Let’s Talk About My Weight Fluctuation

I know the world isn’t a clamoring for a blog post about my struggle with weight fluctuation, but I’m clamoring to write one, so.  Let me give you a little of my weight/fitness history first.

When I was a very young man, in my teens and early twenties, I certainly did not struggle with my weight. I am a short man, but I don’t think it would be fair to say I was ever scrawny. Lithe, is how I liked to think of it. At any rate, I was a pretty small man. In high school I was on the wrestling team and I wrestled (poorly) in the 103 pound weight class, if you can believe that. Anyway, it wasn’t until the back side of my twenties that I started to plump up a little bit, nothing too serious, I just became a somewhat chunky guy. And when you are 5 foot 2, it doesn’t take many extra pounds to make you look chunky. I at that point started to go through phases where I would try to lose weight.  I would become obsessed with the idea of taking the weight off and doing it quickly. During this period I was still a smoker, so any hardcore exercising was fully out of the question, so I would try and do it through “calorie deprivation”, AKA starvation. Now, at this point I wasn’t getting very scientific about it, I wasn’t necessarily counting calories, I just did things like bought Slim-Fast, skipped meals, then would do a bunch of jumping jacks in my bedroom at night, assuming that any kind of exercise, when you are consuming extremely low calories, you are going to lose weight. It would work somewhat, I would watch the scale every day, I’d lose a couple pounds, but at that point in time I wasn’t interested or motivated enough to really keep going with it, and also my inability to really exercise in any extended capacity really limited me. So I would do it on again and off again, but never really commit.
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Then around the age of 30 I quit smoking, and I immediately bought a pair of running shoes and started running around my neighborhood, thinking I was going to make a huge change, and of course again I started severely limiting my calorie intake, and watching the scale. But, being the novice I was, I immediately overdid the running, inflicting stress fractures in my shins (although not diagnosed by a medical professional). My over zealousness and a lack of knowledge sidelined me shortly after I quit smoking, and then shortly after that is when I began my long solo journey.
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I moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, where I was 5 hours from all my friends and family, completely alone. It was a very exciting time for me actually, but one thing I decided to do, I made a conscious choice to go ahead and get overweight. I wasn’t going to run into anybody I knew anywhere. I wasn’t at that period interested in attracting a romantic partner, so I decided to just say to hell with it and eat whatever I wanted, however often I wanted. I also had a good amount of disposable income so it really was a tremendous smorgasbord for me.   After a year-and-a-half of living in Erie, I weighed 190 pounds, at 5 foot 2. This was pretty extreme. In many respects, it was fascinating and I kind of enjoyed it. I’d never been anywhere near that big before, and at first it became truly fascinating to see parts of myself changing, expanding, learning what it was like to be that big. But of course, that novelty wore off eventually. Things were very inconvenient, I couldn’t tie my shoes properly, going to the bathroom was a chore, and although I still tried to live a pretty active lifestyle, it started to be difficult for me to ride a bike, or take a leisurely stroll through the woods. So, it having been a few years since I quit smoking at that point, I decided to really go all in, and for the first time in my life, get a gym membership. And thus began the real weight ballooning. Now I was able to watch the scale, count my calories, and work out obsessively. It turns out that calorie deprivation coupled with frequent working out is actually an incredibly effective way to lose weight! Of course I’m not the first person to figure this out. But as any health professional will tell you, starvation diets are no way to lose weight and keep it off. Almost everyone who loses weight in this fashion puts it back on eventually. Because it is not a lifestyle, it’s a quick fix and psychologically, it wires us to bounce back. But at the time, that didn’t matter, I was losing weight super fast, sometimes as much as a pound a day. I became familiar with how many calories equal one pound of fat.  I did the math everyday, all the calories I ate, all the calories I burned.  And you might be surprised how, when one is living by themselves and can completely control what food is in their house, and how obsessive they are able to be, just how easy it is to approach that number in one day. In total, I lost 50 pounds in just a few months, going from 190 to 140. I also did a lot of weight training in that time, and was looking pretty astonishing. And even though I had gotten there through a starvation diet, I truly did enjoy working out and being fit, and had every intention–or so I thought–of continuing to live a fit and healthy lifestyle going forward. I had bought a lot of stuff, fitness swag. I loved going to the gym, looked forward to it and spent hours there as often as I could. Being fit had become a part of me, a part of my new identity and I loved it. However, just a few short months after arriving at this place in my life, I ended up making an enormous life change. After about 10 years of living completely by myself, and 15 years of working for the same company, I made