My enabler

May 8, 2015 § 28 Comments

When I was young I was taller and didn’t have a weight problem. Now I’ve shrunk at least an inch and have for years been engaged in the mid-life Battle of the Bulge. Of course at 51, mid-life is over as 102 isn’t in my genes or my game plan.

With the exception of runway models, jockeys, and wrestlers, few people obsess about their weight as much cyclists. Even though the rest of the world generally looks at us and says, “Fit,” we invariably look at each other, and especially ourselves, and say, “Fat.”

Of course in the Old Person racing categories, weight is largely irrelevant in crit racing, the predominant race type. A certain champion who shall remain nameless regularly smashes everyone even though he barely fits into his skinsuit without a hoist and two giant, greased shovels. He is very jolly about it, too, and he should be, because half of the 84 people he just smashed are fanatical weight obsessives, which is to say completely fuggin’ miserable. He not only gets to win, he obviously gets to eat, and eat again.

In road races weight plays a role, but not really the way you might think. In the hardest climbing races of the season, the old farts in contention are indeed lean, and one or three, who shall also remain nameless, have the terrible stunted and corpse-like figure of someone who has wasted away for years in a prison camp. Gaunt, bony, stringy, and not-good-to-eat-even-when-cooked is how these guys look.

What’s instructive is that when it comes to getting on the hilly road race podiums, it’s always the same guys, give or take a manorexic, which means that the other forty riders who really are starving themselves in preparation for their DNF or 28th placing are not getting any meaningful benefit from their weight obsession and diet misery. Why not just have another helping of butter to go with your ice cream bacon burger and be satisfied with 30th, or with being the 10th-placed DNF, or even the 1st-placed DNS?

Answer: Because weight obsession is another of the simulacra that, along with full carbon wheels that are 100% carbon, fosters the illusion of “We’re pro, too.”

In the past my dieting has followed the pattern of all diets: Quit eating and quit big, wait until the body begins to digest itself, declare success on the scales along with a 50% drop in power, daily energy, and sex drive (make that 95% for the last one, okay, 99%), do a couple of races at the new Cooked Chicken Chris Froome weight, DNF, check into the ICU for intravenous fluids, and then as soon as possible hop back on the burger-and-fries express.

Of course like any problem that you’ve had for a long time, it can’t really function unless the people around you have adapted to it. They are called enablers; mine is Mrs. WM, and she enables me thus:

Me: “I’m going on another diet. Nothing but apples, water cress, and almond skins.”

Mrs. WM: “Okay.”

Me: [three hours later] “I’m tired.”

Mrs. WM: “You want me to fix you a snack?” The alleged snack, of course, has already been fixed, and it is a three-course, 6,500-kcal meal.

Me: [longingly] “Okay. But only a small half-plate.”

Mrs. WM: [shoves fully loaded half-plate in my face] “You gonna get onna wiener droopies if you don’t keep eatin’.”

Me: [after fifth half-plate, groaning] “Dammit! I didn’t want to eat all that!”

Mrs. WM: “Don’t holler onna me! If you don’t wanna be eatin’ don’t be chewin’.”

Throughout the diet, each day of which begins with the utter hell of awakening with the thought of “Diet,” Mrs. WM punctuates every Box Moment of the day with, “You wanna eat some —- ?” The “some” is freshly baked bread, or avocado dip with chips, or bacon-wrapped asparagus, or ice cream bacon burgers topped with carbon sprinkles.

The “Box Moment” is that moment of hunger pain during which, if you want the diet to succeed, you have to crawl inside the box and suffer the hunger. It is the Box Moments, strung together, that lose the weight, and they are about as much fun as eye surgery with an ice pick, only less.

So my enabler makes the diet doubly hard because I not only have to endure the Box Moments but I also have to refuse the mouth-watering fare. What diet can survive this dual assault? None.

In other words, I’m 12 pounds down and have begun digesting bone and hair. And I’m hungry. And we’re all out of water cress.

Where the hell is my enabler?



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November 5, 2012 § 16 Comments

I’ve become a McDonald’s coffee convert. You can get a small coffee with a shot of espresso for $1.63. That’s twenty-two cents cheaper than Sckubrats. McCoffee tastes better. It’s served hotter, much hotter. After twenty minutes it still tastes like coffee, unlike SB’s room-temp stuff.

