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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Vegan Season

My first thought was to use the expression, "I had hit rock bottom." But the truth is I was round like a beach ball and squidgy enough to bounce, so a more accurate description would be, "I had bounced off rock bottom, repeatedly, up and down like an epileptic tennis ball."

I was fat and it had only just dawned on me. That's not entirely true, I knew my nephilim sized beer gut was blocking vision to the lower half of my body, I knew that people were starting to comment, they would point a finger at my abominable abdominal (which was now most of me) and say stuff like, "Whoa, Kerin, what's that thing? How many months are you now?" And that was at Church, so it must have been bad.

I would even go along with it. I would poke it out, arch my back backwards with one hand supporting me from behind and the other patting my stomach, I would joke about my baby. In fact 18 months ago when my wife was still pregnant we looked like we were both due around the same time. Except after my second child was born, my wife shot back down to her normal beautiful size while I just kept on going with my perpetual pregnancy...

The story of my beached whale of a belly goes way back to my early twenties when I was a stick of a man at about 58 kilos. You could see the bony structure of my face quite easily and my stomach was sort of not really there. At the time, ironically, I would have said I was fat! Strange how we see ourselves in a continual unrealistic light! I was flatting and lived on a diet of baked beans and wheat-bix most days, except for when I could scab a meal at my girlfriends or could be bothered walking to the shops to get me some take aways. I'm shuddering at how I didn't look after myself back then but there was one very good thing about it - I was fit. Not having a car I walked absolutely everywhere! And it paid off by keeping me thin and desirable.

Then I changed jobs. I went from the more physical mostly outdoors occupation of Theme Park Attendant on the Gold Coast, to a cozy indoor bum-on-the-seat position as a Customer Service Operator at the Pizza Hut Call Centre, Brisbane - hooked up to a computer and being regularly programmed to think about pizza. While there was no actual pizza being made where I worked there were ample vouchers available for anyone wanting to splurge and binge after a shift.

Shuddering. I don't like thinking about those days, the job was not the best occupation in the Universe, but I stuck with it and at this point was still walking everywhere, so the abundance of Pizzas didn't put a reverse-dent in my lanky torso. The job was in Brisbane and I was on the Gold Coast which is a 45 minute train ride from my suburb. The nearest train station to where I was living was 4 kilometres away and I daily walked, biked or pushed my unreliable bike there, did my shift, and walked, biked or pushed my unreliable bike back, thus reaping the benefits of a daily 8 kilometre workout.

But then I got promoted, and with promotion came - the car.

Suddenly I stopped walking and drove everywhere from the age of 25 and blissfully continued with my Pizza Loving taste buds, as well as the new places my car could now take me to, like cafes and takeaways - and anyone whose lived on the Gold Coast can tell you that there are plenty of those to enjoy.

In the short space of a year, like a slow space rocket I shot up in weight by 22 kilos, from 58 to 80. And sat there until moving to New Zealand in 2006 where combating ice cream and all the other yummy dairy products this country has to offer I found myself for the next 6 years yoyoing between 76 one month and 80 the next.

I knew I had a problem and while joking about it on the outside, on the inside I felt trapped, a slave to my exhaustion, a servent to my lack of motivation and a total minion to emotional eating. You get fat, you get depressed. Depression leads to eating, eating leads to more fatness, fatness leads to suffering, suffering leads to the dark side.

It must have been the year after my first daughter was born and my friendly doctor told me to exercise because a recent blood test had revealed my cholesterol was starting to rise. Not something you want to hear at only 30. But even then it took me 2 whole years to actually do anything about it.

It was November last year and I had been toying with the idea of cutting out the sugar for a while when I bumped into a friend at a Christian Men's Group who was preparing for an annual road trip. Every year he picks a month to go completely raw vegan to get into shape. I was intrigued so decided to give it a go.

