It seems like I’m always conducting experiments on my body.
When I was in college, I did doctorate-level research on the effects of alcohol and terrible fast food on the body of an otherwise healthy young man – it goes almost without saying that I was much better at this than any actual class. If you’re curious, you can gain 130 pounds in just four years, provided you get no exercise, polish off at minimum 40 beers a week and consider McDonald’s and Arby’s to be major food groups. Instead of sending rice to impoverished nations, we should contemplate sending cases of Budweiser and double cheeseburgers instead.
My first post-graduate year extended my four years of deliberate destruction, with the added bonus that I had a place where I could ‘cook’ pizza rolls, corn dogs and other things that were ostensibly better for my health. I also had an actual job for the first time, meaning I upgraded my beer choices (no more Milwaukee’s Best!) and for the first time, considered ‘sipping’ to be the proper way to consume whiskey as opposed to shots. Also, I was living in Memphis and Holy God, the food – the barbecue, Huey’s, Dyers. Not a good place for obesity-reducing.
Then, as befits someone who was in absolutely the worst physical condition of his life, I got married. Most women go on some kind of wedding diet; with no dress to fit into, I didn’t have those concerns.
I’d never much cared for or about what I looked like – hideous is hideous at 160 pounds or 360 pounds – but after five solid years of over-indulgence at every turn, I felt bad. Literally. Every day, I woke up with heart burn and indigestion problems and all sorts of fun stuff that you really shouldn’t have to deal with at 24 years old. My lifestyle coupled with my career choice led me to believe I would wind up eating or drinking myself to death sooner rather than later if I didn’t at least try something else.
Change was subtle at first. My then-new bride made the transition easier – unless she was cooking meth, there was almost no way her culinary choices would be worse than the ones I made. However, we both have the same issue with food: that it is entirely too delicious and eating until you feel like you can’t move is the best way – the only way – to eat.
So we’ve dieted. First, we just tried to not eat crap. That was a failure because really, if you can eat a Snickers bar or an apple, you’re gonna eat the Snickers bar. We needed structure. We needed incentive. We needed a plan.
Fad dieting is a funny thing. You take orders from a pamphlet or a box or a smiling skinny person who promises that their way is THE way, and everybody else is full of crap. The truth is that if you follow one of these things to the letter, it works okay. If you cheat, it all goes to hell. First, there was Weight Watchers – I failed at that because I don’t like counting and I don’t like going to meetings with other fat people to talk about our fatness. I half-assed that one – Mrs. Me did the meeting thing and I mostly just ate whatever she cooked.
The South Beach Diet was interesting. Mostly, it didn’t do anything, but I gained an appreciation for protein bars over candy bars for a snack (not to say I don’t still chow down on my beloved Snickers when I can). It sucked for a couple of weeks – lots of vegetables and fruits, no starch. At the time, I didn’t realize that’s the part that makes people lose weight.
The next two diety things have worked better. Nutrisystem has probably been the most successful in terms of weight loss, but the least-enjoyable in terms of food. I’m not positive it was food. It came in a big box and I ate it for a few months, but I couldn’t really tell you what it was made of. Aside from the chocolatey things (they were chocolatey!), the food wasn’t flavored so much as colored. I lost plenty of weight, but I also lost a ton of happiness.
The most recent diet is the Advocare challenge. I kind of like it, mostly because I can do it for a while, stop, start again, whatever. It’s the perfect diet for those of us who have trouble staying dedicated to things. It also features real food, which is a plus.
Since getting married, I’ve managed to lose about 60 pounds. Most people get bigger when they get married – I’ve shrunk. I feel healthy-ish. I even purchased an elliptical with my own money and can occasionally be spotted walking a dog around my neighborhood. As someone with an aversion to change, this is one that I’m pleased to have made.
Disclaimer: Of course I still drink and eat bad food. I’m not perfect; I’m not trying to be either. Frankly, anyone that never consumes red meat, sugar and/or alcohol isn’t to be trusted. It’s just no longer a twice- or thrice-daily habit.
In fact, just one true physical ailment remains unaccounted for: my snoring. My God, do I snore. If I stay up late, eat something bad, make a couple of questionable life choices, I can rattle the windowpanes like a passing tornado. When my bed occupied only myself, that wasn’t a problem. Mrs. Me is less understanding about having the human equivalent of a trombone wheezing beside her seven hours a night.
And that’s why two weeks ago I found myself drifting off to slumber with wires strapped to my head in the hospital. I was undergoing the first sleep study of my life and whaddya know, I’ve got sleep apnea. Pretty severe, too: the common person will stop breathing or take a half breath around five times an hour. It’s considered to be severe when you have 30 such instances in an hour.
I clocked in at an impressive 59 times an hour. Nearly once a minute! And my father never thought I’d be an overachiever.
Now I get a CPAP machine; you’ve seen them. Looks like an oxygen mask, sounds like Darth Vader breathing. My father-in-law has one, to the endless delight of my dogs, who think it’s a toy. Considering what this thing costs, I hope to heaven I don’t step out of the shower one day to find them playing tug-o-war with my fancy nighttime breathing apparatus.
The doctor said that it’s possible I’ve NEVER had a good night’s sleep. To have lived as long as I have and potentially never had a good night’s sleep is pretty amazing. He also said that improving my sleep could give me better metabolism and energy, thereby burning more fat. He also also said that option two was breaking my jaw, resetting it and basically re-positioning my jaw in a way that opens my breathing passages while I’m asleep. Since that sounds like the worst imaginable way to spend three months, I’m gonna try this CPAP thing out for a while.