a decision to move 7 hours away, to live with my mother and get a job with a new company. Now, granted, the living with my mother part was to be very temporary, until I could find my own place. However, mom lived in New Jersey, right outside of Philadelphia, and it was my goal to find my own place in Philadelphia, which was not the simplest thing to do, especially when I was also getting used to my new job. So I ended up living with Mom for about 10 months, and all these changes at once served to derail my newfound love for fitness. Now granted, I can’t really blame gaining my weight back on those changes. I could have continued to focus on the fitness, I do realize that. I tried very much at first. I transferred my gym membership to one in South Jersey, and tried to get there as often as I could, but I  ended up getting there just a handful of times. I was learning the geography of my South Jersey home, as well as trying to learn the layout of Philadelphia, and learning my new job. And although my mother is tremendously hospitable and living with her again at that stage of my life was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything, it was also incredibly shocking to my system, as a man in his mid-thirties, who had lived in a couple rather large apartments by himself for a long time, to now share his house with his mother. It was a lot to take in.  At any rate, after holding my fitness together for a month or two, I started to slide, eventually caving and gaining almost all my weight back. By the time I came to and realized that I was a pretty big man again, I had been living by myself in Philadelphia for over a year. I suddenly realized that I had gone all the way back to my biggest. I remembered fondly how much I loved fitness in Erie, how much I love how I looked, how much I loved clothes shopping and how much I enjoyed the feeling of being physically fit. Being that size felt like the authentic me, like I had finally tunneled to part of the real me, in the physical sense. Here I am not suggesting that our “authentic selves” are purely physical–surely I was an authentic version of me when I was my biggest.  But in that body I didn’t feel like me.  In my 140 pound body, I did.
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 And so I started the process again. It was easier in Philadelphia, because I did not have a car and rode my bike everywhere. Even with that being the case I had managed to get to 180 or 185 pounds. I once again got a gym membership in Philadelphia.  The gym was two miles from my house so I had to ride my bike 4 miles round-trip just to go to the gym. I started starving myself again, or what I thought of as calorie deprivation. The weight came off like gangbusters once again, I stepped down through the pounds in just a matter of months, arriving at that beautiful sweet spot of 140, although my ideal goal has always been 130, my reasonable goal is always 140. I got there and loved it again, but just like the first time, no sooner had I gotten there then I made some enormous life changes. As most of you probably know, it was shortly after this that I met my love Karla, and once again stopped living by myself, moving back to my homeland in central Pennsylvania, and this time not just moving in with one person, but with Boy and Dog as well. And then shortly after that move, I changed jobs yet again, and then even more notably, quickly transitioned to vegetarian, and then to vegan. And while the general perception of being vegetarian or vegan is that it is automatically healthier–and that is almost always true–if one tries really hard, one can gain quite a bit of weight eating these ways. And so it came to pass that even though I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, the sheer magnitude of changes ushered in yet another slow crawl to a heavy spot.
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Now, I’m not a trying to blame my weight bouncing on these changes entirely. It truly is a mystery to me whether or not and to what degree these life changes cause my weight gain, or whether I would bounce back even without such changes to start it. All I know is that it has happened that way. Karla has been incredibly kind and understanding, always making me feel handsome and beautiful no matter what, but supporting me and what I want to do.  And so it came to pass that a few months ago, I decided it was time to get back onto the fitness train, this time, fingers crossed, to stay on the train forever. You see, the thing is, both times I have lost all that weight before, I certainly recognized that I was not doing it in a healthy way. I knew that the calorie deprivation and that incredibly rapid weight loss was not healthy for me, and would not be easy for me to maintain. However, I simply found myself incapable of not obsessing over it once I began. Now, I don’t know if this is what would classify as an eating disorder or not. Perhaps it’s just a manifestation of something else within me, and I don’t know if something that only happens every couple years is an eating disorder. But I do know that it does feel mildly beyond my control. When I first began getting healthy and losing weight this time around, a few months ago, I was determined not to let it grip me this time. I began at first simply by deciding to eat better. I never stepped on the scale. I went to the gym occasionally, but on no set schedule. My idea at first was just to make the next right decision with food.  Every time I ate, I would eat a reasonable portion, or forgo condiments that might add calories or fat.  I would skip the snack at night.  I wouldn’t drink calories unless it was part of some healthy beverage.  And so on.  And so this is what I did for about a month.  I stepped on the scale finally: 178.  A better starting point than my previous times; I’ll never know what I really started at, the month before I started eating better.
