Archive for the 'Overfeeding' Category

Fat Andrew: The Third Decade

February 4, 2011

Andrew Hicks

When I got to college, I was in the heart of my isolated-loner stage. I had all kinds of free time and a 20-a-week meal plan at the dining hall. The only restriction was that I could only get two entrees per trip through the line. I could live with that. I ate my ass off. I wore sweatpants for like three years. No belts, no stepping on scales and a personal appearance and demeanor that cried out “purposefully unlayable.”

Red Flag #1 was when I realized I was too big to fit on the Batman ride at Six Flags. I’d waited with a buddy in hot summer weather for almost an hour for the front car, and when we finally got on, I couldn’t get the shoulder harness in reach of the seatbelt clasp. A grunting, straining employee threw her weight into trying to wedge me for almost a full minute while the next train behind us was stopped on the track, riders waiting while swinging their feet. The acne-faced ride operator had to press the button that released everyone’s restraints so I could do the Lardass Walk of Shame. That sucked.

Red Flag #2 was when I finally did step on a scale and saw it tip 300 pounds. I was already not happy with myself in general, which brought me shame and despair. Well, there’s no temporary cure for shame and despair quite like a few Big Macs. One night, after binging on something I don’t remember, a switch turned on in my brain, and I knew I was done eating bad food.

The next day, I cut out red meat, fried foods and processed desserts and made sure to walk at least a half-hour per day. I even remember ordering the fresh fruit platter when out with some friends one night at a Mexican restaurant. It cost the same as everyone else’s dinner, but it arrived on a side plate garnished with leaf lettuce and a plastic flag sticking up that said, “Hey, fatty! I ain’t NEVER gonna fill yo’ ass up!”

My resolve stuck with me long enough to lose almost 50 pounds, then I started to slip. And it was around this time, age 19 and 20, that I really realized I didn’t just have to write down what I thought was funny. I could say it, too, and people would laugh. Some people even liked it when I talked serious.

I got a little self-esteem on my shoulders, made some enjoyable friendships and partied my ass off. Alcohol is chock full of empty calories, but I also lived in a college town that delivered pizza until 3 am. The Texaco was right up the street, offering chocolate pies and as much nacho cheese as you could fit on a plastic tray. Oh, and Mountain Dew slushees. Those were incredible.

I’d put every ounce of those 50 pounds back on by the time I joined Bally’s Total Fitness in February, 2001. My package came with two free personal-training sessions. Kurt, the personal trainer, looked like The Rock if he was white, 5’8″ and couldn’t raise the one eyebrow. What Kurt could raise was the entire stack of weights on the pectoral fly, and he’d make a show out of inviting the nearest hot girl in the gym to push against the top of the stack of weights with all her might, throw all her weight into it, then he’d lift all that. While he was keeping a half-eye on me incorrectly doing lunges across the exercise floor.

Kurt used to put me on this stairmaster/lunge combo machine, crank the resistance up to 20, then walk away while I surreptiously pushed the down button to get the resistance back to 1. And this was like seven years after my last gym class. I wished you could get the free personal trainer sessions after you’d been going to the gym for a few months and had built up a little tolerance and strength.

I kept going to the gym and working out for the next seven years, off and on. More on than off. I dropped an easy 30 pounds at firsst, even though I was eating whatever I wanted to and chasing it with gallons of beer. I’d go to the gym, lose a little weight, stop going and gain it back, but I never got close to hitting 300 again.

On two later occasions — the fall of 2004 and the late-summer of 2005 — I went back to the no red meat/fried food/desserts lifestyle. Each time, I thought it was a permanent change that would stick with me. Each time, I was wrong. In spring 2009, I dropped a bunch of weight because I lost my appetite for months due to depression. People would compliment me on the weight loss, and I’d tell them I wasn’t on a diet or working out. They’d say, “Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it.” I didn’t usually tell them what I was doing was hating myself and hating life in general.

These days, I’m happy, I eat healthy sometimes, I eat crappy most of the time, and I’ve been recovering from a broken ankle since September. I’m ready to be physical. I’m itching for nice weather and talking walks and playing outside with kids. The best news is, I don’t drink anymore, and I have a beautiful wife who thinks I’m beautiful. I’ve got a handful of lingering problems with self-image, but they don’t seem tied into a weird food-based shame cycle.

