked well — and it would have led me to an early grave if I’d continued as I had from 1999-2003, as surely as an overdose or alcohol poisoning could have.

Six, by being a complete asshat in how she positioned some of her argument, Maura Kelly has shown us just how hateful most people’s speech is when it slips out in seemingly-harmless little chunks here and there — whether it’s a snide little “Oh, lord” about a morbidly obese man on the next corner, or a quiet chuckle as they see a heavy woman trying to squeeze into a too-small chair on a food court. Hypocrites.

You have no idea the jokes that are made to my overweight father’s face. To his FACE. He’s the kindest man I know, and he’s fat, and he knows it, and yet even his “friends” and “family” make remarks that break my heart. To his FACE.

Because he’s “fat,” it’s somehow all right.

People are often ASSHOLES, even “nice” people, and it’s about time they know these comments cut and they cut deeply. At least Maura Kelly had the balls to sign her name to her words.

This conversation needs to be had. Accepting people who are 35% obese and greater as just something we have to get used to is dangerous to our health as a society. But skinny-fat people who scarf down their fast food with no regard for sodium, heart health, or diabetes, they aren’t doing society any favours either, and the hypocrisy is glaring.

Ultimately, the conversation has to shift from what healthy LOOKS LIKE to what healthy IS.

Judging overweight people by their exteriors is stupid and foolish, but being permissive of an ever-enlarging population to just keep getting bigger, while chuckling at it and making it part of our entertainment, well… that’s not solving the problem either — and actually hurts those it purports to include in “Hollywood”.

Is there an easy solution?

Yes. As a society, we regulate food like we do anything that can kill people. We must stop legally catering to commercial food producers who see it as “product” and not our health. We tax those foods that can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other diseases so that it pays for the medical care it will surely one day demand.

We ditch shit food, we celebrate farmers, we learn to cook, we eat in moderation, and we exercise.

All of us.

Because most of us are killing ourselves — fat and thin. And it’s really not okay anymore — especially not when, in countries like Canada, the rest of the population picks up the tab for it.

You may hate Maura Kelly for her ideas and her attitude, but she should keep her job, because she’s done what she was hired to do — she got us all talking.

Everybody Has Reversals

One of my favourite movies is the little-known David Mamet skewering of Hollywood, the filmmaking parody called State and Main.

In it, supposed screenwriter Phillip Seymour Hoffman laments being kicked off his first movie.

The bookstore owner, played by Rebecca Pidgeon, says to him, “Well…  Everybody has reversals. If you were never down, how would you know when you were up?”

It’s a pretty universally held-belief espoused by everyone from Rumi and Kahlil Gibran to my neighbour Bob down the street.

Graffiti I love from Vancouver's Granville Island. Unfinished on purpose or interrupted? No idea. Love it.

I think we get it, right? Gotta be sad to know happy, poor to know rich, fat to know thin.

I’m identifying with the latter as I acknowledge I’ve been backpedalling against my own reversals of late.

I had set myself a weight goal in May and I’ve moved the opposite direction. I’ve been kind of mentally lost at sea as I’ve been screwing up the courage to make the journey to where I need to go: self-employment, et cetera.

That means I delved into emotional eating while I’d been on edge and in fear.

Failure is something I’m really scared of. So scared, in fact, I’d rather not try at all and have the excuse that I’ve yet to get around to it, than to do it and face-plant.

I’m getting past that in my (cough) old age now, and starting to have the “feel the fear and do it anyways” ’90s mantra pumping through my head, but it’s been taking a while.

I know what I want now, and that means the emotional eating has begun to become more obvious to me — I’m realizing what I’ve been doing, I’m conscious of the shame that has come with it, and the depression that comes with realizing I’ve been failing myself for a while now.

I’ve been trying to hide it.

But there’s only so much you can hide when you’re carrying around the evidence on your ass.

Seriously, right? That’s what it boils down to: Who the fuck do you think you’re kidding, there, tubbo?

Granted, I’ve only gained 2 pounds more than I started the summer with, but I’m still pissed off about it, because I know HOW to defeat it, and because I’ve fucking cycled more than 1,100 kilometres this summer — all for naught! All that sweat and pain and endurance so I could barely maintain my weight? Fuck!

This week some things are coming into play — I’ll be talking to a professional trainer to see what we can maybe do for each other. I finally made a connection last week with someone and we’ll see if it’s a promising venture toward the weekend. Here’s hoping.

As a result of getting a “yeah, let’s talk!” from the trainer, I realized “Well, I’d love to get the help, but you know what? I’ve done this all by myself before — I cut out butter, I ate better, I worked out 6-8 hours a week… I didn’t need a trainer then, and I don’t need one now.”

