.journal 2000.11.23
A tale of weight loss on Thanksgiving.

Now listening to: The Narada Collection
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Wormwood
Now playing: Final Fantasy VII (Playstation)

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. Well, except to my friends up in Canada, who always celebrate their Thanksgiving a month earlier than us down in the Disunited States. I'm guessing you all want to get your turkeys plucked before your tundras get too frozen, so that's why you jump the gun on us.

Speaking of turkeys, as they are the signature food of Thanksgiving, the question then becomes what do vegetarians such as myself do for the holiday? I know soy turkeys are manufactured in various parts of the country, but none of them ever seem to find their way to Toledo for some reason. So that leaves me turning to another of my facets, my deep love of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, for my Thanksgiving tradition: waffles. Thanks to the combination of Comedy Central's old "Turkey Day" marathons, and the infamous Viking Women vs. the Sea Serpent episode where Joel and the 'Bots get on Roger Corman's hiney for that most infamous of cheesy cheap special effects, putting waffles on a wall and then painting them to make a set look laughably futuristic, I've been munching waffles for Thanksgiving these past eight years, and this year will be no different. I realize the whole Turkey Day thing has become passé even among the MST3k faithful, but I still like doing it.

But how ironic it is, on this day considered to be the one day of the year where everyone eats enough L-triptophane laced turkey to get knocked on their sorry Thanksgiving asses for the rest of the day, that I would have the story I am about to share with you.

First, however, I should explain my musical selection. As I mentioned in my last journal entry, after my wholly embarrasing brush with rap fandom in the late 80's, I got turned on to new age music. I still remember how it happened: I went to the National Record Mart store in Franklin Park Mall the Saturday after Run-D.M.C.'s Tougher than Leather came out and picked up a copy, and got a complimentary cassette from Narada Records. I didn't have any idea what it was about, but after popping it into my triple-deck boom box I realized it was that new age music I'd been hearing a bit about recently.

Now, I was into rap at the time, but throughout my life I've always liked good music, period, wherever it came from. There are some genres of music I don't particularly have too much appreciation for (country, opera, ska), but even at that I can usually find some artists in that genre that I do like (Johnny Cash and k.d. lang, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, Reel Big Fish). And this was around the time when I was really taking off as a piano player and composer, so new age appealed to me on that level. I started picking up the tapes of some of the artists on the sampler, and it all really started growing on me, and influencing my songwriting. To this day, I still buy my new age CDs almost exclusively from Narada, as their catalogue of work is high-quality without falling into the cliché forms of the genre mastered by its "heavyweights" like John Tesh and Yanni.

The thing is, though, that I kind of identify new age music as the music of my adolesence. And to be blunt, my adolescence sucked. People have told me that I bleat too much about the problems I suffered as a kid and teenager, and even though this is my own forum and I can talk about anything I damn well please, I want to be brief about things right now, so let me just say that I was always incredibly disliked by, and unpopular with, my classmates for a multitude of reasons, one of which being my weight problem.

I don't remember a time in my life when I haven't been overweight; I think in the fifth grade I got close to being a regular weight but that was probably just wishful thinking on my part back in the day. Most of my life I have been, to put it bluntly, obese, sometimes morbidly so. Quite frankly it was never really a problem with me, because I never really had athletic inclinations, and there were so many other reasons my classmates hated me, I doubted losing weight was going to make them stop goofing on me.

Every now and then I'd try to lose weight, but it never really worked. The best I ever did was a fifty-five pound weight loss my junior year, but that was accomplished by a starvation diet, and by the time I went to college I had put all the weight back on again. Finally, a couple of years ago, I started noticing that all the shirts I was wearing were starting to get tight on me. At first I thought maybe they all had been shrunk in the wash, but as time rolled on I began to have my doubts.

I think it was on Altavista but I'm not too sure, but a banner ad popped up talking about weight loss and the like. I don't know what it is that possessed me to click on the banner, but I did, and I got taken to DietWatch. After reading through some of the pages on their site I downloaded their program and got it running on my computer. It just seemed like a simple nutritional calculator, something into which I could log everything I ate and all the exercise I got, and it would tell me how well I was doing in terms of what my nutritional goals should be. I figured, what the hey, and gave it a go.

Before DietWatch could tell me my nutritional goals, though, it needed to know a lot about me, like my height, my heart rate, my daily activity level and oh yeah, my weight. I hadn't weighed myself for years, but I thought I was at around the 300 mark; 305 had been my previously recorded high, and I felt like I was around that level. Just to be sure, though, I got on the bathroom scale, and like a Ghost of Fat Farm Future I saw "324" staring up at me in red digital letters.

