Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 11:49am
(This is the third post originally appearing on my Facebook home page)

In one of my favorite movies Animal House, Dean Vernon Wormer tells Kent Dorfman “Fat, Drunk and Stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Well, I certainly have the fat thing covered. I have a collection of wine that makes even my head spin and I have been known on occasion to taste thru a bottle or two with good friends. And I won’t argue with anyone who suggests its just plain stupid with all the health problems I have to not take drastic action with my weight. I have far too much to live for and far too many blessings in my life – from my family and friends to my job.

So I agree with Dean Wormer.

On Thursday Night, I was watching Hell’s Kitchen with Amy and the kids. I admit to having an unhealthy obsession with these shows, but for whatever reason, whenever I diet, food magazines, recipe books, and especially The Food Network seem to offer a weird vicarious connection to food that I can’t have. To me, its like reading a book and imagining characters, except in this case, I am watching a show and tasting the meal.

To get back to the point, I was watching Gordon Ramsay abuse the hell out of his new masochist chefs, one of whom is a hulking guy weighing in at more than 400 pounds. When the men’s team won a nail biter of a close scallop-shucking contest, the big guy was called into Ramsay’s office. The team was going to be whisked away on a helicopter for a victory party and the poor bastard was deemed too fat to ride on the copter with his team. My heart sank. My sick little entertainment/food fantasy suddenly hit a little too close to home. It’s not often that you see fat men on TV – especially in this way.

Watching this unfold was heartbreaking and sad. I truly felt for this guy and got his pain immediately.

The rest of the team took off on the helicopter while the big guy was humiliated in front of a national audience and forced to ride a ferry to their destination.

Show me a fat person who wants to be fat and I will call bullshit. The success of Richard Simmons and his Sweating to the Oldies diet empire should be ample evidence that people will do practically ANYTHING to lose weight.

I have struggled with weight issues my whole life. I don’t remember the first time I became acquainted with the diagnosis morbid obesity, but it was a long time ago on a diet far, far away. It was definitely long after I befriended the Husky sizes offered by the Sears & Roebuck catalogue.

You would think when a doctor looks you in the eye and says the words MORBID OBESITY, it would slap some sense into you and push you into getting your act together.

Over the years a lot of people have looked me in the eye and told me “Steve, enough already.” The people closest to me have desperately tried, including my brother, my uncle, and some of my best friends.

Some people are capable of tackling their diet demons early. Sadly I am not one of them.

Many like me amble on, compounding pounds to a point where you just have to shake your head wondering how you allowed it all to get so hopelessly out of control.

I take full responsibility for who I am and how I got here. I make no excuses and I point no fingers. And believe me, after a week, I am not sitting here on some high horse thinking I have this thing beat.

But when I watched that poor guy on Hell’s Kitchen sulking on the ferry and excluded from celebrating with his team on the night before my own first weigh in, I really started thinking about the sadness of obesity.

You go thru life knowing you need to change and your heart and mind desperately want to be thin but then you see a plate of grandma’s macaroni and cheese or one of a million different triggers and your best of intentions are delayed yet another day, another week, another year.

Inside every fat person is someone beautiful whether they achieve their goals or not. This vicious disconnect between what we so genuinely want and often fail to achieve inevitably takes a toll on our lives in so many ways, but right now I am thinking about the way we interact with our friends, our family, our colleagues and our loved ones.

So when I reached out to my friends here on this page to ask for a little help or a gentle nudge as I took on this new challenge, I was floored.

The response was honestly overwhelming and unexpected. I had no idea so many people actually paid attention to a note posted on a facebook page. The outpouring of genuine encouragement, amazing tips, recipes and suggestions was as beautiful as it was scary. I posted my note to make my ambitions public and I got so much more. So to anyone considering taking similar action, careful what you wish for!!! Now, I guess like Thelma & Louise, if you are reading this, it feels like we are now jumping off this cliff together.

So let’s get to the good stuff:

I lost 14 pounds in the first six days of this diet and I am thrilled beyond belief. In my long, storied history as a serial dieter, I have never taken off so much weight in one week by just eating healthy.

In one week, my clothes are feeling baggy, I can’t wear one of my rings, I have dropped two notches on my belt and best of all, my doctor has taken me off one of my diabetes medications because my blood sugars are wildly steady. I am in awe of these real results.

