By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
January 17, 2016
I remember the “no carbohydrates” craze when it was first conceived. Sounded kinda silly at the time, considering how much I loved bread, pizza and all things with a doughy, sugary taste to it. I developed some bad habits along the way when it has come to my carb intake, for the days I would eat a whole prepackaged bag of raisin-cinnamon bagels like it was nothing seem like centuries ago rather than 2010. Of course, I would consume entire loaves of bread like it was nothing. Before I became a little more stringent with my diet in 2014, I was making regular trips to Beyond Bread, which is kinda crazy when you think about it. I would get a loaf of sourdough (which was dairy free) as well as get a loaf of raisin-cinnamon, which was a delicious dessert for me during the days where I started reintroducing sweets into my diet. But here was the thing, I was supposed to try and stretch them out over the span of a few days, then I would eat the damn loaves in the span of a day. Back in those days, I made a potato slice sandwich where I would oil cooked potato slices and then turn them in a spicy, greasy sandwich that was utterly amazing. Throw on some pickles, onion and hot sauce and it was magnifique! I would do this regularly, mainly because it was plant based and I perceived it to be healthy. I also ate at Chipotle way too much, taking advantage of their plant based friendly ingredients that would allow me to take on the advantage of going to a fast food place. Then there were the road trips to the furthest north Whole Foods in town, where they obviously had a very talented vegan baker than made a lot of scones for me to consume. But before I really knew it, I had gained 28 pounds!
At one point in early 2014 or late 2013, I had dropped to a good 260 pounds, finding myself pretty close to the goal of 215 after a little more than a year. I think seeing this progress might have messed with my head, for it made me complacent not in my food intake but also in the gym and in regards to my running. When I really look back, I had pretty much reaffirmed all of my addictive qualities in a slightly healthier mode…only conceptually of course. I started eating at Chipotle way too much, sometimes four times a week simply because I craved the delicious goodness of the food and the fact I hated cooking brown rice and soaking beans. And I didn’t help myself with this Beyond Bread habit I had. It seemed remarkably familiar to me when I really thought about it. When I was an ardent and heavy meat eater, I would make special trips on Saturdays to get my favorite dishes that were no where near me. I would go to Mr. K’s Barbecue and buy some 22 bucks worth of food, avoiding their dining area and eating in a remote part of the parking lot where people couldn’t see me stuff my face. Or I would sometimes go to an artisan pizza joint that was too expensive for my economically depressed area of town, where Pizza Hut and Papa John’s ruled. That was another 30 dollars or so down the drain, and I would eat much of this stuff on Saturdays during the college football season. Sundays usually reserved a meal from a much closer spot, like La Bella China or Marco’s Pizza (which famously went out of business not long after I stopped going there…coincidence? I think not). Even though I got upset, it should have been no surprise that I ballooned to 288 pounds by the time I weighed myself in November of 2014. I had replaced some bad habits of mine with a lot supposedly good habits, but of course, I abused the problem. I just simply created a new addiction. I think that was when I really understood the true nature of food addiction. It was an epiphany of sorts, for I still considered addiction to be a horrible and distasteful blight on a person who has refused to be a productive member of society. Instead, I understood it for what it truly was. It was something that has been created through habit and heightened through science. As I have changed the content of my blog from personal experience to more societal related topics, I learned and became fascinated by the war on sensibility by the various food companies. They need an addicted populace. So even though I was healthier, I was still feeding the machine.
Fortunately at that time, I kind of upped my effort in the gym and was able to reassert some of my goals. I dropped that 30 pounds in roughly six months. The reset I needed worked out magnificently, and I was more prepared to maintain a healthier diet and lifestyle when I fully confronted a problem that I was shying from. Well, I have another confession to make. Over the past few months, I have turned into a junk food vegan. What is a junk food vegan you might ask? Well, they are vegan and they engage in the same philosophical and ethical approach to animal welfare, it’s just we eat all the worst garbage imagined that has been deemed vegan friendly. I have been eating way too many Gardein meatballs. I have been sneaking off to Whole Foods and eating the Field Roast Celebration Roast like nobody’s business, for it was obvious Whole Foods ordered too many and I was eating them regularly with Chao cheese and sourdough bagels (it was like a fast food morning sandwich!). I have eaten way too many Pik Nik Sticks. I have been eating way too many Kettle Brand potato chips, especially the Roasted Garlic ones (maybe that is the reason for my trouble with the ladies, haha!). I blow through packs of mints, which are mostly sugar. And then I eat too many cookies, fig bars and various other snacks that are double the price because they are organic and deemed better for me. Now this may not too egregious, but here is the irony. I haven’t really lost or gained weight. I have floated between the 240-245 range for a good two months now, and this is in spite of me buying organic cherry licorice and apple chips that had way too much cinnamon. I still eat all the good stuff, like some roasted peppers handsome kale on occasion, but I have been getting lazy. When I went to Veg in a Box earlier this week, I got something that was a little better than me rather than the Veg Ball sandwich with fries. I let my lunch guest do that! But then of course, I got home and scarfed a whole tin of Pik Nik Sticks!
