The Lightning Feast

The Lightning Feast

So I was fat.  I had always been fat.  I could safely be called “quarter-ton” if you put the weight of a wet cat on my shoulder.  Now I decided to do something about it.  Hopefully before I didn’t need to cat.

I didn’t feel any different, I still felt like the same me, but nonetheless something changed.  While I used to always feel uncomfortable with who I was, I never thought I could do anything about it.  Now I just sort of realized that I could, and was going to.  It was a simple difference, but one that is a phenomenal one.  It didn’t change the fact that I was still just as lost pre-scale shock as I was post.  The first thing I needed to do was DO something.  I could sit there and talk about losing weight for the rest of my life, but my weight wasn’t going to exactly stand up and leave without some brutal hostility, or at least ample amounts of coaxing.

One thing that I pride myself on, something that I feel was the most integral bit of my weight loss make-up, the one attribute that helped me lose weight, is my stubborn-ass refusal to be side-tracked when I commit to something.  To lose weight I think that you need that sort of no nonsense attitude or you are going to find yourselves going in bigger and bigger circles.  I learned a long time ago to produce a thorough portion of “go to hell” applesauce whenever someone or something told me I couldn’t do something.  It was a part of the armor I donned to protect myself.  If someone told me my weight was a disability, I proved them wrong, no matter the cost.  I remember doing 100 yards of hurdles at 400 pounds because a girl told me I couldn’t do it.  It hurt like hell and on the last few jumps my shoelaces flirted with my imminent gravel-filled demise, but I did it.  I did it all so I could walk backwards and flip her the bird for nay saying and ever considering such a stupid thought.  I found, with time and added weight and loss of mobility, that these sort of “in your face” moments became harder to achieve and took much more of a toll than they used to.  But I still preserved the attitude, even if I couldn’t always back it up all the time.  If I let words or setbacks get me right out of the gate, then what was the point of even getting on the starting line?  Who cares how long it takes you, as long as you finish where you want to.  So I wasn’t going to give up.  It wasn’t my prerogative.  I knew if I did, I would be finished, not just with losing weight but perhaps losing my life period.

For the next few weeks, the paltry few remaining in the school semester, I ate my ass off.  I paid homage to the god of sugars, carbohydrates, soda pop, high cholesterol, and many more, because all too soon I would start the saddest work of my life.  I ate like I had cancer, but that cancerous growth was about to be lopped off.  Throughout this three week “saying goodbye” to food, I was constantly aware of how much I was eating.  Every time I would eat I started being aware of my exact portion sizes.  I tried to alter them to the best of my ability, but in the end I usually ate until I couldn’t eat anymore just like normal.  But I started to notice things.  I counted how many scoops of mashed potatoes I shoveled on, how many hamburgers I ate, how much of my plate was covered in pasta.  The point of the exercise was to start realizing how much I was actually eating.  I didn’t keep a journal, I didn’t start counting calories (my food was prepared by someone else in any case), and I just familiarized myself with what my actual daily intake was.  As I have said before, I knew when how much I was eating became too much, when I was pushing past the eating limits of normality.  Anyone who needs to lose weight knows the moments and situations where they are tripping the bones, and I was no exception.  The only difference between me and them was that I familiarized myself with the exact ways that I was doing it.

To be honest, it sort of felt like spying on myself.  There was the committed me, the one who was hell bent on losing weight in some fashion or another.  Then there was the old me, the hungry me, hell bent on eating his way through an entire cow.  Those weeks were spent appeasing both sides of my personality.  The one was pacified by lots and lots of food, and the other by the knowledge that this was our perpetual last hurrah, the final meal.  I didn’t gorge myself.  I wasn’t a more gluttonous mess of flesh than usual.  I just wasn’t taking my eating for granted like I used to.  One me was totally oblivious, living life as I always had.  The other watched, planned, and plotted.

Then summer began.

