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.”