Food and I have never had an especially good relationship. We’re sort of like the first 30 minutes of a romantic comedy, where the two people fight all the time and act as if they hate each other when, in fact, they know they belong together. But with me and food, the first 30 minutes has been really stretched out – “You’ve Got Mail,” altered so that Tom and Meg are at each others’ throats two hours in and the movie keeps going and going. Actually, that might be an accurate description of “You’ve Got Mail” – I’ve never seen that particular motion picture so I’m not sure. The point is, I love food, but things are often a bit testy.
A lot of this stems from the fact that I can’t eat most of the time. I don’t know why…I’m just never hungry. I order food and more often than not I’m unable to eat it. To use Meg Ryan for another bad analogy, remember that scene in “When Harry Met Sally” where the lady thought Meg’s food gave her an orgasm? For me, it would be the exact opposite. The food would give me impotence. Instead of hearing Ryan moaning, the lady at the other table would hear my turkey club telling me not to be embarrassed and that it happens to a lot of guys.
The waiter would come up to the lady at the other table, “Would you like your usual Meg Ryan Orgasm Pecan Pie, or will you be going with our new item, the Erectile Dysfunction Turkey Club? That guy over there gets it every time.”
All that is to say, I have a difficult time stomaching what most people consider a normal amount of food. When I was a kid, I used to have panic attacks every time the waiter brought the food out. I would see it, know I couldn’t finish it, and start hyperventilating. My mother would slap me and throw water in my face. “Get a hold of yourself, damnnit!!” I was filled with extraordinary jubilance the day I learned that there was something called a “doggie bag” and that I didn’t have to eat my entire dinner at the restaurant.
“We’re going out to eat tonight,” Mom would tell me.
“Okay. Can I get my food doggie style?”
“Fo shizzle,” she’d say.
My food anxiety never went away. Things got even harder as the portions in American restaurants got larger and larger. The first time my entrée arrived at TGI Friday’s, I broke out in hives from the stress. It was like having to read a 1,000 page book in half an hour. While others were thrilled with their Chili’s baby back ribs (barbeque sauuuuucccceeee!), I felt I was faced with an insurmountable task. They’d be licking their fingers and I’d be wiping the cold sweat off my forehead.
“Is there something the matter with your meal, sir?” the waiter would ask.
“No,” I’d think. “It’s just more than I ate all last month.”
Needless to say, I’ve always assumed that I’d be thin all my life. That’s why the events that have unfolded recently have come as a great shock to me. I’m not sure exactly how it happened. For the past year or so, I’ve been consciously trying to gain weight. Starting, hmm, maybe two months ago, I decided to go for broke and start taking in as many calories as I possibly could. I was drinking two high-calorie milk shakes a day and basing my diet solely on the amount of calories things had. 540 calories in a Big Mac? Hell yeah. Give me fries with that. I figured that if I consumed a ridiculous amount of calories, my body would naturally start to put on weight and I would fill out like a normal person. Thus, I began eating several meals a day composed of pure junk, stuff that had lots of calories but little nutritional value. I was eating, I thought, as most people do.
Filling out like a normal person never happened though. Instead, some notable changes began to take place. First off, my gut ballooned out like I was Demi Moore posing for Vanity Fair. Secondly, I started getting sick a lot. Thirdly, I began feeling exhausted all the time, extremely tired and worn out even though I’d only been awake for a few hours. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I checked my tongue for thrush, scared that maybe I’d gone the way of Rock Hudson, Magic Johnson, and Kami the muppet. It seemed okay. That was a relief, but I still knew there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know how to figure it out, so I just ate some more.
Then one day my girlfriend told me that she wanted to check my body fat percentage. She said that maybe a high body fat was the reason I was feeling fatigued all the time and looked like I was about to give birth to Bruce Willis’ baby. I stepped up onto her super scale. First, my weight appeared.
64.3 kilograms (about 141 lbs.)
Yeah, about what I expected. There was a pause, and shortly after that my body fat percentage appeared.
“Oh my God!” my girlfriend screamed. “That’s really, really high.”
I doubted it was that bad, and so I went to the Internet. “See,” I told her, once I had pulled a chart up, “it says I’m in the normal range.”
“You’re looking at the women’s chart,” she said. “Go to the men’s chart. Scroll down.”
I did, and my heart, surely filled with clogged arteries, broke. My number wasn’t even on the chart. It was lumped into the category “25% and Up.” And in that category, there was that one word that no person ever wants to be associated with.
That’s right, although I was still only 141 lbs., I had eaten myself straight into obesity. “I’m obese,” I said, dazzled, shaking my head. I never thought I would say those words. They’d always fallen into the list of ‘things-I-will-never-say,’ with other phrases like “I’m rich” or “I like myself.” But here it was, proof before my very eyes. Despite my years of having eating anxiety, I had become an obese individual.
So, this past week and a half has been a non-stop health bonanza. I’ve been at the gym every day, lifting weights and walking on the treadmill. I’m now eating tons of fruits and vegetables and drinking lots of water. In only these 10 days, I’ve lowered my body fat percentage to 24%. There is hope for me. My gut is on its way out and I feel great. There’s no lethargy and I have energy. Most importantly, I still appear not to have thrush.
And now I have this memory. I will never forget my odyssey into obesity. The way I felt was horrible. Mark my words – I never want to be obese again. I haven’t read the book The Hunger Games, but have often heard people describe it as being about a ‘dystopian’ society where food is scarce. The people who call that ‘dystopian’ apparently have never been through what I’ve been through. To me, it sounds like paradise. What would you rather have, The Over Fed Games? I’ve lived those. They involve French fries and mayonnaise, and the winner gets diabetes. No thanks, man. I’ve given it some thought, and I think I’ll have what the hungry folks are having.