Since my first training session with Marcella Piersol about four weeks ago, I’ve lost about seven pounds.
“You don’t need to lose any weight! You’re already skinnnnny!”
“You don’t need to lose any weight! You’ve got a high metaaaaaaabolism!”
Check out Kristy Morrow’s photo sequence of my stomach jiggling on my top tube and get back to me, okay?
An inconvenient truth
The only way to lose weight is through eating less. Period. You can exercise ’til you’re blue in the face, you can buy the low-fat, the non-fat, the nega-fat, but if you want to get rid of what’s hanging out around your gut, you’re gonna have to diet.
And if you want to keep it off you’re going to have to diet.
And you’re going to have to do it the rest of your life.
Now, if that seems daunting, you can console yourself that every fucking minute in between meals from now until the day you die the only thing you’ll be thinking about is food, because once the first couple of pounds come off, hunger kicks in.
I don’t mean hunger as in “Hey, honey, are you hungry? Let’s go get dinner!” hungry.
I mean, “I will kill anything and do anything to anyone in order to eat.” I mean hungry as in “If something hamburger-like doesn’t find its way between my teeth here shortly I will die. And rather than die I would prefer that you die.”
This, folks, is dieting. And why it’s doomed to fail. And why people who remain rail thin who deny that they’re starving are fucking liars. All of ’em.
The human reaction to starvation
We all know that the human body evolved to adapt to starvation. That’s why we bounce back so quickly from most nutritional deficits. It’s also why the other end of the spectrum, nutritional excess, is so devastating: our bodies don’t know how to cope with it.
What we also know, thanks to the scientific project/art installation/weird PR stunt known as Biosphere 2, is that when people are forced to live on greatly restricted diets, they thrive. They get really skinny. They get cranky. And all systems function at their absolute optimal peak.
In my case, the Wanky Diet meant cutting back a bunch and combining my regular biking with 45-min to 1-hour sessions at the gym. “Wanky at the Gym” is a new sitcom, by the way, where a weak and tweezly elderly fellow nearly kills himself doing things like sit-ups, and that crazy-ass thing I saw that hot chick do on a YouTube workout video where you put your hands on the floor and balance your feet on a giant exercise ball and then flex your legs, which is supposed to strengthen your core but in fact shoots the giant ball across the gym and hits the old lady with the pink dumbbells and smashes your knees so fucking hard against the cement floor that it takes your breath away and leaves these huge contusions that hurt so bad you can hardly walk.
Functioning at optimal capacity
Within a couple of days I had gone from hungry to Code Red. Code Red occurs when every organ in your body sends a continual message to your brain that says “Eat a hamburger now or you will die. You just passed another In ‘N Out, you stupid fucker.”
At first I was like, “I’m not even that crazy about hamburgers,” but after a couple more days had passed I will swear to you that everyone and everything looked like a hamburger. That nasty sweaty dude with the droopy bosom on the NPR? Hamburger. That glass in the road? Hamburger. The gas pump? Hamburger.
This kind of intense and relentless hunger was new to me. I’d gotten glimpses of it before but had always quashed the hunger with…a hamburger. Now I was all in. I had sworn a blood oath that I would live on a restricted calorie diet such that I was in continual starvation mode for the rest of my life or until I cratered or until dinner, whichever came first.
By Week 2, or Week 3, although I’d lost the ability to count, I noticed that my faculties were indeed sharper. Work that had languished on my desk in the DIL pile (Do It Later) got done, and it got done right, and it got done right the first time.
I was finishing up morning rides and hitting the office ready for work because the sooner I got through the morning the sooner I’d get to eat lunch. I was finishing weekend rides and feeling eager for more activity, because the sooner I was done with my activities the sooner I could eat. Every single day, with only one or two exceptions, I was getting in some kind of routine in the gym, although they had banned me from the giant exercise ball. The gym was fun and exciting, because the sooner I finished my workout the sooner I’d get to have lunch or dinner.
All good diets come to an end
Weighing in at a consistent 158 lbs., I felt that there was nowhere to go but down. Suddenly, 150 lbs. was doable. And why stop there? Why not give Konsmo a run for his money, and strip all the way down to 140? I’d conquered the hardest part of dieting, which is the realization that for the rest of my life I would be completely miserable, and everyone in my family would look like a hamburger. To put the final nail in the coffin, a phone conversation yesterday with a high school buddy went like this:
Him: You know, the older you get, the fewer pleasures there are in life.
Him: And you don’t want as many things as you used to.
Him: Life’s more complicated in some ways, but it’s a heck of a lot simpler, too.
Him: As long as you can have a good, satisfying, filling meal twice a day, you know the kind of meal that really fills your belly, life’s perfect.
Me: Fuck off.
For the record, I did the NPR this morning on a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. Skinny milk in the coffee, no butter on the toast. At work I made it through to four o’clock with nothing but an apple and a tiny PBS. From five to six I frightened people at the gym.
By dinnertime I was so faint with hunger that all I could do was lie in bed and moan, “Honey, is dinner ready yet?”
When she finally said “Yes,” I made it to the table on all fours. Of course, the table looked like a hamburger. Even the dinner, which was spaghetti with meat sauce, looked like a hamburger. But she had piled the plate so high that after I’d gotten halfway through, it started to look like what it was.
I hit the magic “STOP” point, where I knew that anything more would wreck my lifelong diet. I ploughed on. Through the spaghetti mountain. Through the salad forest. Through the yogurt bowl with fruit. Through the strong black coffee.
And for the first time in memory, my hunger was banished. Here’s hoping it never comes back.