In February 2006, feeling fat and horrible, I decided I had to do something about my weight. I think the first thing I tried was eating breakfast, which was kind of a big deal, since I was raised in a maybe-a-Pop-Tart-on-the-way-to-school household.
Countless people will tell you that studies show eating breakfast will help you lose weight. (Almost no people can tell you exactly which studies show that.) The general idea is that if you eat breakfast you’ll be less hungry at lunch time. Perhaps I was overweight simply because of my breakfastless upbringing?
I bought a box of raisin bran and a quart of milk. I ate a bowl every morning for a few days. It was a disaster.
First of all, I hadn’t been a regular milk-drinker since high school, so my lactose tolerance wasn’t what it used to be. But, more importantly, I didn’t feel any better and wasn’t inclined to eat any less at lunch.
I was always suspicious of the argument for breakfast. I realize now that the “hunger” angle, though it might be useful for some people, made no difference to me. I don’t eat because I am hungry; I eat because food is there. Even if I don’t need it. Even if I know I will feel awful. So what’s the use in reducing my hunger, when hunger is rarely the reason I eat?
Before I could become completely discouraged, I discovered The Hacker’s Diet, which imparted to me these ideas:
- Your body is governed by the same laws of physics as everything else. Mass and energy are conserved. If you consume more than you burn you will gain weight. If you burn more than you consume you will lose weight.
- Food, exercise, and your weight can all be measured in calories. A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories of energy.
- If you track your weight using some basic statistics, you can see progress (or regress) long before any other indicator.
- Your body is a sophisticated system, and as long as you aren’t stupid (don’t starve yourself or contract scurvy) you will be fine.
In New York I no longer have easy access to an elliptical machine. I have access to 24-hour public transportation and people to drink beer with. On November 3, 2006, I weigh 183.5 lbs. I join the New York Sports Club and go fairly regularly after work. On May 18, 2007, I weigh 171.0 lbs.
It’s hard to keep up the habit. On January 5, 2008 I weigh 191.5 lbs. I quit my job and begin to freelance. There’s no excuse to miss the gym now. On June 28, 2008, I weigh 183.0 lbs. It’s hard to keep up the habit. I’m looking to save money. I cancel my membership. I live near the park now, I can run there for free. It’s hard to make that a habit. On October 27, 2008, I weigh 190.0 lbs. Barack Obama is elected President. On January 20, 2009, I weigh 195.5 lbs.
On March 5, 2009, it is my birthday. I am 29 years old. I weigh 200 lbs. Again. On the phone with my parents, I can’t decide if I should join a gym, when my business isn’t profitable, when I live nearby a park. My parents remind me that I am dumb, but they will give me some money for a membership, as a birthday gift, if that will get me to sign up.
On March 5, 2009, I joined a gym.