148: Don't try this at home

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I got home yesterday, showered, and stood on the scales. 148.

So I re-stood. 148.

Then I re-stood again. 148.

There seems to be a 5-lb. variation band throughout the day. Yesterday morning it was 151; after dinner it went up to 153. Sometimes it seems like a marching band. But even if it was just for the hour and a half before dinner, I finally hit the 140’s.

That’s really fucked up

I’m 6’1″. This gave me a BMI of 19.5, squarely in the last column on the chart before you drop off from “skinny as shit” and onto “UN Famine Relief Program.”

Why do it?

The subtitle above should suggest part of the reason. People who obsess over their weight until it drops into this category are all fucked up, except for me, of course. I’m normal.

What began as a simple desire to shave off a swelling midriff degenerated into a mind-over-matter diet that has shorn about twenty pounds from my frame. I can’t tell you if it’s been worth it, but I can tell you what it’s like.

Switching to survival

If I wanted to weigh less, I would eat less. Pretty simple, right?

It’s not that simple. The minute I told myself that it was time to cut back, my entire body revolted…on a cellular level. I went from living an ordinary life where each day was an ebb and flow of eating whatever I wanted, to a bizarre life where the only thing I could think about was food.

Your body is programmed to survive, and even thinking about denying it sustenance triggers overwhelming hunger. The bad news? It never, ever went away. The worse news? The hunger got worse the more I lost. That’s all as it should be; the word “diet” spells “die” with the first three letters for a reason.

This whole process took less than six weeks. It has been an ordeal beyond any description, which is why it’s so awesome. Normally to create this type of epic adventure it takes rain, cold, wind, bad roads, and 120+ miles with lots of climbing. The key components of this home-based radical, unhealthy, bizarre, and masochistic weight loss were as follows: Hunger suppression, mental distraction, and portion reduction.

Hunger suppression

No mind is strong enough to override the body’s command to eat. Hunger is the strongest sensation there is. If we were to compare its power with the other huge human drive, hunger is to sex what truth is to FOX News. So I had to suppress the hunger. The best way to do this would have been chain smoking cigarettes along with some mixture of meth, crack, amphetamines, or narcotics. Since none of these seemed compatible with the Donut Ride or NPR (for long, anyway), I went with the weakest, yet cheapest and most easily obtained suppressant: Caffeine.

Continual caffeine in the form of coffee or tea was a must. There was no other way to suppress the screaming, raging, overwhelming, mind-altering hunger that shrieked at me without rest from the instant I chose to diet, even before I’d turned away the first jelly-filled donut.

I now know that any diet promising to alleviate hunger, unless it includes a serious chemical hunger suppressant, is a lie. I went from three small cups of coffee a day to seven or eight large cups of the blackest, nastiest, bitterest brew I could make, with strong green tea in between.

Mental distraction

Caffeine was not enough, though. Even though the sharpest, most awful edge of the hunger razor was slightly blunted by copious quantities of coffee and tea, hunger was far too powerful to be put off with a few cups of hot water strained through burnt beans.

Since in my daily life there was food everywhere, the only way I could keep from caving to biology was to busy myself  with a physical activity that would take my mind off the awful hunger. This was a radically different concept from using exercise to lose weight. Rather, was the recognition that unless my hands were employed in some physical activity, they were going to grab the edges of the nearest cheeseburger and shove it down my throat.

Cycling helped to a degree, but there was a limit to how much I could ride my bike, particularly when the lack of food had me moving around on my hands and knees. This was where the gym helped. I got tiny workout benefits, and toned up some of the looser parts of my anatomy, but for the most part the gym was a place where I could do something besides eat and besides thinking about eating.

I began going to the gym almost every day, even after pedaling home from work, as the hour or so between arrival and dinner was a deadly time period for massive eating. By staying occupied at the gym, even if it meant doing curls with 5-lb. pink dumbbells, I was distracted from food. Without this type of distraction, hunger would have won out and forced me to be healthy and normal. Only by artificially distracting myself was I able to stay committed to this path of physical and mental collapse.

Portion reduction

If I thought that hunger suppression was hard, and if I thought that dragging butt off to the gym when I was so hungry I could barely stand was hard, the truly hard part was harder still: Portion reduction. You’ll notice I’ve not included exercise anywhere in this regimen, even though I happen to cycle. It’s because I didn’t think I could really grind myself into a stick-like wraith of skin and veins with exercise. The key, and by far the most challenging and miserable and awful and dreadful and essentially impossible part of this process, was portion reduction.

Portion reduction was the hardest part for several reasons. First, most people don’t control what gets doled out on their plate because they either eat out, or someone prepares their food for them, or they eat prepared meals that already have the portion parceled out.

Second, even if you do control what goes on your plate, you’re almost certainly surrounded by other people who are hell-bent on relishing the only happy thing left in life after age 40, i.e. eating. These normal people (or enablers) will pile their plate high while you’ve allotted just the right amount, and before long you’ll be eating off their plate, or they’ll be sharing. Happens every time.

Third, you probably drink. Booze is caloric, but more importantly, it forces you to let down your diet guard. Boom! The buzz hits and you’re inhaling like a vacuum cleaner.

You can forget exercising off the fat

It won’t work. There aren’t enough hours in the day to burn off a bagful of burgers. I’ve ridden less and exercised less throughout this entire nasty ordeal and it’s worked. Just think about the times that you go out and do a century, then top it off with a huge lunch and beer. Fact is, you didn’t burn that much in six hours, and a casual glance at any pack of century riders will confirm that whatever they’re doing, “riding it off” isn’t it.

A manorexic retrospective

So, has it all been worth it? Nope. No way. Life has become a jaw-grinding time trial until the next meal.

Observations:

  1. I’ve become picky about what I eat. Very little junk except for coffee. Haagen-Dasz isn’t junk food, right?
  2. My recovery on the bike has vastly improved.
  3. I climb better. Today on VdM I chased down some dude in his 60’s with hairy legs, panniers, and a triple, then dropped him.
  4. Suits, slacks, and dress shirts are no longer unpleasantly choking my parts.
  5. Every single bite of sustenance is a foodgasm.
  6. I’m on hyper alert virtually all the time, except when I’m fainting from hunger, which is any time I sit down.
  7. People who are overweight aren’t there because they lack willpower. They’re fighting biology in a life-death struggle, and biology has all the weapons.
  8. People consume far more than they need, unabashedly.
  9. Gym people are just as weird as bike people, and not nearly as much fun. No one at the gym wants to be tiny.
  10. Saying that you’re going to lose weight is a throwdown, like saying you’re going to take the sprint. Everyone’s secretly rooting for you to lose, you big mouth.
  11. Advice sausages of both genders love to tell you to eat more. Funny how they never told me to eat less.
  12.  Extreme, rapid weight loss can’t be good for you. Can it?
  13. This kind of obsessiveness is a short jump to anorexia and death, so travel the path with care.
  14. Constant hunger is mentally debilitating, even though it paradoxically makes you more alert.
  15. I can ride longer, farther, and faster on less food than I could before.
  16. Skinnier isn’t happier. Corollary: Neither is fatter.
  17. Everyone thinks I’m crazy(er).
  18. Your body quickly adapts to malnutrition.
  19. I don’t need a huge breakfast, lunch, or dinner in order to ride a hundred miles, but all of the above make it much more fun.
  20. Losing weight takes a few weeks. Keeping it off takes a lifetime.
  21. The morning log quickly becomes a twig.

I’d write more, but it’s time for some (more) strong coffee. It is, after all, another sixteen hours ’til lunch.

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