Trying to Go On a Diet
Battle of the bulge

Like a lot of people, I’m never happy with my weight. Whether I’m gaining it or losing it, I never end up completely satisfied with the result. I think that dissatisfaction stems from the fact that I don’t magically transform into some young, good-looking buff dude.

As many of you know, I went to the UK in May to attend my cousin Liam’s wedding. Months before I left, I decided I didn’t want a repeat of my last visit — this time I would show up in somewhat reasonable shape. Okay, that’s kind of a misstatement because I don’t work out at all, so “in shape” is a wistful dream rather than a goal. While showing up sculpted like Chris Hemsworth would have been ideal, showing up and not looking like 190 pounds (86 kg) of chewed bubblegum seemed slightly more attainable.

Thar She Blows!

Last time I went to the UK in 2017 to kick off The Year of Sean, I arrived in Blighty the heaviest I’d ever been. (A slowing metabolism, no willpower, and two years of working in a corporate office with a serious snacking culture will do that to a person.) While in the UK, I didn’t help matters by pigging out like a hunter-gatherer trying to build up a layer of fat for the lean times. I eventually tipped the scales at a somewhat portly 196 pounds, well above my ideal fighting weight. (This might not seem like a lot, but remember, I was the kid nicknamed Stick Man. And while I did go on numerous 5-mile walks in the English countryside during my month-long stay, I also ate and drank everything in sight. I’d like to say it was a wash, but it wasn’t.

in a pub
My face was looking a wee bit round in 2017.

Slimming Down

After I returned home to the States in 2017, my weight gain bummed me out, but I did nothing about it. Until one day, as I was minding my own business, the Houseguest observed I looked pregnant — in fairness to her, it was the way I was laying on my side combined with gravity. (By the way, God help me if I ever made the same comment to her — just saying). Now, it’s one thing to think you’re fat but a whole different ballgame to have someone confirm it for you. I’d seen the photographic evidence from my vacation snaps, but that was easy to rationalize: “Oh, it’s a bad angle” or “I’m just not photogenic.” But the sad truth was I was overweight (and unphotogenic).

So, in a rare moment of determination, I lost weight and ended up dropping 27 lbs in a couple of months. It happened so fast, it surprised some people. So, what was my secret?

dressed like a demonic cultist
So I get my ideal weight and unlimited power. I don’t have to do anything weird, do I?

 

Sitting in chair
Still waiting on the unlimited power.

No, no, I didn’t actually join a cult or make a deal with the devil (believe it or not, I was a groomsman in a Halloween wedding).

To lose weight, I just had to get motivated. And my top motivator was never hearing the Houseguest refer to me as being-with-child again. I also relied on intermittent fasting (or laziness-induced starvation as it’s more accurately known). Working from home as a freelancer and part-time Uber driver, I just didn’t eat often during the day. Also, my income fluctuated wildly, so I cut expenses by eliminating fast food. And though I like to socialize, I also avoided going out to dinner with my friends because they like to eat out. A lot.

Another change was to follow the Houseguest’s dietary suggestions (more protein and fiber; fewer carbs). Veggies are cheap, so I made a lot of salads and threw cheese and pepperoni on them and had the occasional naan bread. Instead of cookies and potato chips, I snacked on crackers, cheese, pepperoni, and apples. I substituted a spoonful of peanut butter drizzled with honey for sweet stuff. Oh, and I became a reluctant walker in the desert evenings. What can I say? It all worked and I quickly dropped to 169 lbs (76.6 kg), which turned out to be a bit too thin. Getting skinny when you get older just makes you look gaunt.

Maintaining my weight gets harder

During the year after I slimmed down, my weight fluctuated by a few pounds but remained fairly stable around 175 lbs.

When I abandoned freelancing and joined an agency, I faced the common hurdles of an office environment like Bagle Monday; Donut Thursday; free pizza; copious snacks. The caloric assault was nonstop and my weight started to creep up.

When I got the invite to my cousin Liam’s wedding, I was up to 181 lbs. Originally, I wanted to defy time by losing weight and getting in shape so I looked younger. Instead, I compromised with myself and settled on a more attainable goal — fitting into my wedding clothes without the button on my pants screaming for help as it held on for dear life.

