It was on one of the cold days in January that I decided I needed to address a growing problem. The combination of holiday gorging, winter inactivity, and my middle-agedness had left me with an anti-hourglass physique.
“Enough!” I cried, while looking down…unable to see my toes without leaning forward.
It might not be so bad if I could gain weight evenly throughout my entire body. I’d often wished that I were stockier. But this wasn’t the case. All of my excess weight collected in my mid-section. My arms and legs were still as scrawny as they had been in high school. The result was a body that screamed “middle-aged scrawny guy who let himself go.”
At first, I thought that a regiment of exercise would be the best cure. That way I would be free to indulge in any food that I loved, while still combating the stomach bulge. The only problem with this plan was…well…actually exercising. Whenever I tried to force myself into physical activity, my mind would argue that I’d be much better off just watching what I eat. That way I wouldn’t have to exercise.
For several weeks, the pendulum swung back and forth. If I were about to start eating more sensibly, I would convince myself that exercise was the better answer. But then, when it came time to do the actual exercise, I would once again flip-flop on the issue and decide that eating more sensibly was the better route. By switching tactics at each moment of commitment, I successfully avoided any and all weight loss progress for a month. Finally, I forced myself to pick one or the other. Carbs. I would go on a low carb diet. A low carb diet seemed simple enough. Don’t eat bread, or at least eat a lot less of it.
To kick off my newly declared war on carbs, I sat down and made a list of all the high carb foods that would be easy for me to avoid, and all the high carb foods that I would have trouble with. The results were quite discouraging. According to my list, doughnuts would not be hard for me to avoid at all, because I don’t care much for doughnuts. Everything else on the planet with carbs would be my Kryptonite.
On the first day of my war on carbs, I made a breakfast of a hardboiled egg and a hot dog without a bun. The lack of bun was not too much of an issue, however, foregoing the usual breakfast potato chips with my hotdog was much more of one. I concluded that this might be harder than I thought.
For lunch I ate two more hotdogs, a cheese and salami omelet, and a bowl of yogurt. I once again avoided the usual lunch potato chips. The potato chip bag sat on the counter seducing me, but I held strong.
At two o’clock on the first day of my war on carbs, I stepped on the scale to see my progress. I hadn’t lost a pound. I was baffled. It had been over twelve hours since I had eaten my usual midnight potato chip snack, and I hadn’t lost a pound. I began to doubt the viability of the low-carb diet.
For dinner, my wife and I went to a local restaurant that we both enjoy. I looked over the menu trying to find an entrée that sounded low-carb and delicious but nothing jumped out at me. Maybe that page was missing from the menu.
“Well, hell!” I said to myself. “I’ve done good all day with carbs. Two meals out of three ain’t bad.”
I ordered and ate an entire stromboli, large enough that I could have cut it open, gotten inside, and used it as a sleeping bag. My guts creaked with the pressure of being over-stuffed, and I groaned aloud as I sat in front of the empty stromboli platter. Day one of my war on carbs was a wash, it would seem. Later that night, I ate a family sized bag of potato chips for my midnight snack, since day one was pretty much blown anyway, I figured.
Day two started well. I had my usual hot dog minus the bun, and potato chips were not even tempting as I was still burping potato chip burps from my midnight snack. I felt good about my low-carb resolve.
At lunch, things began to go downhill. I ate my usual lunch, hotdog without a bun, and again avoided the potato chips, but couldn’t stop myself from devouring two bowls of Fruity Pebbles cereal…followed by another half bowl because I didn’t want to waste the milk that was left.
Dinner was even worse. I skipped the hotdog and went straight for an entire sleeve of saltine crackers washed down with two bottles of my favorite craft beer. I was losing control. I finished off with another family sized bag of potato chips. Once again, my carb-laden guts were strained under the pressure of their contents. The guilt of my indulgence weighed heavy on my mind, and was only intensified by my checking the carb contents of the two beers I had consumed. Apparently, craft beer was high in carbs as well. They were essentially a Big Mac in a bottle.
At midnight, I declared my war on carbs was over, and I had lost. I ate my midnight potato chips and wept bitterly.
In the days that followed, I was able to come up with a far more suitable belly reduction plan, one that was much more tailored to me. Instead of being all low-carb, or all exercise driven, my plan now combines bits of both worlds, as well as a good dose of self-acceptance of my God-given anti-hourglass physique. If I’m eating a high carb meal, I make sure that I rapidly bounce my knee up and down, like I see nervous people do, in order to burn off some of the carbs that I am consuming. Time on the treadmill has been transformed into a sort of roaming snack. I reward myself for being on the treadmill with a bag of potato chips while I walk. I call it grazing.
This new plan would probably be more accurately labeled as weight maintenance rather than a weight loss program. But that’s where the healthy dose of self-acceptance comes into play. I tell myself I’m doing well if I can just keep my belly from getting any bigger.