McCoffee also gives you more coffee for twelve ounces than Scubrats because SB never fills it to the top. The “room for cream” shaves at least two ounces out of the cup. Mac just gives you a little creamy thingy, a .5 oz container with a peel-back top. You can ask for two, or even three, but no one asks for “seven creamers, please.”

The cream is where Mac shaves costs to compete with SB, and you notice it right away. At McCafe, they keep the creamers under lock and key. At Sckubrats, they have several different large thermoses where you can load up on all the cream and fat you want, along with sugar, cinnamon (Cinnamon? Who the fuck puts cinnamon in their coffee?), and other goodies.

The cream counter says everything about the clientele of the two stores. The Sckubrats patron believes he is “healthy,” because, you know, they have those leafy green things in the salad lunchboxes and because Sckubs is painted, well, green. So the patron healthifies his coffee with vast amounts of healthy half and half and healthy sugar. Watching Sckubrats consumers post-brew their already complicated concoctions is a lesson in how to make drinks that are already loaded with sugar even fattier.

The Mac visitor isn’t a patron. He’s a customer. And he orders coffee in order to get some caffeine and maybe some sugar with a dollop of cream. His main calorie search, though, ain’t no fucking froo-froo coffee drink. He’s there for the Big Mac and large fries with an Egg McMuffin and large coke. For breakfast.

McCoffee is served differently, too. The clerks have a vapid, mechanized look to match the machinery and push-button reheating facility that thaws and warms the prefabricated food. Their clothes never fit right. The women look like they’ve been dressed in sacks with belts. The guys, covered with horrible, oily acne from the grease in the air, look like a hamburger that’s got the lettuce and sauce dripping out from around the edges, soggifying the bun and making a mess on the tabletop. You would not want one of these guys to stick his finger in your mouth.

Since Big M’s philosophy is “make it idiot proof,” they hire idiots. Everything is so simple and stupid, though, that the brain rebels by making mistakes.

“That’ll be $1.63,” the zombie said.

“Here you go.” I handed him two bucks.

“Here’s your change.” He gave me forty-five cents back. At first I thought he was joking. “Do you want your receipt?” he asked, seeing my puzzled look.

“Uh, no.”

“Okay. Your expresso will be right up.”

Yes, my expresso. This is a word that means “fast coffee,” I guess.

Which is the other shortcoming at McCafe. Everyone is afraid of the specialty coffee machine, and there’s only one person, usually named Lupe, who can operate it. “Lupe! We need an expresso!”

Lupe comes from the back of the factory, hands dripping with thawed secret sauce, and wipes her acned brow with the back of her hand. There’s a long conversation between Lupe and Bill.

“You just push the button, here.”

“I tried that but out came all this white stuff.”

“That’s the latte maker thing. We don’t never use that much.”

“Dude just wants an expresso.”

“That’s this button.”

Eventually, I get my coffee with a shot of espresso. “Cream?” Bill asks, suspiciously, kind of like someone would say, “You want my sister, do you?”

I know this is the one thing he remembers from the employee training last month where he had to come in on his day off with a bad hangover. Manager Snippers had told everyone, “Don’t give away the creamers! Make the customer tell you how many he wants! Don’t give him a handful! This is our profit margin! Don’t give away the creamers!”

“Yeah, please,” I say.

His eyes narrow. “Okay.” It’s like a challenge. “How many?”

“Twelve, please.”

His eyes widen. “Huh? We can’t give you twelve.”

“Okay, just kidding. Give me twenty.”

Lupe takes over. “How many creams you want, sir? How about one? Or two? Or just one?”

I smile. “One is fine.”

She opens the fridge, which looks like a small safe. “Here, sir.”

“Thanks.” I turn and go. It’s taken eight minutes, and I was the only person who wanted coffee. But I saved thirty cents, including the change snafu, and the coffee was hot and tasted great.

I lit out from Chino, I was trailed by twenty hounds

Today’s race was in Chino. Since it’s the middle of the cyclocross season, a sport that celebrates biking in the winter, I had prepared for the 97-degree, dusty, scorching temperatures with arm warmers and lots of embro.

One thing about ‘cross is that when you get to the race you always ask the dude in the car next to you, “What tire pressure are you running?”

“About thirty,” he always says. Then you reach over and squeeze his tire.