I thought of everything I had been told by my family, the different avenues of weight loss, and I decided on the one that sounded the easiest.  I was going to stop eating after six o’clock in the evening.  I could keep eating what I wanted, and how much I wanted, but I just had a cutoff point.  I didn’t have to spend nonexistent money, go to the gym, or anything necessarily difficult.  I was going to live the opposite of Ramadan and see if it could work.  I immediately told my grandmother of my intentions.  She was ecstatic.  Not because she thought it could actually work, or that she could help, but that I actually decided to finally DO something about my weight and she could stop being passive-aggressive about everything.

She was more than happy to be my warden too.  She brought down the cold fist of eating curfew like the best of tyrants, but the truth was, she was only my safety net.  I was my own worst enemy sure, but in that same vein, I was the best one to keep myself accountable.  I knew all my secrets, all my weaknesses, but I also knew all my strengths, and what I needed to tell myself to keep my momentum building.  You can lie to everyone in the world, become the best deception artist that the world has ever seen, but it is another trick entirely to convince yourself of that same falsehood.  I used this knowledge too.  If I couldn’t harness some form of self restraint, than all would be entirely lost.  I don’t say that to be dramatic, but it is the absolute truth.  If you cannot control your own actions, how in the Seven Eleven is anyone else going to be able to?  I was armed to the teeth in this sad truth.  It became a constant war inside my mind.  There was the sultry voice of temptation, trying to get me to just eat a little bit, just break the curfew this one time, trying to persuade with different tactics, over and over again.  Then there was the stalwart voice of reason, the angry and stubborn voice that demanded change.  I won’t lie, for the first few weeks the first voice won out more than I would’ve liked.  That part of me was a very big part of my life (sorry for the pun), the one I was most used to listening to.  I fudged a lot that first month of school free May, even with the help of my grandmother.  She couldn’t watch me at all hours of the day and she still had an early bedtime.  So the covert eating missions ensued on occasion when I couldn’t stand it anymore.

It was a weird feeling.  I had spent my entire life eating whenever I wanted to.  Now I had daily hours of eating operation.  If I wanted something outside those hours, it was just too damn bad.  It wasn’t so bad during the day.  It was like I wasn’t even on a diet.  I ate as much as I wanted and whatever I wanted, while the sun was out.  But like your favorite candy store, I now had a closing time.

This is the reason why it worked:  During the day you are active.  Your metabolism is running at its highest, you burn calories, and your basic heart rate is higher.  As the day shuts down, so does your body concerning digestion.  The later it gets, the slower your metabolism gets, the less you burn, and the more you pack onto your backside.  It isn’t hard to do, it only requires one little, insignificant thing.  The one thing in life that is absolutely free, but only if you can track it, hold it down, and repeatedly beat it into submission.  It is illusive, it is invaluable, and it is self control.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just grow self control over night, it was something I had to work out, but like any exercise, with practice and repetition I got stronger and was able to do better and better.  Don’t use an excuse like “it is too hard to manage with my schedule” or the like, because that is just a cop-out and we both know it.  Weight loss excuses don’t work on me.  I tried them ALL on at one point or another, and I know just how ineffectual they really are.  If you HONESTLY want to get started, if you are reading this because you truly want help, then you can make it work.

My best advice for making this work is: do it.  Rearrange your schedule so you completely cut late night eating out of the equation entirely.  If it feels like you can’t do it, if it feels like you are too pressured and can’t figure out a way to make it work, do it anyway.  It is tough love to be sure, but sometimes that is the only way to go.  You have had people coddle you your entire life, which is why you have ended up the way you are, the way I ended up the way I am.  We can’t blame other people entirely.  We were the ones that believed them.  It couldn’t hurt to have an eating buddy either.  It can’t hurt to have someone who is willing to go along with you and your plan.  That doesn’t mean you depend on them to eat.  It only means that this goofy idea has some credibility because someone else is doing it too.

This is a great place to start for anyone trying to lose weight.  It doesn’t cost a dime, and you can keep eating like you want to.  You just need to have that evening cutoff point.  I didn’t do anything else for the first month, just attempting to not eat after six.  Why didn’t I do more?  I didn’t for several reasons, some of them selfish, and some of them pretty intelligent.

The selfish bit: I wasn’t ready to just dive into the deep end of weight loss.  For one thing I didn’t think I could do it.  For another, it sounded like absolutely no fun at all.  I knew losing weight wasn’t supposed to be fun, but I wasn’t ready for that amount of oppression.

