Thinking is what gets me in trouble – at least right now it does. There are certain stages to this (or any) diet that take a vast amount of mental discipline to sustain. Looking back on my life, I can safely say mental discipline has not been my strong suit.
Obviously, during the first week, your mental state is critical to building momentum and sticking to the plan. If you screw up over those first six or seven days, I don’t know if there is any way to really recover. That’s why we have to try so many times to get any weight-loss plan to stick. I remember going to bed countless nights saying, “Tomorrow is the day I turn this all around,” only to wake up and decide to go get four bagels with cream cheese.
It wasn’t until I spent weeks thinking about my approach to losing weight and trying to figure out the right mindset that I actually began having success. It was the same process for both the 100 Days and the Fortress. I could have started the Fortress in early December — a month after my gallbladder surgery made eating fatty food a painless experience — but I couldn’t find the right fit mentally, and I couldn’t put myself in the right position to succeed until after Christmas.
Over the life of weight loss there are other, less obvious moments requiring mental clarity: The day after the first real screw up, for one; and the last five pounds are always tough.
I bring this up because I find I am in one of those moments right now.
Two or three weeks ago I weighed in at 259 pounds, a stunning achievement for a man that weighed 306 pounds his sophomore year of high school. Since then, though, it’s been a struggle to find any momentum. I wondered why my rhythm wasn’t there anymore. Why, instead of restricting myself to just one off day per week, was I letting my off days stretch to two or three days in a row? Why was I talking myself out of going to the gym so much? Why was I letting myself tread water instead of swimming to shore?
What’s funny is that I know exactly why. It’s a combination of variables that just came together at the same time. Perhaps I’ll spell them out for you.
My Current Weight and Appearance
This may be the biggest factor in this whole thing. Here I am, lower than I have ever been in my adult life and looking pretty good hovering around 260. It feels good to be here, and maybe I am a little nervous about going any lower.
Yes, it is fantastic to have lost 40 pounds in the last six months, and I feel a real sense of accomplishment, but that’s a dangerous feeling, too, because it enables me to sometimes lose sight of the real goal. I don’t want to be 260; I want to be 240, but 260 is the reality I am dealing with now. When I look at it stupidly, I am okay with that reality, and maybe a little unwilling to change that. I didn’t feel that way at 290 or 280 because those weights were way off of the goal. At 270, there was accomplishment for losing 100 pounds total from the start, but I couldn’t really appreciate it because I was only halfway to the current goal.
At 260, I am turning the corner to the final third of the weight loss, and I am proud of the fact that I look different than I ever have. I am 15 pounds below my previous nadir, and only 20 pounds (or about two good months) from nailing the goal weight. So it creates a bit of false pride, I suppose.
The Length of the Diet
I’ve been brooding for six months about what I eat, planning off days and workouts and everyday meals, staying away from most social situations for fear that I will fall off the wagon, spending an inordinate amount on groceries, yet still going to Subway three times per week. It wears on you a little bit. That’s just the way it is.
It’s been a bit of a grind trying to do this, which is why it takes such strong discipline to make it work. Now it is summertime, and things are happening that I want to be a part of. A big part of me wants to drink, eat, and socialize, but I still haven’t convinced myself I can do that and still minimize the consequences.
I understand now that I can’t ever go back to the way I was eating before the two diets began. I know the basic skeleton of this diet must stick with me for life if I want to keep this weight off, but I also know that once this is over, I can relax a little bit, and do the things I really want to do. So after six months, I am trying to bring those things back into my life prematurely, while loosening the grip on the diet. As we know, though, it’s got to be a total commitment until the finish because 40 pounds isn’t good enough when you want to lose 60. Sorry, it just isn’t.
If that means a few more months of concentration and rigid plans, then so be it.
The “How Different Can I Possibly Look?” Trap
As you may or may not know, the centerpiece of my summer is a three-week trip home to Detroit in July for my friend Guy’s wedding. My flight leaves in roughly a month and a half, which is why I stopped focusing on getting down to 240 a few weeks ago, instead opting for the more realistic 250.
