Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How I Got Pulled Over And Detained on The Dieting Super Highway

During the last several weeks, many friends have asked about my absence from this blog.

“You really need to get back to it,” urged one colleague at a recent dinner. “Why haven’t you been writing?” asked another at a Christmas party.

I wish I could say that I have been suffering from a long-festering bout of writer’s block but that would be a lie. I have been avoiding this site because I have been avoiding my diet.

It should come as no shock that the holidays have been harder to navigate than I expected.

Heading into December, things started reasonably well. I survived the gluttony of Thanksgiving and actually lost weight. Given the way I had eaten that week, I was genuinely surprised to see I had lost a few pounds. Well, from that point on I hit a rocky road – and I am not talking about the ice cream.

With each passing party, event or dinner out, I became more daring and my gradual comfort level with tasty and all too familiar comfort foods made me feel a bit like a crook on the lam.

I say that because at some point shortly after stuffing that cocktail weenie or puff pastry down my throat, inevitably someone would take that as a cue to saunter up to me and ask about the diet or this blog.

No kidding.

Practically every time I went in for that mouth-watering bite, someone was there to tell me how great the family looked. Talk about a binge buzz kill :)

Now the good news is the safety net that I envisioned when I publicly declared this life change almost a year ago really does work. No matter where I went, no matter what I may have just swallowed, someone somewhere unwittingly was reminding me that I was supposed to be dieting.

The bad news is that safety net was not enough to support the cheaply erected platform because the diet foundation that I thought was pretty firm crumbled at the first real test of stress and pressure.

When I think back on the last few weeks, I have been so good at being so deliciously bad, I have actually won awards for my misbehavior.

I shit you not.

Yes friends, I confess that during my delinquency from dieting, I entered and won a holiday cookie baking competition taking home the Grand Prize for Best All Around Cookie (the actual ribbon is posted at the top of the blog).

As you well know, any respectable competition requires practice. So, in the name of science and experimentation, I had to crank up the Elzer test kitchen and make a few batches of gooey goodness so I could determine which recipe might reign supreme in this nail biter of a cookie battle.

Of course, we are talking about trying at least one back-up recipe that didn’t quite make the cut because damnit, I have standards, and I didn’t deem the final product “award worthy.” And you know my tough "standards" bull puckey is really just code for "I wanted to scarf down as much cookie dough as humanly possible without throwing up."

Now come on! When the dieting fat guy decides to celebrate the spirit of the season by firing up the oven with a fantastic concoction of Valrhona chocolate and melted marshmallows, I dunno, something is wrong.

I am no rocket scientist, but looking back on it now, any sane person might say this whole scenario seems like a desperately bad idea. At a minimum this is a display of deeply rooted diet depravity of the highest order.

You see, when other serious addictions present themselves during the holidays, the police will step in and randomly erect one of those oh so effective sobriety checkpoints and voila -- it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Thankfully, the cops have little care for drivers with a freshly baked batch of award-winning Whoopie Pies in their trunk. For the record, they were obscenely awesome and deserving of the blue ribbon and I want to thank the committee of judges and the voting members of the Cookie Academy should any of them be reading this indecent confession.

So, instead of facing the law, I ultimately have to face the scale, which after the year we have been through is a helluva lot more sobering to me than handcuffs.

Sure, there is a certain part of me that expected to gain a little weight this month and up to a point, I would have been totally fine with savoring, the sweet and starchy rewards I have enjoyed guilt-free.

But I feel like I went about this all-wrong.

Just as I have avoided this blog, you should know I also neglected the doctor and regular workouts with my trainer and most importantly, my weekly appointment with my friend the scale. Yep. Turned my back on them all.

Then, yesterday morning, the noose tightened.

I got an unexpected call from the doctor’s office – which I guess was the diet police equivalent of a holiday sobriety checkpoint.

“We haven’t seen you in a while and we just wanted to make sure you are OK,” the nurse said.

In the time since my two missed appointments, I have experienced a trip to Vegas, extravagant wine dinners, Chanukah parties, my daughter’s birthday, an unbelievable orgy of lobster and Peking duck at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas, and lots and lots of little side celebrations. With each passing day, my belt began to feel just a bit less comfortable, so I knew the post-Thanksgiving weight loss victory was a distant memory.

Here, now, on the phone the Monday after Christmas weekend, the long arm of the doc was tapping me on the shoulder to reel me in.

“Can you come in today?” the nurse asked.

“Uh, no,” I replied.

“Why not?” she politely but pointedly chimed back.

At that point, the gig was up. She could smell the carbs on my breath through the phone 35 miles away.

I confessed to the nurse that the last few weeks had not been great and I had no intention of coming in to the office and surrendering to the scale. I didn't need that cursed needle to tell me I gained weight.

I told her I would get back to the plan in the New Year and would see her in a few weeks.

As I was spewing my best conciliatory spin, I could almost hear the nurse saying to herself "not so fast, chubby."

After a little back and forth involving whether I would check in as they wished and get on a scale, we compromised and she talked me into an office visit today.

Now truth be told, I sincerely do not want to know how much I have gained and no matter what, it probably is not as bad or dramatic as I am making it appear. My lord, I still fit into the same pants I was wearing three weeks ago, so the havoc is more in my head than on my waist. But I stuck to my guns and I did not get on the scale - though the dutiful staff did their best to coax me.

The point in making the trip back to the doctor's office an hour from my house was to reconnect with the office staff and rekindle the routine.

I promised to return to face the scale after the 1st of the year.

I know that many people struggle with weight gains this time of year. The trick for me will be to make the adjustment now and return to the regimen that has been so successful for me and the entire family (all of whom are doing extraordinarily well, by the way).

The troublesome part of this introspection is not that I gained a few. It is that I abandoned the pillars of my program so easily when I have worked far too hard to get to this place. I know I should have been more dutiful about blogging and sticking to my workout routine just as I know I should have faced the music of a potential weight gain after the first missed doctor’s appointment.