Enough of this. I’m gonna go make dinner now. Probably nothing healthy.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

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Group appetizer binge

January 22, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post was also written twelve hours after the midnight cutoff, while Silas slept and Sarah ate yogurt and watched “Caillou” in her highchair. Two things Andrew has learned about “Caillou” so far — 1) It’s not pronounced “Kaloo,” and 2) The dad on the show cuts his lawn with an electric mower. Andrew’s grandpa had an electric lawnmower when Andrew was growing up, and Andrew was surprised to learn the cord didn’t always seem to be in danger of being run over and chopped up by a giant, rapidly rotating blade. Electric lawnmowers do just seem vaguely uncool, though, like when you see a kid wear a helmet while riding his bike at 8 miles per hour.

Tonight, Tiffany made an impulse stop into the supermarket. She was in the mood to fire up the oven, shove in a continuous stream of frozen appetizers and make a night of eating them and having fun. This wasn’t a couple boxes of wings, either; it was a Noah’s Ark affair — two of everything. Potato skins, jalapeno poppers, toasted ravioli with meat sauce, popcorn chicken, spinach dip, chicken fries and four Red Baron pizzas.

Our abundance of unhealthy food led us to consider doing the impossible: having people over. In 2007, we arrived in Springfield broke, living in a tiny apartment and not knowing anyone. Just as quickly, we were pregnant. Then we had a baby. Then we were pregnant again. Then we had another baby. Along the line, we moved into a house twice as big as the old place, and just recently we got our layout and setup the way we want it, based on the humble quantity and quality of furniture we do have.

Only now, in early 2011, does it seem natural to invite a friend or two or maybe four over to hang out. But we don’t usually actually do it. We arrived at the decision tonight sometime between 8:30 and 9, and we found a pair of couple friends available and willing to come over with their 7-year-old daughter.

In the period between realizing people were coming over and people actually coming over, we force-cleaned the neglected areas of the house. This provided a missing degree of accountability; the house would not have gotten cleaned otherwise.

The bringing of the 7-year-old daughter was key to our plan. Tiffany and I get pockets of time to ourselves — some time individually, less time as a couple. Sarah plays with us, and she plays by herself, but she rarely gets to play with another kid. This turned out to be good for everyone. Kid time for the kids, adult time for the adults, and oven-warmed appetizers for all. Silas even had a fortuitously gracious sense of timing and decided to sleep through almost the entire affair.

Sarah and her new little friend played well together, and the rest of us hung out and cracked jokes and played Guitar Hero. I haven’t done Guitar Hero in a couple years (at the peak of my abilities, I did an alright job playing songs of average difficulty, which makes me perfectly mediocre), but I enjoyed making fun of the entire Rush 2112” track* and its pretentious Spinal Tap/Stonehenge spoken-word nonsense breaks.

The friends we had over went to high school with my next-door neighbor, who bundles and buddies up with me almost daily for outdoor cigarette breaks, so we went as a group to retrieve her. She’s a single lady with four small kids, and it was going on midnight by this time. But through the magic of a double baby monitor, we brought the neighbor over, and sounds of peaceful kid slumber from next door filled the monitor**.

I happened into an unexpectedly poignant moment amidst all this. Sarah had already gone to bed***, and I went upstairs to check on our friends’ daughter, who had been lying on a blanket in Silas’s bedroom, watching The Swan Princess. I peeked in the doorway and saw the little girl holding a large white rectangle with medical-blue borders.

“Know what this is?” she asked me.

I didn’t. I thought maybe she’d found it in the back of a low dresser drawer, with all the stuff we’ve been given and never use. “Where’d you get that?” I asked.

She said, “It’s my pee pad. I pee all the time when I sleep.”

I had instant flashbacks to the bunk beds I shared with my younger brother. He was in the top bunk, with a rubber mattress cover. Sometimes, when he’d wake up and shift position to where his lower leg hung off the side of the bed, his body weight would depress the mattress and cause dribbles of his overnight urine to splash down in my direction.

“It’s no big deal,” I told the little girl. “A lot of people do it. My brother did it until he was like ten.”

“They say it’s disgusting,” she said back, “they” being the other kids, I imagined.

I wanted to give an impassioned speech about how it’s not disgusting, it’s a common problem, and screw those other kids. Having just written the “Rejector or rejectee?” blog post, memories of feeling like an insecure weird kid are still floating around freshly in my brain. I’m siding big with the underdog right now.

Letting other people’s jokes, opinions and snide comments hold you back is counterproductive and criminal, although I have to admit I’ve cracked plenty of jokes and snide comments over the years when I should’ve just kept my mouth shut.

Little moments like the above just provide quick reminders that I’m one of the grownups now, and any support, encouragement and rational thought I can provide for those younger than myself can only help. And beyond those things, I can also provide skins, poppers, toasted ravioli, popcorn chicken, spinach dip and pizza. Which makes the process of getting people to spend time at your house that much easier.

*I mean, this song lasts a ridiculously long time. “2112” is both the title and the duration of the song. It is two thousand, one hundred and twelve minutes long.

