Much like one’s virginity, losing weight is an achievement best done late than never. Granted, you’re likely having more fun being fat than being a virgin. Celibacy, be it by self choice or others’ choice, doesn’t fall into the category of guilty pleasure. And I’m not knocking masturbation, but it remains a solitary and repetitious substitute for sex, whereas you can gain (or maintain) excess weight via a plethora of eating options in a variety of social situations from downing an entire bag of Double Fudgee-Os alone on your Doritos-stained couch to chugging pints and inhaling wings with your recreational slow pitch team to eating cheese without bothering to slice it first. Hell, you don’t even have to be gross; just eat pasta to your heart’s content and voila, fat.
I, sadly, have much experience on both fronts, having been overlooked on the vagina party guest list for a few years back in my younger days while, more recently, having become far too intimate with carbohydrates. I’ll admit my virginity would have been easier to lose had I focused not so much on those I wished to have sex with but rather on those who wished to have sex with me, though to be honest I would have been just as shocked then as you are now to know such people existed. My weight, on the other hand, has yo-yoed between flabby and chubby for the better part of two decades for no reason beyond a lack of discipline. Had I been as particular about my diet as I was with the girls I lusted after, I’d now be well into my fifth decade of habitual and guiltless abdominal exposure.
There was a time when I feared being a virgin forever. It certainly felt like forever in my teens. Conversely, the extra poundage has dogged me far longer than my virginity ever did. Today, however, I stand before you not only the father of two, with plenty of practice prior, between, and after, but also a damn sight slimmer since prior, between, and after. I’m very proud of both achievements but especially the latter. Here’s my story of how it happened. The second thing. Not the first. This isn’t that kind of blog.
I’ve wanted to lose weight for a long time now; easily a decade and a half. Health issues complicated matters but I’d be lying if I said they were the primary culprit for my slow, steady inflation. The onset of chronic fatigue may have obliterated my ability to stay physically active but it was my penchant for sweets combined with a nasty habit of emotional eating that caused my increasing pant size.
I have never been morbidly obese. This isn’t some miracle story. I didn’t lose four hundred pounds or anything remotely that incredible. I was, nonetheless, overweight. By any measure, legit or farcical, I was heavier than I should be as a human male of six feet in height. Hell, if it wasn’t for a remarkable strong metabolism to begin with I easily would weighed double what I did. All those plates of pasta and chunks of cake and bags of Smarties add up and the fact I only topped out at two hundred pounds is a miracle in its own right.
Still, I wasn’t happy with my habits and I definitely wasn’t happy with my waistline. I may have wore it well or perhaps we’ve all just lowered our standards on what a fit human looks like, but every time I would stare at a picture of myself from one of our many camping adventures, I was embarrassed by the pudgy gut and general flabbiness of my body. Not to mention that those same vacations and hockey tournaments took me to many family-oriented hotels with swimming pools chockfull of dads sporting guts akin to an eight-month pregnancy. I had no desire to end up like those guys but my eating habits had me on a fast track to beer belly.
In 2015, after years of failure, I decided to challenge myself publicly. I posted a series of New Year’s resolutions, several of which were weight related either directly (I will lose weight) or indirectly (I will eat less chocolate). All were notably in their wishy-washiness. I stated no specific goals and as you might expect, the only common ground they all ultimately shared was my failure in achieving them. I even went so far as to take a picture of me standing on a bathroom scale each morning to document my feat. I figured this daily reminder would incentivise me to lose the weight whilst also providing raw material for a snappy little video I’d create and post in celebration. In the end, all I had to show for my efforts was 365 photographs of my feet.
Frustrated but undaunted, in 2016 I upped my game, once again making a series of New Year’s resolutions but this time including specific goals for each resolution. I was determined to succeed this time and felt the public announcement of definitive targets would only help my cause. I started off well. After two months, I already checked off one resolution, having gone the entire months of January and February without eating any chocolate. I celebrated this milestone by filming myself eating a bowl of chocolate icing laced with M&Ms. In retrospect, that was a solid hint that my resolution to lose twenty pounds by July 1st was not going to happen. Foreshadowing.