So for the next couple of days, I am gonna keep my eye on what’s important but also cut myself some slack and hit it fresh in the New Year with a new resolve to continue what I started.

To those of you who have followed the ups and downs of this journey this year, thank you for your incredible support. Whether you know it or not, you are the first line of defense and I couldn’t ask for better friends or a better safety net.

2009 proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that anyone is capable of change if you set your mind to it. The last few weeks prove that you can give in but you can never give up.

I wish you and your family only the best in 2010 and the years ahead.

Copyright, 2009
Steve Elzer
All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 6, 2009

Two by Two

Two weeks ago we celebrated Hannah's Bat Mitzvah. During the service, she read from the torah about Noah's Ark.

As all my theologian friends know, Noah took two of every kind of animal on board his little boat.

I feel like I have been stuck in a numerology game because during the past two weeks, I gained 2 pounds.

My 1 by 1 turned into 2 to lose.

This week, I lost the two pounds and I am back to where I was on October 16th.

So tomorrow, I am playing the lotto and my numbers will be 2, 22, 10, 16, 1 and 32.

The 2 represents the pounds I just lost. The 22 signifies the 2 weeks I gained 2 pounds. 10 and 16 is the date I was last at this weight and 1 and 32 reps the 132 pounds lost to date.

I know I am not winning the lottery, but let's face it. I have already won so much more than I could ever gain playing numbers.

That said, a nice fat check would be pretty damn skippy too!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tao of Stress Eating

“Stress eating.”

The dieter’s crutch, excuse and curse.

These are really just carefully crafted words that, when used together, somehow magically communicate that whatever binge you are on is justified.

So, if , for example, the last few weeks I have overindulged on an assortment of gateway snacks like roasted, salted peanuts by the bag full – well, calling my behavior “stress eating” should not make the behavior seem so marvelously understandable.

It’s not ok.

Deep down inside, I knew last week when I stepped on the scale, my day of reckoning was upon me. I gained my first pound in a year and it bummed me out.

Sensing this genuine disappointment, a few close friends chalked up the uncharacteristic gain to a host of recent events: my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah party; hiring a trainer and converting fat to muscle; not drinking enough water; Lucas’ hospitalization; my birthday, too much anxiety at the office.

Now while all of these factors may have come into play in some way or another, the plain truth is that weeks ago, I opened a door that I have yet to shut.

Even as I type this sentence, I am nourished by the sweet, chewy tang of my favorite pineapple flavored Haribo Gold-Bears: “The Original Gummi Candy.” And isn’t that the surest sign that the heart and head are no longer in full alignment. Here I sit typing away knowing I shouldn’t be gobbling a gummi and yet, what the fuck? You will be happy to know the rest of the ½ ounce bag just went in the trash.

For two weeks, my forward momentum has stalled and I have taken two-baby steps back.

I feel like Winnie the Pooh after gorging on honey and condensed milk at Rabbit’s house. After binging on all the snacks his host could muster, a fat and sated Pooh headed out of the house only to get stuck in the hole.

Watching Pooh struggle to get out, Christopher Robin said:

“There's only one thing to be done. We shall have to wait for you to get thin again.”

'How long does getting thin take?' asked Pooh anxiously.

'About a week I should think,' said Christopher.

'But I can't stay here for a week!' Pooh exclaimed.

You can stay here all right, silly old Bear. It's getting you out which is so difficult.'


True dat, Christopher! You are a wise character of literature.

Getting out of a rut is always the difficult part of recovering back to the core of the diet.

But really, it’s not about how much time you put into your diet, because it can never be over.

When Pooh asks “How long?” the answer is forever.

Like Pooh, I know that I can make great progress in a week if I set my mind to it. I also know that the two pounds I gained in the last few weeks can and will disappear if I really focus on what got me here. And what got me here was a strict dedication to my diet, writing down everything I was eating, exercising, and drinking lots of water. All of that has changed of late. I have become lax. Back to basics.

Last night I was invited to a Hockey game with some business colleagues. At the event, I met a stranger who was no stranger at all. She knew me and my family from this blog. Someone who knew me shared it with a friend who shared it with her and suddenly it was as if I was conversing with an old friend. It was surreal to meet a person who I had never met yet knew so much about me and this part of my life.

We spoke for awhile about the diet and were deep into the discussion when our host interrupted with news that a dessert cart was outside the door of the suite. We both passed, yet we both wanted that damn carrot cake!

As much as she said I had inspired her, she inspired me to really try and look forward again.

And today, when I stepped on the scale knowing that the news was not going to be good, I greeted my second consecutive one pound gain as a lesson to retrench myself.

The holidays are just around the corner and when I hit New Year’s eve this year, I want to look at myself in the mirror knowing that the resolution for a better, healthier me was a promise kept throughout the entire year.

I have been stressed and strained and full of worry about so many things – all of which are either behind me now or truly beyond my control.
Time to say oh, bother to those two pounds.

I can feel the little dark rain clouds lifting already.

© Copyright, Steve Elzer, 2009
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lessons Learned from George Bush

A few weeks ago I hired a trainer. Strike that, I hired a dominatrix disguised as a trainer.

Now I have had trainers before, but none like this guy. The whole experience leaves me questioning my sanity for either I am now an avowed masochist or I have officially lost it.

I suppose it’s human nature to want what we can’t have.

Yes, I would love to look like an Abercrombie & Fitch model, but no matter how much money or time I spend working out with some fitness junkie, I will never have a six pack, unless we’re talking beer.

Paying lots of money to have your ass kicked for an hour is a sure sign of commitment, or perhaps it just means you should be committed -- to a hospital for the twisted.

