Saturday, January 10, 2009

Me, My Own Worst Enemy

I could sound off a litany of "excuses" as to why I got fat and didn't try to lose weight sooner. But most of those reasons lay right at my feet. Here are some of my more notable offenses:

1. Self-delusion:
  • I saw myself thinner than I really was. I was careful to only show pictures from the shoulder up, and always at an unrealistic angle. If I didn't look fat in a picture then I couldn't be fat. When other people took pictures of me (especially full-body shots) and I looked fat, I told myself the photos were just taken at the wrong angle, or in the wrong lighting.

    For example, here's me to the left. I thought I looked good. It might have something to do with the fact that most of me was hiding behind a sign:

Here's a more accurate picture of me taken later that night:

  • Working out gave me license to still eat bad food. I figured I could eat what I want since I burned off some calories. Inherent in this mindset was the assumption that I was burning a lot of calories. I wasn't.
  • I blamed clothing designers for ill-fitting clothes. If I couldn't fit into a size 16, it was because the designers sized their clothes too small. When I reached my peak fattiness, I could barely squeeze on a pair of size 20 Old Navy pants. I blamed Old Navy. I still remember spending hours on the internet searching for "undersizing" and "H & M" on Google. Eventually, I stopped shopping for clothes altogether. The conspiracy amongst the various clothing retailers was just too widespread.
  • Skipping meals saved me calories. Wrong. Not only did it screw with my metabolism, skipping breakfast (and sometimes lunch) only made me eat larger quantities of higher calorie foods later in the day. I failed to realize that my body needed to burn energy earlier in the day.
  • Issue avoidance. I didn't count calories and--despite having the internet tools readily at my disposal--didn't even bother to research the amount of calories I needed to burn to lose weight. I also avoided getting on the scale, instead insisting that the real measurement of weight loss was how my body fit in clothes. That obviously didn't work. See previous item.
2. Smoking. One would think that smoking would actually help keep the weight down, acting as an appetite suppressant. That's a big fat fallacy. Smoking kept me from getting a meaningful workout, as I tired out too quickly and wasn't getting enough oxygen. Smoking also fucked with my metabolism. I was either too wired or too tired, due to the nicotine and the roller coaster blood pressure it caused. It wasn't until about 3 months after I quit smoking that I started to feel somewhat "normal" again.

3. Drinking. This could also be characterized as another self-delusion, since I tricked myself into thinking that alcohol couldn't have many calories because it isn't a food item. Still, it's so important that it needs its own category. Alcohol has a gazillion calories. One 12 oz bottle of Labatt Blue beer has over 150 calories; a glass of Pinot Grigio wine (4 oz) has about 115 calories. Just a few of these drinks is enough to constitute a whole other meal. Given that I had, on average, about 4-5 drinks a night, that adds up quickly. My workouts didn't burn off all of the calories I was drinking (much less eating). No wonder I wasn't losing weight. No wonder I was fat.

There are, of course, more reasons, but these were the main culprits. My weight loss didn't start until I faced and corrected my delusions, quit smoking and cut out the drinking. Things naturally fell into place after that.

Of course, I still harbor some delusions. For example, I am prone to thinking that if I just keep exercising the same way, I will still lose weight. That's not true, as I need to step up my workouts to get over this plateau.

This is definitely a work in progress. But, at least recognizing some of the issues and becoming more self-aware is an important step in the right direction.

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