Monday, September 20, 2010

Less of me…

As many of you know by now, I am in the process of becoming substantially less. That is to say that the substance that makes up my corporeal essence is decreasing in mass and volume. There are two usual ways that this is noted in popular discourse – in weight (specifically -- kg’s or lb’s) and in size (specifically in the circumference measurement around one’s waist). In honour of these conventions I testify that as of the writing of this I am 70lbs lighter than I used to be and I have dropped 6/7 inches in the circumference around my waist. All this since the first of June.

Dear reader, I know you are tempted to insert your congratulatory notes here or even boldly call me to wish me well in my endeavour. Please refrain from doing so. As you will learn shortly, I doubt that congratulations are entirely appropriate even if they would make me feel good.

Most people want to know what I am doing to lose this weight. So here is the regimen. I am taking a prescription of Meridia which is NOT an appetite suppressant but it works to send signals of satiation sooner to the brain which helps me to eat much less than I routinely have over the years. Those of you with neurotic predilection to discover the damaging effects of pharmaceuticals will within a few click realize that this drug has a controversial history. None of the problematic symptoms have occurred in my case – I have only improved in all of the indicators of health (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) So again your well-intended warnings are largely unwelcome. On its own the drug has been instrumental in causing my weight loss but perhaps not in the way that you might expect. Yes I do feel fuller faster and consequently eat much less food – approximately 750 calories/day (or one small meal). However, the drug has acted in another way. It is an expensive medication even with an insurance plan without which it would be impossible to afford. Realizing that a financial outlay was going to be necessary has motivated me to work at my weight loss more diligently. I spend roughly between an 1 1/2 and 2 hours a day in cardio and weight training. That is how the pounds are coming off.

Not very many people are truly interested in why I am losing weight. I suspect this is largely because they assume that I have chosen one of the common public discourses on weight loss as my motivation (a.)gain a more acceptable body image in conformity with public notions of sexiness, fitness, and other general features of attractiveness b.) reduce my weight to reduce my risk of serious health problems in the future c.) some variation on the theme of mid-life crisis) For me the public discourse on weight loss seems to reflect both the superficiality and neurosis of our popular culture. That is not to say that is a weak or meaningless discourse at all. Quite the contrary it is very powerful and provocative. I can already tell that acquaintances treat me differently. They predictably speak about my improved looks and then in more extended conversations they move toward reinforcements of health concerns. So predictable have these topics become that it has become a veritable annoyance to be in public. However, I have begun to treat this experience as a social/sociological experiment. So now these predictable responses serve as a fascinating outline of how the public discourse around weight loss is reinforced. I may speak more on this in the future as it is a potential topic for my term paper this semester…

My actual motivation for losing weight is to prove a point. Namely, that I cannot eat the same way most people eat and maintain an acceptable body weight/figure. I was not eating anymore food than an average person eats. In fact I know that my wife routinely used to eat more than I did (before I started losing). Many of my friends ate much more than me and ate a diet that was substantially less healthy. Sure I probably ate too much right before bed etc – but compared to other around me I could not usually be accused of over eating as far as others are concerned. The only time I was able to maintain a healthy weight was when I was 19 years old working 14 hour days in construction and eating basically one small meal a day. I have made that claim for years and yet for the most part I don’t think that people believed me. The reason i was gaining weight was that I was eating an average amount of food according social conventions and was not nearly active enough to take any weight off. So now I am proving my point. Obviously, the most difficult part of this task has been to break out of the social conventions that typically form around the consumption of food. Thankfully Char has stopped asking me if I am sure I don’t want more to eat. But then she can already see my point. It is hard to go to someone’s house for a meal and not participate in the social aspects of food. But that too has been a unique opportunity for me to reflect on some of the social conventions that exist beneath the surface of our interaction with food.

Obviously, it has been great to be able to be more active, to fit into clothes I thought i never again would and be able to do things I had not been able to do. These are all awesome benefits of my weight loss – ones I would like to maintain.

There is a surreal aspect to all of this as well. I am still whole and complete (several caveats could be discretely mentioned here but…). There is the equivalent of a fourth grade student missing from my physical form. That is substantial yet it almost feels like I should have some residual evidence of the weight that has gone  - but it is as if it has disintegrated. So that in many ways the bathroom scale forms the main way that I can measure my own achievement. This too becomes an interesting place for social evaluation since there is clearly a connection between the abject known as a scale and one’s ability to measure the decreasing body size that might otherwise be virtually imperceptible.

So there you go. We’ll see where this experiment ends up. I appreciate your encouragement and would love to hear from anyone else who has any reflections on the way weight has affect their social interactions.


Natasha said...

Made me laugh out loud, nod in agreement, and think deeply all in one post - nice work! =)

I like this quote: "So again your well-intended warnings are largely unwelcome." Since going vegan, I have found it fascinating how people seem to feel an authority over my diet and my health. It seems you are experiencing the same thing, perhaps through a different venue, with the new medicine/calories/exercise regimen. Any deviation from "normal" is too tempting for people NOT to comment on, and those of us who deviate get the pleasure of this first hand I think! Ultimately, each of us is the one and ONLY expert on our own bodies, try as hard as we may to be an expert on others.

I at times find it somewhat insulting that one would assume I just jumped into a certain way of eating and living without proper knowledge or research....though ultimately, I know warnings are from a place of love, and as such, I can't be too offended by them, but I think I get what you are saying in your proclamation of them being unwelcome.

I also like your point about the predictability of conversation....ditto for that one here! I have often resulted in sighing deeply, and rattling off a near memorized answer regarding my food habits, health, and appearance since going vegan. Perhaps rude, but then again, someone is having the audacity to evaluate, and then challenge, all my habits and appearance in one fell swoop.

I don't know that I really have any particular point with my comments. Mainly just that even though we are in different places with different mindsets about why we each are doing what we do, I send you a big high five in recognition of the invisible, yet often times, more challenging than physical, social issues that accompany each of our situations.

Well, Dale, whatever your waist size, whatever be on your lunch plate, best wishes to you and your experiment!!!

roverT said...

I am probably in the opposite situation. I have always been able to eat more than the average person, yet maintain thin appearance. Someone once asked me to write a book on how to eat a lot and maintain a thin look. I told her the book would be short..."have a high metabolism." Sometimes I have felt guilty about the metabolism, however, I am 36 years old now and the metabolism, (and probably my active lifestyle) is slowing down, and my shape is becoming more and more decidedly un-thin-like.

Like you (in a way), I used to be out to "prove a point" that I could eat lots and remain "in shape." However, that has changed, now I am trying to gain a whole new perspective on food and exercise after 36 years of using the line, "I need to eat this much in order to live."

When I was young I HATED being called skinny, as I got older people wished they were as skinny as me, and I appreciated that, and now people don't make any comment on how thin I am...

Mike C. said...

Periodic viewer of your site - from Rumblings....

...having just lost 60 lbs and 5 inches, and the equivalent of 1.3 "Monty-equivalents" (Monty being the family dog), I really appreciated this post!

I have had several of the same feelings about the congratulations etc from colleagues and friends and the social commentary underlying these comments are evident.

Sadly, I am treated differently than I was 6 months ago. Best of luck with your experiment -- I will be checking back for updates periodically!