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You are what you eat

As of late I’ve been taking steps to try and improve my nutrition.

Or at the very least gain some knowledge on the subject.

You see, I knew nothing about nutrition when I started this whole thing. Not a blip. Nada.

You could have told me it was ok to eat batteries and I would have probably said, “yeah, cool, I can see that. Batteries are like filled with iron and shit.”

I mean I’m no dummy, but when it came to food I came at it with the intellect of a kid in a candy store.

10 years ago I lost a hundred pounds.

And do you know how I did it?

I did it by eating bacon, eggs, chicken, and salad. Caesar Salad.

That was my nourishment for six months. I never once wavered from that. Oh, wait, no I did. I gorged on “Atkins” bars to the tune of about four or five a day.

I thought that was how people lost weight. In my brain I believed that once you lost the weight you just went back to the way things were. Burgers, and fries, and milkshakes.

Looking back at it now, it’s so hard to imagine that I could ever be that uninformed.

But I was.

And that’s hard for people to admit. It’s tough to stand out there and say, “b’ys, I don’t have a friggin’ clue about what any of this means. What the fuck is a glycemic index anyway? And what odds if it’s high or low.”

And for some reason when I began this little trip I’m on, researching nutrition was always put on the back-burner. When in fact, it’s one of the most important components — along with the mental and physical aspects of it.

People say, food is just fuel.

But to me, food is more than that. It’s a memory, a taste — a smell that can light up your senses and transport you back in time. And it should be enjoyed.

Now, some food is just nonsense.

Take Pizza Hut’s new pizza stuffed with not only cheese, but bacon as well.

“Just in case you couldn’t have enough cheese and bacon on top of this massive pizza, we’ve gone ahead and injected a shitload of it inside the crust. So enjoy!”

Nitro? Anyone?

I’ve given up on the notion that we should cut ourselves off from things. Now, that being said, I do have boundaries when it comes to what I put into my body.

Take bread, for example. There’s a plethora of information that suggests bread is the devil.

And, I agree, some bread isn’t great for you. White bread in particular is perhaps not the healthiest choice. But that being said, there is a load of vitamin B in wheat, and if you’re going to all of a sudden stop eating it, where the hell are you going to find that source of vitamin B — outside of paying some ridiculous amount of money for a supplement.

Some folks have gluten issues, and I totally get that, you folks can’t eat bread. For that, I’m sorry. Because it’s awesome. Bread is awesome.

But, I digress.

Recently I met with a dietician to discuss my food choices. I’m lacking protein. Which wasn’t a big shock. Caitlin has been telling me that for months.

But do I listen? No.

The dietician really helped me understand how food works inside of you. She untangled the confusing web of scientific studies, and opinions, and banter that exist inside the old compooter box.

And I learned that I need to eat foods that will keep my glycemic index level.

Because a level glycemic index, is a happy glycemic index.

Chew on that Dr. Atkins… oh… right…. my condolences.

PS… if you want to check out my dietician’s website, here’s the link:

http://www.rebeccanoseworthy.ca

Hello Walls

When it comes to walls, I’m a masterbuilder. I can put up a wall faster than most people can blink.

I’m that good.

Throughout this recovery/lifestyle change/whatever else you want to call it — I’ve confronted a lot of these barriers that I’ve built.

And I’ve begun the process of demolition.

But as my wrecking ball swings heavily into the brick, it releases the thoughts and fears that were being protected in the first place. They become vulnerable. And as a result, so do I.

I’ve taken care of my fears like they were my own children. I’ve given them food and shelter, and in some cases encouragement.

And while I’d much rather charge through these walls with all the joy and charisma of the Kool-Aid man, it’s a bit more complex than that.

As the days go by, and my thoughts become clearer and my body gets stronger, I realize exactly how many of these barriers I’ve put in place.

There’s a shitload of them. I mean I’ve got more barriers than Jay Leno has cars.

And it’s not like I can seek them out. They just kind of pop up out of nowhere. Forcing me to think “now, why the hell am I reacting like this?”

The good news is that I’ve become much more analytical during this whole process. The bad news is that I’ve become much more analytical during this whole process.

I tend to overthink sometimes. In some cases it doesn’t take much to swing that wrecking ball, but the chain it’s attached to can get caught up in my self-examination.

I am, after all, a tangly bag of wires. Ask the missus, she’ll tell you.