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After I stepped on that scale the first time, I was able to keep things pretty healthy for a month or two. I would only check my weight every couple days. I started working out more, because I wanted to be healthier, I wanted my circulatory system and my respiratory system to really be awesome. I continued  just making the next right decision with food, and while the scale didn’t always show a loss when I stepped on it, the trend was generally downward and I was pleased. But somewhere along the line, about a month ago, it gripped me again. I started cutting back on calories in an extreme sense, I wasn’t able to go the the gym as I have been before, but I started to deprive the calories, I started to step on the scale multiple times a day, keeping track of when the last time I had a drink was, in case that was showing on the scale. Had I peed recently? What all was traveling through me? Almost at any point in the day, I could tell you how much I weighed. Of course the thing is, it’s working like gangbusters again. I expect to wake up tomorrow morning at 161 pounds, about to enter the 150s! The changes are finally starting to be noticeable, although I still hate my belly. Even at 140, I typically hate my belly.
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I’m writing this now, I think, because I’ve realized it’s gripped me again and I’m not going to let it happen this time.  I’m going to keep dieting, in a prudent way, and I’m going to keep working out and getting healthy.  And with my lovely partner’s help (there really is nobody better than Karla for, basically, anything) I will work through my scale-watching, calorie-obsessed issue. I will lose weight and keep it off and get fit and stay that way–because I have to and because I want to.  But once I start seeing the scale move and the numbers go down I want to be at the end NOW.  And I know how to do it.  But how many times do I have in me?  Frequent weight swings of this magnitude will wreck a human body.
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I suppose I am putting this out in the world as an additional counter-measure; if everyone knows about it, it adds an extra layer of accountability for me.  And also to add a voice to dispelling the myth that men don’t have body issues.  While our culture certainly creates a toxic environment for women and what they have to put up with as far as beauty standards is horrific and as a man I do not have nearly so much against me, I do struggle greatly with anxiety of how I look to others.  I hate my flabby paunch, my jiggly underchin, my wrinkly eyes.  I obsess over how I look–especially when I’m at my worst.  I’m not suggesting that male body issues need to be a major area of social discourse, but unfortunately there remain many women and men out in social media land–most of whom I consider quite enlightened otherwise–who frequently post memes and such of shirtless firefighters (or etc etc) with captions like “I’m gonna set my house on fire”.  Of course these shirtless men always have physiques that would be literally impossible for me to attain at this stage in my life, no matter what I did.  But there they are–intelligent, socially aware adults perpetuating an unattainable vision of masculine beauty.  Please don’t get me wrong–I’m certainly not blaming my weight fluctuations on memes.  I’m just putting it out there for thought: we’ve fought hard against idealizing ludicrous feminine beauty standards for years.  Please consider the men in your life before you do the same to them.  We are not immune to feelings of body shame.
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Please don’t think you need to worry about me, either.  I know I used the term “eating disorder” in here but I am in no danger.  I ate pretty well today and plan on it tomorrow, too. And I have a pretty good team in my corner.  I hope to update you soon on how I attained my goal weight, the healthy way.

7 Responses to “Let’s Talk About My Weight Fluctuation”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    For the first time in a long while, I am going to copy your blog idea and make my own version of this. I identify with a lot of this, but on some key issues we couldn’t be further apart. Fucking humans. We’ve evolved so much the past billion or so years but still all our brains really tell us to do is eat and fuck. Both of which really are not necessary.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      First I must take issue with your assertion that eating is not necessary. I wish it were so. It seems to me one of only like 3 or 4 things that ARE necessary! What mean you by this?

      I look forward to your entry. I think I know the places in which we differ, but I look forward to hearing your experience!

      • Kyle Sundgren Says:

        Haha yeah I didn’t word that correctly. I meant to say we don’t need to eat to the extent of a survivalist for a harsh winter or because our food options are scarce.

  2. I am so proud of you!! I have worked through the same problems. To see it in writing, just makes me realize that there is more than one of us that keeps going over and over the same problem. You put it so nicely into words. Thank you!

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Thank you momma! It is very hard, yes? You have done so well tho! You would probably have maintained your fitness level from the beginning if it weren’t for your health issues.

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