“Yeah,” you say. “I think I’ll go around twenty-seven.” This is to show that you’re gonna have an edge out there on the course, especially the softer sections, where he’ll be braking and skidding and you’ll be comfortably rolling through the sandy turns, ’cause you’re running twenty-seven.

Then he always says, “Yeah, but are those clinchers? You’ll get a pinch flat.”

I’ve never gotten a pinch flat, or any flat, because ‘cross tires are built like the tread on a half-track. “Nah,” you say. “I’m light enough so’s I never get those.” Unspoken: He gets pinch flats and has to run higher psi because he’s so fucking fat.

The next thing that happens at every ‘cross race is that you and the dude in the car next door agree how much the course sucks. Costa Mesa really sucked because it was a BMX course and too technical.

Downtown LA sucked because it wasn’t technical, it was just a “roadie” course. You know, like all those road rides you do with flyovers, barriers, run-ups, soft sand, and choking dust.

Camarillo sucked because it was all grass with some mud. It wasn’t technical enough.

Spooky Cross sucked because it was another BMX course on a horsetrack and with all the whoopti’s it was too technical.

San Diego Velodrome course sucked because it was too short, too technical, it went the wrong way around the velodrome, and it was boring.

“How’s the course?” I asked the guy in the car next to me at Chino.

“Aw, it sucks.”

“How come?”

“Boring roadie course. And bumpy. It’s a really stupid course.”

Hint: It’s not the courses in ‘cross that are stupid

We got let out of the gate, but not before, while rolling up to the start, I tipped over and knocked over a couple of other people. This really makes people like you and gets you covered in dirt and mud right away.

The preliminary intel on the course was right. The course did suck. [Note to self: that’s because it’s ‘cross, and ‘cross sucks.] It was bone-jarringly bumpy, and so dusty that within seconds I was choking from the thick curtain of sand and dirt thrown up by the riders in front of me, which was all of them.

On the first sharp turn a local buddy chopped me, passed me, and elbowed me. “Sorry, Wankster,” he said, kind of like the neighbor who says “Sorry, Pascale” to his neighbor in the Resistance as he ratfinks him to the Gestapo.

Unlike the week before, when I’d been immediately crushed and defeated by the short, technical, choppy course, it took a few hundred yards before I overcooked my first turn uphill and fell off my bike. The field receded. I remounted and churned.

After a while I’d picked off several riders ahead of me. After a lap I’d passed and dropped my friendly neighbor. After the third lap I was so addled with dirt and heat and thirst and the screaming anaerobic misery that is a ‘cross race that I no longer gave a damn. But unlike last week, I didn’t give up, either.

I overhauled Rider Red Dude, who followed my wheel until he wisely decided that of all the precarious and uncertain places he could be in life, riding my wheel was the height of precariousness, so he faded away. Coming up the little off-camber sandy bump, I fell off my bicycle again. In his excitement at having a legit chance to pass me, Rider Red Dude tried to zing by, but in his haste lost control and went careening off into the tape and speared himself with a course marker pole.

I don’t know if it went through his heart, but I saw people pouring beer on him to stanch the bleeding.

My final partner was a dude from another race named Luis. Each time we came through the area where his supporters were, they screamed, “Ditch that guy, Luis! He sucks!” Luis knew what his drunken buddies didn’t, that I was in a different race, and he was more than happy to have someone who would take turns. On the final lap I busted away from him, too.

I crossed the finish line thinking those thoughts that accompany every ‘cross race ending: “Where am I?” “Can I fall over here?” “Who has the water?”

A lovely angel of mercy gave me some cold water to cut the dirt and muck off my teeth. A full bottle later and I could finally feel something inside my throat that didn’t feel like gravel and dirt and sand mixed with dried phlegm.

My teammates, David Anderson and John Hatchitt, had placed second and third. In the final tabulation, I’d placed seventh, my best result of the year by far. But I didn’t care. All I wanted was a hot cup of McCoffee. And I knew where to get one.