The sheer amount of “stuff” you uncover when you do something like this constantly amazes me. It’s like unraveling an unending ball of yarn, only it’s all knotted up, and you have to take out each knot as you go… and you don’t know how many knots are there. I mean, it can be maddening,

But at the same time, it can be inspiring. Once you tear down one of these walls, you feel like a million bucks. That is until the next wall you hit. And then you just repeat. Wall after wall until all that’s left is rubble.

Sweet, hard-earned, and beautiful rubble.

UPDATE:

For those of you who followed this blog prior to today, well you’ve now got more company. A lot more company.

Downsizing, a 6-part weekly column I’ve written for CBC Radio began early this morning. It’s spun from this blog. There are fewer swear words and a fancier sound track, but essentially it’s the same kind of documentation.

Here’s a link to the page: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/downsizing-losing-weight-is-hard-but-it-s-the-only-option-1.2763235

Isn’t that pretty? Gotta love a URL. I’d shorten it, but… I just got back from a run and… well, I just couldn’t be bothered. Blame the interwebz.

So, people from all over the country can now read the transcript online and or hear it on their respective CBC Radio Morning Shows.

So that’s why there are so many new folks here. Hi guys. Can I get anyone a coffee? Tea? Biscuit?

In all seriousness — welcome aboard. And thanks so much for all of the support and kindness you’ve shown me. It really does do a heart good.

Size Matters

At my heaviest I’d typically vacillate between 4xl and 5xl on the regular. I know this sounds ridiculous, but there are some manufacturers out there that make a small 4xl. Hand to God they do.

For many people their clothing is a representation of who they are and what they’re about. It’s also one of the few things we have total control over in our lives. At least, most of us do.

You see, when you’re 5xt you kinda have to put on whatever it is that’s around you. There aren’t a hell of a lot of options.

When I was at my largest I’d often buy clothes that were far too big for me so that I could cover myself completely. I wanted to become lost in the fabric. Floating about inside a giant flannel cocoon, drifting along and hoping that nobody would notice.

I remember vividly, as a young man, having somebody I care about ask me if “Omar the tent maker” made my shirt.

 

It’s kind of funny, right?

It isn’t.

For a moment, just for a flicker, think about the man or woman who has to go into a specialty store and purchase a size 14xl t-shirt — and yeah, they make them that big. Think of what else that person is carrying — outside of the weight. The anguish they are going through must be astonishing.

How do you ever fit in if you simply cannot fit?

Most people of a certain size try and hide. As I did. I still struggle with it. Some days I say “fuck it” I’m wearing a t-shirt that clings — bite me. Other days I try and find shelter. Fortunately, they’re less and less these days.

One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered over the past week is that I have NO idea how a shirt is supposed to fit. “Too small” is in reality just a little too big. I’ve spent so much time hiding that I’ve no clue as to what constitutes a well-fitted piece of clothing.

It’s something that I’ll learn with time and, well, more shirts, most likely.

The image we have of ourselves is often complex. For many people the vision of who we are never lies congruent with the truth.

I spend most of my mental energy these days doing my best Michelangelo impression — chipping away at an uneven block of marble until something beautiful emerges.

The good news is I’m making a hell of a lot of progress. Each day brings with it a new stroke of the hammer, and slowly but surely my true identity is finding its way out of the stone and into the world.

How’s that for big and tall?

 

Pride — Not Only For Lions

Throughout my life I’ve never really known what it meant to be proud.

I’ve never sat back in the glow of an accomplishment and basked in its warmth.

Instead, I’ve always shaken it off like it wasn’t a big deal, or worse — concocted some situation whereby it was impossible for me to feel anything other than ashamed.

That was the pattern.

I starved myself of happiness. It’s funny how a man so overweight can be so emaciated.

If there’s one thing this blogging experience has taught me — it’s that I’m not alone. Out there in the world there are millions of people who live the exact same way. And silently, day-by-day they all go about the business of hiding.

They feel shame about their bodies. Their stomach is too big, their chest is to small, their arms aren’t toned, or their ass is too saggy. And because of this they choke themselves off from the rest of the world. And any drop of happiness that may come their way is quickly extinguished, drifting like a dying plume from a candle.

That’s not living. That’s waiting to die. And that’s simply not good enough for anyone. Everyone deserves a shot at turning things around. Some of us just need a little help.

The odd thing about help is you have to be willing to accept it.

In the past eight months I’ve made a series of small changes that have made a big difference.

I now understand what pride feels like — it’s the opposite of shame.

Whether it was my first hike, my first swim, or as simple as my first walk in public in just a t-shirt — all of those things make my heart sing just a little.

