Beast Mode, Part 2

[Sigh]

I did so well at first! Then the evil mistress Myoclonus showed up and that was all she wrote. I decided to do my fast last weekend as Kim was out of town so it would just be me and my grim determination to not touch any of the food in the kitchen. And, again, by the end of the second day, my willpower was nothing but a sniveling heap of defeat.

6:00 A.M. Saturday: Woke up today feeling pretty good, though physically exhausted from my workout on Friday. Wasn’t tempted to eat and had my espresso (no coconut oil) and promptly took my dog to the dog park. After about an hour there, I put Zimmer back in his crate and tackled the poison ivy with both arms. Not literally of course. See, we have had a poison ivy problem in the backyard since I moved into this house, so much so that the very first time I did a bunch of yard work last summer, I did so in sandals and no shirt. At the time, I didn’t even know what poison ivy was, so I attacked the vines that were growing up onto the porch and all around the fences with gusto, not knowing what those vines were but determined to make a good impression with Kim regarding my zeal in housekeeping so she would have no choice but to keep me around.

Poison ivy just looks ornery. The leaves are bristly and don’t resemble their innocuous cousin vines that also grow around the perimeter of the backyard and are kind of pretty and are benevolent. Poison ivy is the vegetative equivalent of my childhood bully, bearing a smile like the rapist in Deliverance but masking the malicious, acrimonious havoc that lies within the oil on its leaves, bent on inflicting suffering for its own amusement (Wow, when I started that analogy, I meant it loosely, but that really is how that bully looked and acted, right down to the shit-eating grin he bore with every taunt.) That first time, I was laid up for 3 days with hives covering every inch of skin that had been exposed during that first match. Poison ivy comes up underneath the deck and winds up the lattice work and onto the deck itself. So, this time, in 90-degree heat, I dawned long sleeves, an old pair of khaki pants and hiking boots, pried loose the nails holding the lattice work on the deck and Roundup-ed the crap out of the roots under the deck. Then I took off my hazmat suit and, in my underwear and hiking boots, vacuumed up the ivy oil off the floor and carpet because I had neglected to put clean flip-flops at the back door so I wouldn’t track said ivy oil into the house. I then showered and me and the Z laid on the couch and I caught a little nap.

1:45 P.P. Woke up from the nap and was ravenous. My friend Mitch was hosting a poetry workshop yesterday afternoon, so I got ready for that and while I did, my tummy had a vicious argument with my brain. It went like this –

Tummy: “Woohoo! Time for some post-nap grub!

Brain: “Nope. We’re going out for a while, so you don’t get food. Maybe tonight [Keep in mind, I had no intention of eating tonight, but I had to tell Tummy something so he’d shut up.]

Tummy: Bologna. I’m hungry now. And not the usual hungry. Not even “hangry.” I haven’t had any food since Thursday so YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT TO ME.

Brain: Sorry buddy. We’re leaving now. Maybe later.

Tummy: [Sulking and kicking an imaginary can down the road] Fine. I’ll just eat your liver.

Went to the poetry workshop and saw a man I haven’t seen in 20 years. We used to be drinking buddies in high school and my friend Mitch who I lived with for over a year after the ¾ house (a gesture I will be forever grateful for and even tried to thank him by setting his kitchen on fire) told me he was back in the Program and, according to him, this time for real. It was great to see this Mitch and we exchanged contact info. Then I came home. While I was out, the tortilla chips, ice cream, cheese sauce and peanut butter had a meeting with Tummy and Brain via Skype:

Tortilla Chips: Phew! Thank God. Me and ice cream thought we’d lost you guys!

Brain: Of course you didn’t lose us. And he’s still not eating you.

Cheese Sauce: But you don’t understand! He’ll DIE without me!

Tummy: He won’t die without cheese sauce.

Ice Cream: What about me?!? I’ll go bad if he doesn’t eat me!

Brain: It takes weeks for anything to get freezer burn. You won’t go bad.

Ice Cream: What’s freezer burn?

Brain: I don’t know. But his girlfriend says you shouldn’t eat things with freezer burn.

