Healthy Monday: Humorist Jeff Kramer gets serious about his health
Easy. I‘ve turned into the most boring person on the planet.
The word my nutritionist uses is “mindful” but in the weight loss universe “mindful” and “boring” are fairly interchangeable. Actual recent conversation between me and my wife, Leigh:
Me (in tone of moral outrage better suited to announcing that terrorists have poisoned the water supply): "Guess how many calories are in that Wegmans cole slaw?"
Leigh: "How many?"
Me: "270 per half cup!!! That‘s as much as an entire Lean Cuisine!"
Leigh: (wearily): "Wow."
I didn‘t wish this on myself or the luckless souls who cross my path. But that‘s where things stand. If you read my kick-off column in Upstate Health, you know I was shaken to my flabby core by successive bouts of lightheadedness and heart palpitations last spring. I came home from a night in the hospital not knowing what was medically wrong, but sensing that my life as a 305-pound Big Guy was no longer sustainable.
The first thing on the menu to go were the excuses. I had a buffet of them:
I have a large frame. I‘m physically active so it‘s okay if I weigh more. I‘m a social guy, and food and drink is how people socialize. Everyone puts on weight in the winter in Syracuse. Skinny people have heart attacks too. I have an unusually large appetite. I have a bad knee so I can‘t be as active as I once was. I have a slow metabolism. I‘m married.
Each excuse had an element of truth, but in the harsh light of outpatient care I began to see what they really were: A way to give myself permission to fail, or worse, to not try. I felt ashamed, even more ashamed than I was back in 10th grade when I was hauled home in a police car for shoplifting a 5th Avenue Bar -- which has 260 calories and 12 grams of fat.
It was time to get serious, never a great option for a humor writer. I hired a nutritionist who gave me a number that proved key: How many calories per day were necessary to maintain my current weight. For me the figure was a whopping 3,300. The moment I heard that I realized that weight loss would happen with a mere 300-calorie a day reduction. A light went on. I was not a freak of biogenetics doomed to expand like a dying sun. I was a solvable math problem. I trimmed a thousand calories a day, and it took. I‘m not hungry most of the time, but boy can I suck the life out of a room.
Ask me about my bicycle. I ride it -- and talk about riding it -- incessantly. I drink only water or black coffee with rare exceptions. I‘ve eliminated almost all alcohol -- a socially deplorable decision that is paying big dividends on the bathroom scale. Beer, it turns out, makes you fat. Who knew?
I‘ve also sacrificed some flavor for fullness. Sadly, a bowl of hot oat bran fills you up as much as a stack of pancakes -- with half the calories. An apple with a spoonful of peanut butter sticks with you longer than a chocolate croissant. Life isn‘t fair that way, and I would be lying if I didn't sometimes descend into a cold, dark rage when I see a skinny person wolfing down a fudge brownie sundae with impunity. But let‘s leave Leigh out of this. Skinny people have their own crosses to bear. Good luck in the next Ice Age, Honey.
Now the good news. Heart palpitations and dizziness: Gone. Snoring/apnea: Greatly improved. Blood pressure medication: Reduced by half. Acid reflux medication: No longer necessary. Arthritic left knee: For the first time since 2007 I can tolerate moderate jogging on a treadmill.
But the best part is being able to look my kids in the eye and tell them, “Even if the Republican Congress repeals the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Daddy‘s going to be OK.”
I am lean. I am strong. I am mindful. I still have 30 pounds to go and thousands of eyes to glaze over. You should avoid me like high fructose corn syrup -- unless you want to have a really long talk about nonfat Greek yogurt.
Journalist Jeff Kramer's humor column appears on this blog the first Monday of every month. His work also appears in the quarterly Upstate Health publication.