…And…today by the numbers…

.25 cup oatmeal 150 cal
.25 cup raisins 130 cal
1 tsp brown sugar 11 cal
Coffee w/2 tbsp 2% milk 16 cal
.5 cup Greek yogurt 65 cal
3 strawberries 15 cal
1 small Fuji apple 60 cal
.25 cup nonfat milk 22
Coffee w/.5 oz half and half 20 cal
.5 cup trail mix 300 cal
Morning total: 789 cal

2 cans tuna 240 cal
2 corn tortillas 120 cal
2 large eggs 180 cal
4 tbsp salsa 60 cal
.5 cup Greek yogurt 65 cal
Banana 90 cal
Small Fuji apple 60 cal
Coffee w/.25 cup nonfat milk 22 cal
Afternoon total: 837 cal

200g spaghetti 315 cal
2.5 tbsp olive oil 210 cal
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese 55 cal
1.3 eggs 117 cal
2 tbsp dressing 255 cal
2/3 large avocado 221 cal
1 pkg dried tomatoes 210 cal
2/3 small tomato 17 cal
.25 cup nonfat Greek yogurt 33 cal
4 med strawberries 20 cal
.25 large banana 27 cal
.25 cup blackberries 16 cal
Evening total: 1,496 cal

BMR: 1,800 cal
Ride: 1,397 cal
Gym: 477 cal

Calories out: 3,674
Calories in: 3,122
Weight: 153 lbs.

The math

November 3, 2012 § 12 Comments

Here’s what today’s math looks like:

.5 cup oatmeal 300 cal
Coffee w/2% milk 16 cal
Banana 110 cal
.25 cup Raisins 150 cal
1tbsp Brown sugar 22 cal
.5 oz half and half 20 cal
.5 oz cream 40 cal
Morning total: 658 cal

.5 oz half and half 20 cal
3 eggs 270 cal
3 corn tortillas 240 cal
2 tbsp Sour cream 62
1 oz Chorizo 276 cal
Salsa 15 cal
.5 cup black beans 114 cal
100 g ranchero sauce 50 cal
Melon chunks 25 cal
Lunch total: 1,072 cal

10 small bread slices 600 cal
2 servings tomato dip 100 cal
1 glass red wine 125 cal
4 oz mozzarella cheese 340 cal
Large salad with Gorgonzola and raspberry vinaigrette 435 cal
100 g Pasta with cream sauce 400 cal
1.5 cup Chocolate ice cream 330 cal
.5 oz half and half 20 cal
1cup Greek yogurt nonfat 130 cal
1 large banana 110 cal
Evening total: 2,590 cal

BMR 1,800 cal burned
Swami’s Beatdown and Bonus Ride 2,873 cal burned
Walking slowly around San Diego for 1.5 hours 200 cal burned

Calories out: 4,873
Calories in: 4,320

Any questions?

October 6, 2012 § 33 Comments

Below are the interim results of my de-ostrichization program, which was specifically begun to remove the plumpy cummerbund of adipose straddling my waist.

The first picture is from the time that Jack from Illinois (not his real name) was here, about the first week of August. The second one was taken today.

No jokes about the boxer shorts, please.

Yes, those are long johns from Academy.

You’re starting to look like a hamburger

August 22, 2012 § 22 Comments

Since my first training session with Marcella Piersol about four weeks ago, I’ve lost about seven pounds.

“You don’t need to lose any weight! You’re already skinnnnny!”

“You don’t need to lose any weight! You’ve got a high metaaaaaaabolism!”

Check out Kristy Morrow’s photo sequence of my stomach jiggling on my top tube and get back to me, okay?

An inconvenient truth

The only way to lose weight is through eating less. Period. You can exercise ’til you’re blue in the face, you can buy the low-fat, the non-fat, the nega-fat, but if you want to get rid of what’s hanging out around your gut, you’re gonna have to diet.

And if you want to keep it off you’re going to have to diet.

And you’re going to have to do it the rest of your life.

Now, if that seems daunting, you can console yourself that every fucking minute in between meals from now until the day you die the only thing you’ll be thinking about is food, because once the first couple of pounds come off, hunger kicks in.

I don’t mean hunger as in “Hey, honey, are you hungry? Let’s go get dinner!” hungry.

I mean, “I will kill anything and do anything to anyone in order to eat.” I mean hungry as in “If something hamburger-like doesn’t find its way between my teeth here shortly I will die. And rather than die I would prefer that you die.”

This, folks, is dieting. And why it’s doomed to fail. And why people who remain rail thin who deny that they’re starving are fucking liars. All of ’em.