And if you’d told me six years ago that I’d be voluntarily eating food I hated and hooking myself up to a machine to sleep at night, I’d have said you were crazy. I know I’m crazy. Take heart, children: if you don’t somewhat take care of yourself, this is the kind of shit that happens.
Usually around this time of the year, my world is in flux. I’m trying to figure out where I will both work and live next year, and having uncertainties on those fronts has a way of taking a man’s mind off what he should be focusing on.
This year is, thankfully, different. Unless something extremely unforeseen happens, I will remain at my current employment and unless my house burns down, I will remain at my current residence. I cannot tell you how happy these two things make me.
For starters, it is going to be so sweet to not uproot my entire life and rearrange it for the first summer in a while. Follow this timeline:
2008: Moved to Jackson for the summer to wait tables.
2009: Spent a normal summer, living in Clarksville and drinking until 2 a.m. every night.
2010: Moved to Memphis for internship. Spent first two weeks terrified I was going to be shot at any moment; I’ve since realized I’m just as likely to die in the bat-shit crazy interstate traffic around Nashville.
2011: Moved to Goodlettsville; started working at Lipscomb. Got a puppy, giving me a life to care for that most people have at one point or another dubbed ‘baby practice’. Oh, and I got married and had to start worrying about what someone else thought of my lifestyle.
2012: Moved across Davidson county into our house; started working at Austin Peay.
Since I graduated in May 2010, I have received mail at five residences spanning three counties in two different parts of the state of Tennessee. Bottom line, I’m tired of moving. Next time, instead of packing my shit I’m just going to sell everything with the house and start over. I’m sure my wife will love that idea, since she’s already decided to buy new furniture every few years until we’re dead, broke or dead broke.
The job firmness is even better. For the last two years, this would be about the time I started to actually figure everything out, which usually meant it was time to move on. Maybe now I won’t have to spend all of next fall wasting my time trying to figure out mundane things that have no application to my job. That probably means I’ll just have to invent new ways to screw off, but that’s why I’m paid the big bucks.
(Note to employers: I don’t spend any time screwing off.)
This new-found stability is sweet. No figuring out a new route to a new job, dodging traffic patterns and figuring out where to eat, find a post office or a bank. While new exciting is often underrated, not having the annual destruction of my life should provide happy stability.
Of course, as befitting my meticulous (read: permanently dissatisfied) nature, I’ll probably try to blow it all up next year and resume my nomadic lifestyle. I’m a miserably happy person some days.
(Note to employers: This is not happening.)
I miss being in Memphis a little bit.
That’s hard to explain to people that have never lived there. With high crime rates, poverty and a downtown where friends warn you to ‘try not to wander off by yourself or we’ll never see you again’, it’s hard to find many people that share that sentiment. Even people I know that lived there and then left seem hard-pressed to remember the redeeming qualities about it.
But like a rundown bar where you spent many a night in college, the place was home (albeit for a brief while) and I did learn to love it. And unlike most college bars, the food was magnificent. Huey’s, Kooky Canuck’s, Dyers and Gus’s were all excellent places to eat that you can’t find anywhere else and awesome barbecue places (Leonard’s, Central and Rendezvous to name but a few) were so soul-crushingly terrific that I honestly don’t like barbecue anywhere else anymore; no other place compares.
Sure, there was that messy thing where my car got stolen and I had to show up in court for a case that, to my knowledge, was never actually called while I was there. But shit happens; I can’t blame Memphis (a city I legitimately came to enjoy) because someone stole my car. I can blame a judicial system that lost said thief on two occasions and seems bent on becoming a caricature of itself, but I can’t blame the city. Eventually, something shitty is going to happen to me in Nashville; that’s just how these things work.
I’m not a tough guy, as you can probably guess. But I felt tough in Memphis. There was something about telling people you lived in the shadow of 201 Poplar that seemed to give you a bit of instant street cred. Whenever I came home for an event and casually mentioned, “Yeah, I’m living in Memphis right now,” I immediately became a badass. At least that’s how it went in my head.
Now look at me; I live in the suburbs. I have a tiny dog that likes to go on walks. I haven’t heard a gunshot in my neighborhood in over a year. I’m not going to lie, I miss that a bit. Who knew the prevailing notion that you could die at any moment would make one nostalgic?
(Also missed: the kind folks at 570 Normal, otherwise known as the Memphis Athletic Media Relations staff. How and why you people put up with me for a solid year where I both didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t know how to behave is one of life’s great mysteries. You should all be nominated for sainthood, but since I’m most likely heading to hell I can’t be the one to nominate you.)
The downtown danger is overrated; I feel it’s 10 times more likely that some meathead will punch me in the face in downtown Nashville than I felt that some gangbanger would decide to stab me in the stomach and steal my wallet in Memphis. Since so many people feel unsafe the Memphis landmarks like Beale Street, AutoZone Park and the Orpheum always had a handful of cops around to ‘assess’ the situation.
(That couldn’t be said about Graceland; do not go to Graceland after dark, or before dark for that matter. That place is dangerous.)
Am I pining to move back to Memphis? Hell no. Once was enough; I like Nashville. I’m comfortable here. Memphis took me out of my comfort zone for a year, and that was probably the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to grow up, do shit for myself and accept that sometimes bad stuff just happens. Thanks Memphis.