It was a good thing I did it that way too.  While the main motivation for this “one step” was for my own lazy benefit, there was an underlying, integral idea to be learned.  Something that I didn’t learn so much as I stumbled over.  If you pack too much on to your shoulders at one time, you are going to buckle and give up.  My advice to anyone is to start out slowly, doing one step at a time.  Then by the time you get used to one step, once it becomes manageable, you actually find yourself HONESTLY doing it you can take another step.  If you aren’t ready than you can wait until you are.  Don’t even try to ask me when “ready” is, because you will know it as well as I do.  Once you feel that you are ready then take another step.

It took me a while to get to my next step.  I spent over a month just trying to not eat after six.  It was absolutely miserable for a long time too.  I don’t think I was ever honestly hungry and just HAD to eat, but it was more of a habit that was suddenly stripped away.  I was left shaking and in withdrawals in a rehab of my own design.  The one thing that I would not let happen, that anyone trying to lose weight HAS to keep from doing, was making concessions.  Even if it was 6:05, I made myself not eat.  It was something that HAS to be done if I was going to succeed.  If I gave ground once, I’d do it again, then again, and then the whole plan would be pickled.  It absolutely sucked, especially when I was running late or just barely missed my deadline, but I stuck to my plan.  The good thing about missing a meal once or twice was that it only happened once or twice.  If you miss being able to eat because of being 5 minutes late, you make damn sure that you are never so much as a minute late again.

I have to thank my grandmother repeatedly at this point.  We weren’t necessarily late eaters (well at least concerning designated meal times) but we hardly ever made it before six.  When I told her about my plan for not eating that late, she jumped on the bandwagon and supported me.  She would make sure to cook before 6 if she could, or made sure I had stuff to make if she wasn’t able to do so.  Like I said, I made mistakes, and you are going to make mistakes too, but don’t let those mistakes hold you down.  Instead of moping because the Mr. Hyde of your appetite took over one night, let it make you that much more resolved.  If you go in KNOWING you are going to make mistakes, than you aren’t going to completely die over each one.

That is what I did, and wouldn’t you know?  It worked.  After a few weeks of knockdown, drag out brawling with my own wants and personality, I finally established a time constraint.  I had completely stopped eating after six.  I had stopped moon eating in its tracks.  I didn’t like it.  It was still something that I had to struggle with of course, but I could do it.  More than that, I honestly DID do it.  It still hurt every night at 8:30 when more than anything in the world I wanted a big bowl of Raisin Bran or some left over lasagna.  I stopped cheating though.  It felt good to be finally doing something too.  I had harnessed my first step toward true weight loss, and I found that I could actually manage it too.

The thing that kept my morale up was that I started to see change.  Well to be honest, I didn’t see a damn thing.  Everyone else said they could see change.  I still don’t know if they were being honest or were simply lying their noses off.  In either case, it gave me the motivation I needed to stick with it.

The next thing I did was cut soda-pop.  I didn’t have a set plan in mind.  I didn’t have a “weight loss” outline that I drafted up and followed.  I was more organic than that.  I let my whims rule my weight loss.  The day I cut drinking soda wasn’t planned or expected.  I just reached for a can of Coke out of the refrigerator stocked to the brim with soft drinks, and decided that I was going to stop.  So I did.  Not to get all Forest Gump on you, but I just sort of felt like quitting.  Was this a good idea?  Absolutely.  You knew that already though.  It is amazing just how much weight loss “technique” you already have in your repertoire.  You, like me, just kept choosing not to examine it closely, or pretended they didn’t exist so you could keep on living your delusions.

This one hit just as hard as the first.  I never realized how much I loved the sweet burn of chugging grape soda when I am absolutely parched.  It hit me pretty hard.  Then there was the fact that drinking too much water tended to make me feel sick, and you had a bow-tied dose of thirsty pain.

Not eating after six combined with no pop made me an irritable person to be around.  It wasn’t that hard to deal with when I was actively doing something.  When things slowed down, I had time to think about how much I WASN’T eating.  These were the times it would hit me hardest, the moments when I wanted to sneak a Dr. Pepper or make a quick turkey sandwich.  I had to stay busy, or I would lose my mind.