The human reaction to starvation

We all know that the human body evolved to adapt to starvation. That’s why we bounce back so quickly from most nutritional deficits. It’s also why the other end of the spectrum, nutritional excess, is so devastating: our bodies don’t know how to cope with it.

What we also know, thanks to the scientific project/art installation/weird PR stunt known as Biosphere 2, is that when people are forced to live on greatly restricted diets, they thrive. They get really skinny. They get cranky. And all systems function at their absolute optimal peak.

In my case, the Wanky Diet meant cutting back a bunch and combining my regular biking with 45-min to 1-hour sessions at the gym. “Wanky at the Gym” is a new sitcom, by the way, where a weak and tweezly elderly fellow nearly kills himself doing things like sit-ups, and that crazy-ass thing I saw that hot chick do on a YouTube workout video where you put your hands on the floor and balance your feet on a giant exercise ball and then flex your legs, which is supposed to strengthen your core but in fact shoots the giant ball across the gym and hits the old lady with the pink dumbbells and smashes your knees so fucking hard against the cement floor that it takes your breath away and leaves these huge contusions that hurt so bad you can hardly walk.

Functioning at optimal capacity

Within a couple of days I had gone from hungry to Code Red. Code Red occurs when every organ in your body sends a continual message to your brain that says “Eat a hamburger now or you will die. You just passed another In ‘N Out, you stupid fucker.”

At first I was like, “I’m not even that crazy about hamburgers,” but after a couple more days had passed I will swear to you that everyone and everything looked like a hamburger. That nasty sweaty dude with the droopy bosom on the NPR? Hamburger. That glass in the road? Hamburger. The gas pump? Hamburger.

This kind of intense and relentless hunger was new to me. I’d gotten glimpses of it before but had always quashed the hunger with…a hamburger. Now I was all in. I had sworn a blood oath that I would live on a restricted calorie diet such that I was in continual starvation mode for the rest of my life or until I cratered or until dinner, whichever came first.

By Week 2, or Week 3, although I’d lost the ability to count, I noticed that my faculties were indeed sharper. Work that had languished on my desk in the DIL pile (Do It Later) got done, and it got done right, and it got done right the first time.

I was finishing up morning rides and hitting the office ready for work because the sooner I got through the morning the sooner I’d get to eat lunch. I was finishing weekend rides and feeling eager for more activity, because the sooner I was done with my activities the sooner I could eat. Every single day, with only one or two exceptions, I was getting in some kind of routine in the gym, although they had banned me from the giant exercise ball. The gym was fun and exciting, because the sooner I finished my workout the sooner I’d get to have lunch or dinner.

All good diets come to an end

Weighing in at a consistent 158 lbs., I felt that there was nowhere to go but down. Suddenly, 150 lbs. was doable. And why stop there? Why not give Konsmo a run for his money, and strip all the way down to 140? I’d conquered the hardest part of dieting, which is the realization that for the rest of my life I would be completely miserable, and everyone in my family would look like a hamburger. To put the final nail in the coffin, a phone conversation yesterday with a high school buddy went like this:

Him: You know, the older you get, the fewer pleasures there are in life.

Me: Yep.

Him: And you don’t want as many things as you used to.

Me: Nope.

Him: Life’s more complicated in some ways, but it’s a heck of a lot simpler, too.

Me: Yep.

Him: As long as you can have a good, satisfying, filling meal twice a day, you know the kind of meal that really fills your belly, life’s perfect.

Me: Fuck off.

For the record, I did the NPR this morning on a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. Skinny milk in the coffee, no butter on the toast. At work I made it through to four o’clock with nothing but an apple and a tiny PBS. From five to six I frightened people at the gym.

By dinnertime I was so faint with hunger that all I could do was lie in bed and moan, “Honey, is dinner ready yet?”

When she finally said “Yes,” I made it to the table on all fours. Of course, the table looked like a hamburger. Even the dinner, which was spaghetti with meat sauce, looked like a hamburger. But she had piled the plate so high that after I’d gotten halfway through, it started to look like what it was.

I hit the magic “STOP” point, where I knew that anything more would wreck my lifelong diet. I ploughed on. Through the spaghetti mountain. Through the salad forest. Through the yogurt bowl with fruit. Through the strong black coffee.

And for the first time in memory, my hunger was banished. Here’s hoping it never comes back.

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