On this date last year -- Monday, 5 May 2008 -- I took a leap of faith I'd been fighting for a very long while. I stepped on the Weight Watchers scale for the first time, as I waited for that number. The number I'd allowed myself to reach, after many years of willful neglect and lots and lots of enjoyable food ... and thousands of wasted calories in the form of Coke after Coke after ice cold Coke. That number was 295.2.
Miz Tina was the WW leader at Rincon, and in this space I've several times alluded to the look on her face. A look which said, "Uh-huh. You're doing this only because your wife is dragging you in here, kicking and screaming." The face suggested I was too set in my ways. That I couldn't make the changes necessary to reverse some destructive habits.
That I liked my cashews too damned much. That I was addicted to Coca-Cola. "Atlanta Holy Water" had been a staple of my diet since I was able to hold a 6-1/2 ounce bottle. Well, except for that "New Coke" fiasco - when I made a brief sojourn to Dr. Pepper - Coke Was It for Gleck.
I will be the first to tell you that I am what some would call a "picky eater." Others - such as my own self - prefer to label my culinary habits "basic and spartan." I am the walking embodiment of a 'meat and potatoes' man. Give me steak, but with A-1. Baked potato? Butter and salt. Nothing else. I'll take a salad, provided it's iceburg lettuce with thousand-island dresing. Don't give me the purple and orange confetti, fakon bits, and other crap. Lettuce and dressing. Period.
I can barely tolerate milk. I cannot drink it straight. In a milkshake, yeah. Carnation Instant Breakfast? Doable. I taste the vanilla far more than the milk in those cases.
Breakfast cereal? I've always liked it dry, right out of the box.
Tuna? I'll eat it straight, with salt. Don't give me any mayo or relish or other garnishment. A little NaCl, a/k/a "Talmadge Dust", and I'm happy. Yeah, okay. A lot of "Talmadge Dust."
My "practice wife" and her family live by a sacred creed of adding as many "bells and whistles" to basic food as they can. And my "picky" habits were always getting in the way. My ex-wife, I'm certain, was embarrassed by my particular foodtastes.
Seraphim, on the other hand, said: "It just makes it easy to cook for you."
(She loves me.)
I've come to realize I have tactile issues with some food. Certain textures will make me gag. Honest. Do not feed me peanut butter out of a jar reading "Chunky." Jello? Plain, mister. Mashed potatoes? Lumps trigger a major gag reflex. I kid you not. I've found the only kind of mashed potatoes I can abide are those from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Dependably smooth.
Now I am not one to be a wet-blanket when it comes to gatherings where food is served. I do my best to find out in advance what's on the menu ... and if it's something I do not care for, I am the model of discretion. I'll swing by a convenience store for a pack of peanut-butter 'nab' crackers. Something to put in my stomach, then I can be sociable at the event - lie through my teeth and say "I'm not hungry" - drink water or whatever they have, and after the event, make a hellish beeline for the nearest fast food place. That way, I'm not acting the anti-social arsehole, ruining a good time for everyone else ... while trying my best to avoid what I find to be a tendency of a lot of people to shove food down my throat. I'm not hungry. Can't you understand?
It's funny. Many such "foodphiles" are women. Women who won't bat an eye at listening to the same 30 freakin' songs over and over on the local adult contemporary station.
And they have the golldurned nerve to say I'm picky??!! At least with food, I can close my mouth without interfering with their enjoyment of whatever food they choose. Unfortunately, I cannot close my ears to their Celine Dion crap being played by Miz Three-Times-Married-Yet-Gives-Love-Advice-To-Others, Delilah, should I be a passenger in their Dodge Caravan.
The fact that I do not like lasagna, for example -- something which angered my first wife; we'd been dating maybe six months when one night she made some, and forced it down my throat, despite making it clear that I. DO. NOT. LIKE. LASAGNA. I loathe it. Revile it. No matter WHO makes it. I ate it, and gagged. She took it personally. I could've insulted her mother, for all she took my reaction.
The fight which ensued I wish I could go back in time and videotape.
I hate lasagna. However, that does not mean I want it eradicated from the menus of America and beyond. Just like it for me. And respect my desire not to partake. It's nothing personal. Honest.