I’m now entering my third week of a running program — my first attempt a few months ago was thwarted by a bout of pneumonia. However, this time around I’m stronger, lighter and… well, I’m not hacking like a smoker on a treadmill. So that helps.

I’m experiencing what people refer to as the runners high, and man it’s amazing. Last week I ran for ten minutes, one minute walking and one minute running. Tonight we double that.

Being overweight and running isn’t necessarily the most comfortable feeling in the world. I have at least one thousand pounds of pressure pushing down on my joints, bones, muscles and ligaments with each footstep.

I ache, believe me. But through the creaks and groans of this frame, I’ve never felt this awake, alert, or alive.

And as shame continues to shed its thick calloused skin, the moments of pride that it has been covering for so long are starting to poke through.

And even though I still have quite a lot of work left ahead of me, the ability to feel proud of my accomplishments makes that work a little lighter than it has been.

Pun intended.

 

When the dragons have all been slayed…

I’m not an avid believer in organized religion. Actually, let me rephrase that, I’m not a believer in organized religion at the moment. Anything is possible, I suppose. However, I do have a deep appreciation for the lore and legend that is carried by theology.

The tale of St. George and the Dragon is one of those legends. It takes place in Libya. The dragon is filled with pestilence and disease and lives in a deep blue lake in the town of Lasia (in some cases it’s referred to as Silene). As near as I can tell, Lasia is a made-up town, kind of like Disney World — only, y’know, with less plague-riddled dragons kicking about.

I digress. Each day the people in Lasia would feed this monstrosity two sheep just to keep the bloody thing at bay. Then one day the dragon lost the taste for sheep, so the town began to feed this dragon their young.

The “supper child” was chosen by lottery.

And, as luck would have it, the deed fell to the king to offer his daughter to the dragon. Distraught, the King offered all his gold and silver and half the kingdom to anyone who would take her place.

They declined. Natch.

So they king did what any self-respecting Father would do — he dressed her up like a bride and marched her down to the dragon.

Then, as if by magic, St. George happened to be passing by upon his steed and saw the woman being terrorized, and sprung into action. Leaving out the gory details, George took a big whack at the dragon, wounding it almost to the point of death. He then called for the king’s daughter to throw over her girdle, and he tamed the dragon.

The two marched the dragon back to Lasia, much to the terror of the townsfolk. George proclaimed to the crowd that if they converted to Christianity he would slay the dragon on site.

They did. He did. And they were all cured. Huzzah!

Sometimes, when I think of this journey I’m on. I feel a kinship to this story.

As if, inside of me was this pestilent dragon, and for years I’ve been feeding it and feeding it and feeding it.

My dragon thrived on a steady diet of self-destruction — one that I was more than happy to provide.

About seven years ago I walked into a gym and asked for help. They weighed me, showed me the machines, and I started the process of getting fit. This all came about through a sudden sense of panic that I was losing control of my weight.

Unfortunately, I became frustrated by somebody who worked there — which is another way of saying that I created an excuse to quit and continue feeding the dragon. After that I just completely lost control of my life.

Yesterday I found this picture of myself. This was from a newspaper article in 2005. I’m at the lowest weight of my adult life there

Dave

And then I looked at this picture. This is from a taping of CBC Radio’s DNTO that was recorded in St. John’s last summer. This is me at 415 pounds — in actuality, I’m probably bigger than that.

6a00d8341c5aca53ef019aff7a5c06970b-800wi

When I made this discovery I was taken aback. It put into context exactly how much weight I had gained. And how out of control I really was.

After stepping on the scale this morning and discovering that I’m dropping weight consistently from week to week — I’ve discovered something else.

The weight loss is not what I’m most proud of.

I’m most proud of my ability to face truths. Seeing this visual comparison a year ago may have been enough knock me off my course.

Small things were once debilitating. The most insignificant comment would lead me down a twisted garden path to self-loathing. Crumpled in doubt on my couch, lashing myself with my thoughts like some devout monk.

These days, that’s no longer the case. I’m able to look at my life with the confidence of a man who knows that all will be well. Criticism is something that I cherish, in my constant push to improve not only my fitness, but me as a man.

The dragon has now been silenced.

And I stand before you converted.

Amen.

How to Burst a Bubble and Other Tales

@davejsullivan

via How to Burst a Bubble and Other Tales.

How to Burst a Bubble and Other Tales

 

 

 

 

 

This morning I woke up early and hiked to the top of Sugarloaf Head. It’s not particularly long, but it’s pretty much straight up. Once I reached the top I sat on a rock overlooking the Atlantic.