Ice Cream: What does she know? She throws out food if it’s more than 6 hours old.

Yummy: True. But he’s still not eating you.

Peanut Butter: Look, don’t listen to the others. They’re loaded with carbs and sugar and preservatives. But me? You can eat me. I’m good for him!

Brain: The natural peanut butter behind you is better for him than you, Mr. Skippy. But you still both have sugar. Sugar will bring him out of ketosis.

All: What the hell is ketosis?

Brain: Not sure, but I hear its all the rage and it has something to with fasting and eating a lot of pumpkin seeds and squid. Nevermind. Look, the whole reason I’m making these dietary changes for him is because I have read how significantly what he eats effects how I work. He has to preserve the portion of his brain that’s left, so he needs to change his eating habits pretty dramatically. Sorry guys. You’ll have to wait until Monday when his fast is over.

And with that, me and the Z embarked on a 3-mile walk that left him exhausted and me hungry enough to eat a horse (that wasn’t an exaggeration. If you’d have slaughtered Secretariat and threw him down in front of me raw, I wouldn’t have thought twice.) My Tummy had a conversation with Brain:

Tummy: Okay, I’m dying over here. You’ve GOT to eat something or I’ll shrivel up.

Brain: You mean to a normal size so he can’t eat a whole cow and still be hungry?

Tummy: Look smartass, I got an idea. Just go to bed! When you wake up, it’ll be morning of day 3 and you’ll only have one day left. Piece of cake!

Brain: That’s a helluva an idea. I like it. Let’s do it.

9:24 P.M. – I put Z in his crate and bedded down for the night. I lay there more alert than usual because I wasn’t suffering from a food coma (another phrase I’ve come to hate.) Then, after about 45 minutes, the evil adversary Myoclonus showed up.

10:13 P.M. Imagine you’re drifting off for a well-deserved afternoon nap after a few hours of work in the morning or curling up for the night but you don’t drift off to sleep peacefully. Instead, you get a text from your girlfriend and Quagmire from Family Guy screams “Giggety, giggety, Gig-Ge-Ty” because that’s your ring tone and she’s asking if you’re still awake. You ignore it because you were almost asleep. You lay there for a few minutes before your legs, completely independent from the rest of your body,  start an involuntary river-dancing seizure every 30 seconds. I lay there for 10 minutes, knowing full well that if I went upstairs to get another Requip specifically for this neurological problem, the wheels would come off the wagon. And they did. And the wagon drove off a cliff into a tribe of Apaches waiting below to eat all the food in the wagon.

At 10:35 PM, I took another Requip (a medication for restless leg syndrome my doctor said might help with Myoclonus and did a little at first before I had to bump it up to 4x the recommended dose and it still wasn’t working) then, sheepishly, trudging into the kitchen where I consumed 10 Ritz crackers with butter, followed by the last of a bag of some healthy, no grain “tortilla chips” I had purchased at the natural foods store, but with about half a jar of cheese sauce I did not buy at the natural foods store but at the gas station (I guess I felt good about it because it wasn’t the little tin of fluorescent cheese sauce that doubles as fuel for the Airbus A320), and a handful of dry-roasted peanuts. By the time I was getting into the cheese sauce, I had thrown reason, logic and self-control completely out the window and had moved on to frozen blueberries drenched in extra virgin olive oil (Both on the Genius Foods list! Maybe! Shit, I don’t know. At this point I was dipping the Onion and Mustard Pretzel Chips in peanut butter and washing it down with kombucha because why not.)

After the feeding frenzy, I stumbled downstairs and crawled into bed. The next morning, I stumbled into the kitchen to see the wasteland of bags, wrappers and thawed blueberries on the floor and felt …

Just fine, actually. See, I had stepped on the scale right before the kitchen and it said …

194 lbs.

I haven’t weighed 194 lbs. ever. Not during puberty or football and swimming in high school or when I took up running in college or weight lifting after I got sober or when I ran the half-marathon two years ago. I haven’t weighed 194 lbs. EVER.

