Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How It All Started/Who is Sausage Boy? II

First off, I have to say "thank you" to everyone who's read this blog thus far and commented, either here, on facebook or via e-mail.  I think I would keep writing it even if no one read or commented, but hearing from people has provided some nice validation.  I'm excited to share and to hear from others who deal with some of the same issues.  I am feeling a lot of gratitude for your comments and responses, so even if I haven't written back, I truly thank you.  On to today's post.  It may still be a bit narrative, as it's somewhat of a continuation of Who Is Sausage Boy?, but there's just still more to the story!  (A co-worker and fellow blogger, one of the authors of Teaching Underground, tells me the key is to keep blog posts short.  I'm afraid I'll often be breaking that rule).

How It All Started/Who is Sausage Boy? Part II

In the past two and a half months I've lost just about 26 or 27 pounds.  I feel unbelievably better than I did in early January.  I haven't had a headache in that long nor have I felt that awful sluggish, grumpy tired that I remember feeling quite often.  I've had to take close to a dozen pairs of pants entirely out of circulation for the foreseeable future and had to go to Goodwill to get a few that are two or three sizes smaller.  I'm wearing two pairs of jeans that I quite literally have not worn in about 8 or 9 years (clearly I was holding out some hope for myself).  As this has been going on, the biggest question people have had for me has been something like "What made you do it?" or "How did you start?"  It's one of the hardest questions to answer because it's not very simple.  When I wrote Who is Sausage Boy?, perhaps I took a bit of poetic license and made it seem that I woke up one morning and voila, made a decision to radically change my life.  As with most things in life, it was not quite that simple, easy or obvious.  This change seems to have been brought about by a confluence of events all happening around the same time.  Here are some of them:

The Ninja.  No, a masked Japanese warrior did not stealthily enter my room and show me the error of my ways like some Ghost of Christmas Future, though Christmas was involved.  For Christmas this year my parents gave me a Ninja Kitchen System.  It's essentially a blender on steroids.  I think one of the reasons my mom got it for me was not only that we needed a new blender (having somehow lost the base to our great Kitchen Aid in a move a few years back) but because, according to the infomercial, it could be used as a juicer.  I was jazzed.  Upon getting it home and opening it, that claim turned out to be slightly deceiving.  It was not a juicer in the conventional sense, meaning it did not extract juice from fruits and vegetables and discard the pulp, it essentially made smoothies.  Its directions for "juicing" included adding fruits and/or vegetables and store bought juice.  It turns out to be an excellent blender, however, with both a large and small containers.  I've already made a few batches of hummus with it.  The point here, though, is this - When I discovered it didn't really juice, I decided to finally go ahead and buy myself a juicer with some amazon.com reward points.  We'd actaully had a small centrigugal juicer gropwing up that i seem to remember using furiously for a while, then us all realzing it was real pain in the neck to clean.  I'd purchased two books about juicing and juice fasting years earlier and knew at some point I wanted to try it.  More on the actual juicing in a bit.

Born to Run & The Five Finger Shoes.  In late December, we had a very dear friend who we hadn't seen in a while come visit us.  She had, recently I think, started running.  She talked glowingly about the book Born to Run, which I had actually heard about a few years earlier from one of my best friends.  If you haven't read it or heard of it, it's a journalist and runner's search for a tribe of Native American barefoot-running "superathletes" called the Tarahumara who currently live practically in isolation in a valley in northern Mexico.  Is it the most well-written book in the world?  By no means.  The chronology is very confusing, but that eventually becomes irrelevant.  The book is partly the story of his search for this tribe, partly a sort of history of ultra-runners or ultra-marathoners (maniac athletes who run races of between 50 and 100 miles or more, often through treacherous mountain terrain), and partly an evolutionary treatise on the design of the human body.  The title, Born to Run alludes to that final aspect of the book.  He posits that our anatomy alone among god's creatures enables us to run long distances and that characteristic gave us an evolutionary edge.  And since primitive man did not have access to the latest models from Nike, he ran barefoot.  The second part of his argument is that modern running shoes are completely inappropriate to the task of human running and that the human foot has already been designed by nature to do this effectively by itself.  He's essentially an advocate of barefoot or near-barefoot running.  So anyway, our friend Tarah is visiting us over winter break, raves about the book, and even shows us her pair of Vibram FiveFingers running shoes.  Wow - crazy looking if you haven't seen them.  But, I was intrigued. 