Exercise has been key to my success throughout this process but there is some subtle distinction, I suppose, between exercise or cardio and weight training. When you are shedding weight like a dog sheds hair on a hot summer day, no matter how much time you spend on a treadmill, your body just starts to sag in areas you didn’t know existed. At a certain point, all the aerobics is great, but you really need to start to tone.

To me SAG has always been an actor’s union and I have never really given a whole lot of thought to what’s sagging because the bulge was always in the way.

For the first time in my journey, I have decided to build beyond the Elzer cardio routine. Time to stop walking past machines that looked intimidating. Time to do more than my weak attempt at bicep curls.

Now to be honest, in the two weeks since I started up with Zack the Trainer from Hell, I have had to reschedule three appointments because of some faux Hollywood crisis or some silly Sigalert. But even with those hiccups, I am still finding time in the schedule for this important date with torture.

After my first focused leg workout, I could barely walk, much less sleep for two frickin days. But the other night, after Zack was done playing Marquis de Sade with what he lovingly called his “fat burning” routine, he had me hop on the treadmill to finish off the night of fun and merriment.

While I was walking and wincing in some dual delusion of agony and accomplishment, I turned on the Treadmill TV and up popped The Biggest Loser.

I have not been following the show religiously this season, but for the skinny at heart, TV does not get any more inspirational than this. As I was throwing my petty little pity party complaining to myself about how much I hated this whole decision to hire a trainer, I was slapped with a serious dose of perspective.

These Biggest Loser contestants were suffering round the clock agony in pursuit of their dream. As much as my muscles may have been aching (and they were), I started to imagine how painful the experience must be for the heavy ones on the tv in front of me.

Sure, I thought, they were on TV playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the stakes for me are higher. I am playing for something much more valuable -- life.

Until I started really focusing on change, my day-to-day existence had been pretty sedentary. I was like a high functioning baby-man. I slept, I woke up, I crapped, I dined, I whined at the freeway traffic or work, and my idea of exercise was lifting a fork to my face or climbing the stairs to my bedroom at the end of the day only to plop down in my overstuffed bean bag with a big bowl of buttered popcorn. I lived some version of this cycle for years – practically my whole life.


And when I think that this ridiculous routine is broken – shattered really – and replaced with getting home from the office, eating something healthy with my family, and then forcing myself to hit the gym for 1-2 hours a few times a week, it almost doesn’t seem real because it has never been “me.”

I don’t like pain. Never have. But pain, weirdly enough, scared me to the point of meaningful change and if pain got me here, I can endure a little muscle stress. Because whatever I am feeling, it’s not 1/100th of the pain those brave people on tv are experiencing with their trainers.

As much as I may love to hate Zack, he isn’t driving me into the ground on some last chance workout.

I lost another 3 pounds this week. Grand total is now 132 pounds shed since January 1.

I am still noshing on things I know I shouldn’t have – mainly peanuts – and I even went to another wine dinner this week, but I still think I have found a way to make it all work.

Dangerous talk, I know.

But I am finally at a point where I can finally see a checkered flag in the distance. It’s still months and months away, but I am more than 2/3rds of the way to my goal.

Today I picked up a new pair of jeans that are 18 inches smaller than my largest pair of pants. And as proud as I am of all the fantastic progress, I also know deep within that I will never cross that proverbial finish line.

George Bush taught us many important lessons, but one of the most memorable was never land your jet on the tarmac and declare “Mission Accomplished.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

In my religion, today marks the beginning of the New Year.

We are officially entering an intense period of self reflection, reconciliation, introspection, and ultimately atonement. In a few days, we will ask for forgiveness for our weaknesses as we look to follow a path with our lives that corrects deficiencies and seeks to improve the way we interact with friends, neighbors, family, colleagues and perhaps most importantly, ourselves.

This is a time for me as a Jew to really drill down and dig deep to reflect on whether I am leading the life I aspire to lead. How can I improve as a father, a husband, and friend? Have I acted in ways that I regret? How can I be a better man?

For years, I would sit in temple, listen to the Rabbi, read the prayer book, participate in Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services and ask for the power, strength, conviction and commitment to change.

But for the first time that I can recall in my lifetime, I am returning to temple feeling as though I made significant progress towards the better me I soulfully sought a year ago. For so many, change is elusive, and always just out of reach but it is possible if you want it bad enough.

I am humbled and grateful for the transformation we have experienced as a family since January. As we celebrate the High Holy Days, the Elzers wish you all a very Happy New Year and we send our heartfelt love and gratitude to an army of countless friends who continue to support this life-changing journey every day in every conceivable way.

May peace, health, happiness and laughter fuel your lives for many, many years to come.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Back!

I was sweating it.

I know it seems like I say that often, but my anxiety this week was more than the usual pre weigh-in jitters.

You see, to quote the title of the Tyler Perry film, I Can Do Bad All By Myself.

I have been testing the limits of dieting during the last several weeks and I really expected to see a gain for the first time since beginning this odyssey in January. But happily, my worst fears were not to be.

After a pretty extravagant wine dinner earlier in the week, increased “snacking” and several meals out, I still managed to lose a pound. The total loss to date: 125 pounds.

Of course, these diet deviations come at a price. The weight is clearly coming off more slowly

These days. That happens when you grab a fist full of nuts here or a bite of chocolate there, but striking a balance in the real world of eating is the goal. And I definitely have become more daring in recent weeks and that is not a good thing.

Can one stray and still stay in bounds and in control? My history with this suggests the answer is a resounding “no.” And while the results may lean in my favor right now, gravitating towards food that is supposed to be off-limits is really not wise.

The deviations began a few weeks back when Lucas was rushed to the hospital.

As a parent, you are never more vulnerable than the day your child faces a serious health crisis.

The stress eating began pretty much the moment my wife called from our pediatrician’s office and said our doctor was insisting that Lucas be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. That weekend he came down with the flu, spiked a nasty fever and by Monday apparently was not getting enough air into his lungs.