Trying to go on a diet; Houston, we have a problem

So, I did all right maintaining my weight — until about a month before my departure when my efforts started to go off the rails. It’s ridiculous, I know; I was almost to the finish line. I have no excuse other than moderation and willpower are alien concepts I am unable to truly embrace.

Cornish pasty on metal plate
A delicious calorie bomb at the Cornish Pasty, one of our group’s go-to places.

The slip-ups kept piling up. Going out for too many high-calorie dinners with my buddies or going out for lunch at work and ignoring the sensible salad I’d brought from home. Even worse, the special events started to pile up as invitations came in for BBQs and birthday parties and celebrations with family friends, etc, etc. And despite my conviction to show restraint, every one of them turned into a gluttonous Roman feast where I gorged myself — the only thing missing was a slave feeding me bonbons while I reclined on a couch.

Eating like a big leaguer

The low point in my gluttony occurred when Fox Sports Arizona invited our agency to watch a Diamondbacks’s game in a corporate suite with an all-you-can-eat buffet spread. In an effort to avoid traffic (which turned out to be nonexistent), I arrived forty minutes before everyone else. With time to kill and no witnesses to bolster my accountability, I attacked the unattended buffet of unhealthy ballpark food with all the gusto of a vampire on the loose at a hemophiliac convention.

buffet at an Arizona Diamondbacks suite
Mine! It’s alllll minnnnnne!

After everyone else arrived, I played it cool and pretended I hadn’t eaten, then gobbled my way through seconds and thirds, drank beer, had some (several) dessert(s) and topped it all off with a healthy serving of self-loathing. I spent the rest of the game making small talk and feeling uncomfortable because I’d eaten too much.

Eating dessert and relaxing in a suite before the DBacks' game.

The closer my departure date got, the more demoralized I became. It reached a point where I was afraid to get on my scale. It had become an unwelcome prophet of doom, reading out its digital prediction that my fatass wasn’t going to fit into my wedding attire. Then I had a moment of panic when right before I departed, I discovered that a ravenous moth had infiltrated my closet and eaten holes into my backup plan — a pair of out-of-fashion trousers with cuffs and an expandable waistline (basically, a dressier version of fat pants). Shit.

I’m a weak, weak man

Dairy Queen blizzards
No, I didn’t eat them all — just the big one.

During my month of pre-vacation weakness, one thing I kept craving was a Dairy Queen Blizzard. For my international readers, a Blizzard is a type of tasty soft ice cream treat that is available with multiple ingredients and is roughly about a million calories. Against all odds, I managed to avoid giving in — for a while. Numerous times, I was about to head over to DQ when I’d miraculously regain self-control. Then about a week before my flight, I finally succumbed. My thinking went along the lines of ‘What if the plane crashes? Skipping that Blizzard won’t have mattered.’ I couldn’t beat that logic.

As I drove over to DQ, I told myself I’d only get a mini Blizzard or maybe a small one; definitely not a medium. But I’d been denying myself so long, I caved while ordering at the drive-thru and got the largest Blizzard that DQ offered. On the way home, I told myself I’d only eat part of it and then finish the rest up over the next two days. But after eating a sensible amount, that delicious, icy siren kept calling me back to the fridge for another spoonful. Forty minutes later, I had vanquished the Blizzard. That was 1400+ calories on top of everything else I had eaten that day. My lack of control left me ashamed. (But that Blizzard was so worth it.) 

The league of chubby fellows

By the time I arrived in England, I weighed six pounds heavier than I wanted to be. Luckily, I still fit into my wedding clothes (barely) but I didn’t have much wiggle room left in my waistband. Problem was, I had six days to get through until the wedding. The last two visits I stayed with my Aunt Bernadette, where healthy eating and portion control are the norm, which counterbalanced all the excess I experienced hanging out with my cousins, the Dillons. This time, however, I would be staying at 22 Kings Lane (Dillon Central) where food is abundant and self-control is in short supply. I knew I was in trouble.

