The Day I got Fat
I can tell you the exact day I started to get fat. I must have been 6. My Aunt Ree (as we called her) was watching me that day. We went for a walk downtown and as a special treat she bought me an Egg McMuffin. I had never tasted anything like it. I gobbled it down and in an uncharacteristic act of greed that changed my life forever, I begged for another. I could have eaten twenty of them.
I remember it so clearly, because I had never experienced such a need for food before. Flavor exploded through my developing mind and seemed to fill a void I didn’t even know I had. I was in full psychophysiological overload and food would never be the same for me. To this day, I have never found a food or drug to duplicate that experience and something about it changed my brain dramatically. It was like a gene kicked in and I was from that moment on utterly addicted to food.
The story is mostly downhill from there. I remember becoming increasingly demanding at breakfast. Nothing was good enough if it didn’t have an egg, cheese and meat. My grandmother perfected them adding a richer, creamier cheese and buttery bread to the mix. Breakfast became at least two of these sandwiches and sometimes a third. I would throw a fit if it was anything else.
Later on, I would come to understand this behavior as binging, but not until I was much older. I soon found other foods that I could not resist. Each filling the void just a little and leaving me momentarily sated. I recall one time, eating a jar of peanut butter on a dozen heavily buttered English muffins. I would routinely eat three of four.
In my adult years, it became a joke to me. I mean, I knew something was wrong. People don’t eat a 2 pound burrito with a 32oz soda and then order a foot and a half long hot-dog from the cart outside. But it was a joke nonetheless. I laughed about it and indulged the behavior. I bragged about how much I could eat and reveled in the awe people showed when I lived up to my boasting.
When I was 30 I was 330 pounds. In pictures of me from my 30th birthday party, I had a bushy beard and looked more like a gorilla than a human. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver. My doctor at the time told me, if I did not lose weight I was going to die of cirrhosis. I believed her. I panicked. She told me I would probably need a gastric bypass, but first I had to “try and fail at a couple of diets first.”
Relating this to my friend Vinny, he suggested that I try Atkins. I have to tell you, it sounded moronic, but on my doctors advice, I had to fail at a couple of diets before I could get the help I needed and I was sure this one was going to fail fast and hard. Was I ever wrr wrrr wrrr — poorly informed.
Those of you who know me, know that the years that followed were the healthiest years of my life. I lost 132lbs. I exercised daily. I ran. I danced. I played Ultimate Frisbee and I walked everywhere. This was a magic time for me and it lasted a few years.
I put a few pounds back on because of stress and a few more because of lifestyle changes, but I had it under control. In three years I put on about 40lbs, but I felt fantastic and with a net loss of 90lbs I still felt successful. Then my Grandmother died and I started eating.
Two years ago, at 280lbs I found out I have Type II diabetes — the kind people get from eating too many carbohydrates at too many meals, over too long a span of time. My body just could not keep up with the amount of simple carbohydrates I ate. My health went though a number of minor and major setbacks and by 37 I was resolved to a sedentary life strung out by a hand full of pills three times a day.
Last August I got married. I was 320lbs on my wedding day. All of my groomsmen looked sharp and sophisticated in their tuxes (and Jeff in his uniform) and I felt like a clown in an ill fitting suit with a backless vest and a puffy shirt. I didn’t get to enjoy the first year of my marriage the way I should have. I was too busy locked in my head eating myself to death. I didn’t want to do anything. Ashamed of what I had become (again), I didn’t want to socialize. I stopped doing the things I love to do and replaced them with couch time.
A few months ago, it came to a head. I was eating every meal until my sides hurt and my chest ached. My blood sugar was so high, that the pills stopped working. I was facing insulin. My liver was fatty again. I was on two pills for blood pressure, pills for sugar, pills for migraine headaches, pills for aches and pains and a CPAP machine to keep me breathing in my sleep. I was a mess. But worst of all, my brand new marriage and my beautiful and loving wife suffered for my sins.
Recently, I started dieting again. At first I did it for my wife and the new life we are trying to make together, but now I’m doing it for myself too. Feeling this good again is a huge motivator. Atkins may not be right for everyone, but it’s right for me. I’ve lost 45lbs. I’m off all of my medications. I am becoming active again. I can walk and jog and play without getting winded. My sugar is under control. My blood pressure is down. My cholesterol and liver are normalizing and I feel great.
I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the weight drop off, becoming more active and being the person my wife deserves to be married to. There will be pitfalls ahead. I fell in one on Sunday, which is what inspired this post. Thirty minutes of rapturous Chinese food in enormous quantities has been followed by two and a half days of chest pain and depression. But no matter what traps I fall into, I am committed to reclaiming my victory over food. I’m confident that I’m going to get back down to a healthy weight and be in fantastic shape for whatever is next.
I remember the day I started to get fat and in ten years I hope to be writing a blog post about the day I chose to change my behavior and lived to tell about it.