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I was alone up there — with nothing but the trees still drying from last night’s rain, and the water playing with the rocks a couple of hundred feet below.

A year ago I could never fathom that moment.

I never imagined it possible to walk up that hill without any real trouble at all, breathing in the world around me.

I lived in a bubble that consisted of fast food, TV, a computer — and little else. And my entire body was rigid with fear.

I used to take my phone to bed, just in case I needed to call an ambulance. I’d toss and turn, wondering if I should unlock the front door so that EMT’s could come collect me. These were legitimate thoughts that ran through my head. They came nightly, like bats, swooping down to carry me to the worst places imaginable.

And as I sat there this morning, staring out over the ocean — all that was running through my head was how astounding it felt to be on that hardened rock at that very moment.

IMG_1458

I am here.

I am present.

I am alive.

Follow Dave on Instagram and Twitter @davejsullivan… y’know, if you’re into that? Heh.

Math is hard.

Changing your life is filled with peaks and valleys. That’s for damn sure. It’s a dance between looking forward at a brighter bulb and looking backwards into the dark. It’s the stuff that’s back there that can keep the light burning bright for years to come.

It’s a very delicate balance.

For me it’s about ownership.

Owning my shortcomings, my limitations, and my successes.

Today I want to own a number. I’ve opened up about most everything on this blog, with the exception of where I was at the start of this change.

They say you need to hit rock bottom before you can make a change. I’m not sure if I was there or not. But, I can tell you this, if I wasn’t there, I could certainly see it’s shadow.

415.

Three digits.

That’s what I saw flashing back at me on January 2nd, 2014.

I couldn’t believe it. I knew it would be high. But, I never expected it to be that high.

Standing in my bathroom, staring down at the scale I had a short debate. Part of me thought, “you’ll never do it, why try,” and the other part of me said “do something, anything.”

It reminded me of being in England when I was in my twenties. I was studying modern British drama in Essex. Myself and a friend of mine were sitting on back of the residence we were staying in, smoking. (I’ve since quit. Ten years next week in fact.)

Anyway, this guy came up to us. Clearly stoned out of his trees. He sat down and rolled a joint of hash that was about the size of one of those novelty pencils you see in the stores. Bear in mind it was in the middle of the day.

At one point he raised his eyes, which were more like darkened craters that sunk deep into his face, and he asked “do you guys smoke crack?”

Both of us, at that time, being from Newfoundland, had never met anyone who’d smoked crack, let alone tried it ourselves.

“No,” I replied.

“Oh, it’s a shame,” he muttered. “It’s fucking brilliant.”

Which was quite a counterpoint from everything I’ve ever been told about crack up until that point.

“Wait here,” he said. “I’m going to go fetch some.”

Off he toddled back to his, well… crack house, I guess. Only to return with a box of 24 beer, stubbies if I remember correctly, and — yeah, you guessed it — crack.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you here. In university I may have experimented a little. Well, probably more than a little. A lot. However, I’d never EVER done anything like that.

His exact words were, “here, smoke this crack.”

And for a moment, I had this thought where I said to myself “crack hey? Hmm.”

And then my upbringing slapped me in my face and I responded “naw, I’m good man.”

He then spent fifteen minutes trying to aggressively force me to smoke crack. But I won’t bore you with that. Just know that the quote of the whole day was me saying to him, “no man, crack’s awesome, but I just ate.”

The point of that story was that I chose correctly that day, had I not chosen correctly my life would have been completely different right now.

And, it was the same that day back in January, when I stood on that scale and saw those numbers staring back at me, there was no choice to make.

I wanted to fight. I wanted to live. Because even then, in the darkness of that realization, I knew that I was filled with light.

And so what does 415 mean to me?

It was, as Gladwell calls it, a tipping point. One that sent me charging in the right direction.

And so here I am, seven months later, and each day burning ever brighter.

And I’ve only begun dancing.

 

PS. For the love of God, don’t do crack.

The rising cost of holding on

It didn’t take long in this journey to figure out that the physical weight was only a small part of it all.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to lose the weight, otherwise what the hell am I doing busting my ass everyday?

But, I have baggage.

Everyone does.

Sometimes people have more than others.

And, if I had to guesstimate, I would say that I have more than most.

And throughout this process I’ve let go of a lot of things. I really have.

Just two weeks ago I was proud of walking around in a t-shirt for example. Well, now I’m swimming. In a public pool filled with other self-conscious adults.

Some of my body issues can be traced back to a swimming pool. One summer I went from swimming every day in a pool with my shirt off, to hiding in the corner of the pool with my soaked to my skin.