As you can guess, that was quite a motivator for me, at least for that night. But the next morning, without thinking about it, after I got up I grabbed some crackers and Bar-Scheeze, a cheese spread made by a restaurant close to where my parents grew up (and my grandparents still live) and started eating them. As soon as I turned my computer monitor on, though, I was reminded of DietWatch and I just felt bad about everything and considered taking DietWatch off my computer and having done. But something inspired me to keep going, to log the food I'd eaten into DietWatch and just try to work around that, try to salvage my nutritional needs for the day.

As it turned out, for nearly the next two years I never failed to log all my information into DietWatch. In addition to keeping track of calories and fat and the like, DietWatch also keeps track of vitamin information, and it helped me see how little Vitamin A and Vitamin C I was getting. (The latter of which was causing scurvy-like symptoms in myself.) The weight started coming off, my hair and skin started getting better, and I started feeling pretty good for myself.

But, strange as it may sound, it took me a long time to really notice any difference. There are a lot of mirrors in our house (to compensate for the lack of space by creating the illusion of it), so I guess looking in the mirror every day I couldn't have noticed the change all too much. But then one day I was getting out of bed, and I rolled onto my stomach and felt something odd. Given the shape of the odd feeling, I thought that maybe I had rolled onto a magazine or something. Then I realized what I was feeling was my ribcage. That kind of got me feeling pretty good.

The milestones melted away, and with each milestone I allowed myself a little treat, usually a pint of expensive ice cream, but thanks to DietWatch I could incorporate those treats into my diet while still maintaining my nutritional needs. Earlier this year I crossed the 237 mark, my previous post-pubescent low at the end of the aforementioned starvation diet. But then I started stagnating, and nothing I did, from lowering my calorie count below DietWatch-recommended levels to adding more exercise, seemed to cause much of a change. I was still losing weight, but at a snail's pace, and I was definitely still in need of weight loss.

Well, what finally happened was I went for about a two-month period where I didn't use DietWatch. My schedule just got so messed up that I wasn't keeping track of things, and while I was sticking to my normal meals I was also starting to snack again, which was something I'd done a real good job of controlling in the past couple of years. Finally I got hit with two nasty colds back-to-back, and I consumed mass quantities of orange and grape soda, not to mention low-fat potato chips, to help ease a sore throat that seemed to persist for three straight weeks.

In between illnesses, I'd been to an event where pictures had been taken by a friend of mine, and when he sent me my pictures I wasn't too happy with what I saw. I'd stopped doing my every-four-weeks weigh-ins when I stopped using DietWatch, so I hopped back on the scale and saw my weight had gone back up to 241. This didn't make me too happy, and motivated me to pick DietWatch back up.

I don't know how to explain it, but since going back on DietWatch my weight loss accelerated back to its old levels. And not only that, but the fat loss started to become a lot more visible. I didn't have an official weigh-in until today, but I'd done unofficial weigh-ins in the previous few weeks and noticed I'd lost all the weight I'd put on in my DietWatch absence. I thought about the 224 mark, the point at which I would have officially lost one hundred pounds, and thought that I'd probably hit it in January or February of next year, maybe by the end of this year if I really pushed it.

Guess what? I weighed in at 224 this morning.

At first I couldn't believe it, so I weighed myself again. 224. I weighed myself a third time. 224. I got my mother to try the scale to see if it was busted. It wasn't. Over the past two-plus years, I have lost one hundred pounds. And I still can't believe it.

Now, this is not the end of the battle by any means. I am still definitely overweight, though I have not been what could be deemed as "obese" in several months, even when I put the weight back on. I don't know what my goal weight is yet, but given my Irish and German ancestry I know I've got quite a heavy frame, so it's probably closer than I think. But the weight is coming off, and it's not coming off because I'm starving myself or doing something stupid, it's coming off because I'm eating right, it's coming off the right way, and when it comes off the right way, it usually stays off.

Of course, the question then becomes what do I do today. I have to go get myself that special treat, plus I have all these waffles to eat. I think maybe for the next couple of days, I'll take time off of DietWatch. Two days shouldn't hurt too much, and I've got a whole bunch of cleaning to do over the weekend so hopefully that'll help burn those extra calories off. Hell, a milestone is a milestone, but one hundred pounds lost is something entirely different, and something worth a little extra.

So for those of you who may be having weight problems, trust me when I say they can be solved. I'll link to DietWatch again here so you all can download the program. It does require a bit of effort on your part - there's never any substitute for willpower - but DietWatch is a real helping hand. Strangely, the best word I can think of to describe the feeling I have right now is "heavy" - heavy relief that I'm truly, finally getting in shape, heavy energy and self-confidence that I've accomplished all I have, and heavy gratitude to DietWatch for helping me get to this point. The journey's not over yet, but I see the destination and there's no way I'm not going to make it.

All of you have a good, safe holiday, and I'll see you back here in a few days.

- Sean