Friday, February 27, 2009

Week 4 - Revealing A Big Family Secret

First and foremost, welcome to my blog.

It may be humble, but this is the new home of The Facebook Diet, so step on in, make yourself comfortable and kick off your shoes.

Please give me a few weeks to figure out what I can and can't do with the gadgets, gizmos, bells and whistles of the blog community, and I will try and furnish my brand new cyber surroundings with pictures, recipes and other relevant information to help better illustrate the journey I have been taking. So, if any of you veteran bloggers have any tips you care to share, please, don't be shy. I am the least tech savvy guy on the world wide web and advice and suggestions are more than welcome.

Let me start with the basics. My name is Steve, I am executive in the entertainment industry and since January 31, 2009, I have been chronicling my grand experiment with a new way of dieting on Facebook.

I say experiment because I am trying a new variable as part of my effort to finally tackle a lifelong battle with my weight.

Four weeks ago, after devouring what I will loosely term my "farewell, rare/well meal" - a huge slab of prime rib that would have sent Fred Flintstone into a food coma- I posted my first "note" about my diet on Facebook.

To put my experiment simply, I figured if I told everyone in my social network that I was dieting, I would force myself to succeed or look like a colossal schmuck if I just up and quit or fell off the wagon. I call it the Facebook Diet. Others may think of it as the Shame Diet.

Great plan, right?

At first I was terrified. What had I done? Who chooses to make a crazy move like this?

Well, me I guess.

I enlisted a veritable army of friends, colleagues, supporters and strangers to help me stay true to my goal. Anyone can diet for a few days or a few weeks, but it's staying true to the change in eating habits that is the real trick to success.

From the start, the outpouring of support has been startling and inspiring and it has absolutely proven to be a major dynamic in keeping me focused throughout this past month. So if you are reading this, you are in the Army now and I thank you for your help.

Many of you may be asking, why have we landed here to this new place in cyberspace?

On Facebook, I guess I thought I was "blogging," but I was really just posting elaborate "notes" on my lifelong struggle. I was Mr. Post It without the small, sticky yellow pieces of paper.

I have to admit, I had been thinking about blogging for a while, but when the "controversy" erupted last week about content ownership on FB, it spooked me into launching my own page.

If you are just joining this journey you can catch up on all the original facebook posts which have now been integrated into this site. But here is a brief recap for newbies.

Where to begin?

I've been big since I was little. Not just a tad big, but perhaps a few belts bigger than pleasingly plump.

I have been on every diet imaginable and before this nutty idea popped into my head, I was a prime candidate for stomach surgery. It was either that or join the cast of the Biggest Loser. Now I love that inspirational show, but honestly, I don't care how fat you are, who really exercises for 6 hours a day? Certainly not me.

In early January I herniated a disc in my lower back and I was tormented by the ultimate fear: I came to believe that my body had finally given up on me and my life of excess. So I decided I had to change and it had to happen right away.

Today is day 28 of my grand experiment. And with the nurturing help of my social network, I am 22 pounds leaner than I was this time last month and I am elated for a lot of good reasons.

I suppose the biggest change is medical. For about 10 years, I have been a type-2 diabetic and for the first time in more than a decade, I am completely off all shots and pills - and believe me there were a lot of 'em. No more insulin, actos, glucophage, lisinopril, or byetta just because I started to eat right. Wow. What a concept!

Alright, that is truly the ultra condensed reader's digest version of the last few weeks. Most of you migrating with me to this blog already know about the great pickle crisis, the Superbowl, why I am corporal corpulent, and my struggles losing only 2 pounds a week for the last 2 weeks. There was drama, trauma, sillyness and success. Now we can finally join this week's episode already in progress...

There is a pretty substantial secret I have been keeping from most of you. I am sure many of you are saying, "uh, Steve, you have been like the King of Oversharing since you started this thing, so wtf?"

Allow me to explain.

When I was at the peak of the most painful part of my herniated disc, I was hooked up to an I.V. that was pumping me with serious drugs. The doctor who was caring for me started to talk about the weight loss program she had just launched. Sensing she could take advantage of a completely desperate and totally ossified patient, I listened as intently as a zoned man could while Class 3 narcotics sailed thru my veins.