Unwilling to accept defeat, I extended my weight loss resolution from July 1st to the fall and eventually to Christmas. It didn’t matter. The most I dropped during that entire year was about five pounds and that was quickly regained. It was and remains a resounding failure. A triumph of capitulation over willpower.
2017 was bereft of resolutions. I couldn’t handle more public failure. Disgust at seeing myself in pictures continued as did the poor eating habits. And it wasn’t just the fact that I was drowning my sorrows with chocolate and pasta. I was also rewarding myself on good days with blocks of cake. As if walking a kilometre to the neighbourhood library burned enough calories to justify a treat sized for four. By the time 2018 rolled around I had gorged my way to two hundred pounds, a meaningless but disheartening milestone. Then something unexpected happened.
Starting in late 2017, I had been attending a support group slash educational session for chronic fatigue syndrome, something I’d missed out on years before and due to various conflicts and distractions was only now able to attend. One of the biweekly sessions was dedicated entirely to diet. It was interesting enough, though I admit to some eye rolls when the conversation veered into tinfoil hat territory regarding national food guide conspiracies and the like. But it didn’t inspire a sea change in my eating habits, managing only to remind me once again how terrible I was at eating so much junk food. Nonetheless, a seed was sown that would eventually change my habits.
That seed was a phone app of all things. As part of our homework for this dietary session, we had to track all our food consumption for two weeks. We were encouraged to use an app as the easiest way to do so. For whatever reason, likely the inordinate amount of free time on my hands, using this app struck a chord with me and I diligently documented my consumption for an entire two weeks.
It’s one thing to know you’re eating poorly, quite another to see actual numbers attached to it. When you see just how many calories are in that chunk of cake or that plate of pasta or that bag of macaroons the brain receives quite a jolt. I wasn’t just eating lots of crap, I was eating thousands of calories of crap. The shame hit me like a wall of hail. Yet I didn’t change. Not yet.
The final nudge would come a couple months later at the last group session. As we wrapped up the course and recounted what each of us had learned and benefited from during the previous six months, I struggled to come up with something genuine. When my turn came I resorted to saying something about how the food app had really made me understand just how much emotional and unwarranted eating I was doing but that I struggled to resist the urges. It was weak, but I had nothing else. Then an awakening of sorts occurred.
The doctor who runs these group sessions revealed that she made a significant dietary change two years ago, turning to an auto-immune paleo diet consisting of nothing but real meat and real vegetables. Every day, all day, nothing but animal flesh and plants. I have no inherent dislike for either of those food categories, but I couldn’t imagine myself eating nothing but. No fruits. No grains. No treats. Pretty much everything I was currently eating, gone. Completely.
I drove home, bewildered, and thought to myself, “if this person can give up that much, and over such a long timespan, surely I can limit my excess with regards to carb-heavy treats and meals long enough to lose 20 pounds.” I didn’t even need to embrace any fad diet, I just needed to watch the shit I was inhaling on a near daily basis. With the help of the app I could keep my caloric intake reduced and hopefully refrain from the many false pretenses I was using to reward myself.
I started in late February, a few days before my birthday. With a food scale and a phone app, I carefully documented everything I ate every day. I weighed myself each morning immediately after a refreshing urination. As the days passed, I found I was able to constrain my intake to approximately 1800 calories a day, give or take. This was below the expected calorie needs for a male my age and height, so I was cautiously optimistic that it would result in eventual dropping of pounds. On days I was more physically active, the calorie gap was even greater and more weight would hopefully come off. I allowed myself “Fun Saturdays” where I didn’t give a rat’s ass about what I ate. This typically took the form of pop and chips while watching a movie, a routine the wife and I have come to embrace over the years. This is what middle-aged parent weekends are all about, folks!