But me being me, I couldn't do it alone and decided if I was going to do this thing I needed both shame and encouragement to spur me on (being driven by affirmation the way that I am). So I began The Death of My Big Fat Puku, a series of vlogs that would chronicle my vegan torment. (see below)

In one day I cut out everything form my diet that wasn't a vegetable except for a small tin of tuna per day and the occasional egg to keep my protein up. I also allowed myself multi vitamins and iodized salt to make up for the other things I can't remember the names of which New Zealand grown veggies couldn't provide.

On one hand it is a fantastic diet because you can eat as much as you want, only it has to have come from a plant. On the other hand it is like having a torture chamber in your stomach and the inmates for the first week are screaming for food. And indeed that first 7 days was tough as my body detoxed and flushed out all the poisonous junk I had put there myself. Physically uncomfortable and psychologically challenging and a miracle to get through.

I did some very interesting poos that week too. Not to be crass but I've never seen such an array of different types of feces in one week, from the nasty toxic waste to the almost white toothpaste quality of a fruity smalling dump. But you don't want to know about that.

The first week and a bit really ran me through the ringer but somehow the vlogging helped. I felt like I wasn't alone. The other thing that helped was the first video I made went semi-viral for a week or so and it seemed to give me the impetus I needed to keep on going. What I didn't realise at the time was that a significant amount of my viewers were weirdo's with a Fat Belly Fetish, I've had the odd sex related comment from them and have wondered seriously about their childhood!

Somewhere after that first 2 weeks a miracle happened. I mean this in the most literal way possible, I felt like I was 15 again! My body felt young, energetic, vibrant and well, it was like I had eaten a radioactive spider, because over night I had become a super hero. I could leap over tall buildings as long as they weren't taller than 3 feet off the ground. I could get out of bed in the morning, I could play with my kids and not grow tired. I could concentrate and focus like the six million dollar man!

This was the pay off and so I kept on striving to shred the shackles of flabbyness.

I have to admit the raw vegan diet only lasted about 3 weeks before it gradually evolved into a sort of vegetarian diet which lasted another 3 weeks until I gradually reintroduced meat. I also allowed myself the occasional "cheat meal" for milestones and special events like birthdays. But in the space of three months I went from 80 to 69 Kilos and I felt fantastic.

Then my birthday happened, a week later Christmas attacked and the next week the New Year's celebrations bombarded me with goodies and they all managed to trick me back into old eating habits. But I learned something about my body at least, its actually hard to put on weight and I had reached that point from years of laziness and abuse.

As I type this I can boast a proud 72 kilos, the weight I have maintained for most of this year, with a very small spike after a trip to my mother's a few months ago (its hard not to over enjoy my mum's cooking). This is not my ideal weight, my BMI thing suggests I should be around the 60 mark, but for now I'm just happy that I"m not 80. I watch that first video of me and can see now what I couldn't see then, that the weight wasn't just in my stomach, it was in my posture, it was in my demeanor, it was in my face, weighing down my cheeks.

To close I would like to say a few things to motivate anyone wanting to go on a diet.

1. Try Vegan for a month, it will change you and reset your tastes. I remember after a month of having no milk the first glass of milk I had tasted like sick. Even now, while I once again like milk, I can't often drink a glass the way I used to.

2. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you don't have the motivation to go on a diet. While dieting I coined this term which couldn't be any truer - It doesn't take motivation to go on a diet; it takes a diet to get motivation.

3. Nothing feels better than the day you realise none of your cloths fit you any more.

4. Actually I lie, nothing feels better than seeing that look in your spouses eye that they've noticed your new body also...

Finally I'm no vegan. I've very often thought you would have to be a mad hippie to be one, but I've got to hand it to them for being able to maintain such a strict eating style. While I'm not sold out on the idea of becoming one full time, and love the cooked flesh of dead animals way to much to pass it up, I can honestly say that I look forward to No-vember this year, which is when I say "No" once again to the foods that trap me and embrace the food that God made and not the counterfeit man made alternatives.

For those who are interested here's the first video I made, the rest can be found on Youtube.

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