So I’m standing in line at Taco Bell sometime in the early 2000s, and up at the counter they’ve got a TV showing us security-camera footage of ourselves, and that’s how I catch sight of the hulking, disheveled, terrifying man looming directly behind me. He is the size of 3.5 normal people, even in this nacho-rich context; his beard situation suggests his only available shaving implement was a monster truck tire; he is jittery and disoriented and mumbling something to himself. The overall effect is that of a homeless bear.
It is then that I realize that what this terrifying person is mumbling is, Oh, shit, who the hell is that giant weirdo. Reader, it me.
Still bought some nachos. In fact, it took another five years before I actively labored to, uh, diminish myself. The occasion was my wedding, to a woman I met the year of the Taco Bell thing. I can’t account for this. My wife’s memory of me from our very first meeting (at her job interview; leave me alone) was, “You stared at the ceiling most of the time and seemed very tired.” Romance ensued, somehow. And so, six or so months from the big day, I finally vowed to Get Serious—not due to prodding from my fiancée or a doctor or a person sitting next to me on an airplane or anything, but due to the simple, narcissistic realization that this would be the single day of my life in which the most people I knew would be looking directly at me for the longest period of time.
Thus, in 2008, I lost 45 pounds. This is on my mind lately because it’s a New Year, again, and I am feeling disheveled and disoriented, again, and thus prevailing upon myself to lose some goddamn weight, again. Probably another 45 pounds is not feasible, though. Even at the time, that’s not a large enough number to have gotten me on the news; the means by which I lost it are likewise pretty mundane. Mundanity is maybe the key to making it work.
And so. I lived in New York City at the time and did the whole “get off the subway several stops short of your destination” thing. I stopped eating, for example, entire pints of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream. (They had a falling-out or something with Heath, and have since renamed this flavor the more generic Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch; it sucks now, mercifully.) I joined a fancy gym and worked out every other day to an expertly calibrated iTunes playlist that reshuffled the first two Wolf Parade records. (The idea was to peak adrenaline- and heart-rate-wise with “I’ll Believe in Anything.”) And I weighed myself every morning and kept a psychotic Excel spreadsheet named “the low numbers” (after a Morphine song inappropriate for exercising) that I only completely abandoned a couple months ago because it was taking on disquieting A Beautiful Mind-type qualities.
None of this radically changed my life, is the thing. I did not develop Swagger; the general public regarded me with the same combination of unease and amusement with which they always had and likely always will. A few coworkers noticed and made uncouth remarks about my new affinity for baby carrots; the lady at the front counter of the gym who had to compare my current face with the security photo I’d taken when I joined got a little suspicious. But it’s doubtful even the people at my wedding noticed much, for that is the punchline: I didn’t have my tuxedo’s measurements altered from the fitting I’d had several months earlier. I looked absolutely ridiculous. It was basically this ...
... but with formal wear. I’d tried to do the Hundred Pushups thing, too, and was in fact pounding out five sets of 25 or so while blasting Fugazi’s “Repeater” on headphones in the hotel workout room that morning while all my loved ones ate free croissants or whatever in the adjacent lobby, but my biceps did not swell to a size sufficient to compensate. Shuffling awkwardly with my graceful new wife to the Beatles’ “Someday” (sorry, “Something”; “Someday” is a deeply romantic Sugar Ray song) as everyone looked on—my initial First Dance pitch to her was “We Are the Champions,” but I chickened out—I felt just as gawky and self-conscious as I would’ve otherwise, but at least now I had more clothing in which to hide, and in which to hide my wife, also, should she desire to, which she did not.
The lesson here, I suppose, is “change your wardrobe if you lose a lot of weight, you ponce,” and also “don’t expect losing a lot of weight to make you feel like less of a ponce, or in any event imbue you with a common sense you do not currently possess.” My maniacal 2008 weight loss ceased on Election Night, when I went to the Kmart in Union Square and bought a Cherry Coke and a box of S’Mores Pop Tarts in a fit of McCain-presidency-induced anxiety. What transpired from there was not a full-backslide disaster; in the seven years since I’ve mostly yo-yo’d within a frustrating but basically harmless 15-pound spectrum just like everyone else, I suppose. I have never again mistaken myself for a homeless bear, it’s true, but nor have I mistaken myself for a different person. You can only ever shed some meager percentage of your true self.
Lead image by Sam Woolley; Kevin Smith photo via Getty.
Adequate Man is Deadspin’s self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.