"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fat Camp

This isn't the place we rented, but it looked
something like this.
Back in July, my extended family met in Vail for our sort-of-annual meeting of the minds. I was the first sibling to arrive, with my wife and childrens, which meant that every time any of the other five sibs and their broods arrived, I was obligated to help unpack their automobiles and lug their stuff into the house. We had rented a three-story chalet (four, including the basement garage) with about seventeen bedrooms and a steep stairway up from the garage to the third floor. I was winded before I ever finished emptying my own car, and by the time the last group arrived and people were assisted up to their dormitories, I could barely breathe.

I of course know that the altitude in the mountains makes it more difficult to suck in the air you need. But I live in Denver, so it's not like I was coming from sea level to the Continental Divide. And I've visited Vail--and higher altitudes--enough times to know what it feels like to perform a bit of strenuous exercise at those heights. This just wasn't normal.

Now, I'm a relatively healthy guy for my age (not that I'm that old); my doctor has told me so...a couple of years ago. And before you jump to any conclusions about my succumbing to altitude sickness or the Rocky Mountain Tree Beetle Disease or something, I'll just tell you that I was getting fat.

Last spring, when I took my nine weeks of paternity leave, most of my time was spent holding an infant or sitting at this very computer or both. Oh, and eating. I don't know how much weight I gained, but it was lots, and that was on top of the sympathy weight I gained during the pregnancy.

So I whined more than usual about my weight, and when we got home from Vail, my supportive wifey broke out the South Beach Diet book and planned our meals for the next two weeks. I weighed myself the night before we were to start this journey. Just after I had my last Dairy Queen Blizzard, with my clothes on, no shoes. The scale said 237.8 pounds.

Here's the family around last May. The girls don't look too happy.
The wife is pretty in her haircut. Xander's not paying attention.
And I just look just unhealthy. I have jowls, I think.

The next morning, I took my daily constitutional, stripped, and weighed 233.4. I hadn't even started the diet yet. Will power itself helped me lose 4.4 pounds. What progress! (Okay, so 233.4 was my real starting weight.)

South Beach is like Atkins: it's all about the carbs. I guess. I didn't really read the book, but I trusted what my wife was doing.

These are South Beach-approved
quiche cups, which real men do not
eat, unless provoked.
No bread. No pasta. No sugar. No fruit. No starches. No taste. (Just kidding.) The most trying part was giving up bread. I love me some good bread.

I ate eggs every morning. With bacon or sausage. Salad for lunch, sometimes with chicken and cheese, always with ranch. Different meats and veggies for dinner. May blended up some cauliflower that was supposed to be like mashed potatoes, but with the butter and cheese it was almost better. I'm fairly certain the book says to watch your fat content, like choosing fat free mayo or at least lite ranch, but I can't stand fat free dairy and any food that can't spell "light" correctly is not welcome in my fridge.

And that's what I ate for about two weeks. Meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables, diet soda. I snacked on cheese sticks, sugar free Jello, and beef jerky (which, along with cauliflower and mushrooms and squash and peppers, I ate because I had to eat something, and which, like most of the above, I learned to nearly like). I even had a burger wrapped in lettuce at Red Robin (though I'm never doing that again; what's the point?)

I was really hungry most of the time. But after a week, I had lost just over eight pounds, which is more than one pound per day, and which I thought was decent progress. After two weeks, the diet book says you're allowed to partake of a few starches, whole grain bread and rice, and fruits.

Then I went on vacation. Utah to visit family. California to a writer's conference. I tried to stick to the diet. But even with the more lax limitations, it's difficult to restrict your diet when you're crashing with family or in hotels in a strange city. When I returned home and weighed myself again, I was back to 229.6, not even four pounds less than when I started.

I couldn't go back to square one. I wanted to eat bread again. I needed to eat bread again. But for the most part, I stuck to the plan and saw the pounds slowly melt away every morning as I sweated them out on the treadmill. Then I noticed that I was able to run farther and faster, that the weight that I was carrying had been slowing me down more than I knew, and I started to feel better every morning. Then school started, and that induced stress-related weight loss; and soccer started, so I was able to basically work out twice a day.

 A month after I started the whole thing, I was down to 219.6, and in my head (I rely heavily on estimation math) that's fifteen pounds in two weeks because half of that month I was on vacation. At some point around this time I set a goal to get down to 205 pounds. It's arbitrary, sure, but I thought it might be asking too much to reach an even 200. I told myself that when I make 205, I would stop obsessing and stop weighing myself every day and start eating what I wanted again. I bought two 12-packs of Pitch Black grape Mountain Dew to drink when I reached my goal, and told my wife we were going to the Cheesecake Factory and I was ordering red velvet cheesecake as my reward.