English semi-detached house pebbled exterior
22 Kings Lane

Now, my uncle, Daddy Bernard, eats sensibly. However, his five sons can put the food and beer away. However, some of them still play sports weekly to maintain their physiques. Only my cousin Bernie (aka Little Bernard, Young Bernard or Big Bern) lives at 22 Kings Lane, but the rest would be around regularly to see me. Bernie moved in temporarily after surgery for a badly broken leg and hasn’t left yet. He can eat with the best of them and is also a connoisseur of lagers. Always a solidly built fellow, he used to play rugby, but isn’t quite as active after the broken leg and has put on a few stone. 

Brief aside: I don’t know why the Brits still use stone to denote weight — seems even more quaint than Americans using pounds. For those of you unfamiliar with this unit of weight, a stone is 14 pounds. Any time someone mentions their weight in stone, smoke starts coming out of my ears as I try to do the conversion in my head. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled post.

I had one week to go before the wedding. Basically, I was screwed.

Let the contest of wills begin!

Sure enough, the first day there, Bernie, Daddy Bernard, and I ate out at a rock and roll pub owned by this guy named Mick. (Mick may or may not be a gangster; he is the only British guy I know who’s been shot. And he couldn’t shake hands because he’d broken it punching someone). The Turkish cook made me a giant chicken burrito. (Yes, as an Arizonan, I felt compelled to try it and it was good but different.)  And when I say a giant chicken burrito, I’m not joking. It was a brick that would not have been out of place at Chipotle.

Next morning, I went downstairs and Bernie had made sausage sandwiches, and I scarfed down at least three days worth of saturated fat. Then Daddy Bernard and I stopped at McDonald’s at lunch. That night, Bernie cooked up a large pot of chicken thighs. He gave me a bowl piled high with chicken, far more than I needed, but I figured I’d be polite and eat some of it. Holy Mother of God, it was delicious! So succulent and flavorful. (My mouth is watering as I type this). Bernie asked me if I wanted more. No! I mean hell yeah, I wanted more. Then we polished off a few cans of beer. At least the lingering aroma of savory chicken covered up the burning smell of my diet plan spiraling down in flames.

However, I did have to start declining the massive breakfasts and began eating Daddy Bernard’s Shredded Wheat. (So hard to turn down bacon sandwiches.)

bowl of shredded wheat
Shredded Wheat — Depression in physical form

Hungry in Scotland

On the Wednesday before the wedding, I rode up to Scotland with Bernie in his work van. He had to deliver some building materials and thought I’d like to come along for the scenic drive. After he made his deliveries, we headed to Glasgow to spend the night. Bernie told me we’d go for a couple of pints and then eat at the World Buffet. The idea of a buffet alarmed me, but he had his heart set on it — he’d even had the company book rooms at a Travel Lodge right by it. The plan was to arrive in about an hour.

Cousin Bernard driving van
Big Bern behind the wheel on our way to the best buffet in Scotland.

Suddenly, he spotted a grocery store and pulled in.

“I’m getting a chicken to eat,” said Bernie. “You want something?”

“I thought we’re eating in Glasgow?”

“When you eat like I do, I’ll collapse before then.”

Starving, I abstained from buying anything. Bernie bought a whole rotisserie-style chicken. He told me he was going to only eat the drum sticks and would eat the rest tomorrow with some wraps. That poor chicken didn’t stand a chance as he devoured it in its entirety in the van.

Eventually, we made it to the pub, drank a couple of pints while Bernie had a conversation with an incomprehensible old Glaswegian, and then we feasted like kings at the World Buffet.

The Final Countdown

Back in England, my battle against calories continued. My sister, Bridget, showed up from Florida. Surprised, I noticed she looked heavier than usual. She mentioned that she too had put on weight. Hurricane Michael had blown down all the old, majestic trees in her town. There was no shade for her to run in now only blazing sunlight. She mentioned she wanted to lose some weight. I suggested we could try to be good influences on each other while in the UK.

“Screw that. I’m on vacation,” Bridget said as she ordered ice cream. Clearly, I was going to have to be my own moral support.

