Thoughts From a (Not So) Bloated Boy

In recent months, I’ve changed my attitude towards food. Instead of eating out of boredom, or because I wanted a temporary sugar rush, I now only eat when I feel the urge, ie. when I am hungry. Sounds like a simple concept, right? Probably because it really is.

Lately, when I feel those pangs of hunger, I don’t seek out Mars bars or a bottle of Coke. Instead, I munch on cranberries and almonds and I drink more water than a basking shark. And guess what? I feel better, and I look better too. In six weeks I’ve dropped 7kg, or about 15lbs. I’ve still got a ways to go, but so far so good! When I look down, I can now see my genitals, which is a plus and something I haven’t been able to do since the turn of the Millennium.

And I’ve done this with two things: diet and exercise. I keep a food diary now, and try to aim for no more than 1,800 calories a day. I go over on some days, but if I average it out over a week I’m generally able to keep it close to that target intake. I’m not obsessive with it; I just want to be accountable for what I put in my body. And I exercise pretty much every day now. I use resistance bands, a spin bike and a kettle bell. Plus I play basketball once a week for a couple of hours.

I’ve found that not only am I looking and feeling better, my mood has improved and leveled out. The swings are nowhere near as extreme as they were.

It’s a strange thing. When I was a teenager, I was very skinny. At 16 for example, I weighed about 53kg (117lbs). I was probably about 5’6” or 5’7” at the time (I’m now a touch over 6’0”). All I wanted at the time was to be bigger, much like the yearning Tom Hanks felt in the 1988 opus Big. I was huge into wrestling back then, and wanted to be big and imposing like my spandex clad heroes. But I didn’t have much going for me in the genetics department. Our family are just not big people. To this day, my dad might be 60kg soaking wet! My brother is 5’6” and probably 150lbs if he’s lucky. I had to accept that I’d always be smaller than average. Right after I graduated high school, I shot up to the height I am today, but my puny body didn’t fill out. My friends all joined a local gym, so I did too. I enjoyed the weight training and the pretty girls in elasticated clothing. I also got bigger. A lot bigger. By the time I was 21, I weighed 80kg and was well-toned to boot. I went to the gym constantly and played basketball as often as possible. My mode of transport was a bicycle. My whole life revolved around being active and exercising. I was fit.

Then, I got older…

Soon, I stopped going to the gym as often, and when I did, I drove to and fro. Same with basketball. Before long, I was playing ball more on the X-Box than in real life. I bought a home gym, consisting of a bench, some dumbbells and  skipping rope, but they soon gathered dust in the garage. It was around this time that I met my wife-to-be. I still had my decent physique, so she was enjoying cuddling up to a well-built athletic type every night. But it all soon turned to mush.

The downward spiral was so gradual that I barely noticed. When I looked in the mirror, I tricked myself into believing that the reflected image was someone other than me. I couldn’t possibly have a pot belly or the beginnings of cleavage! That’s absurd! I stopped exercising altogether, complaining that my busy life didn’t permit me to find the time to do it. It was a cop-out, and I knew it. I had to make the time. But it was always something I was going to do tomorrow.

The final straw was one day when I went down to the park with my daughter. She patted my belly and simply said, “big”. One simple word cut through me like the sharpest of blades. She was right, of course. I had gotten big. She’s now out of the will, naturally, but I can’t fault her innocent honesty. But it was like a switch had been flicked, right there in that moment. I resolved to turn my life around, now or never. I decided to rid myself of the harmful things in my life. I cut out junk food completely. No fast food, no potato chips, no soda, no chocolate. I don’t miss any of it, not even a bit. I quit my stressful, unsatisfying office job. A job where I sat at a chair every day, staring at a computer screen. Such an unhealthy profession. Plus, my boss was an asshat. I felt so good on that last day. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

As I said, I’ve still got a long way to go. But I’m finally heading in the right direction, and for the first time in a very long time, I feel positive about the direction that my life is taking. Not bad for the eternal pessimist.