(This is it, the last part in the series of interconnected stories about fatness. The first part is here, and the second part is here. I would start there, but, you know, I wrote them, so I have to tell you that.)
People have asked me, “How’d you do it?”, as if I know something they don’t, as if everything they have been told was a lie, and there was something else out there that will make them lose weight like I did.
In the beginning, I said simply, “Water,” an uncomplicated answer, advice anyone in a First World Country could follow. Other times, I’d summarize it with “Lifting weights”; “Running”; “Chia seeds,” only a word or phrase, something simple, the truth, yet only part of it. The first time I lost all the weight, I was more confident, I’d say, “I’m just all man,” flex my muscles, pumping below all that extra skin. Maybe I haven’t fully explained how because I don’t want anyone to get their hopes up, to think, “Brian stopped drinking so much soda, started benching and eating grass-fed beef”–that’s all it took. (If only.)
I have also never wanted anyone to hear my weight loss stories as advice, to look at me as a blueprint, a man who lost a lot, only to gain so much back, and lose it again. If anything, I’m a role model for what not to do. Don’t lift until you hurt yourself. Don’t beat-up-yourself into a depression. Don’t do weird stuff with Preparation-H. And definitely if you lose it, keep it off, in my opinion, the hardest part of all because if you’re like me, food is Jesus, only microwave-safe.
So, recently, when a friend told me he/she was on a diet (I’m trying to be discreet.), trying to lose weight for a trip by eating one meal a day, anything, it sounded like, and living off of protein shakes, water and fiber the rest of the time (In my case, it was Colon Cleanse, which I’m pretty sure has the same make-up as the brown stuff he/she was taking.), snacking on almonds when starving, I didn’t want to tell him/her: I’ve already done something like that, and it doesn’t work. Those diets aren’t sustainable. You can’t eat two meals worth of powder for the rest of your life. The missing sensation of chewing alone, passing bites from incisors to molars, will make your body rebel, your mind grieve. And if your goal is to lose weight quickly for a trip–where, if you’re truly having a good time, you aren’t eating powder–once it’s over, your body will rebound, back where you started, which is worse for you than just staying where you were in the first place.
When I first moved to Seattle, I was about 250 lbs., working my way down from 339, and before I even had a job, I had a gym membership, an expensive package deal, charged to my credit card. Eating protein shakes and bars and what I wouldn’t call a diet but a strict regimen–fruit, vegetables, pasta, chicken, turkey sandwiches, lettuce and a small assortment of low-fat yogurts, soups and snacks. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t eating butter or bacon or cheese. (To understand the heft of this, you must understand: I FUCKING LOVE CHEESE!) I wasn’t doing much of anything fun, and although I was dropping weight quickly and looking leaner than I ever have, I wasn’t happy. By virtue of my diet, I began shutting the world out, losing the love felt through food, the community of sharing a meal together with family and friends.
I could tell my friend wasn’t happy either when I looked in his/her eyes while biting into a huge cheeseburger and, the night before, sipping on a glass of wine, both he/she declined because they didn’t fit the diet, although later there was a glass of wine and a few fries off someone’s plate. Just to curb the urge. I know the feeling well. Maybe he/she doesn’t beat herself up over it like I did.
I wanted to tell my friend, too, that you can’t spot reduce. You can’t exercise one muscle group and expect to drop pounds on that part of your body, like if you have what I have come to know as a “badonkadonk,” you can’t lose it by running stairs and walking, or if you want to lose the weight in your stomach, you can’t do crunches until your nauseous, like I have. The weight comes off everywhere, which is why some of us will avoid horizontal stripes for life.
I also didn’t want to tell this friend that he/she was fine just the way he/she was because that’s what my mom told me, until I was too big even for her, though that didn’t stop her from feeding me. (Love has its limits, and food was within them.) Anyone who thinks they’re fat has spent enough time looking in the mirror to think they’re not fine the way they are and won’t buy that line. So, I didn’t try, even if I believe, as a fat person (Some might say “fat fuck.), that my friend wasn’t one of our kind, wouldn’t make one last stop at a drive-thru on the ride to the pearly gates. (I’ll need the biggest order of french fries you have here!)
Instead, hunched over a burrito the size of a purse dog and purple-lipped drunk on cheap wine, I offered some unsolicited advice to my friend about losing weight, unlike what I was told that Halloween night.
“Fuck that diet shit. Look at me–I’m eating a huge burrito and I’m drunk and I feel stronger than I ever have in my life. Just do what I do.”
Then, still holding my burrito, I flexed my right bicep and took a bite.