I also detest Mexican food. As I've always liked to say, "There's one good thing in a Mexican restaurant, and that's the exit."
Fortunately, in most cases there's always at least one thing on a menu in 90% of restaurants (read: not Mexican or some other fourth-world eatery), and as long as I can have those entrees, I'm happy. Everybody is happy.
Why can't all these kind of events be like, say, the big Fondue blowout during "Blogfest '09"?? My female friends were all excited about making and enjoying Swiss fondue. And while they did that, my friend Michael - "The General" - and I both went 'into town' for some male bonding over Mickey D's. One more time, with feeling: EVERYBODY IS HAPPY.
So with that as a background, let's backtrack to September 2006. Nettiemac started Weight Watchers that previous May. And we had our first real conversation about it one weekend, when she and Bolivar converged upon our household. I knew I needed to do something about what was a serious plumping-out of my exterior facade. Nothing bad happened yet, no physical event to "put the fear of God into me." Just I knew reality, much as I was fighting it within.
The problem was, I was concerned about how I could reconcile my eating habits to conform within what would be some drastically shrunken room.
The bottom line: I didn't want to further narrow what was already a diet worthy of a Bill Drake top-30 playlist.
March 24, 2008 - my wonderful, awesome best friend and bride Seraphim took the WW plunge. I decided I would "mooch" off her points format, and give it a shot that way.
At first glance, my reaction was "f(BLEEP)k this s(BLEEP)t! I enjoy my food too much and do not want to go without it. I do not want to live on salads and Tab. And I know how much of a royal twat I can be when I'm hungry. Do I want to be a royal twat all the time? Would I have any friends left??"
Then, the more I thought about it, and analyzed what I ate, I began to realize just how I could mesh the Weight Watchers "format" with my 'peculiar' eating habits, and still be able to eat much of what I already enjoy.
Plus, I wanted to be "a team" with my wife as she was trying to lose pounds herself. We need to do this together.
Which brought me to Monday, May 5 of Ought-Eight, and 295.2 pounds. I became Weight Watchers' newest member. And no, my wife did NOT force me. This was 110% of my own volition.
The goal I set for myself on that date was 75 pounds.
Oh, and last Thursday's weigh-in wasn't what I'd hoped. Tiny gain on the scale ... +0.2, virtually maintaining. Making for a one-year cume of -62.0. I can take that. Wish it were more, know it could've been far less.
Let's see what this Thursday brings, eh?
I still remember the trip to Kroger we made after the meeting, how the Chris Rea song "Fool (If You Think It's Over)" came on the PA system. I took it as my inner devil cueing up a record with a strong message. "Yeah right, Tal. You can't pull this off."
As I pondered Chris Rea's song-o-mockery, I was fronted with my first big challenge: trading regular cream of chicken soup for the "reduced fat" CofC. For years, my mantra was "low fat = low taste."
We've substituted lots of things over the year.
What habits have I changed? I sit here astonished that I accomplished the following:
- Traded regular hamburger buns for the "lite" kind. One point per each. Baby steps; I'm not quiiiite ready for the wheat bun dark side.
- No regular cream of chicken soup. Now it's the reduced fat kind. The only difference in my 'chicken and rice' plate is that the soup portion is a bit thinner. Otherwise, there IS no difference.
- Exit Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese, enter the 'reduced fat' kind. Again, I cannot tell.
- My wife no longer fries the fish portions we get at Sam's. Now they're just baked.
- Buh-bye, sugar. Hello, Splenda. Unsweet tea or water in restaurants. If the yellow packets aren't available, I'll settle for the blue ones (Aspartame).
- "Jolly Time Healthy Pop" 94% fat-free microwave popcorn is surprisingly good. It doesn't taste like styrofoam, as the Kroger brand 94% FF stuff does. And two (2) points for an entire bag. Sweet.
- We've traded regular bacon for turkey bacon. Y'know what? I like it.
- I gave up cashews, except for the occasional cashew chicken Sera will make. I love cashews, and even to this day I get a wistful feeling when I find myself in the nut aisle. The ugly truth: like potato chips, I cannot eat just one. I used to could go through one entire can of cashews in two days at work. Aye yi yi!
