Fully Human

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It occurred to me today, looking at this post from 11 years ago, that Facebook essentially didn’t exist back then. Neither did the Internet, though, really. Everything is so different.

And if it manages to stick around and remain a player in our culture, even if in a diminished way, this kind of post will just seem odd, I guess. Few of us will remember the old days, when posts were by default always written in the third person as above. I’m getting all misty now.

I just noticed this one today. I know what was going on—on September 24, 2007, I started my big weight-loss project. I’d managed to drop 15 pounds over the past couple of months, down from a high of 272 to 257. I had a plan. I made a spreadsheet. I was optimistic.

I was right, too, although it doesn’t really give me much of a thrill. It was just a game, a trick to see if I could stay motivated long enough to take off some excess weight. I really didn’t expect miracles. I didn’t get a miracle, either. I just scienced the shit out of this.

To review: I went from that 257 in September to 186 by January, an average loss of 5 pounds per week, a ridiculous rate. That’s just crazy talk, 5 pounds a week for 14 weeks. It’s like…Philadelphia.

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See, I remember reading an article about that movie, how they filmed it sequentially (beginning to end) so that Hanks’ character would become sicker and thinner as the movie progressed. They restricted his diet but mostly just kept him moving; I remember distinctly a comment by Hanks that they had him exercising on some machine every moment he wasn’t acting.

It just struck me—Tom Hanks was a movie star, about to become a big one, and this was his job, to lose weight quickly. He looked to be a normal guy, maybe even on the lean side, so the math was hard. But it was his job, you see. Motivation was baked in.

And that’s what I did. I restricted my diet pretty severely (I wouldn’t go as low now, around 1400 calories per day on average, barely acceptable in terms of nutrition) but mostly I just moved. Every spare moment I had, I walked. Sometimes 15-16 miles a day. When you’re overweight, you can burn a lot of calories doing that. Low impact, not painful, actually pleasant and a huge change in my life, daily exercise and a lot of it. My mental health, as weary of focusing as I was by the end, was pretty good.

I became a normal person then, other than still logging what I ate and weighed, and continuing to walk every day, if less than before. My weight would creep up a bit and annoy me, then sometimes drop off in the summer when I was more active. No surprises, nothing new, nothing to see here. I mostly always wanted to lose 10 pounds. That sounds pretty normal to me.

Then came 2015, and a little journey into depression, with insomnia and loss of appetite, and 45 pounds were lost and not many were regained. Eleven years after I saw 257 on the scale and began this whole process, I weighed 159. There’s nothing wrong with that number; it just makes me nervous. A sickness, even a minor one, could turn me skinny real quick. Real skinny.

So that’s how I ended up in this weird place, two completely different people in terms of appearance, at least. From a 49-year-old who was flirting aggressively with 300 pounds to a 60-year-old who needs to make sure he doesn’t lose any more weight. The universe has a sense of humor.

 That’s me in the middle, age 43, with former professors; inset, my 60th birthday

That’s me in the middle, age 43, with former professors; inset, my 60th birthday

 

There’s no getting around the significance. I just have never quite been able to share the experience, so I end up spilling thousands of words on the subject, uselessly. I purposely took the mysticism out of this process, and there’s a lot of mysticism, even from professionals. I wasn’t interested. I just wanted to be able to turn every aspect of weight loss into a number, and it turns out you can do that. It also turned out, in my case, that it worked exactly as advertised.

And even though over the years, I’ve read a lot of personal stories from people who are miserable with their weight, who are uncomfortable or self-conscious and just unhappy, I can’t seem to do anything useful here. I have a pretty strong philosophy about all this (e.g., I don’t think we eat the way humans are supposed to anymore, and I think we don’t understand that well), and enough personal variables, I guess, to make it seem too individual.

But really, I just paid very, very careful attention, and never stopped. Looking at that sentence now, it seems almost too obvious. This is probably the solution to a lot of problems. Pay attention.

The relevancy is gone now. If you’re a 50-year-old guy and you get down to your high school weight, it’s pretty easy to feel cocky and preen a bit. At 60, there are other things to think about besides how your butt looks in those jeans.

I also know that if I gained 50 pounds, my statistical health wouldn’t really budge at all. This isn’t about health. It’s not about vanity. It has little to do with comfort.

It just is, now. I am the thin man. It won’t be my epitaph. It just comes up once a year. Once a year I remember how it started, and all in all I’m grateful that it did.

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Chuck Sigars1 Comment