In fact, after that summer I didn’t swim again until, well… last week.

There’s a bit of a learning curve. I snorted a lot of water. It wasn’t cool.

But, it felt good to stare that little devil in the eye and tell it to “shag off.”

It’s an odd feeling being completely submerged in water. Weightlessness is something that takes time to get used to, especially when you’ve been moving as much weight as I have over the past ten years or so.

I’ve hit the 60lbs mark in weight lost. I still have more to go. Like, a lot more. Realistically 60lbs is about one third of what I need to lose. But I‘m proud of hitting that mark, I earned every bit of it.

The point I’m trying to make here is — baggage has a way of taking all that pride and happiness and contorting it until you can’t even muster a smirk about it all.

It’s a voice that echoes in your ear all the things that forced you down the unhealthy paths that you’ve travelled. It’s a trickster.

It does nothing but add more weight into the equation. And, God knows I’ve got enough of that.

So, this week I’ve decided to let it all go. Every speck of contention I feel about the world, and my placement in it. I’m happy where I am, and with what I’ve become.

And while I know I’ve still got miles ahead of me, I have no doubt the weight will soon be in the rearview.

As for holding onto old baggage?

It hasn’t brought me anything but darkness. And it’s about time I let some fucking light shine in.

Now, where are my sunglasses?

What you lose along the way

For almost my whole life I’ve been ashamed of my body.

It’s big and lumpy. It’s been described by others in every way imaginable.

In many ways, I’ve been trained to loathe it. For decades — yes, decades — I’ve viewed my body as broken. An eyesore that should be covered with as many layers as possible.

Which, I think is perhaps a shock to people to hear. Because, most of us view the male ego as something that doesn’t have time for body issues.

Now, I can only speak for myself here, but I’ve been littered with them. And I hardly think that I’m special enough to be the exception to the rule.

But these body issues have impacted almost every facet of my life — from relationships to venturing into public spaces, to any number of things. I’ve always felt as though I had to apologize just for being who I am. As if to say “yeah, I know I’m huge. I’m so sorry you have to see that.”

The shift

Last week, Caitlin and I hiked from Logy Bay to Quidi-Vidi. A section of trail that is just about 9km in length, and a truly challenging way to spend Canada Day.

Trail 2

It was, and this is no exaggeration, the most challenging physical act I’ve ever attempted.

Now, I’d love to sit here and tell you that I breezed through it tickety-boo.

But that would be horseshite.

It was hard. Real hard.

Prior to the final ascent I flopped down onto the ground and refused to budge. Mainly because I didn’t trust my legs to get me where I needed to go. Not my proudest moment.

At some point though, I got my bearings and stood. I reached the top of the ridge that overlooked historic St. John’s, and felt proud of the accomplishment…. that pride was somewhat buried beneath a layer of “get me off this fucking ridge.” But it was there.

Now, a couple of things happened on the hike. The first of which: I began the hike with a t-shirt and a collared short-sleeved shirt on. And during the initial ascent over Logy Bay to a place called Sugarloaf Head, I said shag it and just wore a t-shirt.

Sugarloaf

Here’s the thing: I’ve not worn “just a t-shirt” in public since I was 16 years old.

That was 21 years ago.

That’s 21 years of hiding.

And here I was, over two decades later, shedding a little piece of that. Not only that, but I allowed myself to be photographed wearing a t-shirt. Which, in my mind, is a huge step forward.

I know this may sound strange to some people. But this is the depth of the shame I have felt about my body for years. It makes me uncomfortable to even say these things out loud. But, that lack of comfort is all the reason I need to say it out loud. Because, I know damn well I’m not the only fish in this bowl.

The more you learn

This particular hike taught me to love myself a little more. My body impressed me. It got me through a tremendous challenge. If I could, I’d give it a gold star, or at the very least a purple ribbon for participation.

When Caitlin and I first began our walks nearly six months ago, it seemed impossible that a day would ever come whereby I could achieve these milestones. We began by walking around her neighbourhood, which was pretty much flat. And even then I would need to stop six or seven times to catch my breath. She was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get through it.

Fast forward to Canada Day. To this photo:

The trail end

It makes my heart swell. And sure, my legs are still a little tired — and yeah, I may have lost a toenail. But I battled my way through it.

And a big part of what brought me to the end of this trail, apart from my desire to see another sunset, was this body.

This body that has shielded me in times of pain. This body that has held me back enjoying the world around me.

This complex creature.

This dichotomy.

This is my body.

And I’m learning to love it.

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