"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Think before you compliment

Today at work, a coworker was "complimented" on her recent weight loss, being told she looked "emaciated. But good, though!"

Last I checked, the word "emaciated" was an adjective used to define beaten dogs, holocaust victims, and Ethiopians. And speaking of Ethiopians, in most African cultures, being "fat" is almost unheard of. The concept of such an over abundance of food that it rots in storehouses, is thrown away, less than half-eaten on paper plates, that people actually overeat and then vomit intentionally is mind-boggling to them. Most of them spend all day on their feet searching for food. Their entire purpose in life is just to get enough to eat.

But just as our culture has evolved along a path of wastefulness and overindulgence, it is simply a product of our human hardwiring to constantly search for food. In times of abundance we gorge, like a grizzly bear in fall, to make it though the times of scarcity. It's just that in our modern society, for the most part, there are no times of scarcity. Not on the level of Africa, and of course, for some in our country scarcity is a reality, but you understand.

It's because of this I don't blame anyone or group or ourselves for our wasteful lifestyle. However, as there is a definite reaction against it, through everything from Deal-A-Meal to anorexia to a genuine movement towards a healthy lifestyle, I expect better of ourselves since we at the very least, as a group, understand the problem. Recall my last blog, I did make some rather disparaging comments about an overweight person I saw at the Daley Center. I won't apologize for those remarks because that person has a choice. He knows he has low energy, constant back pain, low self-esteem, and because of this, the only way he knows to feel good is to eat and be sedentary. Watching TV, drinking, and eating.

I know this because I was exactly the same about 6 years ago. Up until that point I exercised exactly zero, ate like shit, was in constant pain with a bad back, and never dated, much less had regular sex. Usually for breakfast I would have doughnuts or poptarts, lunch was fast food, and dinner was either pizza or a massive plate of spaghetti. I had been keeping this up for years. And years. Finally, one day, the system just broke down.

Long story short, I spent the next three months worrying I had colon cancer. From the initial positive test to the lucky day just after New Years when I finally got to ride the Silver Stallion and found out I was clean, I also spent that time learning that colon cancer is the second leading cause of death of American males, and the true story about the American Diet. Truth is, my systemic "break down" was nothing abnormal for the average American. At first my doctor just told me, hey, that's the American diet for you, and gave me pills. Unlike most people, however, I began to listen to what my body was telling me, and questioned what the doctor told me.

At that point I was about 260 pounds, and even though I hadn't really begun to think of myself as "fat", I did have very low self-esteem and certainly didn't feel useful or attractive, let alone "good looking". I would say even I could've been depressed. I don't know why I was able to understand what my body was telling me and why so many other can't, but I did.

I learned what fiber really is and why it's so important. Learned just how laden the average meal out is with salt, fat, cholesterol and empty calories. I began to eat healthier, replacing the junk with whole grains, fruits, lean protein, and taking responsibility for what I put in my own body and not leaving that decision to some company who packages it all in a pretty colored box and tries to tell me my identity lies in a can of a certain Diet Soda. And about a month before the "rodeo" somebody first mentioned I looked like I was losing weight.

It happened again the next day. And the next. And the next.

For 8 months, a day didn't go by that someone didn't comment on my weight loss. Don't get me wrong, as I know it can seem like a weird thing to complain about. From that Thanksgiving Day 2001 through the following summer, I lost over 60 pounds. Another 20 came over the following year when I began to run and bike on a regular basis. I was beginning to experience life in a whole new way. I felt confidence in talking to women for the first time in my life (and I was going on thirty), which had inevitable results, and my "depression" began to lift as I began to experience the first real rush of endorphins, resulting from my tentative first forays into exercise. It is no coincidence you see nothing but advertisements for sexual dysfunction pills and antidepressants and at the same time read how we as a culture are gripped in a crisis of obesity and sloth.

It is this culture that I am complaining about tonight. It wasn't just comments about my weight loss. Much like this coworker of mine received today I was asked, point blank, sometimes by people I only saw for 2 minutes a day waiting for the elevator, if I had an eating disorder, or if I had cancer, or what personal problems I was going through. The constant barrage of weight loss pills, diet plans, Oprah Winfrey sobfests, support groups, and most importantly, flat out impatience, has people brainwashed into believing smart choices and adopting a healthy lifestyle simply isn't enough. That finally taking control of their own life and seeing positive results out of that dynamic choice is out of reach, and that somebody else who actually does it actually must have something wrong with them.

This was a bit of a diatribe over one thoughtless word. In fact, in our pop culture of eating disorders, wafer-thin supermodels and hypocritical manifestation of thinness being presented on TV to legions of snacking couch potatoes, "emaciated" could've actually been a compliment. I don't really blame her for saying it, but I do blame us.

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