This is what that second month was like.  I want you to use this as a guide.  Keep the principles of the overall weight-loss plan in mind, combined with some creative sense, and use the following as an example of how NOT to do things.  In better words, this is the stupid way to start out.

480 lbs.

I woke up hungry.  Sunlight covered my bed and made my crème colored comforter glow with pure summer light.  It was the typical type of morning hunger, the kind I usually felt in the morning.  It wasn’t that pain-filled agony along my midriff that cursed me around 10 o’clock last night.  That bastardized and potent brand of need had completely vanished.  Like a werewolf of the stomach, with daylight came relief from the curse.  The later it got, the hungrier I got, until I couldn’t bare it.  I remembered looking at my door at 10:35, imagining the boxes of cereal that were no more than 6 feet away from me.  I had to fight every single moment to get up, claw open the door, rip the cabinet door completely off its hinges, and tear through every breakfast mascot unlucky enough to be taking shelter there.  My hands had shaken like marionettes.  It was the stiffest form of irony that put me in the bedroom RIGHT outside the kitchen, and irony that took my eating privileges, fully destroying that kitchen’s usefulness.  I had looked back at my computer screen, trying to remember whatever website I was looking at.  I surfed the same exact site three times in a row, never realizing it was happening.  The only thing I had seen was a two inch, lacquered wood barrier keeping me from what I desired.  Every minute that passed got harder.  It wasn’t that I was a late night eating fanatic, but you never miss something like when it is on vacation.  It was now forbidden.  That made it mystical.  It made it wonderful.  That made it’s allure nearly impossible to ignore. 10:36.

I started going to sleep earlier to avoid this very problem.  This late night hunger when I was alone was hard to resist.  You can’t be hungry when you are unconscious.  At least that was my theory.  Each day would dawn anew, and I would only have a shadow of the intense yearning I had felt the night before.  I knew it was all in my head, I had known it since day one of this stupid project.  Just because something is all in your mind doesn’t make it any less real, or potent, to the person who is trapped in the walls of that mind.

I curled my toes.  They felt like quarter cut junks of salami, same as always.  I hopped out of bed and hit 30 year old checkered brown laminate that my grandmother had repeatedly carpeted and uncarpeted during her never ending bid for domestic perfection.  I never had any trouble getting out of bed these days.  Waking up meant that the curfew was lifted.  It was time to eat.  I found a crumpled up t-shirt I had worn the night before and pulled it over my head.  It was already pre-popped and ready to wear, and nobody wanted to see me without a shirt on.  I found the cereal that had successfully eluded me the night before, and poured myself a more than ample portion, a “man bowl” as I’ve heard it called.  My grandmother was there, smoking endlessly through Virginia Slims, doing her grandma thing in her horseshoe island of kitchen ware.  I paid her no mind.  Nothing was said.  I had more important things to do.  I had to find a spoon and make 8 ounces of puffed oats rue the day they were processed.

Nothing tasted sweeter than the first morning bite.  I wasn’t much for sadism, but it was almost worth punishing myself for that first taste.  I ate standing up, not at the bar, not at the counter, but sort of hovering in a corner over the trashcan.  When I finally resurfaced, milk leaking into my beard, I was thirsty.  I looked into the refrigerator.  There was milk, half and half, orange juice, and pop.  There was so much pop.  My grandmother had been running a bed and breakfast and lunch and dinner and every other time of the day you may want to eat.  It had been going on all my life.  She ran it for her grandchildren pro-bono, and they were all, with the newly made exception of me, chronic pop drinkers.  A Seven Eleven would be jealous of her stash.  There were light sodas, dark sodas, and every colorful variety imaginable.  Nothing goes better with milk and chocolate puffs like freshly opened carbonation.  I wanted a pop.  I could stomach the OJ.  So I poured the orange and wished I was someone else.

“When do you work Brocy?”  Classic grandma move, take a grandkids name and add a “y” and you have insta-nickname.

“In about an hour,” I replied between spoonfuls.