The day of the wedding, thank God I still fit into my clothes (barely!) without popping a button. After the ceremony, the attendees enjoyed a veritable feast at a swanky place called Crabwall Manor (someone gave me an extra slice of cheesecake and I ate it). Then they had another buffet dinner a couple hours later for those not invited to the service and reception. (Naturally, the Dillons and I were first in line). And then they served wedding cake. (Yes, yes, I ate that too.)

me in my wedding finery from earlier years, looking a lot slimmer
How I wanted to look…

 

Dillons, Davorens, and Laytons at reception
…the sad reality

Winding down

So, once the wedding was over and there was no need to watch what I ate, I still tried to keep things in check, with mixed results. We ate out and celebrated a lot. Going out for Indian, lunching at a tapas restaurant, having a rich dinner at my cousin Matthew’s. (His partner, Véronique, is French, a people not known for cooking light — it was delicious.)

Baby Raphael eating a muffin
Another Dillon getting stuck into his grub (Raphael and his mum Véronique)

 

 

 

 

The night before I left for home, I went and stayed in Manchester with my cousin Martin’s family. He had to work late and we got our wires crossed. I didn’t eat before I arrived thinking he and I were going out to grab food, but he’d eaten when he arrived, so we walked down to a kebab place. That late at night, I thought I should just skip it, but again my willpower failed me. So I ordered the small kebab. (The Brits have adopted American sized portions; you see a lot more overweight people these days.)

Sitting in a kebab shop in Manchester holding a massive kebab
Yes, this is the “small” one.

Next steps

Back in Arizona, I wasn’t making any headway on the weight loss. Then I walked to lunch with three of the guys from the office and on the way back someone mentioned something about Christmas and out of the blue, my coworker Cbass says to me, “You know you could play Santa.”

WTF…?

“Dude, what are you saying? I’m rotund?”

Cbass quickly tried to explain it was because of my friendly face and whitish beard, not because I’m a fat ass.

So I sat around for a few hours thinking bad thoughts about Cbass (well, not really) until I eventually decided I had to make a real effort to get in shape lose weight.

Cbass sitting at his desk hangs his head in shame. He knows he did wrong.
Cbass hangs his head in shame. He knows he did wrong.

 

Author with white beard and Santa hat
Okay, maybe Cbass has a point. (Plus, no more scruffy beards for me).

Anyway, I’m back to intermittent fasting and I’ve lost three pounds this week (no fast food, no snacks in the house, no eating out, etc). And the Houseguest has volunteered to put me through a modified boot camp workout she does with a friend (I’m not so sure about that, but we’ll see).

So, check back later and see how I fare.

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24 thoughts on “Trying to Go On a Diet
Battle of the bulge

  1. You said it youself – ate and drank everything in sight.
    I eat 3x per day + 2 fruit snacks. Thing is, it has to be healty, lots of veggies, salads and rather smaller portions. In Japan, people stop eating when they are 80% full. That should tell us sth.

    1. Sean D. Layton

      Yes, the U.S. is a culture of excess when it comes to eating. Our portions are huge (and that’s spreading to other countries). Lots of unhealthy options out there. The food companies employ scientists to find the perfect combination of salt, fat, and sugar to make a dish or snack irresistible — one term for it is the ‘bliss point’. I think there’s a scientific term for it as well, but I can’t remember it. Anyway, our bodies evolved to overeat and put on fat, which was good in days of yore when you didn’t know when you were getting your next meal, but not so good in the land of plenty. And the food companies exploit that.

      1. I remember Canada. Every portion was too big and the sweets too sweet. Add to that fizzy drinks and no physical activity, and you see the outcome daily in the streets. I don’t see overweight people in Germany and everyone’s into sports and a healty diet. It’s almost impolite to be big there.

    1. Sean D. Layton

      I had a former coworker who does it. The Houseguest has a friend who does it too.They both eat one big meal a day. I’d read up on it because I doubt I was doing it right lol

      And thanks for reading it! Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Oh man, there is nothing worse than being on a looked-forward-to trip while trying to watch what you eat. But you have to enjoy stuff too, like DQ Blizzards. I loved your logic of a potential plane crash necessitating one 😂

    It can be really helpful, if it’s in your budget/on your insurance, to meet with a dietitian who can help you figure out the best diet for you based on your medical background, activity levels, etc. I was able to have a few meetings with one years ago (wish I could’ve gone more but insurance didn’t cover it and was too expensive for me then) and she helped me more than I thought was possible since I thought I knew enough already about what I should be eating. Just a thought — I know everyone wants to offer you advice when you mention losing weight or eating better but that truly did help me and I’m not sure it’s something that readily comes to mind when you’re making these kind of adjustments.