At this point, dear reader, you must, must, must know something about me.  I hate sports and I hate running.  Sound too strong?  Think I'm kidding?  Just ask me what "D-1" means.  Yes, there was a time maybe 12 or 13 years ago or so when I went running on a somewhat consistent basis with my friend Jane.  I could run with company. You can chat, commiserate about the pain.  Heck, we even ran the Spring Lake Five together once.  But running myself, just because?  I couldn't think of anything less appealing.  I'd rather eat broken glass.  And yet somehow, soon after Tarah's visit, I found myself reserving the book from local library and diving in.  Let me tell you, my disdain for sports and running aside, I simply could not put this book down.  About halfway through it I found myself putting my Asics sneakers/running shoes and my sweatpants on, putting some music on my ipod, standing in the basement and saying to my wife "Uh, Jenn, I know I hate running and all, but I think I'm going out for a run."  "Okay, that's great.  Don't hurt yourself, okay?"  Now let's be honest here - when I say I went for a run, I mean I sort of used my legs to heave my fatness along the road and through the woods and barely finished the two-mile route my wife does with ease almost every day.  It was not a pretty sight.  By the time I finished the book, I decided I just had to try these crazy shoes out and got myself a pair.  Vibram recommends you take it very slow in them, since your gait is very different from how we usually run, striking with the heel first (that's where all the cushioning is on a traditional running shoe).  In these shoes, you take shorter strides and land on the balls of your feet.  Consequently, your calves get a workout they've probably never experienced.  My first "run" in them consisted of perhaps one-half mile before my calves were screaming in agony.  But then something funny happened.  I had brought my Asics along, thinking that when my calves gave out I'd put them on finish my route.  I put them on, started to run and felt so unbelievably awkward and clumsy in them.  It just felt wrong.  It was clear that, for me at least, running in the fivefingers was the way to go and I would just have to slowly build back up to running that epic 2-mile route.  The point here is that, against all odds and practically against my will, I started running, both a cause and effect of the transformation that was going on.  And, even more importantly (due to the shoes, I think) I actually liked it!

(And in another nod to my brilliant and far-sighted wife: she has always prided herself on being able to work out and be fit and healthy using what we had available - our property, trails, and neighborhood, which were totally free while I insisted for years that the only way I could really exercise was at the gym (hefty fee included).  Well, she was right and I was wrong!  She'll say it doesn't come easy to her and admits that she herself was motivated by seeing her father's struggles with health and, ultimately, his untimely death.)

Weight Watchers.  Early in January, after being shocked at the 209 I saw on the scale, I remembered that a colleague of mine at work starting a Weight Watchers group.  I wasn't interested in going to meetings or anything like that ("Hi, my name is  Sausage Boy and I'm a pork addict?"), but she offered to get me the Weight Watchers Points Book as well as the Points Calculator.  You plug in your age, sex and weight and this calculator tells you how many points you're allowed to eat each day.  I got them both and my daily point target was 41.  I used the points guide to determine the value of things I usually ate like Health Valley granola bars (five points each), turkey and cheese sandwiches, Gorton's Fish Fillets, and the like.  I spent a good two hours creating my own list of those foods and their point values.  I sort of paid attention to it for about a week.  For me the biggest thing was portion size.  I stood in the kitchen and measured the one cup of rice, the one fish fillet, the eight ounce sandwich.   In the first few weeks of January I had a little success.  I stopped using mayonnaise and switched to mustard, cut out most of the butter and watched the portion sizes.  I lost four or five pounds in two or three weeks.  Encouraging, while pretty modest.  But the cravings (for sausage and chocolate chip cookies) were still omnipresent.  It didn't seem like quite enough.

The Revelation of Self-Care.  For the past two years I've been some doing pretty incredible work revolving around self-eploration and expression with some dear friends at Hearthfire.  Early in January, I had a bit of a revelation about self-care because of it.  In the past, self-care to me meant something like eating a lot and drinking a lot.  You need to eat to live, right?  And drinking, in my paradigm, was simply to relax or celebrate, so that can't be bad.  It was really self-destruction, which is pretty obvious in hindsight.  It was on my way home one night, driving down I-81 when it became clear to me.  I had stopped at a Chik Fil-A for something to eat.  When people build a home they often suffer from the "why not" syndrome.  "Well, if we need counter tops, why not get granite?  It's not much more"  "If we're going to have to get a fridge, why not get the stainless steel one?  It's not much more."  "Why not get the cherry instead of the oak?"  "Why not get the..?"  You get the idea.  That was me (not only when we built our house) but with food.  "Well, if I'm going to eat, why not get the deluxe sandwich with cheese?  I'm eating dinner, so why not get some fries?  If I'm getting fries, why not get the large ones?  Why not get the coleslaw?"  You get the idea.  There was never a good reason not to get more, so I almost always did.  That attitude certainly jived with my predilection for buffets, if you recall.  I was back in the car that night, cramming those hot salty waffles fries down my throat when I had the big revelation I alluded to in Who is Sausage Boy? - my overeating was the opposite of self-care.  It was aggression directed at myself entirely self-destructive.  Real self-care was something entirely different, something at which I was very unpracticed but which I had just caught a fleeting glimpse.  I liked what I saw there.  It was a breakthrough moment.  A moment of emotional clarity that set the stage for everything that was to come and without which this shift would have not been possible. 