“Are you sure you have enough cereal there?”  This was a classic example of her sleeping bear tactics.

“Pretty sure.  You know, I could probably use some more now that you brought it up.”

She stopped what she was doing and turned to face me.  She kept looking at me, and I looked at her.  She looked at me some more and puffed a few ashes down on her cigarette.  I blinked.  She blinked.  She flicked her cigarette.  I turned and walked into my room, bowl in hand.  She was a weird lady that way.

I worked at a movie theater.  I was the sort of Jack of All Trades type.  I worked concession.  I sold tickets.  I worked the projectors.  I pilfered candy and popcorn as often as I could get away with it.  All I had to do was throw a box of gummy worms on the ground, step on it, and then mark it as damaged.  Two seconds later I had a never ending supply of sugar for the low price of creative thinking.  I utilized this method as much as I could, without drawing undue attention to myself.

When I was at work I dressed in an all black outfit that was provided by the theater.  Well it was usually provided by the theater, but not in my case.  The company they got the shirt and pants from stopped stocking my body several sizes ago.  The only change from black was a splash of cinema in the form of an extremely loud purple tie.  Overall it wasn’t a demanding job.  The only physical aspect it required was standing for 4 hour increments.

That was where I found myself.  The theater had just opened and no early afternoon patrons had come in yet.  I clocked in, pinned the name badge and took a 19 year old stance behind the black Formica countertop.  You could compare the size of the lobby to my own size and shape.  We were both far above average in size.  Not necessarily too big to be allowed, but definitely leaning heavily on the side of excessive.  When you first see us, you can’t help but stop and stare for a second.  Most people just aren’t used to seeing something that vast all of sudden.

I grabbed a kiddy cup.  As employees, we could drink anything we wanted to, as long as we used the kiddy cups to do it.  I looked at the 7 assorted spigots, not even seeing the diet sodas, only seeing the fully sugared Pepsi products in their mocking splendor.  I sighed, and pressed the lever back on the Lemonade.  I had decided that I could have three things to drink in the building: water, made me kind of sick, would get it sometimes when I was feeling optimistic.  Lemonade, it wasn’t carbonated but sweet enough to be an acceptable runner-up.  White Cherry ICEE, I didn’t drink the Coke ICEE so it didn’t count as pop.  I should have realized that fountain Lemonade and ICEE are just as bad, if not worse than regular pop.  My logic was that because they weren’t fizzy they didn’t count as pop.  I used that astounding logic to alleviate the guilt.  That is the stickler about losing weight. I would always found a way to take one step forward and two steps toward the nearest candy bar.

I also drank pickle juice.  It was extremely high in sodium, true.  That was neither good nor bad concerning my current dieting plan.  It was just weird and delicious.

I always liked the way customers look at a fat guy behind a concession counter.  It was one of the only places where I could laugh at my weight.  I had always noticed the way people looked at me and the way they looked at others.  Their expressions changed, their attitudes altered, even their speech changed.  I could have just been being paranoid, and not realized that every person on earth alters their approach at certain times and situations.  I didn’t though.  As I was saying though, customers assumed fat people, given any sort of control over food, will do a damn good job with it.  I laughed because regardless of the stereotype, it was absolutely true.  They would see who was about to serve them and change their posture immediately.  They may raise an eyebrow or give a slight nod as if to say, “I know, that you know what you are doin’.”  I was getting that very look from a customer a couple hours into my shift.

“Large Popcorn, please.”  He said it with inside information swagger.  His son tugged on his belt buckle.  It made the man constantly tugging up his pants.  He seemed so used to it that I felt bad for him.  His son made it look so awkward I tried not to laugh.  Such are the lives of children.  I nodded and reached for a bucket the size of lampshade.

“Butter?”  It was a common courtesy question.  I had only met three people who ever said no.  I had served thousands.

“There is no such thing as too much butter.”  He actually winked at me.  It was sort of creepy, but everyone likes to have inside commentary with a fat guy.  In any case, I took his comment to heart.  I buttered that bucket until it looked more like cereal than popcorn.  I aim to please and I wanted to test his theory.  His soon reached up and grabbed the bucket with a big smile on his face.  Then they went to their movie.

