This is the last of three posts that take a quick look at what I have been eating for the last 39.8 years. Many of the details were glossed over to allow for more compact posting. Hopefully this will help illustrate the long and twisted journey that led to my new vegan life.
It was May of 2003 and the Earth was spinning on its axis as it had for some time. George W. Bush gave his speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln under his Mission Accomplished banner. The first deer ever cloned by scientists was born and given the name of Dewey. And of course, who can forget when Arsenal beat Southhampton 1-0 to claim the FA Cup? (Thank you Wikipedia)
This was also the exciting month and year that I decided that I’d had quite enough of being called Big Man by strangers. It was time to take off the fat suit like I’d always planned to do. This was a great time of life to make this change too. My elementary teaching career was underway and for the first time in years we had more money coming into the bank than we had going out. It was just the tiniest little bit more, but that by itself was a near miracle and more stress relief than can be adequately explained.
With the best intentions in the world I selected the Atkin’s low-carb diet as my salvation. I had a mini-emotional breakdown the day before starting the meat diet because it sounded like a dangerous fad and I was already worried about my health. However, I’d seen so many success stories I decided I would try my best to follow the rules and hope for the best. Like when I do my taxes.
The weight immediately began to fall off. By starving myself of all carbohydrates (bread, pasta, most fruit, rice, most vegetables, and Coca-Cola which I previously drank by the gallon) my body turned to the only energy source available and used it up quickly. The joy of losing body fat fueled my normally weak will power and I dropped from 292 lbs to 222 lbs between May ’03 and March ’04.
However, before I give my own Mission Accomplished speech, I should mention the number of hospital visits I made during this period of time because of possible Atkins diet side effects. In July, I went to the emergency room with what I thought was blinding abdominal pain. It turned out to be colitis and diverticulitis which is just an infected bowel that can rupture and kill you. No big.
Then in January, I began a three month nightmare that taught me what blinding abdominal pain actually was. Kidney stones began dropping alternately from the right and left kidney and lodging in my ureters because they were so damn big. Barbaric stone retrieval methods that I can’t bring myself to share were used, as well as days of forcing the stones out by drinking gallons of water and then hoping to black out before the pain got too bad. Weeks of my life passed in a muted red-orange tunnel of pain.
Finally, with only a single kidney stone left to pass, I was taught a new lesson about the depths of pain when my mom died suddenly. I fought valiantly against the gravity of grief, but succumbed to the lure of swallowing all my sorrow and then hiding it under food.
During the next seven years my weight behaved the way the economy was supposed to. The pounds that I’d dropped and then kissed goodbye came back with a vengeance. Several times I mounted an Atkins style attack on my body fat and was usually successful for a while. However, it would inevitably end in a two night vacation in the hospital or a carbohydrate binge that ruined months of expensive work. Steak and bacon and deductibles ain’t cheap folks!
What? Why would I continue to try a diet that had proven to increase my cholesterol, blood pressure, and possibility of death from a ruptured intestine? Duh. Being fat is hard. Put aside the effort involved in carrying 100-150 pounds around with you everywhere you go. The emotional baggage that you carry is ten times as heavy- minimum.
Last May was eight years after the birth of Dewey the Clone Deer and my own introduction to the Atkins diet. I started the downward plunge again after reaching my terrifying all time highest personal weight of 336 pounds. Last May, I started to use super low carb eating again and in five months I dropped 50 of the 150 pounds I had to lose. I suffered two minor abdominal incidents that may have been colon related again, but both subsided after 24 hours without medical attention. I also dealt with several bouts of terrifying chest pain that were thankfully not heart attacks. I was at a point where losing weight was obviously doing me more harm than good. I felt scared but I couldn’t bring myself to give up the weight loss miracle.
There was a lot of reflection and soul searching that went into the decision to drop Atkins and become vegan. I was in the middle of watching Forks Over Knives when all of my swirling thoughts, hopes and fears coalesced into a solution. When I asked myself what kind of life I wanted to live once I’d lost all the body fat. It was a life of environmental awareness, compassion, global responsibility, and forward thinking. I realized it was a life I could lead while regaining my health.
The blog picks up the adventure at this point. I am no longer tricking my body into losing weight with a dangerous diet. I am now happily living the life that I will continue to live as long as I am allowed to do so. Before this new life I was on a metaphorical trip with a specific destination. I wanted to reach it quickly and be done traveling because it was a mission I had to accomplish. Now I am on a trip with a vague destination and no time table at all. I am happily enjoying the scenery, the winding road, and most of all, the people I am meeting along the way.