Remember Super Size Me—you know, the movie about the man who ate McDonald’s every day, three meals a day, for 30 days straight? And after you saw it, you were sure to say “I’m never going to be able to eat at a fast food restaurant again!” When it came out on DVD, I rented it. I saw the bits on how this man’s fat levels skyrocketed. I witnessed the scene where he eats a double quarter pounder and vomits. I observed all the processed craziness that was ground up to make a chicken McNugget. I finished the movie and all I could think about was, man I could really go for a Big Mac right now. You see back then and still to this day, I’m addicted to food.
I could spend pages writing about what drove me to food addiction. How my parents got divorced, how I didn’t fit in at school, but that doesn’t matter. What I have come to realize is that I grew up in an environment where I felt out of control. I felt deprived of love, warmth, and all things good. Inside of me was a deep empty hole, so I spent 25 years stuffing that hole with food.
At my bar mitzvah I became a man and had put on the weight to back it up. By age thirteen I weighed 150 pounds and my weight consumed my identity. The nicknames I encouraged at school included “the Fat Guy” and “Big A.” Once in class a girl asked me if I was wearing a bra because my chest was bigger than hers. Even though I had a growth spurt and actually thinned out some in high school I couldn’t tell the difference. Every time I looked in the mirror I saw the same 13-year-old kid that got stuck blocking for the quarterback in neighborhood football games.
In college, food made up for everything I was missing: good grades, relationships, athletic talent, money. Forget the freshman 15, I managed to put on a full freshman 50. I had gained 100 pounds since my bar mitzvah. By my 21st birthday I weighed 250 pounds. I stopped weighing myself after that but was reminded constantly of my weight gain as I kept outgrowing my clothes.
At age 26 I peaked at around 300 pounds. Around the same time I rented Super Size Me and went out for a Big Mac after the movie.
My moment of reckoning came in July of 2005. I applied for health insurance, and I was denied. I was physically too huge a risk for the insurance company. Then a friend of mine said something simple, but profound, “Andy we all have problems. You just have one everyone can see, so you can’t hide it. The question is, what are you going to do about it?”
So I did something about it. I joined a gym, I joined Weight Watchers, I worked with a personal life coach and I hired a personal fitness trainer. I started eating less and moving more. Three years later I celebrated 100 pounds of weight loss and even kept going. I made it to 180 pounds, just five pounds away from my ideal weight of 175. I started my own coaching and consulting business and called it 100 Reasons to Live. Every pound I lost gave me one more reason to continue to live a healthy and fulfilling life. I blogged about my five keys to losing weight and feeling great. I hosted a seminar to teach others how to live a healthy lifestyle: mind, body, and spirit. It was called the 100 Reasons to Live charity event.
As great as all this sounds, there is still one problem. I am still addicted to food. It has been one year since the 100 Reasons charity event, and I’m 20 pounds heavier. But I have made a new commitment to stop gaining and end my addiction to food.
When I reach 175 pounds I want to be able to say that I implemented simple changes each week to rebuild healthier habits. I will have kept the refrigerator stocked with healthier foods. I will have found a class at the gym that I could go to every week. I will have asked myself questions each day such as, “What would a 175 pound man who wants to be a lean, mean, athletic machine, order off of this menu?” “Is this the choice for someone who truly loves himself, mind, body, and soul?” “Why? Why do I want to eat this right now, is it because my body needs nourishment or is it because I am trying to use food as a substitute for love?”
Come April I hope I get to say, “For the last six months I have nourished my body with food when it needed it. When I didn’t need to fill myself with food, I found other ways to fill myself with the love I was missing all along.”