As I hung up the phone and headed for the door of my office I stuffed my pocket with a massive fist full of sugar-free candies that I keep in a bowl on my coffee table. Normally I might enjoy a few a day, but by the time I made the trip from Culver City to Tarzana, all the candies were gone. I wasn’t even conscious of the consumption. It was just the beginning of the binge to follow.

Now I know that sucking down a few sorbitol filled candies is laughable when compared to those who rally a real bender of a binge.

I readily admit that what I now consider over indulging is pretty frickin’ ridiculous compared to the destructive damage I would have done eight months ago. Had this occurred last December, the starting bell would have been an appetizer consisting of a couple of Hickory Burgers at Apple Pan. The new me cheats in a much more reasonable and measured way. This time, I plied my pain with a mondo bag of apple chips and an orange. When I confessed my breach to Amy, she looked at me and laughed.

All thru the week that Lucas was in the Intensive Care Unit, I was trying my best to fight off the irresistible urge to eat and cheat.

On the third day in the hospital, when Lucas was finally beginning to show signs of improvement, his appetite returned. Since it turned out he had a bad case of the Swine Flu we decided to let him go hog wild with the hospital food. “You want turkey and mashed potatoes, son? Knock yourself out!” So for the last few days that Lukey was in recovery, he was able to have everything his little heart desired. It got to the point that I think he was looking to stay an extra day in the hospital just so he could get an IV drip of carbs.

I have been a bad blogger of late. Too much time has lapsed in between posts. Much has happened in our lives that really deserve more introspection and analysis and I shouldn’t gloss over. For instance, before the hospitalization, we took a trip to Lake Tahoe and I never shared how we took on the challenge of the Family Summer Vacation. After Lucas was released from the hospital, one of our first adventures was a tasting at a country club to help determine a menu for an upcoming event we are planning. Finding a way to taste thru multiple plates of appetizers and main courses without giving in to gluttony was memorable. Returning to the scene of the crime 5 days later to taste thru 14 separate desserts was torte torture.

So much has happened since we last reconnected.

Every day is a new hurdle and I know I need to commit more time to the blog. It helps reinforce resolve and just taking the time to think of behavior offers me a forced perspective, if you will. Simple, random bites of this or that add up and can lead one astray in the worst possible way. The truth is there is no such thing as a simple or random anything.

Every step further off the path – every bite no matter how trite – is like a gateway drug.

As I finally sit down and try to put the last several weeks into focus, there were blow-ups where I once again felt the family was sliding down a slippery slope and maybe I just didn’t want to tackle these fears – whether they are real or imagined.

What I do know is that it is too hard to write about these events so long after the fact.

I will do my best to be much more diligent in updating the blog. I know in my heart – and in my head that keeping this site current is critical if I am to continue maintaining the momentum in the right direction.

Ó Steve Elzer, 2009

All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 7, 2009

If A Picture Says A Thousand Words


From top to bottom, photos taken last December thru yesterday of the transformation in our family. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Going Under the Knife To Stay Away From the Fork

A little more than a year ago as Amy and I were celebrating our Anniversary weekend down in Laguna Beach, we invited some friends to join us for dinner. We were dropped off at the restaurant by the hotel driver and were planning to return to the hotel by taxi when our friends offered to drive us to the resort.

All was fine until the four of us walked back to the valet in the alley and I saw his car. It was a Mercedes, but honestly, I have had meals bigger than this car.

Now you should know that the proud owner of this puny little putt-putt was once a man of considerable girth.

But one day, out of the blue, he magically started losing lots of weight. He told his friends and colleagues that he was “dieting” – and he wasn’t lying. He was dieting as much as anyone “diets” when you have had gastric bypass surgery.

While I was one of the few who knew the truth, I believe he shared his “secret” with me in hopes that I, too, would consider this wonder diet. To this day, I remain troubled that this procedure was apparently such an embarrassment to him that he couldn’t reveal to his close friends, relatives, or even co-workers that he had undergone the knife to help him stay away from the fork.

That night, as we ate dinner together, I watched as he nibbled and poked at his entrée leaving probably 90% of what was served on the plate. I remember his cheek-to-cheek smile as he was beaming in all his thin splendor.

When you finally lose lots of weight, it is amazing how much you do the simple things again, like smile.

All thru that dinner, I watched my friend and wondered whether I should bite the bullet and take the bypass plunge, but three words kept flashing in my mind: Quality of Life.

I watched as he slyly and artfully dabbed a napkin to his mouth and spit up a bite from his meal. I saw him prodding and toying with his food. I know that this surgery is a last resort for so many people who feel helpless, but if I had to spit up in my napkin every time my stomach was over sated, I would be a miserable wreck.

Truth be told, I wrestled with the idea of the gastric bypass for a long time. And as each fat friend lunged for the lap band, I would be drawn into what seemed like weeks of intense internal debate.

Despite my size I take few decisions lightly.

So when my doctor first broached the topic years ago, I went into a tizzy – talks with doctors, internet searches, surgical mortality statistics, you name it, I considered it.

And as the years flew by and my waist expanded, every friend and acquaintance who made that leap onto the operating table would pass along the name of their doctor and they would strongly encourage me to join them on their way to the happy weigh.

Well, call me Mr. Buzzkill, but I think elective surgery is crazy.

Look, when your insurance company forces you to see a shrink before allowing you to enter the operating room for one of these surgeries, they are probably trying to tell you something.

Nowadays the quick fix of the lap band or the bypass are shoved in your face like a big guy scarfing down a Big Mac. You drive down the freeway and the variety of weight loss surgical procedures are advertised in huge “WAR IS DECLARED” sized bold type on countless road signs.

Years ago, it was not so en vogue. I dunno, it seemed like it was more a celebrity oddity that helped the likes of Al Roker, Carnie Wilson or Randy Jackson.

But to us biggies, it was more than tabloid fodder: it was the cure all to fat dreamers everywhere.