So, I decided I’d get real. I celebrated with a cheeseburger, but then I knuckled down and chucked out the butter, made some mental commitments as to what I’m willing to do, where I’m willing to go, and grocery-shopped accordingly.

I also decided that I don’t need a trainer, no, but I want one.

Sooner or later we all have to realize that we can only get ourselves so far on our own. There’s only so much we can consider inside our little brains and only so many experiences we can have first-hand. There’s only so much we can excel at in life without others’ help.

Eventually, help really is something we all need to accept.

I honestly believe the last five years of my life have been specifically about teaching me that it’s okay to ask for help and that it’s okay to turn to others. You can’t possibly know how far I’ve come, but I still have far to go.

Times like these are when I’m proud to say at least I’ve learned how to make the first move.

It’s been a very difficult lesson, gaining the humility that is needed to admit help is required.

The two lessons I’m most proud I’ve taken from the last 10 years are: 1) That I know I’m strong enough to overcome everything that gets put in my path, and on my own, and 2) That I’m finally comfortable asking others for help and admitting that I just can’t do everything, and that it’s given me a tremendous amount in life.

Where I’ve gotten myself is this:

  • I’m more than half-way to the body and the health that I’ve wanted all my life.
  • I’ve overcome most of my injuries to the point where my days seldom get clouded with the thoughts of pain and discomfort that used to swirl like blackness around me.
  • I no longer feel my goals are hopeless but instead feel anger that I’ve been letting them slip by because I know in my heart I should be all over ’em like Oprah on a ham.
  • I’m ready.

Yes, I said the big word: Anger.

I’m fucking pissed, buddy. I’m mad. I’m bitter. I’m choked. I’m gonna kick some ass. MINE.

It’s all MY fault. It ain’t about the media or the government, life beating up on me or any of that shit. This weight I’ve regained is ALL MY FAULT and I FUCKING KNOW IT.

Oh, sure, you want to do the “Hey, love yourself” or “Embrace yourself and be gentle” la-la-love-in bullshit? KNOCK YOURSELF OUT. Ain’t my cuppa, honey.

It was THIS MOOD that launched me on the path that saw me losing 70 pounds, saying NO MORE, and going hard after what I wanted. It was THIS MOOD that said I’m entitled to better but only if I earn it first.

I’m not being mean to myself, I’m saying I’m better than this. I’m saying I know I can do this. I’m saying I have this in me. That’s love, man. I know I’m built for this. That’s love.

I don’t need to light candles, run a bath, and sing “Kumbaya” to myself, okay?

I need to put the fucking butter down, pay attention to when my belly is full, stop living the college dorm “HEY, LET’S GET BEER” life of excess that my summer has been. That’s love, man.

Am I pissed off at myself? Sure.

Am I gonna hold a grudge about it? Fuck, no.

By this time next week, I want my attitude to be “Hey, I’ve done well this past week. Let’s go windsurfing!” ‘Cause that’s scheduled for then, you know. That’s how we say “ENOUGH” in my world.

Kumbaya, motherfucker. Reverse this!

Game On! Back to Success

Ed. Note: I often forget many of you are new here — so, a nutshell: From Jan ’08 till May of ’09, I lost 70 pounds. The hard way. Myself — no trainers, diet organizations, nothing. Hard work, honesty, and self-awareness.

I burned out after 8 months with a killer back injury. So, I took the year off and gained 8 pounds back. But, I’m back, and knowing what it takes to be successful, here’s my reflection on beginning that experience for the second time. Hopefully some of my methods can sustain others, too.

RAWR, BITCHES.

After a disappointing first weigh-in because I’d gained two pounds — there’s only so much of that you can call “muscle tone”, methinks — I’m now down 2 pounds off my “starting” weight. So, 4 pounds, but I’m calling it 2.

But I’m down 6 inches off my waist! 2.5 inches off my hips! Yeah!

I know a lot of people have the “ohmigod, I’ve gained weight” experience at the beginning, so I want to share a few observations I can make after having been down this road successfully three times in the past.

First is, obviously I gained weight. For me, if I start exercising more, I start eating more. It’s simple math.

You get complacent and used to inhaling X amount of food when resting, so you psychologically think you need more when you start working out. It happens. Get over it.

That, for me, is where it starts. Let’s face it, becoming an active person is probably the most important goal any of us can set — the second should be eating truly healthily, and the third should involve weight/size.

People get the priorities wrong and think it’s about the weight.

It’s not. It’s about changing your life. Remember that, and it’s easier to deal with the weight hiccups that WILL come your way.

For whatever reason, I naturally gravitate to eating more when I begin hardcore workout phases. There comes a point where I realize my methods are broken, and I’m gaining weight from the muscle tone and eating all that I’ve been burning.

I buckle down and get serious, then I get true results.