I leaned back against the counter, my feet were already starting to smart.  I broke down shoes at an incredible rate, and it would seem that my latest pair of black dress shoes was beginning to melt.  My feet paid the price for that.  They started complaining the moment I stepped out of bed.  The muscles in my feet straining and blood surging until I felt needles in the tips of my toes.  Something like that was happening.

I still had arches in my feet, which in and of itself was miraculous, but I didn’t know how long they were going to last.  These days I felt the strain along the bottoms of my feet like a balsa wood bridge ready to snap.  I was fat.  My feet hurt.  They sort of go together, and are nothing new to hear about.

I went to the ICEE machine; I needed a liquid boost to my morale.  I decided to get tricky and mixed half white cheery and half lemonade.  The spigots whirred quietly as I pressed back the levers.  I looked wistfully at the sodas, and thought how wonderful carbonation was.

The concoction tasted pretty good.  It was the down time between movies, where the theater goes from concerto level crowds to Apocalypse Now style of dead.  I was leaning, and thinking about blowing my own bubbles into my cup when I heard running and shouting.  I went into the purple hallway just in time to see the friendly winker’s kid running to the bathroom.  His eyes were closed and he was crying.  The reason for the tears was immediately evident.  Yellowish grease covered his face, his hands, and stained the entire front of his shirt.  He was holding his hands like a surgeon and I would have laughed if he wasn’t bawling into his butter.  His dad was also storming in my general direction, which also put a damper on my humor.  His palms were covered in grease, and he had a giant smear on the front of his Dockers.  Never mess with a man with a greasy crotch I always say.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been such a smart-aleck with the butter.  I turned around and walked back behind the counter, already planning arguments to quell his anger.  What can I say, I was a planner.

“Is there a reason you put so much goddamn butter on my popcorn?”  He started talking before he was even fully in sight of me.  That was impressive.  His was flaring his chest.  I was suddenly reminded of an angry pigeon.

I didn’t even have to prepare.  “Sure, you TOLD me to do it.  I asked you ‘how much butter?’ and you said ‘there’s no such thing as too much butter.’ So I was just doing what you told me to.”

“I wasn’t being serious.  My son completely ruined his shirt, and that’s on you.”

“Actually, I think it is on HIM, but I understand you are upset.”  I said it in a polite tone with a smile on my face.

“I was NOT being serious.  You should have known that.”  He seemed to have missed my sarcasm entirely.  Passive Aggressive tendencies seemed to skip generations.  Thanks grandma.

This guy was starting to irritate me.  “You see the name tag,” I pointed to my chest, “that means I am currently employed.  And while employed, the customer is God.  That means you sir, are God.  When God asks for lots of butter on his popcorn and tells me that there is no limit on butter, I let it flow.”  I said it fast, but with an air of casual, mocking politeness.

He just mumbled something in reply, his jaw too clenched for a coherent sentence.  The only word I really caught was “fat.”

I felt heat rise into cheeks that knew that word only too well.  “That I am, but I’m in the process of recovering.  If there was a fat guy rehab, I would already be enrolled.  Way to lash out inappropriately.  Sorry about the butter, but you shouldn’t have asked for it if you didn’t want it.”

With that I turned and walked away from him.  It felt kind of good to be able to say that to someone and it be the truth.  I had been telling people for a long time that I was “trying” but this time I actually was.  I wasn’t really upset by what he said.  After being called something for so long, words voiced or otherwise, they sort of lose their potency.  I still didn’t like it, and I wanted so badly to never be associated with it again.

My shift ended sometime later.  I clocked out and could shake my mood.  I was aloof all afternoon.  As I walked outside, the sun was still high over the western hills, casting short shadows.  The sky was alive with the sound of chirping cicadas complaining about the heat.  I loosened my ridiculous tie from around my neck and let it sit there.  I didn’t take it off.  I just undid the top button to match.  It made me feel like a businessman after a long day of career changing negotiation.  Ever the dreamer I was.