The whole thing seemed so innovative and so simple. All you had to do was cut open your pesky stomach and you would be good as new. I guess the idea of a brain bypass freeway sign was nowhere near as marketable or medically appealing.

I recall a conversation probably 6 or more years ago with a dear friend who wanted a bypass but apparently wasn’t fat enough to qualify. So I remember her confessing her plan to go on a nasty, desperate binge to GAIN weight, just so she could get her insurance to pay for her stomach bypass. And for the record, she did the former and never followed thru on the latter.

So where is all this going?

Back to that alley behind the restaurant where this sad but true saga began.

As the valet drove up, my friend told Amy and I to get in the back seat. But I knew immediately when the car pulled up that I was too big to fit into the rear compartment of the car. As he moved his seat all the way forward, I started to freak out.

I swear, if I had the Fire Department Jaws of Life, I would not have been able to squeeze my fat ass into the back of that small death trap of a Mercedes.

After trying every which way to fit my very round body into that fairly square space, I just gave up. If there was such thing as a fat guy hell, this was it – an alley in Laguna Beach with my former fat friend smiling at me and the smell of french food wafting in the wind.

A few minutes later, I was wedged into the front seat with my massive gut pressing against the steering wheel as I was driving us all back to the hotel. I was embarrassed and ashamed and the experience ruined what had been a perfectly wonderful evening.

As I look back on this humiliation now, many things come to mind.

First and foremost, while I have savored losing nearly 14 inches off my waist, not until this very moment have I ever given a moment of thought to what I now concede may be the ultimate former fat guy perk. Forget new clothes. That is thinking way too small.

How about fitting into a brand new car?

Now I may covet many things, but trust me, a smart car or a mini-cooper is not in my future. Nor is the Mercedes that caused me such indignity.

But the experience made me think about this diet in a new way.

Hindsight always brings such clarity, but obviously I am glad that I didn’t succumb to the temptation of the surgery. It is very easy to say that now, but 15 months ago as I pulled myself out of that car, I was closer than ever to just slicing my stomach open and doing what had to be done.

I don’t mean any of this as a knock to my friends who took that option. It just wasn’t for me.

I guess when it came down to it, if I decided to go that route, I would have been forced into a life where I would get a few forks of this and a few spoons of that and I happen to like food way too much to never be able to enjoy a place like Lawry’s again.

Ultimately, the surgery seemed to me, forgive the pun, like a bit of a short cut. And liquid diets are too.

Whenever you cut back that much of your food intake, you lose a lot of weight quickly. It's not rocket science. But at some point you gradually add to your portions. So it should come as no surprise that I know a few people who went for the surgery only to gain much of their weight back.

A few weeks ago I had a check up with my diabetes doctor who used to be the head of weight loss at Cedars. He is also the first doctor who suggested that I consider either the bypass, lap band or the pouch.

When he saw I was down another 30 pounds since our last visit, he couldn’t have been more excited for me, but he said that the odds were stacked against me in terms of keeping it off.

Here is the sad fact: most people who have been heavy their whole lives can not sustain their weight loss very long, much less forever. Like a Ferris wheel at any fair, you go up and you go down and the circle just continues until you get off the ride. So I am in the same boat as those who bypassed their anatomy.

Whether you go for surgery or the old discipline of diet and exercise, ultimately you must cut your portions and eat properly to succeed. It’s not voodoo, it’s not magic, there is no short cut and there is no fad. It’s not about your stomach, it’s about your mind.

This blog really has forced me to think about defining moments in my life as a dieter. I remember being crushed by the cruel irony of a former fat friend who lost so much weight he was able to purchase a sports car that was too small for me.

I remember his infectious smile during dinner – the smile of a man who had finally conquered the teeter-totter of weight loss.

I remember back then thinking his grin was so smug, but I know he was genuinely happy with what he had achieved.

Look who’s smiling now!

© Copyright, Steve Elzer, 2009
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Breaking Thru the Blogger's Block - I'm back!

Forgive me, friends. It’s been a long time since my last post. I guess I just experienced my first bout with blogger’s block.

It’s amazing to me how the lapse of a week compounded and turned into a month-long absence. In a weird way it was like cheating on a diet where you mess up one day and then the next and you just give up and give in to the bad behavior til the point of no return.

Several times in the last 4 weeks, I would start writing and find myself riffing on themes I had already tackled, and the last thing I want is for this blog to be repetitive. I started this site as a tool to help me look at and really for the first time try to process some of my past experiences with dieting. In that way, it has become an important tool.

Finding new ground took longer than I would have liked as I unclogged the blog but I’m back and have much to share about our recent progress:

*As of Friday morning, I am down 95 pounds (85 since the official start of the program on 1/31/09).

*Amy is down 63 and she is radiating beauty and the confidence that comes from conquering a foe as fierce as fat.

*The kids continue to be life change superheroes. At this point, they are pretty much on maintenance and their success makes me proud beyond belief.

*The family has now collectively lost 219 lbs and the change in all of us is worthy of a big summer movie: Transformers 3: The Elzers.

If this highly anticipated movie had a trailer, you would see scenes from the last several weeks that include:

*Hannah looking beyond exquisite in her graduation dress and the enormous pride that was hers when she learned she had won the gold for Academic Excellence bestowed by President Obama’s Education Awards Program.

*Lucas continuing to turn heads and hearts everywhere he goes with his outstanding commitment to our life change. He even came home one day from a playdate confessing like a guilty man to the crime of the century: he had stolen a few bites from a graham cracker and he wanted to know if that was “ok.”

*Amy and I surviving the orgy of food and wine that is the Playboy Jazz Festival. We greeted the challenge with enthusiasm without diving in too deep, as we have on each of our previous visits to this annual event that I love so much. We took a real world approach this year and I allowed myself a few indulgences with some great wine. But when it came to the food portion, we stuck to the program like we had sworn a blood oath.

