Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Before and After

Every few days, a Facebook "Timeline Memory" reminds me how fat I used to be. It's as if they want to keep me sufficiently ashamed of my past overindulgences. Which is a stupid reaction on my part because I don't own a time machine (I'm waiting for one to go on sale!). Even if I did, the conversation with my younger self would go as follows.

"Look at how sexy and ripped you become! You should start right now and get sexy and ripped even sooner!" Now-me would exclaim excitedly.

"Oh sweet! You must get even more gorgeous ladies than I do!" Replies younger-me.

"Well... No. I exercise too much to have time for dating. I actually met way more women... Um, when I was you," I'd reply, rubbing my scalp. "But look at these shredded abs!"

"Hmm, but with all the exercise you do, you probably get to eat tons of pizza and drink tons of scotch!" He'd say, throwing me a bone.

"Well I... er, quit drinking. But yeah! I eat tons of pizza! I mean, I have to starve myself for a few days to save up the calories first. And I kind of hate myself aftewards. But you know, totally! Pizza!"


"You're at least, like, happier, right?" He'd say, trying really hard to understand the benefit.

"Uuuuuh, I kinda had to make myself insane. And now I battle that insanity on a daily basis. Like.... trying to not be too crazy... But crazy enough to keep exercising every single day. Does that make sense? But like, you're not totally happy all the time either, right?"

"What are you talking about? Did you forget? I ride around on my motorcycle all day, then I come home and eat a giant bowl of cereal or whatever the heck I want for dinner, then I invite a bunch of friends over and we drink beer and whiskey in front of the fireplace. Then some of them start playing music and we end up staying up all night and I call in to work sick the next day. My life is amazing."

"Oh dear lord I want to be fat again!" I weep.

I want to be fat and happy like younger-me!

This post just backfired on me.

I'm not saying I want to go back to that point in my life. I mean, parts of it were pretty cool. But the stuff younger-me said above were the highlights, kind of like the pics on Facebook which only show the good stuff in your life. When one of those memories pops up, it makes me think, "man, why did I ever stop doing that? I had so much fun."

My memory sucks.

That's why I try not to second guess my decisions. I made the hard choices and jumped on this painful and difficult journey for a reason. If I was generous I could say younger-me was more carefree. But really he was just stupid. And if I think about it for more than a second, I don't envy him anymore.

The joy of eating a bag of potato chips only lasted a few minutes. That gut was hanging off me all the time. The euphoria of being drunk lasted maybe a few hours. The hangover lasted half the next day and the general lethargy a couple days past that. The joy of throwing a party and having a bunch of people laughing in my house lasted an evening. The loneliness from knowing that I only saw most of those folks at parties lasted much longer.

I may not have the same peaks as often anymore (except when I conquer another hard race, or pick 500 pounds up off the floor). But I also don't have those big valleys. And I'm not constantly yoyoing between the two at an ever-increasing amplitude. What I'm going for now is health, strength, satisfaction, and pride in myself. Things that last.

Hernias last too, ya know!

I can't eat pride. I can't get drunk off of pride. I'm not going to get a bunch of frivolous attention because of pride. But I tell you what, that feeling, that dignity and self-respect... nothing gets close to it.

And that's what I wouldn't be able to explain to younger-me. That's why I couldn't travel back in time to convince younger-me to change (ignoring the scientific impossibility). It's something I had to learn purely through experience. And it's something I know deep down inside. Even when I put it into words, like I'm trying to do here, most folks will go, "wow!", and then eat a doughnut.

You see a lot of Before-and-After photos online. Most of them are lies: Advertising. A few of them are true. And a very tiny number stay true.

Many many people want to lose weight. Dieting is a $60 billion industry. But despite the fact that more and more people are trying to lose weight, the obesity epidemic in this country is only getting worse. And the vast majority of folks - 95%, maybe even higher - who lose weight gain it back. That's bad enough that many would say, don't even bother. Some doctors say that losing weight and then gaining it back over and over is actually worse for you than just not trying at all.

That sounds pretty grim. And the statistics are pretty terrible. And I don't care. I don't care if 99% of people fail to stay at a healthy weight. As long as I'm in the 1% that do. For comparison, only half of one percent of the U.S. population has completed a marathon. So I'm no stranger to breaking the odds. Do you know what percent of people have broken a red house brick with their hands? I don't, but I imagine it's microscopic. And it's very very hard to do. And I've done it.

This hurt a lot.

I mentioned near the top, only half jokingly, that I had to make myself insane in order to keep exercising and to maintain a low body fat percentage. That's true. I've become obsessed with turning myself into a person that I can respect and love. Is that unhealthy? I don't think so.

And it's an addiction I intend to keep feeding for as long as I can. I mean feeding metaphorically. Metaphorical food has zero calories.

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