Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lament of a formerly skinny guy.

I spent the first 20 years of my life being rail thin. If you can, in general, divide your geek stereotype into two broad categories--overly fat dudes and rail-thin string beans--I was firmly in the latter camp. ( I also had bright red hair, and glasses, and braces, which put me on the fast track towards Never Having a Date and Listening to Lots of Dr. Demento--but that's a subject for another post.) And while I think it's definitely harder, in terms of social acceptance, to be fat than it is to be skinny, when you are an adolescent the skinniness is still a form of "otherness," of not being "regular"---which is all that most of us ever want at that age. I know I did. I hated being that skinny, and tried everything I could, at certain points, to gain weight. My metabolism just didn't allow for it, nor did my DNA.

Oh, to suffer from that problem now.

I remember at the time lots of older people telling me, "yeah, you just wait," but I never could believe them because I was so skinny for so long that I couldn't possibly see how my body would ever change. But holy double-double with extra cheese were they right. Now I got my "normalcy," all right, and boy do I wish I could get that old metabolism back. Because I've got about 15 pounds of blubber, minimum, that need to be sliced off my body so that I can look in the mirror and not want to point and laugh, or cry.

It totally crept up on me, too. My wife was the first to notice, of course, because that's what spouses do. "Maybe you really don't need to eat that whole pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk tonight, Jeff. I'm just saying." Not the kind of thing a guy really wants to hear, especially when you feel your day was so damn lame that you deserve the full pint of ice cream, and especially when you spent decades of your life being able to eat whatever you damn well pleased and couldn't gain weight even when you tried.

So I was blind to it, at first. It's what we do. I'd look in the mirror and not really see the current reality, but instead the me I was used to seeing, that I'd built my identity around. In junior high, one asshole kid who used to be my friend said I was a "tomato on a stick," the tomato being a reference to my red hair. And that's what I've been in my head for forever. Now I'm kind of more just like a tomato. Or perhaps a cantaloupe. In any case, it's clear, once I take a good look, or stand on a scale, that I can retire that moniker, at least for the near future.

So, yeah. I have to watch my weight, just like everyone else now. In February, PopCap sponsored an internal contest called "Play2Lose", in which participants signed up for a specific amount of weight to lose, and would receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate if they reached their goal. I signed up to lose 10. By the end of the contest period, I had gained 8. I guess the whole "drinking more beer while I'm in Seattle and also see how many cheeseburgers I can eat each week" was not the best possible strategy for this particular competition.

It really sucks. Now I know just how spoiled and easy I had it for so long. And, far, far worse than just feelings of vanity over appearance, of course, is the actual health and fitness aspect to this. Because in addition to eating more, I compounded the problem by exercising less (something also I never needed to do to keep the flubber off). I've made a serious, concerted effort to get on a regular exercise regime now (elliptical/bike/yoga/weights), but good lord do I feel like a fat, sweaty tub of lard every time I do it now, huffing and puffing over an exercise that I used to be able to do with half the effort or exhaustion. It's embarrassing to myself. But it's also good motivation for me to keep at it. There's no way I'll ever be a skinny rail of a guy again. But maybe I can somehow work my way back to feeling "normal" again. Or maybe I'll figure out, after all these decades on the planet, that such a thing might not actually exist.

I'll settle for healthy and happy.


Unknown said...

A good way to watch your diet is to download one of those calorie tracking apps (Live Strong, for instance)

You don't need to go on a crazy diet, just keep your calories under 2000 a day and eat 6 times a day so that your metabolism can get high again.

Theres lots of people who starve themselves and don't lose any weight, its because they only eat 2 or 3 times a day and their metabolism falls asleep because of eat.

Obviously exercising wont hurt, but being in shape is mostly dieting properly.

Sorry for the unsolicited advice, but maybe it can help you out :)

Anonymous said...

Ouch. Great post, but you hit a nerve.

40 lbs overweight and only a couple years from 50. And somewhere I misplaced about an inch in height.

My mental image is still a slim young guy with tons of stamina and way cool dance moves.

It's a shock every time I look in the mirror. I expect Luke Skywalker and get Archie Bunker instead.