*In addition to the Jazz Fest, I also returned to my monthly wine tasting group, the X-Pensive Winos. These dinners are epic, but I really think I have found a way to participate without compromising my commitment or feeling deprived. I sip, I spit, I may eat half the portion on my plate and I arrange for the chef to just serve me protein and veggies. Actually, I did so well during this tasting and at the Jazz Festival, that I still lost weight during both of these party-filled weeks.

*Very soon I will hit the 100-pound milestone and when I do, I will be just about as svelte as I was when I graduated High School nearly 30 years ago.

Savoring all of these little victories makes me more determined than ever to keep my aim true and on course.

A few weeks ago I went to my tailor to have some suits altered. 10 days later I picked up my clothes and I put on the pants only to find they were loose and the jacket was baggy.

I went back to the tailor two days later and asked if he had done the work as we discussed.

In his thick accent, he said, “It’s no me, it’s you. You lose too much weight.”

So I asked if he could re-do the work and he explained he could not because he had taken in all that was possible. If I wanted, he would have to re-cut the suit and he said it just wouldn’t look right.

Nice problem to have.

As a dieter who is more accustomed to chaos, cravings, cheating and failure than dedication and success, I couldn’t be more stunned by this kind of quandary.

I feel like a new man with a new family.

Now I would be a liar if I said any of this was a cinch.

It’s not.

It is heinously hard work to follow any diet regimen and begin a regular exercise program. It’s especially a shit-kicker if you hate diet and exercise as much as I do.

I am regularly dragging my ass to the gym because, like bad tasting medicine or cod liver oil, it’s supposed to be good for me and who am I to argue with success?

At this point even the blind can see that exercise and diet have had a profound impact on my life.

My old trainer said some people replace their cravings for food with an addiction to exercise. Fair enough, but that will never be me

I have addictions, but sadly exercise ain’t one of them.

Last week, I had a great laugh with my friend and co-worker Teni, who came into my office and was beaming.

Weeks ago, she confided that she had gained a bit of her weight back and was determined to take it off again so she kicked back into high gear with a vengeance. She has done a fantastic turnaround and is now back to prime.

We were talking about the diet and I mentioned I was a few pounds away from my high school weight. Teni said, “nothing feels better than getting lower than the weight you lied about on your drivers license.”

I busted out laughing harder than I had in a while.

I passed that milestone 17 pounds ago and now I honestly want to go to the DMV for a new picture. But what I really want to do is tell the DMV weight police an even bigger lie. I am gonna set the bar lower and I mean much lower!

This week, I went to see my local crack dealer – um, excuse me – wine dealer. I have not seen this guy in months, partly because of the diet. He was stunned to see the change, which is now approaching 12 inches off my waist,  and he gave me some great advice as a guy who has also battled the bulge himself.

He basically said, “when people tell you that you are looking great, tune it out. Don’t let it go to your head. The last thing in the world you want to do is believe you are done because you never are. Don’t get relaxed or complacent.”

Coming clean on this blog was obviously designed to encourage a chorus of support. But on some level, my wine guy is right, of course.

I, myself, have counseled executives over the years to not get cocky by believing their own good press.

I would be foolish to ignore that wisdom because whether it’s dieting or a high profile with the media, the moment you are built up, you are on a pedestal and it’s way too easy to stumble and fall.

That is not to say I am going to now stop listening to the support of my friends, colleagues and family.

Are you kidding? I think it is a critical component to my success.

Cuz while I think the struggle so far has been difficult, I honestly recognize that my family and I have not yet encountered the "hard" part.

As we step out into the real-world more and more, whether it’s a night out once a month with my wine group, or attending events like the jazz fest or our upcoming 4th of July party, I know the other shoe has got to drop at some point.

We simply cannot sustain this charmed kind of success forever. Can we?

For every week I have been on this incredible path, there has not yet been a single weigh-in where I didn’t lose at least a pound.

During my four-week absence from blogging, I actually enjoyed what is close to my best month ever in terms of pounds shed.

While I am extraordinarily happy with and proud of the progress, this is ultimately a long marathon to recapture my life, my health and my family’s future.

The last five months has been the easy part, relatively speaking.

As I continue this race I feel like I have just passed the 14-mile marker. I have blisters on my feet, my knees hurt, my ankles are swollen and the hardest part of this journey mentally, emotionally, and physically lies in the months ahead.

Every time I pass my favorite pizzeria, or I see others eating tempting food I desperately want to devour, I focus on what we have all achieved since January.

I am loving all of the benefits of weight loss: the new energy I have, the way walking up a flight of stairs doesn’t wind me, or just the simple act of being able to sit in a seat without fear that I may not fit.

There is no question, the best and the worst is still to come.

But right now, I can't help but feel a bit like a caterpillar in metamorphosis. I have one wing formed and I can feel the other one coming, and all I really want to do is bust out of this cocoon and fly.

© Copyright, Steve Elzer, 2009
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

While I have been Away

I know I have been absent from this beloved blog for a few weeks and I promise that I will be posting a new update this weekend.

The blog is very important to me and I genuinely appreciate all the amazing support you have continued to offer us the last 4+ months.

I look forward to sharing good things with you soon!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Clothes Don't Make The Man

If you look at my Facebook page, you will find the quote “90% of my wardrobe is aspirational.”

Trust me when I say it was an expression of pure frustration that I blurted out to my wife one night as I was tipping the scales and no longer fitting into any of my usual shtunky, dumpy fat clothes.

Ever since I was a little boy, shopping for something nice to wear has always been a bit of a challenge.

While others would enjoy buying new clothes for school, I always seemed to come away from the experience traumatized. Every time I would go shopping with my mom, she would hand me piles of clothes and march me into the dressing room. You can imagine the embarrassment of exiting that little room with one or two items that fit.