“Buckle down” means that I get this epiphany of “HOLY SHIT, I’m working WAY too hard for THAT result.”

When you’re doing two hours and 15 minutes of cardio in a day like I have done a number of times of late, and you have a burger, fries, and two beers, well, on the one hand, yes, if you’re gonna have a burger, that’s the day to do it, man.

But think of the PAYOFF for not having that burger and beers!

Me, I’m NOT cutting out burgers or anything. I’d rather work harder, make smarter choices, and monitor what I’m eating so I know EXACTLY how bad I can be (and be bad much less frequently), and instead of downing Bad Food X with guilt and worry, I can enjoy it with the knowledge that it Fits into my day. It just fits. Therefore, it’s all good.

Weight loss is almost ALL head game.

It’s a head game when you think you’re too tired to cycle further.

It’s a head game when you think the wonky thing in your lower back means you shouldn’t exercise.*

It’s a head game when the numbers go in the wrong direction.

It’s even a head game when you’re trying to understand how you got to X-weight in the first place.

It’s ALL a game.

“Calories-in, calories-out” is an oversimplification of what I’m doing, but it’s about right. I monitor my intake, and I work like shit on the rest.

The difference, I think, between athletes, serious weight loss types like myself, and the average person who sort of works out and they don’t know why they don’t “see more results” for their “five hours” of cardio in a week, is just sheer effort.

I’m bone-tired when I’m done working out. When I get finished, I tend to know I’ve had myself in “moderate to intense” mode since the gate opened. THAT’S what it takes. It takes gasping, wheezing, and pushing forward ANYHOW.

Think you can’t go further and you won’t. It’s all attitude.

Exercise is supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to have you gasping and crying for Mommy. It’s supposed to make you think twice about having any plans for the rest of the week.

There’s a big difference between folks who have a weight to maintain versus if you want to lose it. You want to lose weight just through food? All right, well, that’s about 80% of the deal, if you listen to some folks.

You want a hot body? You’ll likely need to work for it. And I mean work.

I double what people do to “maintain” weight, when I’m losing it. It takes me 5-8 hours a week of working out, but that’s usually just the cardio of what I’ve done — then there’s stretching and here-and-there freeweights in front of the telly.

I hit plateaus, sure, but my body keeps improving, and my fitness does too. That’s my goal, not some number on a scale. Work through the plateaus. Change your food intake or your water, but try to work through it.

Not everyone’s gonna be a size four, so get over it here and now, and the journey will be a whole lot more rewarding for you.

It can’t just be “Did I lose weight this week?” It has to also be “How much better did I perform on that bike ride? How do I feel at the end of my day? Was climbing those stairs easier? Holy, look how much better my breathing is. And, damn, that bag of potatoes feels like air!”

Focus on what IS changing, rather than what you hoped you’d see.

Measure yourself. Monitor your fitness levels. Remember how hard that jogging was the first week you started. Think about the strength you feel in your back now, how much more symmetrical your body feels. Think about how much more lung capacity you have when you’re just sitting at your desk and working on the computer. Appreciate how those jeans feel, focus on that sensation you get with cool crisp clean jeans over just-worked-out-for-90-minutes legs. Damn, it’s nice.

Get over the fucking shit the media wants you to think about.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NUMBER.

It’s about your body’s changing state, the acquisition of health and strength.

Know why Jenny Craig wants you on their diet? Because you WILL gain the weight back, but you’ll have “lost it before” so you’ll be a repeat customer.

All they’re doing is counting your calories. Take the power. Learn it yourself. Live with it for the rest of your life.

You wouldn’t take a road trip without knowing how far you had to go, how much fuel you need to arrive safely, and how long it takes, right? Then you know you have to drive, and there are no shortcuts between There and Here. Why is losing weight any different?

Work out as hard as you can a few times a week, and take lazy easy activity in between, with as many hours of sleep a night as you can get, at least one day a week off where you relax, and a balanced diet that’s respectful of the calories someone of your height/weight/age should be consuming on a daily/weekly basis. Enjoy a blow-out meal of things you love on your day off, and KILL IT the next day.

That’s MY secret. And, hey, it’s no secret. Every other system leads to a likelihood of repeating your past ills.

Learn. Act. Believe. Achieve. Simple.

Party on, Garth.

* I’ve learned a really hard workout resets all my back muscles and alleviates backpain, personally. Days when I thought I should rest, rest didn’t help — but cycling for 50 minutes did. Not walking and namby-pamby shit, but stuff where I’ve got to activate my core muscles and push hard. But that’s just me. Learn about your body, but don’t presume you KNOW.

**Disclaimer? Uh. I’m a blogger. Talk to your doctor about this shit. There are risks. I’ve had medical guidance (though not trainers, etc) through all of this and I’ve educated myself along the way. Proceed at your own risk.