So, I calmly cleaned up the wreckage of the night before and took my dog to the park and indulged in a sensible breakfast of eggs, sausage and guacamole. Then I read for a little while, then weighed myself again and again the scale said 194. The next day was Monday, so I resumed my new habit of intermittent fasting and didn’t eat until after work that day, then weighed myself before bed. 196 pounds. Then, after a week of this routine, I weighed myself last Friday. 198 lbs. And 198 lbs. the next two days. So, as I suspected would happen, 2 days of fasting, then resuming my eating schedule as usual, and I’m within shouting distance of my target weight for my body type of 180 lbs. I have never felt this good about my weight in my adult life and I have found the secret to losing weight and keeping it off.

Want to know what it is? It will absolutely blow your mind. Here it comes …

Don’t eat so much.

Forget the dietary tips about more frequent, smaller meals so you are regulating your metabolism. Forget Weight Watchers and Atkins (although curbing your carb intake is definitely a good idea because despite what the FDA or USDA or any other federal bureau says, you don’t need carbs at all in your diet.) Forget low-fat diets and starving yourself. As many of the dietary gurus are saying these days, eat less and when you do eat, eat real food. You will suffer a few bouts of “hangry” when you think you’re supposed to be eating breakfast or lunch at first, but if you don’t indulge those cravings, your body will eventually thank you. You’ll feel better and, occasionally, you can even indulge in a sweet. Like 72% dark chocolate or a few spoonfuls of ice cream.

Maybe even a Lemon Oreo.

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Beast Mode, Part 1

So, the first attempt at a fast didn’t go so well. Somehow, I managed to talk myself into thinking a 2-day fast would be just fine, so around about 6 P.M. on the second day, I proceeded fix myself a small bowl of dry roasted peanuts sprinkled in E.V.O.O. (Extra virgin olive oil. It’s on the Genius Foods list, alright). I then proceeded to attack the refrigerator and gorged myself for almost 2 hours. I think I finally started to run out of steam when I polished off the last of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Revel ice cream and, searching for more, had half a frozen ham hanging out of my grill when Kim walked through the door. God bless her, she didn’t say anything and left me to gleefully dunk the ham in olive oil and watch Deadwood.

So today I started over, again with the goal of stringing together a three-day fast. I read an article recently by a guy who did a five-day fast and he detailed how he was doing at certain times of the day. So, I thought I would borrow the concept. Here goes:

6:00 P.M. Thursday night: I ate chicken breasts with garlic and onions and raw peanuts with salt and extra virgin olive oil (It’s on the Genius Foods list goddammit!) No carbs, sensible portions and no ice cream before bed. Went to bed feeling pretty good.

1:12 A.M.: In my usual smoker’s ritual, had one Oreo and half a cigarette before I realized how disappointed I was in myself (about the Oreo. I’ve been getting up in the middle of the night to smoke for 25 years fella, so don’t judge me.) Went to bed marginally miffed.

5:20 A.M.: Started the day with a full a cup of espresso with coconut oil. I was half-way through the cup before I realized that while coffee is beneficial in many ways (among them are diminished risk of developing diabetes, depression and heart disease, “stronger DNA”, whatever that means, and decreased risk of suicide. Of course, to get all these benefits, one needs to consume between 4-8 cups of coffee per day, leading me to conclude that if you get wired enough, you don’t eat so you don’t get depressed because you’re not fat anymore, you don’t have high blood sugar because you’re too busy to eat anyway and you’ll be passing along some rock star DNA to the 11 kids you will most likely spawn because you can’t sleep so you’re just having sex all night long. Sign. Me. Up.) the coconut oil counts as calories. So tomorrow, no coconut oil but still a Truvia because it contains no calories.

 

7:30 A.M. Started work by doing my stretches and deliberately not looking at the sign that listed the lunch items for the day as I walked past it at work. Not that the cafeteria at work has the best food (far from it, actually) but the first time I tried fasting I almost didn’t make it through the first day because curry chicken and turkey burgers were on the menu. I like neither curry chicken nor turkey burgers, but as any fat person will tell you, if an overweight person alters their eating habits just a little, even a little used motor oil drizzled over month-old Pop-Tarts starts to sound delectable.