But looking at my kids - my teenage son tall and handsome, my six-year-old daughter as fast and graceful as a hummingbird - I wouldn't give back a minute.

(They *are* incentive to lose a few of these pounds and rethink the diet and exercise. I want to stick around for a good long while.)

Ed said...

Not the first time you've recalled the "tomato on a stick" line Jeff. That wound must have cut deep to still carry it around with you!

CallMeSarge said...

Your blog post could be my life (Apart from the bit where you have a very cool job). The moment I quit smoking I realized I was in trouble. Just this week I started trying to do something about it. I like simple ideas, so I decided to cut potatoes, rice, pasta and bread out of my diet (I eat a lot of the above). 1 week in it seems to be going well...

I got the idea here:

Alien426 said...

If you're looking for a great fitness guru, seek no further than Scooby. He has a greayt website, blog and forum, but I found him on YouTube.

Yes, he is a bodybuilder, but the channel is still great for those that just want to get in shape, because he has an all around great attitude:
That cardio and nutrition are key. That fitness shouldn't be expensive.

Auf Wiedersehen.

TJ said...

>Listening to Lots of Dr. Demento

...and that super metabolism. Sounds like me as a kid.

I listened to so much Dr Demento that I missed a lot of the direct connection to 1980s music and instead relate to the parody versions instead. George Michael's "Careless Whisper" will always be "Hairless Sister".

When I got a car and was able to hit the record stores and clubs. I slid right into indie rock alt-whatever: Flaming Lips, Uncle Tupelo, Tenderloin, Archers of Loaf, etc... Like a tabula rasa thing, I didn't have an indoctrination to pop, so I didn't have anything to rebel against and just sought out sounds I liked.

Looking forward to your thoughts on Dr Demento.

LK said...

I look at my dad and I totally feel where you're coming from Jeff. I recently went through I huge life change and lost 150lbs over the course of about a year and a bit, but now everyone around me is taking stock of their health and asking me what my secret is. Truth is the secret is finding the right reasons to lose weight and sticking with it. Sure I adhered to a diet that taught me how to eat properly and changed my lifestyle drastically, but these are all things anyone can do for days or weeks at a time, the dedication comes from somewhere else.

Anyways if you ever need motivation or tips drop me a line on twitter or Steam and stick to it, the advice people are offering is great and things like calorie counting and cardio helped me immensely.

Anyways, good luck with the weight loss, don't get discouraged, my dad is working his way back down to a weight he can be comfortable with too! (PS I look forward to the next Out Of The Game)

Anonymous said...

Really enjoying the blog resurgence Jeff, keep it up!

Josho said...

I feel your pain Jeff. I'm one of those "skinny guys." Worse is that while I don't have the red hair "affliction," I have gone prematurely grey so that now I have a salt and pepper look through my hair, and at the young age of 27 to boot - been going steadily grey since the age of nine. Not exactly a good look when picking up women who undoubtedly see me more as a father figure, or a freak.

If there is one thing to take stock of, you are now a married guy, so things did turn out pretty okay for you I reckon. The weight, well, your metabolism is still there, just a little slower I believe. Our body types are called hard gainers for a reason, you should be able to burn it off quickly with the right diet and exercise. Good luck Jeff!

Bristal said...


Just found your blog. Love it. I work in a nursing home and your pic made me like you a lot.

Find an exercise you LIKE. And do it because you LIKE it. But seriously, find one.

Another option is find a trainer that you make appointments with and PAY. You'd be amazed at how motivated you are when you've written a $25 check for a single work out. And how much more you'll get out of that single workout than a $40 monthly membership to a gym you don't go to, or wander around checking out girls most of the time.

Rax Nahali said...

I have had similar moments in front of the mirror LOL. I'm not terribly over weight, and I am more active physically then most my age (41).
I'd be happier losing 10lbs more though. I'm not giving up the fags yet. I love smoking too much for that :D

Tikigod said...

Hey Jeff...

Check out a documentary called Fat-Head. It's on Netflix streaming and on Hulu also. Very eye opening on why metabolism "seemingly" slows down with age.