“You’re likely going to hate me.”
I could feel my left eye involuntarily twitch at the simple statement. A low throb had settled in at my temples from the idea I had just now contemplated and had confirmed. I sat dumbfounded looking over the crisp white sheets of paper in front on me. The instructions on them were as simple as I imagined they would be but the concepts were as foreign as North Korean stand up comedy.
“I know its going to rough for the first few weeks but if you are serious about the goals you have told me then I think this is the best course of action”
My head was swimming now in a haze of brown liquid. It jolted itself through the steps it had taken me to get to this moment as I tried to focus on the last few words written on the bottom of the first page.
From the race last year and my feelings of failure despite finishing quite respectably.
My fear over a diagnosis of being prediabetic.
A family history of massive heart issues.
An extended family full of men whose waist lines grew in almost exponential equations to the receding of their hair lines.
The numbers I saw every day when I looked at the scale that seemed to always hover around the same few digits no matter what I did or didn’t eat.
I knew I needed help but had no idea where to start.
I think in the last ten years I had tried every single workout program from P90X, a program I fully believe would keep anyone from being accosted in the showers in prison to wrapping my body in plastic wrap and running up and down the stairs at the boat launch. Every food craze from kale smoothies to raspberries ketones to squirrel intestines. Every health drink from protein shakes to frozen green tea, which has led to a jug in my fridge being constantly referred to as “Dad’s New Weirdo Health Thing”.
It shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t require that sort of effort. It all seems so simple.
Eat sensibly, drink lots of water, train hard. Funny how easy that sounds.
After meeting a personal trainer, who despite being an amazing specimen had only yet another book to offer me as far as nutrition went, I decided to take a different approach. I had seen the sign for the office on my way to a meeting and a quick phone call led me to the moment of unreality I was now facing. Michelle, the nutritionist, sat across the table from me with a smile that never wavered. After taking my height and inspecting me like a 4H girl inspects a blue ribbon calf she motioned for me to step on the scale.
I unloaded even the lint from my pockets on to the table holding my keys, wallet and phone before with that levitating step on to the biometric scale. My weight was three pounds heavier at 220 pounds and a body fat percentage of 16 percent. I sighed and looked over at the nodding smile.
“You are actually in great shape for a guy with your muscle mass.” Michelle said as she made a few notes.
“Not where I plan on ending up.” I answered her unspoken question.
After a few more questions about my long-term goals, the printer beside her desk spit out the plan I now held away from my body like a distant aunt holdings a puking baby.
“Seriously?” I balked “No coffee at all?”
“Not for the time being, no.” Michelle answered as she settled her long frame back in her chair waiting for I am sure was the explosion she had likely seen more times than I have seen that video of the three puppies yawning in unison. My mind couldn’t comprehend the idea.
The other diet ideas were as basic as I imagined they would be. No breads, no grains and no sugars. It was the no coffee that struck me like a back-handed pimp hand. I love coffee with a devotion bordering on the obsessive. To the point where my eyes can’t even open in the morning until after my second cup. This was one of those choices that you never want to have to make. Like which one of your kids you love more or if you were getting bacon or sausage with your mountain of pancakes at Denny’s.
“Okay.” I sighed with a hitch in my voice not unlike saying goodbye to an old friend ” I will do it.”
“Fantastic. We will see you back in three weeks.” Michelle said as she stood and guided me out the door.
My resolve was firm though as are all peoples with a new set of instructions. That first initial step on the path to good health taken. What no one tells you is that while the first step is simple the actual journey is like walking the Boston Marathon with the road covered with oddly angled LEGO pieces.
The first sip of green tea, the only caffeine I was now allowed, the first morning nearly broke my resolve. There were so many great coffee shops along the way to the job site. Each of them promising to wash away the medicinal tea taste and the film my sludgy breakfast smoothie left on my tongue. But I held my resolve. At least until the headache started. The first signs of caffeine withdrawal setting in and the beginning of a six day headache that made even the smallest of things seem like Titanic scale disasters. All the while, coffee shops on every street corner with overflowing urns like Mrs. Potts in “Beauty and the Beast” singing their aromatic song that promised to take away all the worries I had in the world. A magic potion that would fix all my ailments.
But as I stood in my kitchen on the morning of the sixth day watching the kettle boil, I felt my pants slip off my hips and down over my butt. Not really an uncommon thing but never really happening while I wore a belt. I snickered as I pulled my belt into a spot it hadn’t been in a very long time. I had been skipping the heavy weights I always had used in favour of long runs and outdoor hikes in an effort to lean down. Clearly something it was working. It just wasn’t easy. It would have simply been easier to roll up to a drive through get an extra large Double Double to go with the dozen honey dipped donuts that had been haunting my palate for weeks. I just couldn’t shake the image of being one of those guys that sweats walking from my car to the front door of a fast food chain.
I had heard a quote that had really struck me and it was never more true than every time I watched one of the guys that work for me slurping down a giant chocolate milk while I sipped a retched vegetable based cleansing drink that tasted like a combination of rancid asparagus tips and Old MacDonald’s sweaty socks.
“Live one year of your life like no one should so you can spend the rest of your life like no one could.”
This thought was firmly in my mind as I walked through the doors of Michelle’s office a few days later to check in. Her knowing smile was confirmation enough that I had likely been through the worst of it. We chatted briefly about the mood swings that had my family wanting me dead and the restrictive plant-based diet.
“Let’s see how you did.” Michelle said as she motioned to the scales. That momentary lightning bolt of panic ripped through my brain with the same doubts I always faced when approaching the scales. Had I done enough? How bad had I done? What would happen if I had actually gained weight?
I stripped off as much of my clothing as the nutritionist allowed after trying valiantly to “drop some pounds” in her office bathroom before stepping on to the judgemental machine. I closed my eyes and waiting for the sigh that told me I had yet again failed.
“Holy shit.” Michelle blurted with a small laugh.
“How bad?” I asked with a tremulous voice.
“Bad?” Michelle snickered ” You’ve lost almost 13 pounds and 1 and a half percent body fat.”
“Is that good?’ I questioned in my incomprehension.
“It’s better than good. It’s great.” She replied as she jotted down the notes. I stepped down and pulled my shirt back on. I was dumbfounded. It had actually worked. I sat in almost silence as she went over the next phase and how I should expect my progress to slow down a bit. We talked about the pace I needed to set in order to get to my now much lower goal weight and how with proper diligence I could get there in the six month time frame I hoped for.
“You seem to be right on track,” Michelle said as we stood by the door to a completely new world ” What are you going to do next?”
“Well right now I am going to celebrate and cheat on my diet with a donut the size of a soccer ball and a gallon of coffee.” I said as I pushed the door open.
“I hate you.” Michelle laughed as she shoved the door shut behind me.