8:43 A.M. : First hunger pangs of the day. Actually, I kind of enjoyed them as I felt my lemon water gurgling around with the espresso in my belly. Chewed on 2 pieces of Big Red gum, then checked the label. 2 grams of sugar alcohol and 10 calories per piece. Oh well, it’s gum. Even if I chewed up 13 pieces today (which I ended up doing) it’s still a lot better than usual, so I forgave myself that one. No gum tomorrow though. And I made the decision to go to the gym after work for a high-intensity work out. Ted Naiman M.D. wrote an article for the DietDoctor.com in which he said that one can speed up the process of building up your insulin resistance (pretty much the reason I’m fasting for three days in the first place) with a high intensity workout. I’m not sure if “high intensity” specifically means doing the elliptical machine until you’re seeing double followed by 3 sets each of shoulder presses, hack squats and inclined ab crunches, then capping it all off with 20 minutes in the sauna where you’re pretty sure the guy sitting across from you is blathering on about the local college football game yet is inexplicably doing so in fluent German (I think the fasting is already starting to get to me), but that’s what I took it to mean.

2:24 P.M.: My mind is trying to convince me to at least eat the organic avocados I bought this weekend otherwise they will spoil. Look, I have a vehement hatred of wasting food under any circumstances, but, well, I’m gonna have to just buy more organic avocados. See, the difference between the cunning things your mind tells you when your fasting as opposed to, say, quitting smoking is, well, if you keep smoking, you’ll die early. If you don’t eat, you’ll die Thursday. I want the avocados very much. However, I want the fame, fortune and fulfillment that writing a blog post about how bulletproof I am will ultimately lead to a lot more.

 

5:10 P.M.: Got home and immediately brewed myself another full cup of espresso, then went to the dog park for a photo shoot. With another boost of appetite suppressant in my system (no coconut oil this time) I felt great, although consuming any coffee that late in the day is always a crap shoot as it may very well lead to me waking up sporadically during the night (which it did.) Regarding the photo shoot, I’m going to be featured in the Brain Injury Alliance’s annual appeal letter to donors, so I wanted to be sharp and engaging with the photographer who I’ve never met in person. Put my best face forward and whatnot. The photo shoot went fine and when I was done, I went for the high-intensity workout I mentioned above. I went to the convenience store and was very proud of myself for walking right past the pizza and smoked cheddar dogs I’ve been known to indulge in (what did I say about judging? What did I tell you? WHAT DID I TELL YOU?) retrieved a Smart Water from the cooler and left.

7:44 A.M. this morning: Weighed in at 198 pounds. The only time I’ve weighed that little in my adult life is when I was training for a half-marathon 2 years ago and I registered that exact weight for about 20 minutes before I loaded up with pancakes and sausage.

So, as I write this, I lay on my couch and my stomach is making noises that the transmission on my ’75 Plymouth Valiant use to make. Today will be replete with meditation, taking Zimmer to the dog park, more meditation, exploring some new computer software, and still more meditation and probably another trip to the gym for some minor cardio and weight lifting. That should keep me busy enough that I don’t focus on food at all today. Or I may very well be blowing $50 on skeeball at Dave and Busters by 9:45 P.M. tonight only because the food there sucks and I can’t sleep because of the 17 cups of espresso I drank through the day.. I’m doing this solo with only my dog to keep me company otherwise, I’m apt to slip. I’ll check back in with you tonight, dear reader. Pray for me. And the Oreos.

