Friday, April 27, 2012

More on Vanity


Well, after about a year and a half I lost 50 pounds. 



Here’s my official before and after photo.  And yes, I purposefully made it as clichéd as possible, poking fun at the whole idea and myself a bit.  I used a lower angle with a flash for the before picture, and higher angle with studio lights and oiled myself up for the after picture. 

Man, that was a lot of work. (The weight loss, not that photograph) I mean a LOT.  I didn’t keep track of the hours, but I’ll bet if I added them up I could have produced a fantastic body of art, rather than a trim body of flesh.  See what I did there?  So I’m asking myself what was it that caused me to undertake such a project after so many years of being pudgy.   Here’s a couple guesses:

1. My brain simply matured to the point where I COULD do it.  Before, the immediate gratification part of my brain just outweighed the delayed gratification part of my brain.  I’ve finally reached the tipping point where the number of delayed gratifications in life have started to pay off that my subconscious has decided to lower the bar enough for me to hurtle it. 

2. I had never been THAT fat before.  I’ve been overweight since my early 20s.  But I always thought I wore it well enough that it didn’t give me a huge hit to my self-image.  But I was noticing that photos of me kept looking worse and worse.  And I kept telling myself it was just the lighting, or the angle, or what-have-you.  But at some point the evidence became overwhelming.  I distinctly remember one night I had my shirt off, and I think I was rubbing Heather’s shoulders and I got a look at my profile in a full length mirror, and… oh my.  That was the last straw.  It really snuck up on me because I never ever weighed myself.  It was shortly after that at a doctor appointment where they told me I was 206.  I assumed I was still in the 180s.  I also found out I had a fatty liver. 

3. My life is pretty good.  Compared to the constant mental anguish that my last marriage was, even with a crazy rebellious teenage son, my life right now is very peaceful.  The only major stress I have is stress I put on myself.  This leaves room to add the stress of rearranging my leisure time to work out, and the mental space to push myself physically. 

4. Vanity.  Plain and simple.   I’ve always had it.  But soon after starting to lose the weight I began developing The Cutscene Subversion Project, a video commentary where I’m playing a range of characters, one of which will be a professional wrestler.  The only way to pull it off I figure, would be if I was ridiculously out of shape, or in very good shape.  Middle-of-the-road just wouldn’t be funny OR cool.  So, while that didn’t start the process, it certainly did help keep the momentum going.    

5. Curiosity.  I’m putting this pretty low on the list, because without the preceding stuff, this never would have been enough.  But I was very interested to see if I could get life-long benefits from sacrificing so much time.  I’ve always been pretty ambivalent about physical fitness simply because of the opportunity cost.  There are just SO MANY THINGS I could be accomplishing with that time!  So I tried to look at getting in shape as a long-term investment.  I was hoping that I’d pick up some habits or general life-rules that, once I GOT to my goal of fitness, I could apply to stay there with much less time spent.  And I’m happy to say that I think I really have accomplished that. 

How I did it:

I started by doing what I had always done before.  Jogging.  I’ve always hated it.  But I was pretty motivated this time.  Even through the winter I did it several times a week.  Then I discovered a fitness game for my Playstation where you strap some sensors on and follow a customized routine, mimicking the character on the screen.  This was way better because I could do it inside and it was far less repetitious.  It had dozens of different things you would do, from kickboxing to mountain biking (by running in place and jumping to hop over obstacles.)   Then I got a copy of P-90X, a workout program designed to push you to your limit and whip you into shape in 3 months.  At that point I had developed a routine, was in the state of mind to accept that challenge, and so I did.  At that point I had only lost 10 pounds and was at 196.  That’s the before picture.  I tried to follow the program as closely as possible and they said you should take all your measurements and get a picture before starting, so I did.

P-90X was as intense as promised.  It’s 6 days a week, at least an hour and usually more a day.  The first couple weeks I could barely keep up.  Like my workout game, P-90 has a bunch of different routines that keep things interesting, and each phase has a different mix of workouts.   I was so motivated that I additionally did 20 minutes or so of jogging afterwards as well.  But what I’ve discovered is that the real issue was my diet.  P-90 has general guidelines and recipes for each phase of the program, and learning to make my own food was probably the biggest challenge and biggest win for my overall health.  I figured out how to make a couple different things that can last in the fridge all week.  For the past year I’ve been having pretty much the same breakfast every day.  Same lunch, same dinner.  High protein, low carb stuff. 

It’s funny.  When I first considered changing my diet there were so many things I thought I could never give up.  But that was when I was thinking piece-meal.  Once I committed to a complete overhaul of my diet I’ve found it’s not so bad to go weeks without ketchup or some of the other things that were staples to me.   I still have stuff I love on the weekends.  Which became a problem when I plateaued at the 5-10 lbs. away from my goal mark.  I was at that plateau for more than half a year.   It was only after I buckled down and made a vow to not have a single bite of non-approved food until I hit my goal that I was able to get there.  I think it took just over a month of that.  The other thing I did was record my weight every morning.  I read somewhere that even without conscious changes to diet or exercise, this practice alone usually gets some results. 

Going Forward

So now that I reached my goal, where do I go from here?  I’ve cut back on the exercise massively.  Instead of 8+ hours a week, I’ve found I can maintain my weight with none.  But I still hop on the elliptical once or twice a week.  I can gain several pounds from eating delicious food on the weekends, and they usually disappear the following week as long as a stick to the right food on the weekdays.   And now that I’ve made that into a habit, I think it’s easy enough to do for the rest of my life. 

Wellness

Well, obviously being not fat and stronger is healthier.  But I care more about my character than my body.  As I was beginning this process, something in the back of my mind was nagging me about vanity.  About how health really isn’t a very big factor in this whole process at all.  About how I was going to pour countless hours into the way I look.  I’ve contemplated this topic from the perspective of fashion several years ago on this very blog.
http://www.joshuaforeman.blogspot.com/2004/09/i-feel-pretty-oh-so-pretty.html
But this new routine obviously takes it to a whole new level.   I’ve never had a problem with low self-esteem.  I’ve always been pretty comfortable with myself.  As is evidenced by the way I had no idea I was 50 lbs overweight until there was simply no way to deny it.  So now that I’m in shape, am I more vain?  Yes.  Yes I am.  Significantly so?  Uh… I don’t think so.  But self-evaluation is a difficult thing.  I know I get that little endorphin rush when I walk past a mirror.  Whether this is due to the rush of seeing the results of overcoming a difficult challenge, or because I’m just vain, or most likely, a mix; I don’t know. 

Either way, I’m glad I did it.  I think I’ll be somewhat happier and healthier the rest of my life because of it.  

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