As I was becoming uncomfortably comfortable with my intra-veinous morphine and valium high, I told her I would start her diet as soon as I could. Now, honestly, at that moment, I probably would have said anything just to get away from the pain. I think in most states, commitments made when you are FUBAR are forgotten or not enforceable. Not this one.

Amy, my wife, had driven me to the doctor's office that day since I was unable to drive myself, and she was by my side when I made this vow.

She looked at me and said, "we will do it together - all of us."

I knew right away when she said "all of us," she meant the kids too.

Amy and I had many discussions over the years about a family diet. She rightly didn't want to do anything that would create a negative self image for our children. They are loving, beautiful kids and she felt strongly that they should be proud of who, and what, they are.

We went back and forth on this issue for years because, frankly, while I tended to agreed with her, I would never want my kids to go thru life the way I have.

Amy and I both grew up surrounded and suffocated by so much concern about our weight, that it placed girth at the center of our universe and it made us feel inferior from the earliest of days.

I can look at pictures from when I was 6, 7, or 8, and while there was a certain rotund factor, it didn't require a degrading full frontal assault.

So when I started the first of my elaborate "notes" on Facebook, I started to write about what we were tackling together. Amy asked that I not reveal their involvement. She didn't want the pressure of being on the public pedastal, and while she had no problem with me imploding in front of all of my friends, she wanted to protect the rest of the family from the same sick and twisted fate.

Now when I say we have been one big happy family for years, I use the word "big" both literally and figuratively.

Not that the kids were fat, cuz they never really were. Still, with two heavy parents, the deck was stacked against them.

So when my back was finally well enough to cooperate, the four of us met with our doctor. On January 30th, we got weighed, did a BMI test, blood work, EKGs, and were given the boundaries of our new diet. We left the office at 5:30 and did what any self-respecting family of eaters would do. We drove straight to Lawry's - a mecca of beef for food lovers everywhere. We gorged and then committed ourselves fully to the diet.

We woke up on Saturday morning and began Day 1. Right after our fist stab at breakfast, we headed to the market to stock up on the limited foods we could eat. Right after walking thru the front door, my son made a b-line for the croutons at the Bristol Farms salad bar. In his mind, if it was in the salad bar, how bad could a few croutons be?

We were off to a rocky start. But in the last four weeks, I have honestly been losing my weight while gaining my family, and that is the greatest gift of all.

To date, we have collectively lost 67 pounds and that is a stunning achievement on any level. Before we began this diet, we were just about as hopelessly addicted to carbs, sugar and unhealthy food as anyone I know.

To see that lifestyle abandoned and transformed in favor of genuine portion control, will power, restraint and exercise puts nothing but a gigantic smile on my face.

In four weeks, I have dropped 22 pounds, Amy has lost an unbelievable 19 lbs, Lucas, my son, has shed 14 pounds and my beautiful daughter Hannah is 12 pounds thinner.

A month has done a world of difference for all of us. But when I think back to 4 Saturdays ago, it's like a scene out of a bad horror movie or worse, it's like watching Dom Deluise in Fatso.

The first days of this diet were insane.

All of us were struggling to adapt to a new way of life. We were cranky, short tempered and in varying stages of sugar shock, carb withdrawal, and suffering from delusional and crazy food cravings. Then a few days into the program, I decided that even our beagle needed to go on a diet.

That was probably the last straw. I was sure everyone in the family despised me and cursed me and our diet, even Daisy, the family dog!

Within 48 hours, Amy and I questioned whether we were doing the right thing. But we began supporting each other like never before and we have bonded over the one thing most likely to tear us apart - Food.

The other day I was driving with Lucas to a basketball game, and I asked him how he was doing. He looked at me and with his little eight-year-old raspy voice said, "I am doing okay, but every time I look at my shoelaces, I see spaghetti."

I swear I burst out laughing so hard, I almost had to pull over.

Then he broke my heart. He said "I have been invited to a friend's birthday in a few weeks and they are having pizza and cake. Please, dad, can I have a piece of pizza and some cake?"

Out of the mouths of babes.

