Monday, June 13, 2011

A familiar story

Nine months ago, as I bent down to tuck in a bedsheet, I felt my spine shift. Nothing happened for a moment, and then an intense need to sit down took over. It was a sudden fatigue, which I’d never felt till then. But when I sat down, the spine felt all wrong, like it had jerked the wrong way. It wasn’t the first time this had happened. In late 2009, I bent down to pick up my baby, twisting slightly as I lifted her, when something just popped and I ended up loping over to the bed in a monkey walk, using my knuckles for support, while the kid just laughed at the sight.

The first time, I didn’t know what a slipped disc was. The second time, I was just annoyed with myself. The recurrence of an injury born of laziness points to a host of other problems, the most damning of which is: how the fuck can you not learn from your mistakes? After the first occurrence, I learned a few things as trivia. Tall men are at greater risk (I’m 6-2). A slip disc puts you at risk for another one. And here’s one I figured out quickly: posture is everything.

Both incidents were followed by intense periods of abstinence, where the foods I loved were shunned for healthier alternatives. Biscuits, bread, sweets, colas, chips, chocolate, and every other kind of packaged goodie were let go off. Even without exercise, my weight dropped dramatically. People say a quick reduction of weight plays havoc with your body, but I reasoned that I had it good both ways. Healthy eating, and only healthy eating, had meant that by the end of the second week, my weight, which had held steadily at 103kg in the first week, plunged to 96. I had crossed this mark in 2004, aged 25. By the end of my third week, I had touched 93. After a month, 91. For two weeks that’s where it stayed. No matter. I went to town with it.

In the weeks after, here’s what happened. It started with a little harmless craving. One chip. One sip. A biscuit. Why not. It was only one. I have no freaking idea when it went from just one to entire packets of the stuff. My drawer at work was piled up with Good Day, Parle-G, Bourbon, Maska-Chaska and assorted heart-killers. Belts became tighter again. Feel-good trousers returned to storage. I watched them go but I knew they would only be gone temporarily. I wasn’t saying goodbye. I was saying we’ll meet again.

In the meantime, I ballooned. 103. 104. 105. 106. 107.

Then it happened a second time. What could anyone say? At some point you give up the excuses. Something was inherently wrong in this relationship with food. I had found junk food liberating. To realize that my reasons for eating were all wrong was liberating too.

In the months that came, I exercised and saw my back curve the way it did when I played cricket actively a dozen years ago. Three sets of twenty leg raises, circles, on-my-back-cycling, and crunches, in combination with good eating, pulled me down to 93.

And then I fell for the myth of diet chips. That was a mistake.

So here I stand, on the verge of another mistake, my weight slightly less than 100.

A few points to start me off on this...this big loser thing:

- Good health is not going to happen easily. It requires active participation.

- The path to good health needs to feel like fun, not a daily trudge.

- Small goals might work, but I need to address my abusive relationship with food. How should I do this?

- More importantly, what keeps pulling me back to this weight? Does this feel normal? Does being slim feel special, like dressing up for a night out?

It could be simple. But for some reason it isn’t. I’ve accepted that there is an inherent problem. That’s step one, right?

Through the course of my big loser campaign, I’ll keep a daily diary of things eaten and exercises done. But in addition, I’ll write about food, and memory, and the things we do for food.

I’ve got to hit 80 by November 13. Wish me luck.

Ps. No, I haven’t done anything yet. After this post it’s time for breakfast.

Ps2. Re-reading this post, I should have started it with "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned". Jesus Christ. This is going to be embarrassing.