When I got into the cab of my pickup truck I looked at the dash to see what time it was.  5:35, I had twenty five minutes until cookie curfew.  I wanted to eat.  I wanted to eat a lot.  So I lit the ignition and went to Arby’s.  Two roast beef sandwiches, potato wedges, mozzarella sticks, and curly fries.  That was definitely the recipe for weight loss.  After I grabbed the small grocery sack’s worth of food, I bolted to the quickest turnpike gate.  I could get home a lot faster on the highway and I refused to eat in the car.  I don’t really know why, just a personality quirk I guess.  Every day I made it a game, eating before six.  I was winding around cars, through the fast lane, past horse trailers and semis, light filtered through fresh maple leaves along the bank of the road, flickering through my windshield.  While I treated it like a game, it was a game I didn’t want to play.  Like the nineteenth round of hide and seek with a 3 year old, you don’t do it because you want to.  You are doing it for someone else.  I wasn’t losing weight for anyone else, but for a me who may one day say thank you.  That day wasn’t today, but I wanted to win the game anyway.

I made it home at 5:51.  My heart was pounding so hard I could feel it in my earlobes.  I was sweating with anxiety.  I jumped out with the bag of goods in my hand and sprinted…strode…okay, walked to the backdoor of my grandma’s little house under the hill.  It wasn’t the same as Bilbo’s, it was more in the shadow of the hill, but it was just as cozy.  No one can stock a house for comfort like a woman in her sixties.

I walked inside and immediately sat down at the kitchen table.  My little cousin was there.  He might have said something.  I wasn’t paying attention.  I immediately tore the bag in half.  I HAD to make it before six.  I was out of breath by the time I finished, but I checked the old wooden cuckoo clock, 5:58.  I made it.  I sat back and relaxed.  There were nothing but corn batter crumbs and torn plastic left where there was once a meal for two.  At least for the moment I was content.  My cousin just stared in awe at me, a mixture of disgust and admiration on his 10 year old face.  The cereal he was eating was slowly dripping from a spoon that was halfway to his mouth, already forgotten.

By eight thirty I felt like I was hungry again.  It was getting easier though.  I could now STOP myself from saying “to hell with it” and sneaking something back to my room.  I looked at the damn door that was a stout athlete away from what I craved.  My fingers were sweating.  My foot was twitching.  I drummed a quick air solo with my hands.  I picked up a book.  It seemed to be written in edibility, so it was no good.  I looked at the door again.  It looked back.  I asked it to stop being such a smartass.  It said nothing.  I bent down in front of my TV and rifled through my collection of DVDs.  Then I went through my collection of video games.  My stomach rumbled.  My toes curled on course threads of rug.  My hands had stopped moving.  A wondrous thought had just occurred to me.

It doesn’t count if I eat fast.

I bolted to the door and nearly wrenched it off its hinges.

So I made some mistakes.  I made a lot of them to be precise.  I had some very good ideas, true.  They eventually worked out as you will see, in the end.  But I made mistakes.  That is the point of learning.  I shouldn’t have been drinking ICEE or lemonade.  I knew even then that they were just as bad as pop.  The sugar and carbohydrate content in Pepsi brand lemonade is just as bad as pop.  I have no idea what is in an ICEE, but that form of voodoo magic has to be a poor promoter for weight loss of any sort.  That didn’t matter.  I did anything to justify to myself those small things that could make me feel better.  Lots and lots of caloric intake made me feel o’ so grand.

I cheated.  I cheated a lot.  In the beginning I was only “saying” that I wasn’t eating after six, and then did it anyway.  It was more of a quasi hypothetical situation than anything set in stone.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to lose weight, because I did.  I had determination pouring from between by rolls, but I had an extremely weak will.  If you spend your whole life indulging every whim that passes your way that takes your fancy, then even a modicum of self restraint is going to take time to develop.  I could have let it be the end right there.  I could have fallen off the bandwagon and gone back to my heinous ways.   That would have been just so much easier.  That is what old Broc would have done.  But there was a small, but tantamount change.  I kept trying.  That made all the difference.  I wasn’t new, but I wanted so desperately to improve.

