MY OLD ADDICTION
A few weeks ago, the TV station I work for took new promotional photos for their website. I was perfectly happy with the old photo, but eventually I relented and sat down for a session with our photographer. Several days later, our website featured a picture of me that I found completely unacceptable. I looked like a cross between Guy Smiley and Jabba the Hut.
Like any good TV prima donna, I complained. Not to the photographer, but to my fellow journalists.
“Have you seen my new online photo?”
“No, let me have a look… Looks pretty nice.”
“Nice? You can’t be serious. I’ve got two chins and no jaw-line in this picture.”
“No, it’s fine. It looks just like you.”
At that moment I remembered a story a friend told me recently. He was at the DMV to renew his driver’s license and he got his picture taken. When they showed him the picture on the computer screen, he saw this fat old guy. “Bad picture,” he thought. So he asked them to take another, realizing that usually only women make such requests, and only in California (where he was living).
They took another picture and it looked exactly the same. Then he realized that the camera was not broken, but he was.
And that’s the conclusion I reached once several co-workers insisted that our new online photo was an accurate representation of me. It was a pretty sobering wake up call. As I wrote in this space last May, I’ve been underweight for most of my life… really underweight. 5’11”, 125 pounds underweight. And in my head, I still sort of carry that image around with me.
In the physical world, it’s been a different story. By the time I hit my late 20s, I weighed about 175 pounds. That’s pretty much the average for my height. Then I turned 30 and things just sort of fell apart.
But with this new photo I was scared straight, so I decided I was going to change my life for the better. No more sweets, no more pizza, no more fatty snacks, dinners filled with leafy greens and vegetables in season; that would be my new lot in life.
Allow me to stop laughing, wipe the tears from my eyes, and apologize for that last sentence. It was a practical joke and I found it quite funny. In fact, I’ve decided to make just a few modifications to see if I can get healthier.
First, 30 minutes of exercise per day. I’ve got a stationary bicycle in our bedroom that has pretty much been gathering dust since we moved to Oregon. (Who am I kidding? It was gathering dust long before we moved.) For 30 minutes per day (long enough to watch one classic episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus) I would pedal up and down the pretend hills of some town the bike’s computer invented.
Prong two: portion control. Instead of a foot-long hoagie, how about a 6 inch? How about only eating half of that cheese pizza instead of the whole thing? Sounds like a plan.
But it’s prong three that’s causing the most disruption. Eliminating all soda (back in Rochester, we called it “pop”). That includes Pepsi, the great addiction of my adult life. I figured soda was a pretty big source of calories in my diet, and eliminating it could assist me in removing my second and third chins. Also, I learned from radio program “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” that caffeine actually didn’t work as a stimulant in most users, but merely relieved the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
And, let me tell you, that withdrawal is pretty nasty stuff. Two days into my experiment, I had a headache that nearly drove me insane. Also, I was tired, really, really tired. So tired that I was afraid I would drive my car off the road a few times.
But through the use of powerful drugs (Thank you, leftover vicodin!), I was able to get past the headaches, and the fatigue is slowly going away.
But the void in my life left by Pepsi has yet to be filled. When I cut out Pepsi, I also decided to say goodbye to pretty much every liquid except plain old water. But plain old water just isn’t as yummy as Pepsi. So I’ve been sucking down the Target brand citrus sparkling mineral water like it’s going out of style and waiting for the cravings to stop. Oh, the cravings. Last week I actually had a dream that I inhaled an entire Mondo Big Gulp (or whatever biggest thing they sell at 7-Eleven). I was filled with joy and shame as I drank the sickly sweet concoction.
I’m two weeks into it now, and I’m less tired and the headaches are mostly gone. For now, I’m just taking it one day at a time.
(And don’t try to sell me on diet soda, it tastes nasty and that fake sugar will probably kill you faster than the real stuff.)