Let’s say I weigh between 260-265 right now. Even if I do get down to 250, how much different will I look than I do right now? It’s not about the numbers, really, as much as it is about the look. Fifteen pounds on a 260-pound man won’t make a huge impact. Minimally, I suppose.
There is another way to look at it that I must start to embrace. The lowest weight the home crowd ever saw me at was 275, and that was two years ago.
(By the way, I have to tell someone this so it might as well be you. As I was writing that last sentence, we had a minor earthquake I could feel just enough to make me wonder what the hell was going on. Apparently it was a 3.5 magnitude quake. It was the fourth one I’ve been in, and the second one I’ve felt. I must say I am quite scared that the Big One will hit while I live out here, but I think the small ones are awesome. Afterwards, you feel like anything can happen. The Big One could be coming, the earth could open up and swallow you whole, and aliens could land their spaceship in your front yard. If the ground can just move like that, then anything is possible. It’s like a Universal Studios ride, but with the actual fucking earth!)
Now, 250 pounds, when compared to 275 pounds, would be a big difference. If I get down to 250 within the next six weeks, I have a chance to look different to the people I love – and that would create a lot of pride for me.
Fear of Success
I’ve been accused of it before by commenters, and I could never really dispel that notion. I think it is true, in a way.
As the weight loss goes, I am somewhat haunted by this scenario: One day, a few months from now, I get on the scale and see that I weigh 239 pounds. Success! Time to celebrate! Screw the gym and screw the salads. I am going out for a big, fat dinner somewhere nice. I love my dinner, love my day off, and love achieving my goal. I go to bed and…. Well, what do I do the next day? Am I still on the diet? Am I off it now? Do I take a week to eat whatever I want, jeopardizing that 240 reading and the entire process over the course of seven days? Or do I keep going after enjoying that one meal and set my sights on 230? What happens then?
I always tend to compare this to the Iraq war, namely the exit strategy part. It seems we went into Iraq without an exit strategy, and it seems I went into this diet without an exit strategy. I am working it out for myself now, realizing quickly that I am going to have to keep with the eating for a good long time, and eventually I will have to start lifting weights in order to convert the leftover fat into muscle.
More and more, I am coming to grips with those realities, but that doesn’t mean I fully accept them yet. Maybe if I prolong this saga I can have a little more fun, right? I think that’s a cynical way of looking at my subconscious, but probably not inaccurate.
I have to keep 240 in mind throughout because it is where I want to be. I also must realize there will be rewards once this diet officially (but not really) ends. I won’t have to worry about losing weight anymore. I won’t have to pick and choose my spots for off days quite as carefully, and I can lift off some of the guilt I feel when I screw up. First, though, I’ll have to figure out the way to live a normal life that is not wrought with daily binges or filled with dread over caloric intake. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other, and back and forth again, and It will be time to find the proper middle ground.
As you may have noticed, partly because I told you this would happen, I have cut back the blog entries to once a week. I think that was a mistake, in a way, because it cut off the biggest part of my support system. Hell, even if I am only writing this for Alexandria (my main commenter on Blogcritics), that would help immensely. I know I need to be able to do this for someone other than myself no matter how flawed that thinking may be. Like I said earlier, that is the reality I am dealing with.
I am not yet willing to commit to three or more entries per week, though. I still think you deserve fresh entries instead of rehashed progress reports, but maybe you’ll get those a little bit more just so I can check in and feel your wrath and congratulations on the day’s events. We’ll see. I do know I lost sight of why I do this blog – partly because there was a lack of comments pouring in, which I felt meant a lack of interest.
I don’t really care about the interest of the many. I care about the interest from the people who chose to take this journey with me every step of the way. Yes, there will be a point where I have to cut you all off from this reality show and go on alone, but I don’t feel I am ready to do that yet. You’ll still get the entries at least once a week and maybe more. I’ve got some ideas stewing about interesting blog entries that could help offset the bland progress reports. We’ll see how this all works out, I suppose.
Again, I am not promising anything, but I do understand the value of these words to the task at hand.
So that’s about it. All I can do from here is try to get back on track. My advantage to this troubled time is that I know exactly what I have to do.