Instantly, memories of my childhood bitch slapped me. I was just about Lukey's age when I was put on my first diet. I would eat what my folks gave me and then, at school, when the parents weren't around, it was party time with cinnamon rolls and grilled cheese sandwiches or pizza or whatever fit my fancy at nutrition and lunch. This splurge would continue during my walk home, when I would spend whatever money I had left in my pocket on candy at the Robertson Market - a sleazy little mom and pop shop run by a crotchety old miser of a man.

In a million years, I never would have asked my dad if I could have a piece of pizza or a piece of cake while I was dieting. His steely death stare alone would have killed me.

I vividly remember sneaking into my mom and dad's room like a cat burglar in the night while they were sleeping. I would procure a dollar or two from one of their wallets and I was good to go, loaded and ready for my own little pudgy boy shopping spree.

I didn't do many things really well at that age, but God, I was a champ of a cheater when I was 8.

My motto was cheat early and cheat often. I have come to suspect that is why I never really lost weight as a kid. It's just a hunch but I think I'm onto something here.

When Lucas started the diet, I guess I just saw myself and pictured him bumming ho-ho's off of his friends at lunchtime. I know, ye of little faith. I mean let's face it, just a few hours into our diet and he was attacking croutons like a hungry grizzly coming out of hibernation. And it didn't stop there. After the incident at the salad bar, he found us at the deli counter getting some turkey. When the counter guy showed us a slice to gage thickness, he jumped up and tore the turkey right out of the deli man's hand. Later that afternoon, I caught Lucas in line for the end-of-game treats that are normally doled out after the kids play basketball.

So forgive me if I just assumed the apple probably didn't fall far from the cheating tree.

But it became immediately apparent to me that after a bit of a rough start, Lukey was dieting as fanatically as I was. And that is insanely difficult when you are a kid in school and you're told, "no, honey, you can't have those delicious cheetos but hey, enjoy these 12 grapes instead, little man."

So what was the difference between Lucas and Me at age 8?

In my mind, our dedication to the diet and real resolve reinforced his attitude. His compass to cheat or not to cheat was likely set at our dinner table as we all took on this enormous challenge together.

When I was his age, I was the only one who had to diet. My mom, dad and brother were all crazy thin. I don't know whether I got short changed in the metabolism department, but whatever it was, It sucked hardcore. You try eating cottage cheese and a burger patty when everyone else in the family is chowing down on the Bacchus feast.

When our family finally unified as the four dieting musketeers, it was all for one and one pound at a time for all. And that had to be the tipping point for my son.

None of this is easy. Amy and I and the kids were literally driven to the breaking point throughout the first week as we forced ourselves to stay true to the plan - sometimes literally minute by minute.

To say it was touch and go would be minimizing the chinks that were forming in our stoic facade of armor.

On the night of Day 4, Amy and I were moments from pulling the plug on the kid's program. She had gone to school and had lunch with Lucas to make sure he was ok, and he wouldn't eat any of the fruit she had packed.

He had become so accustomed to the kind of lunches that most kids enjoy that sliced turkey and fruit was like taking medicine. When my son turns down something sweet - even fruit - something is wrong. She said he just looked so resigned and beaten.

We had a heart-to-heart that really was a mutual meltdown: a crisis of confidence and conscience as we questioned whether it was right to take the kids on this difficult path.

Were we projecting all our nightmares growing up fat on them? Should we stop altogether or choose another plan?

For me, I had just outed myself to my entire world on Facebook and elsewhere, and there was no way I could abandon ship after four days. This was probably my first major fall into the safety net of the social network.

I just couldn't quit. Unless, of course, I wanted to volunteer for the post of village idiot.

Amy was in tears. Truly a wreck. This deluge came after several long, hard, dizzying days trying to find not only her way - but the entire family's way - on a diet we didn't fully grasp or understand. We were all frustrated and Amy and I were frightened.

Why frightened?

Fear of failure is a frickin' scary thing. You go thru life trying this diet and that diet and you just want one to work.

So when we had this conversation, Amy's tears were like water pouring thru the cracks of the family dam. There I was on the other side getting doused with water from the fissures and in complete fear the dam was about to burst. We decided to carry on for one more day, and then another.

When we finally survived the first week, everyone posted spectacular numbers. While we celebrated our success we talked to the doctor about the meltdown and the moment when we questioned whether we were on the right path with the kids.

She said, "do you hear yourself asking if you are doing the right thing to make your family healthy!"