My clothes started to fit better. The gut was still there, but it no longer protruded from my waist line, causing my shirt buttons to strain and my belt to work overtime. In fact, I moved to the last notch--first notch?--whichever notch means you're almost too skinny for your belt. My wedding suit fit again.

By the end of the second full month, even with a couple trips to all-you-can-eat Texas de Brazil, I was at 207.6. Those last five pounds were killing me. I could have just stopped eating for a couple of days, but I was not going to let the quest do me in like that. I watched what I ate, stayed away from the bagels and donuts sometimes brought in to school, but for a couple of weeks, my weight plateaued and hovered and I couldn't get rid of those last few pounds.

Then, one morning a couple of days ago, two months and ten days in, I weighed 204.2. That's not exactly 30 pounds lost, but it's close enough for me.

I've already ripped through most of one twelve pack of Dew (gotta cut back now just because it's keeping me up at night) and I've had my victory date at the Cheesecake Factory, where I ate two baskets of bread before my meal and red velvet cheesecake. Yum.

I'll weigh myself again in a few weeks to see if my gorging is just putting me right back where I started. But I don't think it'll be that bad. I've lost much of my craving for sweets, and now I know I can live without starches and bread. If I need to diet again, I know I can. And that feels pretty cool.
I grew a goatee because I thought it would make me seem younger.
But it grew out all white and grey and stuff. Sigh.


  1. Congrats! Also, there is such a thing as Ezekiel bread. It tastes nutty and is better for you. It's mostly protein made from sprouted grains and different legumes. Also, stevia is a wonderful sweetner b/c I stay away from sugar. And when I go to the Cheesecake factory, I order fresh strawberries with whipping cream b/c as we get older it becomes harder to shed the pounds and I don't want to look like the great orange or blue pumpkin.

  2. Looking good, man! And I like the goatee. Even with the grey fur in it. Working on shedding a few pounds myself and I know how hard it is.

  3. Congratulations on taking the steps to lose some weight. I too am doing this and your post inspires me.

  4. That is so fantastic! You look good. :)

    I really wish I could get the self-discipline to shed a few (dozen) pounds. Someday I'll be motivated. You'll see!

  5. @ shelly: I'll have to check out that bread. Does it make a good sandwich? I love good sandwich bread.

    @ darev, Michael, Candice: Thanks, folks. I indeed feel quite svelte. It took me almost collapsing from exhaustion to motivate me to do this. I don't want to feel that way again. Yikes.

  6. Wow. You kicked my butt. I've only lost like 15 since the reunion. I did cut my cholesterol nearly in half. I guess I better go running tomorrow. The goatee looks good and the dark suit with red is smoking.

  7. HELL YEAH FAT CAMP! You look good! And May, I am in love with your scarf. IN. LOVE.

  8. ah, weight loss. Story of my life! I did Atkins after baby, and it's amazing what losing a few hundred carbs a day can do for you. Not only that, but splurging at all-you-can-eat places once a week actually helps keep your mental sanity and your metabolism in gear, so you should always make a point to do it!

    I also lost 35 pounds this past year. And yeah, it feels better than junk food tastes.

  9. @ Charlie: And I can still have all the Dr Pepper I want, if I want.

    Someone said I looked like that guy in XMen First Class who can teleport like Nightcrawler. All I need is a tail.

    @ Nicki: Thanks. She loves the scarves, too.

    @ Tamara: It's crazy how much difference the bread makes. I'm off to the buffet table!

  10. You look fantastic Brent! Way to go!! Joe has realized in the last two weeks that he needs to work out as well. Running every night and basketball once a week. He's also cut back on the Mountain dew. Good for You though!! That takes discipline!!

  11. Congratulations! Love the goatee... makes you look distinguished.

  12. Way to go! Very inspirational, as I could stand to lose a few as well. Unfortunately, I was distracted by the Red Velvet cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. It's my favorite.

  13. @ Doug: I have two pairs. The black ones make me feel hip.

    @ Natalie: Doesn't Joe get enough working out while he's working? He's got a much more demanding job than I have.

    @ Nubian: Thanks, but I don't think I want to look "distinguished" for a few--several--many more years.

    @ Julie: And the red velvet cheesecake was soooo good. Totally worth it.

  14. "Will power itself helped me lose 4.4 pounds." HA! You cracked me up with that line! Anyhow, congrats on the weight loss--it's a tough process!

  15. Thanks, Doc. Appreciate the sentiment from one so jaded. :)