The year of not eating | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Apr 05, 2017

My wife had a heart attack six years ago. She was the last person I would have been concerned about, as her risk factors consisted only of family history. Maybe she was too sedentary, but then that’s most of us, and most of us don’t have heart attacks.

She was telling the story the other night to friends, and I mentioned how dumb I felt. Many of us are aware of the warning signs of a cardiac event; I knew them fairly well. But the blinders we put on when it comes to our personal lives, and in particular when the general and vague moves into more specific and localized territory, can be powerful forces for denial. I completely missed it.

I don’t look back on it as a mistake, or an error in judgment, although I have plenty of examples of those in my life to think about. It just never occurred to me that my wife was at risk, so I ignored the signs. Fortunately it all worked out, but you might think I would have learned a lesson in denial.

And I did, but it took five more years, and I had to get scared.

And as embarrassing as it was to overreact and become as frightened as I did, I know exactly what was going on. The fear of messing up a good thing, taking grace on a silver platter and forgetting you ever had it, runs pretty deep in me.

It’s funny; as I wrote that last sentence, I thought of a moment when I was 19, a moment I remember vividly as being an opportunity I blew, big time, and part of that opportunity actually involved me getting a silver platter. I still have it, probably.

Anyway, I went to the doctor a year ago and got frightened, certain I’d completely reversed years of trying to be a healthier person. That, or some pathology was winding its way through my system, which is really what I thought after some screwy lab tests came back. They were suspicious for all sorts of possible reasons, but actually represented a pretty simple one. How it happened was more complicated.

At the beginning of the summer of 2015, having recently learned quite a bit about Type 1 diabetes in an emotionally charged way (my grandson was diagnosed, at 17 months), more than a few of us in our family started looking at the way we eat. The way we casually shove hundreds of grams of sugar down our throats, enjoying it immensely and rarely paying attention.

So some of us, in mostly unconscious ways, began to change the way we eat. I certainly did.

It worked, too. And as I suspected, I eventually dropped down from my perfectly acceptable weight around 195 pounds to 185, which was a little more perfect. It had been a couple of years since I’d been around that range, and there were some jeans that suddenly fit. It was hard to see a down side.

Except for the down part.

By the fall I was barely topping 170 pounds, about as ideal as one could hope for. It’s about what I weighed my senior year in high school. Who knew a little avoidance of sweet stuff would tickle my vanity in such a fun way. I bought some new jeans.

I paid attention, too. I was diligent about writing down what I was doing, what I was eating and how much, and how often I was exercising and for how long. I made a spreadsheet. I weighed almost every day. I was on top of this.

And then March 31, 2016, came, and I had an appointment for an annual physical. Over the course of the past year, I’d lost 42 pounds. Unintentionally, if kind of interesting.

I knew all this. Once again, I couldn’t see the big picture. I’ve been as trained as any of us over the past decades to see numbers dropping in the scale as a good thing. They kept dropping. All good.

And I understand how losing interest in eating could be called a contemporary blessing. Nobody needs to be told that if you stop eating, you’ll lose weight. And losing weight is the American pastime.

It worked out, the way it should. I saw a professional, got a little nervous at those lab results, imagining all sorts of scary things, and then started eating again. The lab tests normalized. I was a little malnourished. I’d been starving myself. I had developed an eating disorder.

Yeah. That makes no sense, right? A guy in his 50s suddenly developing a condition most often associated with young women who have body image delusions, seeing fat where the rest of us see bones.

It’s just that I’m not the only one. Tell a story and you’ll hear similar ones, and I have. It’s not an epidemic, but at least when it comes to men, it’s not talked about. So maybe it should. And maybe we should just keep an eye on each other, just in case, knowing it can happen to anyone.

I didn’t get a silver platter, but this came with a lining of the same material. All my jeans fit fine. I eat healthier than I have in years, maybe forever. A platter is just a plate, anyway, and I’ve got plenty of those, and I know how to use them.

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