- Two other deep, longtime loves were also thrown overboard: candy corn, and - at Halloween time - those sweet, luscious, hubba-hubba Brach's mellocreme pumpkins.
- Ryan's and Golden Corral were pink-slipped from the regular rigamarole. Those had to go, for I could eat upwards of 100 points at one sitting - and in all likelihood DID.
- No more trips off the island at work. We used to take advantage of the Domino's 5/5/5 deal -- my boss, our news producer and myself would each have one of the $5.00 specials. Sometimes I'd go to the Kroger at Marsh Point for some of their deli chicken nuggets. Today, it's tuna, soup, or - as I discovered I liked a lot - the Lean Cuisine pepperoni pizza. 7 points. I haven't left the island for lunch since before last May!
- Subway is good. Very, very good. Their pizza is wonderful. A pepperoni pizza - cooked nice and hot in 90 seconds (not zapped) - is only 15 points. And far less greasier than the Pizza Hut 'personal pans'
- I still have fast food. Just that I keep it within the point limits, and reward myself when I've been good the rest of the week. Instead of indulging in french fries 3-4 times a week, now it's usually 1 - maybe 2 - times.
- Diet lemonade at Chick-Fil-A. I love it. Plus, I've recently made another big turn: I gave up the classic CFAs in favor of the chargrilled sammiches. A little pricier, but at least they take off 30 cents if one loses 'the garden' (as I do - surprise, surprise!). A regular CFA is 9 points. 8 points without butter. But the chargrilled CFAs clock in at a rip-roarin' 5 points!
But perhaps the biggest change I've made is in the area of drinks:
- Originally, I was going to ramp soft drinks down to one per day, and allow for a couple per week of what I used to call BAM-Ds -- that's (B)ig-(A)ss (M)ountain (D)ew, my affectionate name for the 44-ounce 'fountain dew" I used to buy quite often up the road at our local Gate convenience store. I discovered how good they were along about 2006 or so, and I soon got to where I was drinking as many as 10 of those suckers a week. Ten. (a lot of those were freebies, as part of Gate's "bonus beverage club", but I digress)
- Initially, I quit Coca-Cola cold turkey. Actually, I was weaning myself off Coke by March ... and what helped there was the availability of Squirt in our area. I always loved that soda, ever since I had my first one in Arkansas.
- About a month into my WW regimen, I tried going without carbonation for a week. While I couldn't make it quite the week, it really made me think about throttling a little further on the soda intake.
- Then came Melissa's two words, which I believe came in a comment to a blog post early last Summer. The words were "drinking calories." They sank in, as the reality of the situation stared me in the face: why the hell should I waste three (3) points on sugared soda - the 'price' of a 12-ounce can - when I can instead indulge in an ice cream sandwich, for the same point value??
- At the same time, I discovered that while I cannot abide the taste of diet 'dark sodas' (i.e. Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper, etc.), I do love Diet 7-UP. And then came trying Diet Mountain Dew. In the fountain (where I can find it), it's just as good - if not better - than sugared Mountain Dew.
- It wasn't intended as such at the time, however my last "BAM-D" was bought Saturday, 19 July 2008. And thus ended my love affair with sugared carbonated beverages.
- BAM-D has been replaced by BADD'M-D.
- Diet Mountain Dew has become my new Coca-Cola.
- Crystal Light decaf tea and lemonade are now good friends of mine.
- Most of all, something I never thought I'd ever say in my lifetime, this or any reincarnated afterlife: I never want another Coca-Cola as long as I live!
Do I miss gorge-outs at Golden Corral? Yup. Will I still have them? Absolutely. We all need occasional vacations from the rigamarole, and that's how I stay on track. One per calendar quarter seems reasonable, just to keep my body guessing ... and stop any temptation toward it going into "famine" mode.
Do I eat at GC on a regular basis? Not on your life. I don't trust myself! Would a recovering alcoholic go into a liquor store? A problem gambler darkening the door of a casino? It's the same thing, people.
I still have a ways to go. More baby steps yet to take. And I'm taking them.
Could I have seen this a year ago? Nope. Honestly, a big fat NO. Doesn't matter, though; I have.
Take that, Chris Rea.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "And the journey continues" Gleck