    On the bright side, sounds like the trip was a lot of fun!

    1. Sean D. Layton

      Yes, the trip was fun!

      I really do think a dietitian would be helpful. My God daughter is about to start seeing one. She’s put on 40 lbs in a short period and underwent all these medical tests because she thought she had a medical condition. Finally, the doctor told her all the tests were negative. So she looked at him and said, “So basically what you’re saying is I’m just fat.” And he said yes. They both actually started laughing about it. So he’s sending her to a dietian.

      The Houseguest is a good poor man’s dietian for now.

  3. Gravity has a tendency to tug at my husband’s stomach while lying on his side also. I’ve never considered bringing up the resemblance to a nearly full term woman though. I just poke at it (belly) with whatever is available; finger, stick, coat hanger. I do love him fiercely. Thank God he doesn’t try fasting for diet purposes. There can only be one insufferable asshole in the house where diet and exercise is concerned – I own that title outright. Good luck! You make a good looking Santa if things don’t go as planned.

  4. I think, like me, you have probably been misled into believing you have a problem with your weight when you actually have a problem with your height – you should be a foot taller, but – and here’s the important point – there’s nothing you can do about that. I am the ideal weight for a man four inches taller than me – now, whose fault is that?

  5. You weren’t as bad as you think in the wedding picture!

    It’s really hard time being invited somewhere where there will be food and drink for days in a row, and you trying to be sensible.

    My father’s advice on such matters is to eat so much (or little) that, if you had to attend a dinner right after your meal, you’d be able to eat again. (the syntax here doesn’t help, but you get the idea)

    1. Sean D. Layton

      That is great advice from your father. It aligns with what Bojana said about the Japanese stopping when they feel 80% full.

      1. That’s right. And it works. When you stop eating, you are sure you want more but, after a few minutes you realize you actually ate as much as you needed. You don’t feel heavy or drowsy.

  6. Enjoyed this post! I now have to see what a World Buffet is like–I’m curious–and I think I need a DQ Blizzard, because I might board a plane next year. Very good point. Good luck with your exercise/weight loss endeavors. The Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team is rooting for you!

    1. Sean D. Layton

      Thanks, Team FL&L! Anyway, the World Buffet had a lot of tasty dishes. It was an interesting mix of people and we were the only two white guys there. We were guessing it was maybe Ramadan and people were breaking their daily fast because a lot of the Muslims were very dressed up and the women had lots of pizzazz to their outfits and head coverings.

  7. You never fail to make me laugh Sean, and trust me, few people succeed. You could write a post about how you spent a day looking through a telephone directory and your style of writing would still shine through. I like the pic of you as Santa!

    1. Sean D. Layton

      Thanks, Nitin, glad you enjoyed it! I spent many years trying to be a serious writer and failing miserably and hating myself. I finally embraced that I’m more of a storyteller and humorist than one who is capable of writing exceptional prose. And I’m enjoying it and being more productive than I’ve ever been. Thanks again for taking the time to read it. Oh, and about Santa — I wish I had the office Christmas photo we took. I had that hat on and for some reason I seemed to become the focus of the picture. It just looked ridiculous lol

      1. There are lot of humorists who wrote exceptional prose. Wodehouse, Waugh and other satirists come to mind. Your command over the language is exceptional and your prose is fluent. But we sadly live in a world where the publishing industry is a business. Very few make it. But keep at it. You’ve found your style and that’s all that matters. I too have spent seven years trying to make it. I just keep writing though, hoping something will click.

      2. Sean D. Layton

        Yes, I’ll have to keep going — I’ve got nothing else going on! But you stick with it too — I’m highly impressed with your work and think you are an exceptional talent.

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