When I was 18, I went on a liquid diet. All I could put in my mouth were these awful tasting shakes. If I recall correctly, my first week, after not eating a thing, I lost 17 or 18 pounds. So to see those numbers on the scale this morning was unbelievable to me. I felt like a contestant on the Biggest Loser.

When I walked into the office, I was hoping/expecting/praying to lose about 7 pounds, but never anything like this. I know that most of it is water weight and when you are a big as I am, you are capable of losing like crazy in week one.

I was pretty fanatical about sticking to the diet and the first 72 hours were the toughest.

Monday morning, my first day at work, I remember walking into the kitchen and there were cookies and chips and all sorts of leftovers from everyone’s Super Bowl parties the day before. But there were also so many co-workers who couldn’t have been more amazing. One in particular has had extraordinary results on a similar program. To see her beautiful, thin and beaming at her goal weight having lost more than 100 pounds more than a year ago was so inspiring, when she left my office it literally made me teary eyed.

When I jumped off the scale in my doctor’s office, even before I called my wife, I dashed off an email to her with the news. I am getting crazy levels of support both at home and at work - from secretaries all the way up to my boss.

But all the support in the world can’t stop you from being you. Fat folk are sick puppies at our core. One night this week on the way home, I stopped for gas on Sepulveda across from Tito’s Tacos and the smell of tortillas and tacos filled the air. For half a second, I actually thought about cheating. When you diet, your senses go into hyper drive – especially your sense of smell. Everything smells like it tastes better than it really is – even the most random shit. I can’t believe I was gonna tank my progress over a taco from Titos. I thought about it but I just couldn’t do it. I got in my car and headed home. As a friend from my wine group reminded me days later, nothing tastes better than losing 14 pounds and he is right.

I think most of you know I am an avowed wine freak.

I am a member of The X-Pensive Winos, a group that has met at least once a month for several years. Sometimes we meet more. The dinners are gluttony on steroids. We plan six or seven or eight course affairs that last hours and each month we taste thru sometimes 20, 30 or more bottles of the best wines in the world all while munching on the most extraordinary meals you can possibly imagine. Telling my friends in that group that I was going to be taking a hiatus for 6 months was very hard. These guys have become truly wine brothers to me… But I had to cut the ties since there is no way I can wrap my head around that kind of eating and drinking even once a month.

So it was a week where I was juggling a radical new way of eating, the daily stress of the office, severing an important part of my social life with friends who mean the world to me while every day battling real and imagined cravings, temptations and chaos.

But I got thru the first week with the help of three angels – my wife and children who are doing everything humanly possible to support me. I also used the blessed memory of my mother, whose mouth watering cooking lessons taught me to be inventive and creative with my choices. I looked at the fairly rigid list of what was available and instead of seeing the list for its separate parts, I decided I could combine the elements and make the whole list work for me to make some truly tasty lunches and dinners.

For instance, along with my proteins, I can have things like onions, celery, cauliflower, fat free chicken broth and asparagus. So I added them all together and made a fantastic non-dairy pureed asparagus soup. Another night, we all settled in for a great ginger chicken and veggie stir fry, and we even found room to have turkey tacos in lettuce cups (see photo above -- they were really delicious).

This morning, I used an few ounces of lobster in a really delicious egg white, spinach, and onion egg mash up. So I am eating well, just with diligent attention to portions. (Anyone want recipes, let me know)

Dieting is hard. Food choices can be bland and boring. I am finding that being creative – thinking ahead - and not just having baked chicken and steamed veggies is key.

But something else was different for me as I took on this new journey. It wasn’t just will power . This week I found a new and different kind of power that was equally strong, inspirational and motivating beyond my own will and desire: it was the loving encouragement and support of a legion of friends who I know are rooting for me as much as I am rooting for myself. It’s a pretty interesting variable in this whole process.

One week is not a life change make. The real hurdles are going to be in the weeks and months and years ahead. I keep saying to my kids, this is not a diet it’s a life change.

I don’t know what the future will bring. I only know what I want and what I dream about.

We are off to a strong start so thanks for reading and more than anything, thanks for your continued expressions of love and support.


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