When I spent all day in an emergency room last December — trying to figure out why I was hurting so badly — I had a lot of time to think about my health.
Even though the problem at the time — the damaged gallbladder which had to be removed — had nothing to do with my weight, the situation was still scary enough that it had me thinking about my mortality.
“If I haven’t done anything about my weight by a year from now,” I thought, “it’s eventually going to kill me.”
There was nothing magical about the one-year time frame, but something about it makes sense even now. I know I weigh too much. The excess weight causes problems. But the bigger issue is what all that sugar consumption is doing to my health — physical and mental — on the inside.
In the picture above, you can see the dramatic difference in my size when I’m taking care of myself and when I’m eating terribly. The one on the right was in 2008 or so. I had been dating someone and I was happy. When I’m happy, I feel no reason to eat to fill an internal void, so I quit abusing myself with food.
I don’t remember exactly when the photo on the left was taken, but that’s about the biggest I’ve been. I was about 210 pounds in the photo on the right. I was about 320 in the photo on the left. I’m between the two right now, but I have a long way to get to where I need to be — about 200 pounds.
I’m always aware of this crisis, so there’s nothing new about any of this. I’m not happy right now, so I’m not in a frame of mind in which it will just naturally happy. But I’m scared not to do something about it. I’ve always planned to live a very long life — and that’s not going to happen unless I get my health under control.
Although I hate the way I look when I’m overweight, it’s really the underlying health issues that are a bigger deal. I used to think that carrying excess fat was the only side effect of my emotional overeating, but I’ve come to understand that the fuel I consume is doing damage to my body in ways that are far more serious than looking fat. It’s the damage I can do to my internal systems that has me afraid of shortening my life.
I recently started listening to a podcast that breaks down a lot of the scientific research that explains why doctors and governments have given us such terribly mistaken dietary advice for years. I had learned a long time ago that a ketogenic diet — one which is low in carbs and high in fat — is the only thing that will allow me to be healthy.
When I first encountered the ideas of Dr. Robert Atkins back in the late ’80s, I thought he must be a quack. Everything he said went against the mainstream advice I’d gotten from doctors and our own government. But I tried my own version of his plan and found that it worked. (When I eat the way I know to eat, I maintain a healthy weight, as you can see in this photo from about eight years ago.) It’s only been in the last decade of so, though, that I’ve seen clear explanations backed in research that explain why it works — and why mainstream dietary advice is killing us.
The podcast I started listening to is produced by a clinic in Toronto specializing in treatments that feature ketogenic diets and fasting. I went back to the very first episodes of the podcast and started listening to patients tell their stories.
I could recognize much of my story in their stories. And I was further astounded to find them making connections to other medical conditions — such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — from the damage we do to ourselves by having our insulin levels too high through a modern American diet. PCOS and diabetes are related in the endocrine system. Why had I never heard that before?
If you’re interested in what a ketogenic diet might be able to do for your health issues — if you have them — you might be interested in this podcast called the Obesity Code. Go all the way back to the very first episodes in their archives.
I don’t have a complete plan yet and I don’t know how I might need to modify my plan to take into account the changes I’ve seen because of my gallbladder removal. I just know that the less I eat, the better my entire digestive system feels, so I suspect it will work quite well.
I’ll admit that this would be easier if I were doing it with the help of someone I loved, but that’s not an option at the moment, so I’ll have to see whether I can find enough desire to take care of myself somewhere other than where I’ve found it in the past.
This isn’t going to be easy for me, but I have to find a way to take care of this problem — or else it’s going to kill me early. I’ve always planned to live a very long time — 120 years is my target — so I need to get myself into shape and into health.
Food has always been my comfort. It’s something like a consolation prize for not having the emotional things I need. I have to find a way to comfort myself and fill that longing for love — without finding it at the bottom of an ice cream carton. That’s an unhealthy place to be.