I parlayed a painful relationship split into increasingly extreme weight loss – until I discovered how low I could go.
A few years ago, I went through one of the worst break-ups two men ever experienced in the history of human romance. The resulting stress left me with a knot in my stomach the size of a baseball. Every time I tried to eat, I found that after a few bites, I felt ridiculously full. In an effort to deal with all of my grief and anxiety, I began hitting the gym seven days a week, where I worked out like a madman.
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Within a few short weeks, 15 pounds fell off my already slender frame. My friends, neighbors and family members expressed alarm: Was I okay? Could they do anything for me? Didn’t I think I should see a doctor?
My show business acquaintances, however, only wanted to know one thing: How had I done it? In Los Angeles, there is no higher honor one can pay another than to utter those three magic words: “You’ve lost weight!”
Even a few pounds count, but those who manage to drop a large amount of body fat are looked upon with true reverence, as if the newly-thin individual had not only scaled Mount Everest but also somehow come back down with a PhD in Nuclear Physics. When I dropped the weight, I instantly noticed a difference in the way I was perceived. In meetings, people sat a little straighter in their chairs and listened more carefully to my pitches. Clearly someone as fit as myself must be wiser, more clever, more attuned to what audiences wanted.
Something similar began to happen in my social life. Small crowds began to gather at parties to marvel at the new, emaciated me. In a town where it’s often hard to get noticed, I like the attention.
Out of Control
Soon, I was a man obsessed. Every morning, my quarter cup of oatmeal was followed by at least 90 minutes of vigorous weight training and cardio. In between my measly 300-calorie meals, I flooded my system with gallons of highly caffeinated beverages like espresso, diet soda and green tea. Although I no longer possessed any sort of attention span, it seemed like a small price to pay. After all, I looked great on camera, and I could shop in the children’s section of most major clothing stores. I felt powerful, sleek and a little dizzy.
One morning, it occurred to me that if I kept this up, I’d soon be back to my original birth weight. My face, reflected in the bathroom mirror, appeared pale and gaunt. I felt confused. Wasn’t this what people wanted – to be thin and muscular? Wasn’t this the ideal?
I soldiered on until my union went on strike. At that point, in addition to everything else, I was started walking 15 miles a day (while carrying a cleverly-worded sign). My new picketing schedule required me to get up even earlier, so I could work out and burn off all those unwanted calories from the apple I’d had for dinner the night before. Then one morning, for no real reason, I snapped.
I rolled out of bed, as usual, at 6:30am, and pulled on my gym clothes. As usual, I felt weak, irritable and vaguely insane. Keys in hand, I trudged out to my car when (out of nowhere) a long ignored little voice began to whisper a few truths in my ear: I was no more successful for all this Herculean effort. I was no more talented. I was no younger or smarter, neither more content nor happier. In fact, all of these extreme diet and exercise restrictions had ultimately reduced the quality of my life.
Suddenly, something that had been hiding deep in my consciousness broke violently through to the surface. “I’m a middle-aged man!” I shrieked. “And I’m freakin’ HUNGRY!” Pedal to the metal, I drove to the first International House of Pancakes (now, I assume, an International House of Burgers) I could find, where I enjoyed the single most delicious breakfast I’ve ever consumed in my life. I can still remember every bite.
While all the other striking writers began losing weight from walking the picket line, I started gaining. Pasta was back in my life, and I replaced my nine weekly visits to the gym with a much more manageable three. My face filled out and something genuinely remarkable started happening. People began telling me how great I looked all over again, but this time how happy, calm and full… of life.
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Last modified: August 13, 2019