Now you might think this is a rather benign problem, especially since I am not really gaining weight and I still fit beautifully into size 36 jeans that are straight cut. But this is how I have learned from my past and learned from my past mistakes. I’m not losing any weight, which has been my ultimate goal when I started going to personal training with Parsons nearly four years ago. So this time, I have the fortitude to actually look at a problem in the eye and admitting I have a problem rather than being content with what is going on. This is why I am doing the 10-Day Potato challenge, which is horrifically into its second day (I went on a date on Friday night and sort of ate some good tempura….so the official challenge started on Saturday….but hey, had a good time even if the lady wasn’t interested). I say horrifically, because it was obvious I needed this reset. Right now, I am kind of in this attitude that I can do no wrong, and the experience of life has allowed me to recognize this problem before it becomes a full blown problem once again. I want to continue progressing and not backtracking. In reality, this Potato Challenge is not being used as it was originally intended by the creator Dr. John McDougall. I’m using it to kind of wean myself off all the crap I have become too used to eating, not illustrate the minute changes massive change in diet can do for your cholesterol, blood sugar and weight. God knows what is next if I didn’t do this…Oreos and Red Vines and maybe even Frito Lays bean dip (all plant based!).
It’s kind of funny why I have to do this sort of thing, because even though I have conquered so many food related addictions, I still have this issue with falling into old habits. It’s a need for me, not necessarily a chemical addiction (though the chemical side of the coin is still helping the equation from time to time). I think this moment has exhibited an extraordinary moment of growth of me. My olfactory senses would have told me to just keep doing what I was doing, by maintaining and staying on a certain track. But hey, I got some new challenges ahead of me. My friend Scott, who has dropped some 50 pounds in five months, has caught up to me in weight. While he doesn’t have the muscle I have, I’m still proud as hell of him since he is also making extraordinary changes in his diet. Plus I got that darn wedding in a few months, which I really want to look good for. I say this because I want to get a suit….a real bonafide suit that is mine. Even if I have to go to the high end thrift store called Good Threads here in town, I want something that is snazzy. I want to resemble my old doppleganger Keanu Reeves (which I am kinda looking like again as I get leaner) in the movie John Wick, though I don’t want the beard and the hair of course (my hair is too wavy and I can’t grow a full beard anyway). The all black ensemble he wore was pretty damn slick in that movie, though I might get a gray or beige tie instead of a black…gotta have a little color. So in order to really pull that off (providing I can afford it), I want to be as lean as possible. One thing that really bothered me before my date on Friday was how darn baggy my shirts are all getting. The old olive colored shirt du jour that I loved and cherished looks like a tent on me now. I wore the leanest cut shit I had and it was still kinda baggy! So if anything, a shopping spree this upcoming summer might be in the works.
This is the piece of advice I have for you…if you notice your effort is still high and nothing is happening, that means it is time to make some minute changes. For me, I have a different mind that is prone to addiction and creating bad routines, so doing something extreme like the Potato Challenge is a necessary (and painful) exercise for me to partake in. I’ll admit, the first couple days have been really tough. I had a tough run on Saturday, trudging out nearly seven and a half miles and cramping up near the end of the run. Sure, the Dragoon Ryelander Double IPA I drank the previous night didn’t help, but I was also fully into the challenge and my caloric intake was already different. So those two factors already told me I really need this. Truthfully, the run was quite a good piece of therapy for me, for I had been told by my job to not show up to work. I’m frantically trying to find a new job while it looks like my butt is going to be laid off sooner than later. Go figure. So a little simplification will help the pocket book as the pressure is put on. I mean, potatoes are pretty darn inexpensive as well as some mustard and barbecue sauce (unlike the McDougall challenge, I am allowing some condiments to be used). So yeah, the next eight days are going to be painful, mainly because I have slipped in my health regimen. It wasn’t a bad slip, but would you have preferred me to write about stagnation or write about me lamenting on the fact that I let myself go again? Where is the learning in that? Well, fortunately I caught myself this time. However, I know I will be getting tired of potatoes quite soon! hehe
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.