I eventually figured out that I shouldn’t be drinking that sort of stuff.  Well, I used the term “figured out” loosely.  I knew damn well that it wasn’t right.  But it isn’t hard to talk yourself into something if it is really what you want to do.  Still, I eventually quit.  It took a while.  Self delusion will hold your hand a lot longer than the most devoted lover.  It will never let you ago, until you decide to release your own grip.  With some time and small steps toward something that resembled effort, I eventually did just that.

I stopped eating so late after a time.  I made it to the point where I could go one day without eating after six.  Then I could go three.  Pretty soon it was the odd day out when I failed.  Every day I did fail though I never felt any better than when I abstained.  I woke up with the same level of hunger on a cheating day as when I was faithful.  It took me a while to realize that the hunger was mostly in my head.  Of course my body had needs.  It got used to producing tons and tons of fat.  So it said I needed more.  Every single body in existence wants that.  When it has excess, it creates what it thinks it needs.  Usually what it thinks it needs is fat.  It helped me, I helped it.  We both got what we want.  Until the day it stopped being what I really wanted.  This is the crux point in losing any amount of anything, from 5 pounds to 500.  If you don’t really want to, if you honestly don’t want to do something about your weight lose, you aren’t going to lose the bundle of calories it takes to quit.  But if you do, if you really want to make a difference in your life, then you can.

It was honestly what I wanted, even if it took me months to finally start being effective.  Eventually I got there.  I developed a terrible habit in the process.  That is something that I will call the “lightning feast.”  If I could just sit there and eat whatever was in my hands quick enough, then it didn’t count.  It started because I had to make my six o’clock deadline, then it became something more.  Every time I was cooking I would have something in my right hand, munching.  If I wasn’t “eating the meal” then it didn’t count as a part of it.  It started out like that.  I would take one staggering, heaving, step forward, just to be knocked 3 more back.

It took a while, but I would learn to break even.  I stopped eating after six completely.  The very, VERY, odd day out would find me scrounging past the self prescribed curfew.  If I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t eat, where I didn’t make the curfew, then I simply didn’t eat.  It seems harsh I know, and I certainly felt it at the time, but it was what it took.  There is a silver lining, because soon it became muscle memory.  By the end of the summer I stopped missing it completely.  Call me a sucker for punishment but I started putting myself into situations where I was around food but wasn’t allowed to eat.  It is leaning morbid, but it helped me build self control, which I desperately needed.

Then I cut pop completely.  And I mean, completely.  I even ditched my lemonade and ICEE training wheels.  I went to just straight water drinking, which hurt.  The only time I had ever liked drinking water was during football practice, and let’s face it, at that point I would have drunk anything.  In more normal times, drinking water would make me sick to my stomach, not to the point of nausea or anything, but I got slightly uncomfortable whenever I was forced to drink it.

So my plans became routine.  My grandma even stopped eating after six.  She is a picky bird eater, so it didn’t affect her very much.  She helped me even more by getting rid of the majority of the soda that was in the house.  That woman is missing more screws than a swing set, but still somehow knows how to come through in a clutch.

It never got easy.  Even after 3 months of continuously doing it, it never stopped being hard.  It just got easier.  If losing weight was hard, then no one would ever need over a size 34, fast food joints would lose a huge amount of revenue, and hopefully more people would figure out how fun biking to work can be.  Just the same, it became manageable for me.

You can say that I had no idea what I was doing.  That I played weight loss roulette and choose a method at random.  I would have to agree with you in that regard.  That isn’t the point.  It wasn’t how effective the method was, it was that I was TRYING to do something.  I was a 20 year old kid shooting in the dark, grasping any straw in sight for a breath of change, but I was grasping nonetheless.  It didn’t matter what I did, it is what resulted from that action.  Every action, invention, and idea has to begin somewhere.  I’m not claiming that I invented anything, but I gave that sacred something the one thing it needed to be satisfied, to give it weight and credibility.

I gave it results.  And guess what?

Soon even I began to see that something had changed.

It was almost imperceptible at first, like the beginning of a rock slide is brought on by a few lazily tossed pebbles.

It took me a while to even realize, but something had changed.  I didn’t notice at first.  Then it took me by surprise.

Something was working.

One thought on “The Lightning Feast

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