Getting a handle on my handles

When I was in grade school, there was a kid who always played Four Square with me and my “friends.” I use quotation marks because I was arguably the most socially inept, chubby, awkward kid at St. Dymphna’s Elementary School and I’m pretty sure the kids that allowed me to sits at their lunch table and glom on to them at recess did so purely because somebody has to be the biggest loser in any social group and I dutifully filled that role. “St. Dymphna” wasn’t the actual name of the school, by the way, but Conor Oberst used the name in one of his song titles and I love the song, so I borrowed it. St. Dymphna, if you were wondering (I’m betting you weren’t) was the daughter of a pagan Irish king who eventually murdered her. This stands in the face of everything I thought I knew about the Irish, who I remain convinced were Catholic even before Christ and were just waiting around for thousands of years for a viable excuse to saddle themselves with guilt and drunken rage. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of mental disorders, neurological disorders, runaways, depression and anxiety, which makes her my kind of girl (the mental disorders, neurological disorders, depression and anxiety devotions anyway. Although who knows, even at 42 years old I guess it’s possible I could still run away from home, although Kim would probably tell me to just make sure I come back with the type of milk she likes and chicken egg rolls). This one kid, we’ll call him Brett, singled me out every single time I stepped into the first square in Four Square and devoted himself to either scooping the rubber ball ever so slightly into my square so I couldn’t play it or hammering down the ball so hard that I would stagger back and play it from the cheap seats where the girls had their jump-ropes going (I have no idea if this thought is really accurate. I suspect the girls were up to something and my brain goes to the things school girls do like hopscotch or jump-rope of some other such thing. They may very well have been performing Shakespeare or welding for all I know. It’s not important for the purposes of this excruciating childhood memory.) Brett also called me “Lard Ass” all the time. I wasn’t too heavy and there were kids at the school who were fatter, but Brett singled me out and even told me he only called me “Lard Ass” because he knew it bothered me. Well, Brett, it did. So much so that when in high school, when I heard that your dad died of a heart attack, I was secretly gleeful. Then I proceeded to feel horrible about feeling gleeful and have carried that dark shameful secret into adulthood. Anyway, I carried the scars of Brett and others’ fat-shaming into my 37th year when, after I got sober, I started running and going to the gym religiously, and on into my 41st year when I ran a half-marathon and on into this week.

 

What’s happening this week you ask? I have always been good at fitness and exercise on the front end. It’s the eating right and not indulging in all the crap that’s terrible for me on the back end. I’m almost done with Genius Foods, a book about the evils of the typical Western diet and its obsession with refined sugar and refined carbs and “healthy” grains that aren’t in fact that healthy for you. Because of decades of indulging in this diet, I have chronically high blood sugar. It usually ranges between 115-140 but has been known to spike higher than that on a particular junk food-y day. So, this week, I am embarking on a fast. My goal is to string together a full 3-day fast. That’s precisely 72 hours. I had my last bite of ice cream last night at about 10 PM, so by the 72-hour marker, I am due to eat again at 10 PM on Wednesday. But since I go to bed at 9 PM, that sets the next window I can eat at Thursday morning, which means at around 6 AM on that day, I will be ending an 80-hour fast by, presumably, frying up a spinach/sharp cheddar cheese/sausage/peanut butter/Oreo/Quarter Pounder with Cheese omelet with a healthy dollop of guacamole because its on the Genius Foods list. Extra virgin olive oil is also on the Genius Foods list, so I’ll probably drench the omelet with oil and throw some chocolate chips on that bitch too because with the advent of chocolate chip pancakes, it is now somehow a breakfast food.

I am half-way through the 20th hour of my first day of the fast as I write this and I’m doing pretty well. I have yet to have a hunger pang, I assume because my body is telling my brain, “Well yeah, dipstick. We got 21 pounds of stockpiled chewed bubble gum down here to try to make some fuel out of.” I guess that’s why I have never understood and kind of resent the whole “hangry” phenomenon. In the back of my mind, I remain convinced that even the term “hangry” is a stupid concept invented by overfed Americans who happen to get a little testy when they don’t get their Cheetos.

 

Alright, maybe I’m getting a little testy.

I imagine the first real test will be tomorrow at noon when I take my lunch break. I can get a free lunch at work, and I hear their having grilled steak fajitas.

So, if you’re the praying sort, put in a good word that I don’t Hulk out and cast wheelchairs asunder to get to the front of the line and don’t suffocate drowning my face in an  aluminum serving tray of brown rice,