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“SOUTH BEACH DIET” – The fall of us all

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DAY 9 …

After nine days I have lost 9.5 pounds — from 226 to 116.5 lbs.

This makes me very happy. Happier still, because my original high weight, before starting the “South Beach Diet,” was even higher — 238 (the scale only said that once, but … wow, am I right)?

I look in the mirror for the first time in years. I was unable to really look before. Too painful psychically. Seriously — when I was heavy, which was for like 11 years, I lived in the twilight of denial.

But diabetes busted down the ability to keep denying. It dissolves your body. In my case, I began to literally rot in all the private dank places. Foot rot, crotch rot, pit rot, behind-the-ear rot. I felt like a corpse, like Lazarus.

More than you wanted to know, I know. It was very disturbing to me. I didn’t know I had diabetes. I thought I was — melting.

So this diet was very wonderful for me. I am about to go “off” it for 3 weeks while I go on a car trip to Utah. I will be on the maintenance phase of it, though, with 16.5 pounds till to lose, I will hop back on the harsh phase for a few days as soon as I get back, and am able to abstain without going crazy.

Projection: I will lose the next 16.5 pounds more slowly — by summer’s end.

I thank the diet but I thank other things as well, that came together for me pretty miraculously.

This sounds like a sports testimonial, but I thank God. I figured out a long time ago that I had a mild eating disorder — I just ate 5-10% more than I was supposed to — and I was unable to stop. I was awful at dieting, just awful. So I told the Great Spirit, “Listen, I’m no good at this. You’re going to have to step in and take over.” I can’t prove I had divine help — no footprints in the sugarbowl — but it’s a very odd coincidence, wouldn’t you say?

Second, my wife Rachel is a nurse practitioner, and it was her idea that I try an Atkins-like diet. This goes back practically a year. I did for a while, a year ago, but I found I was eating mountains of pork rinds and oceans of grapefruit juice. [Shudder].

South Beach has many points in common with the Atkins diet — carbohydrate-aware, and not afraid of a little fat. This is key, I think. My “eating disorder” is really a kind of allergy to carbohyrates. The more starch I eat — crackers, beer, home-bread bread — the more I want to eat. So I have to draw a line in the sand on the stuff, for life.

Third, I started attending an Overeaters Anonymous group here in Saint Paul. The people are very sweet, and they have the goods — an understanding of why we eat crazy. They provided me with a rationale that makes it all work — the need to admit you can’t do it yourself, and to place the task in the hands of a higher power. I would have been reluctant to come to this on my own — I have always prayed, but pessimistically. My sense of God was that of an absentee landlord. “I know this won’t do any good, but …”

Finally, a church I have been attending with my son. It is an evangelical church here in Saint Paul, which sometimes “creeps me out” (their phrase, not mine) culturally. I am constitutionally unable to let go and say “Praise the Lord” in public, and I don’t know if it is vanity or perfectionism (I am a writer, you know) but these people are good at it and I suck, though I am getting better.

The thing is, the people I run into there are genuinely good. I have not felt the kind of alienation there I have felt at other, more subdued places, despite my own semi-good intentions. This church has helped me deepen my dependence on God and be less embarrassed about it. This constitutes a major, major, major life change, as I have always been a little ticked off at The Man.

I feel I am on fire now — not because I am rotting, which I am not any more. But that I am really living again. It’s not the weight loss, which is lovely — it’s a feeling of being back myself in the world. It was me that left, in my despair and disappointment, not God.

So isn’t it interesting how many things had to come together for this diet to “work” for me?

So great credit to the diet and Dr. Agatson. But I doubt that the diet alone — with my original attitude — could have prevailed. Surrender to God was part of it.

And something bigger than that, a discovery I made. Praying to lose weight is itself a loser, a vanity — although in my case it is a prayer for life, because diabetes is gonna take me down one day.

Somewhere along the way, I realized it will be as easy for God to save us all — from our eating, from our self-absorption, from our anger, from our paranoia, from our certainty, from our pride, from our economy (which is the sum of all our fears and delusions) shutting down all around us, to the future wars that call to us to kill, in the name of survival.

Anything God “does” violates the laws of nature. Why would he do that just for me and my cracker problem? Well, maybe he did, and I am humiliated and busted because of it.

But I have altered my prayer. I now pray that he helps us all — including you — to find peace, to build confidence and courage, to turn around this terrible attitude of global pessimism that my life has embodied.

Just remember, when things start getting better again — it started with me.

Mike Finley
Saint Paul

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