After years of this, I came to look at shopping for clothes as my own personal version of water boarding. I became resigned to settling for whatever limited choices I could find that were available in my ever expanding size.

These days, as I have been navigating the downward slope, I have finally begun to find some excitement in what I wear.

You see, over the years I have assembled quite a wardrobe of nicer clothes that I purchased on a whim with the hope that one day I would actually squeeze into that 2X shirt instead of the 4X size I was wearing when I bought it.

I call this silliness aspirational shopping.

Yes, it sounds crazy, but when you are a Big and Tall customer and you see something that vaguely looks nice – dare I say "stylish" - you’ll plop down your credit card even if you can’t fit into it.

You do so, because as a general rule, most of what you find on the racks at these stores is way beyond pitiful. Beyond beyond, actually. It’s as though there isn’t a fat fashion designer in the entire world.

You get so desperate for something decent that when you see stuff you like, you buy it hoping that you will finally get your act together and lose the weight just so you can fit into something nice.

Now intentionally assembling an “aspirational” wardrobe is tremendously stupid if you are hoping it will serve as some sort of impetus to get you off your ass and start seriously dieting.

Trust me when I say it doesn’t work. Save yourself the hundreds if not thousands of dollars now.

Only now am I finally fitting into purchases that I made more than 10 years ago. And I am very much enjoying my new wardrobe. But there is a catch. I am also feeling a bit like a fat version of Benjamin Button. Pants, belts and shirts that are tight one week are like a big clown suit a week or two later.

As I have become leaner and leaner, I have grown out of entire portions of my wardrobe.

For weeks, I have been tossing things I can no longer wear onto a pile in my closet. This week, that mountain of discarded clothes grew beyond control and I forced myself to put all of it into a giant box.

As I was packing away this baggage from my larger past, a voice deep within kicked into high gear.

“Steve, are you really going to give this stuff to Goodwill? What happens if you gain your weight back? What will you wear?”

When you are big, no matter how well your diet is going – no matter how much weight you have lost, you live in constant fear of relapse.

I am a weight worrywart at heart. Given the yo-yo of my dieting life, I just can’t help it.

My cousin’s father had a saying that she has framed in her kitchen: “today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” In a nutshell, that captures my neurosis perfectly.

Once I hit a weight loss groove like this, it’s my nature to worry as I wonder when the other shoe will drop. Because in the past, when that shoe drops, it drops hard.

The difference for me now is the recognition that diets end. But when you are changing your life while also trying to keep your family on a new path, the commitment must be forever.

A few weeks back while watching The Biggest Loser, the contestants were forced into a challenge where they had to run over these huge dirt hills while dragging heavy sand bags representing all the weight they had lost.

So if a woman shed 150 pounds, she had to carry 150 pounds of weight in these sacks thru the challenge, dropping some of her bags only after she hit certain course markers.

At the finish line, the contestants were forced to heave their remaining weight sacks over a steep cliff.

It was a powerful moment as these much thinner contestants triumphantly threw their “fat” off the mountain.

Now it doesn’t take Dr. Freud to figure out the symbolism of such a bold act, so why do I feel so challenged by getting rid of a bunch of clothes now 8 sizes too big?

For years, whenever I lost weight, I never got rid of the old sizes. I always kept them on hand as a safety net for the inevitable day when I gained it back.

So now I have this huge overflowing box sitting in my room and I have been torturing myself with this question of whether to keep the clothes, God forbid my best dieting intentions get swallowed whole along with a few hundred pizzas.

I am who I am, and now the decision has been made. Today, the box is leaving the house. I can’t shake my past but I sure can give some of it to Goodwill.

The dieter’s roller coaster takes such a terrible toll on your psyche when you have lived your life resigned to an existence you genuinely don’t desire.

To me, the act of sending the box to charity is just as important and just as bold as those contestants throwing their fat off the cliff.

For the first time, I am saying to myself “it’s not coming back.” I find it much more insidious and even dangerous knowing that my emergency fat suit is tucked away on a hanger just waiting for my return.

I know I can’t afford to have those clothes in my life anymore.

Now if you know me, you may know I am a pack rat. I keep everything. Every closet in my house – upstairs and downstairs – is filled to the rafters with crap I can’t wear. Woefully out of fashion, I am sure somewhere in the house is some husky sized bell-bottoms from the 70s. It’s truly that bad.

My pack rat mentality goes well beyond lunacy, but it is perhaps the surest sign that I have lived my life in perpetual hope that one day I would be able to correct my behavior and set a new course.

And I truly believe for the first time in my life, I am going to be able to stick to this life change. Why? Because I am eating my way thin for the right reasons instead of starving myself with fad liquid diets.

As I have been rummaging through row upon row of hangers in my closet trying to discover what still fits, it really is amazing how much your clothes tell you about your life.

Forget that I have no fashion sense.

That is either a given or a true restriction of shopping at Rochester’s Big & Tall.

But as I was getting rid of my jumbo sized pants, I began pulling hanger after hanger off the racks. To me, the sheer number of pants I had in those sizes meant I had been in that weight zone for years.

As I moved down from size to size, I could tell that I put that weight on quickly because I only had a one or two pairs of those smaller sizes.

I am currently very close to a plateau size that is almost 10 inches smaller than where I began my journey.

What do I mean by plateau size?

I mean that as I hit this new level, it’s the mother lode of clothes from the early to mid 90s. I must have been that size for years and years judging by the number of pants I have waiting for me.

Fitting into clothes I purchased in the 90s and beyond is like stepping into a time machine.

This week I literally had to scrape a huge layer of dust off a suit that had been hanging in my closet for almost 13 years. It was a suit I bought around the time I lost a bunch of weight for my wedding. When I bought this particular two-piece, I had just been promoted and wanted to wear more dignified duds.

To me, the clothes tell a story of a distant past.

