In August of 2019, I had some work-related headshots taken by a professional photographer friend of mine. The photos were fine but it was clear, just from the headshot, I was fat. Fat in the face. Not abysmally fat, mind you. But when just a headshot indicates reveals you’re overweight, then there’s no denying it.
The Unlikely Virtue of Ego
Ego. I’m not usually a fan. Ego has caused me to make all kinds of mistakes in life. Anger, depression, anxiety, social blindness: they’re all tied to ego. There’s a reason that Buddhism teaches one to abandon one’s ego. It comes with way too much baggage.
But this time, for one brief shining moment, my ego served me well.
Mind you, I’d been writing in a food journal for well over half a year but had made precious little headway in the weight loss department. I guess maybe I’d lost 5 to 7 pounds from the time I started.
On the other hand, I’d been giving a lot of thought to my family history, personal attitudes and behaviors related to food, and the modern epidemic of obesity in the US and elsewhere. I guess you could say I’d be doing the groundwork for a while.
But there was something in those damned photos that make me think, “That’s it, dude, time to get serious.”
Not Stupid Serious, Mind You
I’ve attempted weight loss enough times to know I wanted to get serious but not what I call “stupid serious.” When it comes to weight loss, stupid serious comes in many forms. Fasting is one I’ve used before. Any fool can fast for a few days and lose weight. But that weight will come back with a vengeance once the fool starts eating normally again.
Blame it on the wisdom of the body, which automatically tries to conserve your fat reserves when it believes you’re going through a starvation period. Your mind says, “Get off me, fat!” but the body says, “Dude, my job is to keep you alive in the lean times. I need to slow down your metabolism so you don’t burn through your fat reserves too quickly. I’m trying to keep your dumb ass alive!”
So, fasting doesn’t work in the long run. Not for me, anyways. Maybe not for anyone.
The Dangers of Eating Disorders
In fact, if taken too far, fasting can lead to anorexia nervosa, the condition in which people avoid food, severely restrict it, or eat tiny small quantities of only certain foods. Sometimes people suffering from this condition binge and purge, which means consuming a lot of food quickly and then purging it through vomiting or laxatives.
Anorexia nervosa can be deadly serious. People can develop medical complications associated with starvation, and this too often kills people. Moreover, the NIH reports that “suicide is the second leading cause of death for people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.”
There are other deadly eating disorders as well, including:
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge-eating disorder
- Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder
I’m no doctor and won’t pretend any expertise in these areas, but I do have enough experience to know I want no part of them. The goal–or at least my goal–is to get healthier, not wind up in the hospital.
Move Past the Ego and Study Up
For me, getting serious meant studying the attitudes and practices of people who have had success in losing weight over the long term while staying mentally and physically healthy. I wanted to be shed not only of the extra pounds but the cravings and self-loathing of the Dogman.
I knew that this jolt to the ego wouldn’t be sufficient. Not by a long shot. In fact, it could lead all kinds of bad eating decisions. My ego may have been tweaked, but I knew by then that the only way to really make progress was to deal with my big, fat-loving brain. I needed a better plan, and I thought I knew where to look. That’ll be the story of my next post.
Featured image by Orazio Gentileschi, Two Women with a Mirror (1620)