Sunday, August 13, 2017

How did I get so darn fat!?

In order to understand how I've reduced my BMI by 10 points and why I believe I can reduce it another 10 points, I feel it is important to understand how my BMI went up 20 points in the first place. So just how did I get so darn fat!?

I was always an over-eater. I was 'chubby' as a child but by my teens I became very athletic. I swam and ran several kilometers a day. Then I got into riding my mountain bike to the next town: usually for a milkshake. In my twenties I took up cross-country skiing and back-country hiking. In my thirties I got into rock climbing, canoeing, and skydiving.

Sometimes my weight would creep up a bit but I just added a few kilometers to my excursions and it would melt right off. My core diet was healthy but I ate twice as much as I should have - and that would have been fine but then I would also grab a fast food burger for a snack or eat a whole pizza on the weekend. I was so active that I maintained a healthy BMI even though I ate about 4,500 calories a day.

At some point in my mid-thirties I had a series of setbacks. I won't bore you with the details because I'm saving them to write a country song. I damaged my ankles quite badly in a 'stunt' that was incredibly stupid. That brought my activity level to a dead stop. My weight started going up and I got a bit depressed. I think I might have seasonal affective disorder because by the middle of the next winter I hardly left the house. There was a short period where I think I experienced real clinical depression; that experience gives me great empathy for those who live with chronically recurring depression.

My healthy diet disappeared and I lived primarily on delivery: pizza, Chinese, whatever I could get delivered to my door. All that delivery food and not leaving the house caused financial and relationship problems. I'm trying to just paint the broad strokes here but this is already sounding like a country song.

I survived the depression, got back into the swing of things, recovered financially and emotionally, but my diet remained very unhealthy. I ended up exhibiting what I call compulsive oral stimulation. As soon as I woke up I wanted juice. I mostly had porridge for breakfast but rarely had fruit with it. Then morning coffee and cigarette. I would have a mint or two on my way to work and then things got worse because I'm a cook. Oh, look, Caesar croutons! Next an olive, a cup of tea, and then I would grab a slice of watermelon as I walked by the prepared fruits in the fridge. Ice water, out for a smoke, piece of cheese - it just never stopped.

When my BMI crept up to 35, I threw out my bathroom scale. As big as I was getting, I would still spot people even bigger and say to myself, "Well, at least I'm not THAT big." At some point I began to notice other fat people looking at me and could tell they were thinking the same thing.

The thing that I'm most ashamed about is that I let this happen even though I'm a professional cook. I know how to cook a healthy, balanced menu. I've worked in care homes and cafeterias where my principal responsibility was putting together healthy meal plans each week. I also had plenty of motivation to put myself on a healthy diet - my ankles and knees ached terribly every night after work and sometimes I didn't even want to get out of bed on my first day off just to give my ankles a chance to fully recover. I was afraid that I was going to get diabetes because I put most my fat on in the middle and that's one of the risk criteria.

The problem was I no longer had the excitement of all the activities I had enjoyed so much when I was healthy. I couldn't even enjoy a walk around the block without my ankles giving me grief. And so, I felt like food was all I had left. I lived in pain and in fear of being diagnosed with diabetes, and I alleviated that pain and fear by stuffing calories into my pie hole. I know: stupid. That's the spiral, though, and I believe a third of the adult population is living with it these days.

I tried to manage my eating from time to time. At least I usually had porridge for breakfast. I struggled to buy little packages of snack foods rather than giant, party-sized bags. My cupboards were usually bare because the only way I could avoid snacking at night was to not have anything available. Knowing that my cupboards were bare, however, led to me picking up unhealthy meals on the way home.

It took me about 10 years to go from being quite athletic to surpassing the class III obesity benchmark. When I felt really bad about it I would just eat enough to make me sleepy so I could take a nap.


  1. Thanks for starting your blog to help inform us, on weight loss. looking forward to your recipes if you share them with us.

    1. I will be sharing a few soon but at the start of all this I basically ate old-fashioned hospital food - it was awful but I wanted to eat bland stuff for a while to sort of reset my palate. It helped me a lot in terms of controlling my urges and relearning how to enjoy the taste of a carrot.