So as I once again fit into these old friends, I am transported to another time in my life when I am sure I was just as committed to weight loss and keeping it off permanently as I am today.

You all know that I have always yearned to be thinner and my collection of clothes is also a vivid reminder of how that commitment can fade.

I probably only wore that suit a few times before it no longer fit and the irony now is that I may only be able to wear it a few times more before it becomes a baggy shell.

I have far too many memories of growing out of clothes as I moved up the scale, but this is really one of the rare times I can recall the process in reverse. And that is as exhilarating as it is foreign.

Right now everything old is new again.

My friends think I have a whole new wardrobe. Little do they know I spent the money years ago. In this economy, it’s the kind of shopping I like most.

For years and years, my wife and I had a code word for fat people. Whenever we would see someone obscenely obese, we would whisper “truth” to each other.

It was an acknowledgement that said basically, “Yes, Steve, you are fat, but look at him. You are nowhere near as fat as that guy over there. Truth.” Well, I am finally getting rid of my “truth” clothes.

I want to lose another 100 pounds. My doctor thinks that’s ambitious but we will see. He says go for what is maintainable, not what is attainable. In a few more weeks, I should be half way to my goal.

I know I still have a long, long way to go, but I look forward to the day when I can shop in any clothing store I want.

As proud as I am with all the success we have enjoyed, for me the true measure of my life change will be when Rochester is no longer my clothes store, he’s just Jack Benny’s butler.

 Copyright, Steve Elzer, 2009
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Do You Want To Know A Secret?: A Special Mother's Day Message

(In celebration of Mother's Day, Amy has written this week's Elzer Family Update. This is my wife's first post and I love her as much as I love her unique perspective on our diet. There is no question in my mind that without Amy's passion and desire for our success and her endless devotion and support, we would all have quit this program on Day 4 or 5. On this special day where we honor the family matriarch, I thank Amy for holding my hand during this difficult journey and I send all my love to my best friend and soulmate. The photo above is a tribute to Amy and her mother, Mary. -- Happy Mother's Day!!!! )

“What’s your secret?” that’s something Steve and I have been hearing a lot lately.

It’s a question that always gives me pause.

I have to think about it each time it comes up in conversation. Is it the diet, is it the increased exercise, or are the planets in just the right alignment?

Like Steve, I have been heavy from childhood and I have tried numerous diets. So what is so different this time around?

Let me be clear about this; Steve had an epiphany, I did not. He was in pain for weeks. Pain, that the kids and I could not understand, suffering that we could not help him with. He lay in that bed upstairs, in agony, examining and re-examining his life and his choices. You all know what he decided to do, but how in the heck did we become involved?

When I said those fateful words in the doctor’s office that day, “okay, we’ll all do it!” I had no idea then what it would mean. Actually, I may have said it hoping Steve would reject the idea and go it alone as he had in the past.

Sure, the kids and I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I didn’t really want to diet. I didn’t really think at my age it would be easy or productive. I thought I’d have to starve myself, I thought I’d be deprived and who needs that? Rather, I had been subscribing to a “love me as I am” policy. I have a husband and children who love me as I am, what would be the point? Nope, dieting was not for me!

I decided I would just be happy the way I was!

“People come in all shapes and sizes,” I told the kids when they asked me if I thought they were fat. “You are so much more than how you look on the outside,” I would say. “You are funny and smart, you have lots of friends, you are beautiful…” I was becoming Stuart Smalley!

But my “Daily Affirmations”, weren’t helping, we were just getting bigger and bigger.

Steve was desperately afraid the kids would have the same problems we did growing up. He wanted to spare them. I wanted them to be happy, enjoy their childhood, and more than anything else not become freaked out about weight or how they looked. I wanted them to focus on being good people, having kind hearts, and improving their minds. If they decided later that they wanted to make a change, then let it be their decision, not something we forced on them.

I was frightened of giving them the message that they weren’t good enough, that we didn’t love them exactly the way they were.

So what changed?

Okay, get ready to roll your eyes and cue the sappy soundtrack! Love. Yes, you heard me, love. It was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t going to do this for me, I had many opportunities to change things and I didn’t. I looked at Steve, saw the pain in his eyes, found myself glancing again and again at a sink covered in diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol medicines and I realized that he couldn’t do it alone.

If we wanted Daddy around for a long, long time, we needed to make damn sure he succeeded! I stepped into the breech for him, and I dragged the kids along with me.

I can’t help but think this makes me a fraud and a phony. I did this for them, not for me, so when people tell me I look great, I say, “yeah, but have you seen Lucas and Hannah!”

I expound on how my husband is no longer on any diabetes medication and he is being weaned off his few remaining prescriptions.

Sure, I’ve lost weight, but it doesn’t mean as much to me as what everyone else has accomplished. I search the internet for recipes, not because I like to cook, (and anyone who knows me, knows that I do not like to cook) but because I need to keep it fresh for them.

Everyday I rejoice at the hurdles they overcome, or steer them in the right direction when they just can’t imagine another day without a cookie or a slice of pizza.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that I’ve lost 50 pounds. I mean I really love it! I’ll admit I did a happy dance when I fit into a size that I haven’t been in over 10 years! But I realize that’s it’s not just about me, and in the past when it has been, it hasn’t lasted. So maybe I’ve had my epiphany after all!

The “secret” of course, is not the diet or the exercise: shock, surprise, those things work.

The key is the motivation, what gets you going, what keeps you going. It can be as simple and sweet as wanting to look good in your wedding dress or as complicated and intense as not wanting to be in pain or on medication the rest of your life.

My “secret” is my family, the transformation I see in them, the joy on their faces when someone tells them they look great, the delight over looking good in a pair of skinny jeans!

Ensuring their success, guarantees my own. No, I wasn’t going to do it for me, but I would do anything for them.

I’m a Mom, it’s what I do!

 Copyright, Amy Elzer, 2009 All Rights Reserved