Her candor hit too close to home. Bullseye, actually.

At the end of week one, while I was amazed by all of our success, I probably was most proud of Lucas. He's 8 and a perfect kid in every way.

On the first few days of the diet, we talked a bit about what he was going thru and he literally said "I'm doing this for you, Dad. I don't want you to be in anymore pain." Please, why don't you put another stake in my heart, Professor Van Helsing.

So when the scale said he lost 5 pounds the first week, my jaw hit the floor. I was blown away. I think I probably gained 5 pounds the first week of my diet when I was his age. I guess it's just human nature to want what you can't have. Well, I have always wanted in abundance and Lucas is a stronger boy than I ever was.

Hannah is 12 and much more in tune with "looks" and from day one wanted to see where this would take her and the family. She also said she wanted to look good in a bikini this summer. Excuse me, Miss! Say what?

My little girl is growing up way too fast and it's time to start polishing my shotgun. Nothing terrifies me more than a ridiculously smart 12 year old girl, who worships the Jonas Brothers and now professes to wanting to look good in a bikini. For whom, I wonder in silent disgust at how quickly the years have passed.

I also marvel at how slowly and quickly the last month has passed. So far, The Facebook Diet has taken us all to a place that I never believed we would go. Already, the kids are looking like a shadow of their former selves and we are all completely in the groove one month after beginning this odyssey. You can see the results for yourself at the top of the blog. The picture of Lucas taken with the basketball was taken in January and the other photo was taken this evening. Just look at his face to see the difference.

It's rare when you see him without a good natured smile. I am so proud of our short term accomplishments and look forward to the hurdles and hurrahs that lie ahead.

And while I admit to being a bit apprehensive about the future, Lucas will have cheese pizza and a small slice of cake at his little buddy's birthday party. Because as much as I want to shield him and Hannah from a fat person's destiny, pizza is the real world.

And really, what's life as a kid if you can't enjoy a slice of pizza every now and then.

Copyright, 2009, Steve Elzer


  1. I always remember your BIG smile and HUGE heart. Don't let those get any leaner!!! Keep on keepin on - you'll reach your goal!

  2. Steve:

    Welcome to the official blogosphere! I loved reading this and can't wait for more. I can't believe the collective loss in the family for 28 days is 67 pounds. It's just totally amazing.

    I know you will be an inspiration to so many people now that you are expanding on the Internet (while the body sitting in front of that keyboard is simultaneously shrinking!!!)

  3. I laughed, I cried - I'm serious. I've been there,literally. You are a very special man and I am blessed to be taking this journey with you and your family. It will make me stronger in the paths that I will be taking in life.
    Cindy Ellsworth

  4. Each weekend, I anticipate your latest post. You are an incredibly talented writer, a tremendous spirit, a truly admirable husband and father, a lovely human being. I laughed and cried as well, as I always do reading these accounts. Your honesty, sense of humor, turn of phrase, enormous heart reach out and into my very soul. I guess that's the way it is with kindred spirits; time and distance don't matter. You are an inspiration, Steve, and I send you, Amy, Lucas and Hannah all my love and support as you continue down this remarkable -- together. Namaste. Susanne

  5. Each weekend, I anticipate your latest post. You are an incredibly talented writer, a tremendous spirit, a truly admirable husband and father, a lovely human being. I laughed and cried as well, as I always do reading these accounts. Your honesty, sense of humor, turn of phrase, enormous heart reach out and into my very soul. I guess that's the way it is with kindred spirits; time and distance don't matter. You are an inspiration, Steve, and I send you, Amy, Lucas and Hannah all my love and support as you continue down this remarkable -- together. Namaste.

  6. Steve, I love that you got a blog up and running. I swear, you are telling the story I was always too afraid to. I always thought I would share my story once I got to my "goal weight" but the fact that you're doing it while on the journey is so very brave. Keep taking pictures of the kids because honestly, it's the most gratifying thing to SEE the results. I showed my mom the photos of Lucas and she immediately got emotional because it reminded her of me. I still have the photo of me, 12 years old, holding a stuffed bear at Weight Watchers after my first weigh in. I am back to no sugar hardcore to lose my last've inspired me to get my ass back in gear. GO ELZERS!!!! xoxo Teni