It took a few days but eventually the numbers on the scale began to drop. In fact, they plummeted. In less than two months I had successfully dropped twenty pounds, finally achieving my resolution from two years prior. I was elated with my success and decided to push this further. Knowing I had dropped twenty pounds, going from 200 to 180 was one thing, but I had no tangible proof to accompany my inevitable internet boasting. What I did have was a picture of my feet on bathroom scale showing my weight at 198.3 pounds. That includes two pounds of camera weight, so it’s really 196.3 pounds. This meant I needed to lose another 4 pounds in order to show a before and after shot of my hooves and the accompanying 20 pound loss.
The initial pace of weight loss slowed as one would expect. I was only doing this via dietary changes and it was inevitable that my body would adjust to my new diet. There were also a few weekends where my willpower slipped a bit. The onset of summer will do that, and it’s damn hard to spend any long weekend, never mind the first, refusing to drink beer and eat, well, everything. I’ll say one thing about weight, it’s not easy to lose but it’s ten times easier to put it back on. One sinful weekend can set you back two weeks worth of gains as fast as I can empty a good friends’ cookie jar.
Regardless, I kept putting myself back on track during the week and sure enough, I eventually reached my second goal. I got all the way to 175 pounds, a total reduction of 25 pounds. And with that dropping of 25 pounds, I now have, along with a 366th picture of my feet, documented proof that I did indeed lose 20 pounds as per my 2016 resolution. Better late than never!
My body fat calculations are also much lower, dropping from 26% to 15.2%. I understand there’s a lot of controversy as to the validity of such calculations, BMI especially, but there is no doubt I was overweight. I’m confident I’m healthier now than I was on my 46th birthday. If only I could build some muscle mass or at least tone my formless body I might be ready to go shirtless at the lake and catch some of the stay-at-home moms taking a little too long of a look as I pass by on the way to my favourite shaded corner of the beach.
But this story isn’t yet finished. Within days of finally reaching that 175 pound mark and managing to keep it there, we were leaving for a magical month long camping trip in Atlantic Canada. Camping and travel are two very dangerous activities when it comes to my eating. S’mores and ice cream, sugary cereals and restaurants all take their toll. Furthermore, there was no way in hell I was going to haul a food scale around with me for four weeks and attempt to measure everything I consumed while on vacation. The logistics of such an endeavour were overwhelming, not to mention the rather ridiculous optics of doing so. This would be a serious test of my new eating habits.
Well I’m back from that trip now and I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I didn’t resist nearly as much as I’d hoped. This was particularly true of the final ten days where everything went entirely off the rails. It all started with a night out with an old friend at a pub in Halifax where I devoured my first ever deep fried Mars bars. They. Were. Incredible! They were also disgusting. But oh so bloody good.
In the days that followed, our trip evolved from camping and homecooked meals to hotels and restaurants. Add in a lot of driving and the calorie intake skyrocketed. Furthermore, our daily hikes and explorations of nature simultaneously plunged thanks to boat tours and rain. By the time I returned to Calgary, I was utterly exhausted and fearing the worst as I prepared to step on the scale the next morning. Then the good news happened.
Much to my disbelief, the scale showed that I had not gained a single pound during the entire trip. I was stunned. Delighted, sure, but stunned nonetheless. My read on the situation is that I had actually dropped a few additional pounds during the first couple weeks of our trip. We were walking and hiking nearly every day, far more than I ever do here at home. If my Fitbit is to be believed, several days we actually moved twice as much as I normally do, sometimes even more than that. I’m convinced I dropped pounds and then gained them back during the final days of our trip.
That’s nothing to be proud of but I’m happy nonetheless. I’ve now returned to my pre-trip eating ways and am already down to 171 pounds. My BMI is 23.9, safely in the “healthy” category while my body fat calculation is now at 13.2%. That is nice to see, though the latter being described as “athletic” is admittedly comical in my situation.
My goal now is to get to 170 pounds, a full 30 pounds fewer than when I started, and then focus on weight stability and muscle tone. That’s an arbitrary number but one I’m far more comfortable with than the 200 I had started to see at the start of the year. And the pictures from our amazing trip are far more appealing to my eye. Perhaps yours too.