Sunday, February 06, 2011

Yes It Can Happen To You

This is a story of hubris. The terrible hubris of a naturally thin (whatever that means) person in their 30s who thinks getting fat only happens to other people.

No, not Elvis Presley, me.

Skyler Tanner has some excellent advice for aging people, "Don't get fat in the first place". I'd like to offer up a corollary, "Yes, you thin person in your 30's who never had to pay attention to their weight, it most definitely can happen to you."

This is me in college, about 25. No amazing muscle definition or anything but definitely a flat stomach.

Yes, that's a mullet and rolled up sweat pants
A few years after moving to Europe. Around 35. A small gut perhaps and I hadn't lifted weights or done much else for a few years so my muscles were already taking on the consistency of jello at this point:

Florence 2000
(BTW, I'm not trying to show off all the cool places I've been in Europe, it's just that the only pictures I have of myself were taken on a vacation somewhere).

This is where it starts to get ugly.

Barcelona 2005
Ack! No, that's not a very loose shirt or a trick of lighting, that's big fat belly and man-boobs.

And the coup de grace

Greece 2008--I am teh anti-sexy

Jim Morrison came back from the dead just to tell me how much I'd let myself go. "At least grow a beard to cover that double chin, dude." He said in a paranormal experience I made up.

What happened?

Well, two words: Czech Beer. It's good stuff and I was drinking a lot of it. Often a beer for lunch and a few after work every day. In those heady days of youth and a newly opened up Eastern Europe, a flat was just for sleeping in. Nobody went home before 10 pm, and often quite a bit later.

But I was living this lifestyle for five years when the pic in Florence was taken. It was the second five years when it all seemed to take it's toll. It really was the span of two or three years and we weren't even going out that much by this point.

As I wrote in the comments on Skyler's post:
I tend to be of the opinion that loss of muscle mass and its requisite caloric maintenance along with long term metabolic breakdown effects of eating crap are what’s responsible for the mythical metabolic slowdown. Perhaps combined with lower testosterone levels, higher stress levels (it’s more stressful being 45 than 25 IMO), etc.
I agree with Skyler that one's metabolism doesn't suddenly slow down at 38 or 40, the time when dramatic shifts in body composition often occur. Instead, I think this is just the age when bad living typically catches up with folks.

Things start going bad and people accept it with the idea that it's all part of growing old. Screw that.

I don't have any amazing six-pack shots or a great turn around story to tell. I've lost about 25 lbs, mostly in the early part of 2010 when I first got into reading paleo blogs, and put on some muscle. I try to focus on real food now and especially try to keep my kid away from sugar, frankenoils and wheat (not such an easy thing, actually).

It's tough to turn things around when you've let it get to an extreme point. My giant gut was an obvious external sign that something was very wrong for me, but there's nothing good happening in a body in this condition. Organs, muscles, bones, they're all suffering at this point.


  1. Have you given up the beer all together or are you still indulging occasionally? My biggest problem with the whole thing is not having my customary evening tipple (although Richard Nikoley has made me feel somewhat better about that).

  2. I'm assuming you brought your American appetite with you, lol. Most eastern europeans (that I've met) tend to be very thin & party in excess. Although maybe that's just the ones in their twenties.

  3. @Jan, I indulge, very occasionally in a beer, usually if I go to a pub to meet someone I've not seen in a while. I much more often indulge in white wine something I picked up from my wife. Martin Berkhan has a great post alcohol that should make you feel even better and he is like 0% bodyfat.

    @Chris, it's catching up here. People in their early 20s are definitely plumper than when I moved here in 1995.

  4. It's good to see that you made the decision to get control of your health, for some reason most people who's health starts to get worse don't really do anything about it.

  5. Well, rationalization is strong, but I think empowerment is a big factor. I was trying to jog off my bad diet and that simply doesn't work, so one gets discouraged.

  6. Hi Sean,

    I never acquired a taste for beer/lager. I just loved to eat. I've been fat with moobs virtually all of my life, which is why I don't put many pictures of me in my blog.

    Now however, my trousers are getting looser and my weight is slowly decreasing, so maybe one day I'll get to see an ab or two and lose the moobs.


  7. C'mon Nigel, I don't think you had moobs at 25. And I seriously doubt you had a mullet.

  8. weight can slowly add up. let's say a person puts on only 2 lbs a year but after l5 years that's 30 lbs and that's a significant weight gain and I do think when a person gets older it is easily to add on those lbs.

  9. Nigel,

    Ok, you were right ;) With you it was seems a more gradual thing, with me it was relatively quick. You hit an age when metabolic syndrome suddenly gains huge momentum over youth and the scale tips quickly.