There are many facets to the creature that passes for yours truly. Some of them are sweet, others are sour, many are visible only during the Witching Hour. However, all of these aspects have one thing in common: They could probably lose a few pounds.
A few years ago, I realized I was rapidly transitioning from man to manatee and decided to do something about it. Since then, my weight has been in a constant state of flux, generally sailing the seas between Perfectly Acceptable Bay and Port Lardass. During this time, I've learned a thing or two about shedding pounds (and failing to do so), despite not being interested in dieting at all or qualified to talk about it in any way.
Hi, my name is Pauli. I'm a fucking idiot, and this is my guide to losing weight.
A little background: A few years ago, I made a pact with a good friend of mine. We'd both quit smoking cold turkey and never have a cigarette again. To enforce this decision, we agreed on a penalty: If either of us breaks our pact, the guilty party has to streak for a full mile through the main street of our town during the coldest time of the year, at rush hour. And, worst of all, all of our friends would be notified beforehand. The bet is for life, and the penalty is per cigarette, by the way. If one of us caves in and smokes a pack to honor his 80th birthday, the whole city is in for a hell of an interesting February.
Yes, we were drunk when we drafted this thing. Why do you ask?
I'm sharing this story with you for two reasons: One, to specify my particular brand of lunacy, and two, because the second I stopped smoking, my ass started ballooning like Kanye's ego. As years crept by, I went from a reasonably fit 160-pounder to 220 pounds of man slab, never really noticing anything until doorways started getting narrower and people began avoiding standing directly in front of me for fear that my shirt buttons could go ballistic and take an eye out.
Luckily, I was still far from the Jabba the Huttian pile of slowly wobbling lard that I feared was looming on the horizon. Even at my most expansive, my BMI barely qualified me as obese, and at best I was actually scratching the gates of what this (absurdly flawed) index ranks as normal. Surely what I had was not that critical, just a bit of a gut that I wanted to shed. Surely all I needed to do was to work out a little -- that shit would be easy as balls.
Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Getty
"From now on, I'm going to eat only 17 cheeseburgers a day instead of the usual 18. Dieting!"
Aaaaaand that was my first mistake. It's the same line of thought you see after every holiday season, when people who have spent most of December chowing down meals the size of their head suddenly decide it's time to get back in line. There's a reason January is the most lucrative month for the fitness industry, and that reason is morons like me, who, having finally realized the bathroom scale isn't dropping commas, choose to get rid of excess fat as fast as possible and never realize that starting to pay attention to your weight is just the first step on a trip that'll take the rest of your life. The only difference is that I didn't join a gym. I opted for an even more shameful route: I set up a Tumblr called Year of the Fat Bastard, sporadically updating it with my various successes and failures for what few followers trickled in to laugh at. The blog eventually wasted away, as such side projects are wont to do. However, the excess pounds ultimately didn't, much like they almost never do to all those January panic-workout people. This is because ...
Here's a concept that will ruin your day. Experts call it the "fat trap," and pretty much everyone with a spare tire or 16 is subject to it. David Wong has already covered the issue at some length, so I won't go to specifics, but, basically, your body loves all the pounds it has and will actively work to gain back every single one you manage to lose, because fuck you, you're not the boss of it. I learned of the fat trap about halfway through my blog project, and I immediately wandered away to depression-eat the world until I had consumed the very concept of hunger.
It took the form of a giant burger, and it was delicious.
In my defense, the next day I picked myself up and continued with my exercise. I ran, I swam, I bicycled, I even lifted the dreaded weights a bit. Like other people in a similar situation, I was convinced that I and I alone could be the freak of nature whose mutant power is the ability to permanently shed 30 to 50 pounds, dammit! I'd punch fat in its fat face so hard its grandchildren would think twice before bothering anyone with even my approximate genetic makeup. And I did, too: I kept getting lighter and fitter, to the point where I weighed in at a moderately well-toned 180 pounds.
I started that Tumblr blog at the beginning of 2012, and my weight at that time was precisely 212 pounds. In May of this year, my weight was ... precisely 211.6 pounds.
And it's not just because I broke my bathroom scale years ago.
Basically, I've been yo-yoing over 30 pounds of lard up and down for the last few years, and I have barely even noticed it happening. I'm far from the only one, too: This phenomenon is called weight cycling, and it's actually really common, whether you're overweight or not. The bad news is, this most likely applies to you (it does; don't pretend that those pants are shrinking and enlarging because magic). The good news is, you're far from alone. According to science, most people exist in a constant state of flux, trapped in a vicious cycle of losing and gaining weight. Kind of puts all those crash diets and bulk-ups Christian Bale is so fond of in perspective, doesn't it?
Remember that smoking story I told earlier? Well, ditching smokes generally only slaps about 10 pounds of extra bulk on you. Yet, I used to attribute pretty much all of my weight gain to that one aspect of my life (an idiot, remember), despite the fact that I had a shit-ton of different, pound-packing things going on simultaneously. I had just transitioned from a customer service gig to a desk job with far more responsibility, which took away the considerable physical toil that was the staple of my old job and replaced it with sitting and learning how to efficiently figure out some very specific tasks, an alien concept to someone like me at the best of times.
"GROG FILE REPORT WITH MAGIC BOX."
Also, I turned 30 during this time. I have no idea whether it's a physical or psychological thing, but if you say hitting the dreaded 30s doesn't contribute to weight gain, all you're really telling me is that you're still safely in your 20s. That extra weight will be coming your way, too, homing in on you like a blubbery ballistic missile and screaming your naaaaaaaame.
On the other hand, when I realized the situation and made the decision to lose weight, my life was in a pretty comfortable place. I had no professional or personal crises going on and an adequate amount of free time at my disposal, so I had ample opportunities to get offended by the scale and the mirror and enough motivation to send the excess fat scurrying by paying attention to what I was eating and how I exercised.
Then, eventually, life got hectic again, and suddenly sports and self-image issues didn't seem so important anymore. So before I noticed, I had ballooned up again.
Seriously, that's all it takes: little changes. You get a little older, your job situation changes a bit, you change your personal habits a little -- and boom! Hope you enjoy that You-Fatsuit, because that's what you're wearing from now on. Only the truly wealthy, truly lucky, and truly obsessed are able to control their life to an extent where they're able and willing to exercise and eat well enough to keep that body fat in check in the long run. Such is life: You either ride the gravy train or you accidentally eat it.
Which, incidentally, you'll probably wind up thinking is totally OK, because ...