The Juice Fast.  Back to the juicer.  Always full circle here.  In early January Amazon had a crazy deal on the Omega J8005 Nutrition Center juicer (I ended up getting it for about one-third of the regular price, so it was hard to say no).  As I mentioned before I had purchased two juicing books about five years ago (The Juicing Bible and Juice Fasting and Detoxification) and started reading them after I received my juicer.  I was sort of counting Weight Watchers points, but then started to supplement a few meals a week with fruit and vegetable juices.  Then in early February I watched the movie Fat Sick & Nearly Dead.  (I think they'll be a post soon about films I've watched related to health, nutrition and diet so I won't say too much about the film here.)  It's the completely inspirational story about two men who undertake a 60-day juice fast.  I would recommend it to absolutely anyone who's concerned about their health, whether or not they are interested in juicng.  It's stupendous and amazing.  After watching this, I knew I had to try it.  Not for 60 days probably, but I figured I could at least do ten.  My start date was Saturday, February 18th.  I loaded up our downstairs fridge with apples, oranges, grapefruit, kale, spinach, beets, ginger, lemons, and numerous other fruits and veggies.  The first day I remember thinking how strange to not be eating anything.  The second day, I can't lie, I felt a little grumpy.  But after that, it was pretty easy and it became more than easy, it became all I wanted to do.  The tricky part was how to have juice during the workday.  For the first few days I actually lugged the juicer to school with me, along with a grocery bag filled with produce.  During my planning period I locked my classroom door (so my colleagues wouldn't think I was totally insane) and make my "lunch."  I wised up after three or four days (the juicer is NOT light) and bought two stainless steel insulated thermoses so I could make all the juice in the morning and have it fresh for the entire day.  By the time I was getting close to day ten, it became obvious that I could go longer.  I was shedding pounds, roughly a pound a day, and because I was taking in so many nutrients I felt incredible.  I developed a clarity of mind and thought I think I have never experienced before, almost like having an out-of-body experience.  I decided I could easily do 15 days.  And when that 15th day came, I stopped not because I was desperate to eat something (quite the opposite - I was somewhat anxious about, and reticent to do so), but simply because I had told myself 15 days.  I had no doubt I could have done 5 or 10 or 15 more.  On the morning of Sunday, March 4th I ate a grapefruit and holy cow!  The sensation of chewing was so new, so unique, so interesting.  My wife has always told me to "savor" my food.  I would try, but the savoring I did was mostly savoring the sensation of shoving more food in my maw.  But that grapefruit I savored, and it was so damn good! 

When all was said and done, I had lost just about 15 pounds in those 15 days and I couldn't remember when I had ever felt better.  The juice fast "rebooted" my system and retrained and dramatically altered my taste buds.  I did not crave sausage.  I did not crave chocolate chip cookies.  Hold on - did you hear that?  I craved neither sausage nor chocolate chip cookies!  The holy grails of salty meat and sweet treat seemed to have lost their power over me.  You won't believe what I did crave - carrots. 

Smooth segue here to my next post..., which I swear, is going to be about the quasi-religious revelation of the awesome Carrot Salad.  And we'll finally get down to some business here.


  1. So you're not going to take my brevity advice. I enjoyed the first paragraph. I will enjoy the rest over the next two weeks.

    If you're not going to write short I'm still only going to read short.

  2. Great story, great about me. I look forward to reading more from you.

    I started my first ever juice fast today, after seeing Fat Sick and Nearly dead a year ago and purchasing a champion Juicer not long after. So I'm so inspired by how your juice fast made you feel--I kept wondering why the heck I was doing this. Now I can see why. I just have to get through the next few days and get into a groove with all of the juicing before work. That and continuing to cook for the other 4 people in my house.

    1. Yes - cooking for the family while juicing was pretty interesting - good luck! I (obviously) found it rewarding.

  3. Hey Sal!

    First, please let me know if there's another juicer deal! I haven't seen anything that amazing....And Hearthfire! I want to know about that too. Is it like what Lance and I do out in Taos?

    Congrats, too, on your great dr's appointment (I read that post before this one).