**The neighbor had to leave abruptly, and Tiffany and I realized later that we still have her monitor base, and she has ours. Theoretically, either one of us would be provided with daily opportunities to eavesdrop. If nothing else, though, we could coordinate our smoke breaks this way by speaking into the air. We wouldn’t even have to reach for our phones. The Information Age is so pathetically astounding.

***Sarah acted like she was going to fall asleep for about two minutes before remembering she had a new play pal who was still in the house. It was all crying from that moment until we relented and let our wide-awake toddler get up to play some more.

Procrastination and vaccinations

September 11, 2010

We rent our house. Four bedrooms, two baths, a nice backyard. I’ve talked to my current landlord exactly twice. Once was when the air conditioning went out during a heat wave in mid-June while my wife was eight months pregnant. The other time was on Wednesday, when I broke the sink.

I was doing dishes, a frequent assignment for a daytime dad, and applied what I thought was a miniscule amount of upward pressure on the faucet arm. The thing was rusted out on the bottom, I soon discovered, which created an instant hole that left water gushing out at an impressive 270-degree angle. We ended up doing the rest of our dishes in the bathtub that night, a hardship more bizarre than actually hard. We wistfully compared it to the trials of the original American settlers. Imagine doing the bathtub dishes after the first Thanksgiving. Pause for laughter.

It has to be something dramatic like that for me to call the landlord, even though he’s very courteous and prompt about resolving issues. But both times I made the call over some emergency drama, I tacked on a couple requests that had been brewing indefinitely. Case in point – the entire time we’ve lived in our house, 20 months now, the light fixture in the third bedroom has been broken. It’s always been a case of, “Oh yeah, we need to call the landlord about that.” Instead, we bought a floor lamp and put it on the backburner.

Well, about 610 days later, thanks to me finally bringing it up, we have a brand new ceiling fan/light fixture in what is now Baby Silas’s bedroom. The lesson is, we could have had the fixture replaced 609 days ago if I would have made the one-minute phone call I made on Wednesday. This is a running theme in my life. Stuff gets broken or goes undone, gets viewed as a hassle, gets rationalized out of being acted upon, gets worst-case-scenarioized in my head, and then ends up being resolved way too late in a positively simple manner.

One guy came over to fix both. He showed up announced at 10:40 or so, while Sarah, Silas and I were accomplishing not much of anything in the living room. Sarah had met this handyman once before, when he came over to fix the garbage disposal. At the time, she wanted to give him hugs. This time, she wanted to investigate all the goings-on under the sink. I moved myself and both babies to the master bedroom so Schneider could work in peace.

Kind of the same thing today. I took both babies to the doctor for Silas’s two-month physical and trio of immunizations*. I was running late and couldn’t find the release thingie on the double stroller. Yes, again, I couldn’t work the stroller. My friend Kate Hayes is right. I should practice on that thing in my spare time for when it actually counts.

So I carried Silas in his car seat, and Sarah held my hand and walked from the parking lot through the building, into the elevator and into the office with us. She did great with all that. Sometimes she gets that hyper-independent streak and won’t hold my hand, actually collapses her body so we can’t go anywhere but down to the ground.

Today Sarah was all good walking, but she was also all activity in the examining room. I didn’t bring any toys or books for her, and her only props were two kiddie chairs and a kiddie table. She MacGuyvered the crap out of what she had to work with. She was picking the chairs up and carrying them all around the room, setting up a barricade at the main door. She pushed that table all around the room too. The noise was deafening.

Meanwhile, the nurse was asking questions I didn’t know the answers to, like which hospital we do our lab work at, Memorial or St. John’s? It was a 50/50, and I’m still not confident I answered correctly. In many ways, it’s my first week on the job, and I don’t get daily intelligence briefings. Sometimes as a dad I feel like I can go an entire day without being intelligent at all.

Also, apparently I feed Silas too much. I feed myself too much, so it only stands to reason. My rationale is, if he’s sucking ravenously at the bottle, and when the bottle’s all gone, he’s crying like he wants some more, I’m going to give him some more. I’m hoping this is not the same logic that led the parents of that YouTube Asian smoking baby to up his nicotine intake from a half-pack to a videotaped carton a day. I don’t want to be one of those dads.

* = I feel somewhat lazy as a father. My mom and a concerned conspiracy-theorist friend both wanted to warn me of the dangers of giving vaccines to your infants, and I barely browsed the reading material. I wanted to rock the boat and question authority and screw the man a whole lot more ten years ago. Sadly, now it’s more like, “What’s the normal thing to do? Where do I sign?” I’m old, complacent¬†and conformist. Not bragging, just saying.