On Slaying My Dragons or A Tale of the Overfed American

My dragon is food.  I have become the the typical, overfed, super-sized American.  It is hard to admit this but often I feel powerless when it comes to food.

I weighed 9 pound and 15 ounces at my birth.  I was a big baby.  My mom said I ate more than any baby she ever saw.  No matter what was put in front of me I ate it.  I think that is the story of my life.

As I write this I’m afraid to weigh myself; I don’t want to know my weight. My body hurts.  I worry that my knees will give out. Recently my Dad asked me what happened.  “You used to spend so much time in the gym and watching what you ate.  What happened?  Can’t you please start working out again?”  Writing this is painful for me.

Last year I started feeling tremendous pain on my right side.  I had an ultrasound done.  The results were that I had a “fatty liver and gallbladder.”  The doctor talked to me about having gastric bypass surgery.  I thought about and figured why bother.  If I didn’t learn to retrain my eating habits I knew I would gain the weight back and have a messed up stomach.

I continued to eat uncontrollably for another year.

I come from a line of good cooks on both sides of my family.  My Great-grandma Wright and my Grandma Wright both worked as cooks in diners for years.  Both my Mother and Father are amazingly cooks.  My Dad’s sisters are good cooks, and I am a good cook.  Food was always plentiful at my house.  My dad’s parents lived next-door and there was always food there too, not too mention that my dad’s sisters lived only a couple of houses away.  There were always fresh baked cookies or cakes or fruits around.  I remember eating to be connected to nearly all of our activities.  When we went to our cottage for vacations there was nearly as much time spent on planning menus and cooking meals as there was in our activities.  Our birthday parties as kids were big affairs with meals of our choices and extravagant cakes that my mother baked.  When we were in our teens we would get taken to Shakey’s Pizza Buffet with friends of our choosing.  You would think with all that food around I would be satisfied, but I wasn’t.  Everyday I would go to the store and buy a Hostess Fruit pie.  They were only $.25.  I loved them.  I remember doing this starting around the age of seven.  I only did it on weekends and in the summer though.  On school days I would get home and drink Kool-Aid and eat cookies at home while watching TV.   When I started First grade I ate hot lunch at school.  I remember loving all the food and the variety.  A friend of my Grandparents told them I ate more than any one child my age she had ever seen.  It was meant as a compliment that I had a healthy appetite.  By Second grade I was chubby.  I weighed more than anyone in my class.  I remember being weighed by Mrs. Hooyman and being told I weighted 82 pounds, I told her that I only weighed 80 pounds. She said that I ate too much at lunch and next time I should get weighed with my boots off.

When I was about 10 my Mom stopped buying Kool-Aid.  She was worried because I drank too much and she thought I would become diabetic.   It didn’t matter, by that time my Dad’s dad had passed away and I was spending almost every evening at my Grandma’s house watching TV with her.  She knew I liked 7-Up and Cheetos so she had them for me.  I would guess that I drank 3-4 16 ounce bottles of soda a night there and ate half a bag of Cheetos.  That went on for 5 years. Around this this time I was walking to school so I would stop at the store and buy a 2 pound bag of M&M’s every morning eat those for breakfast.  That lasted until I was a junior in high school.  By then I switched over to eating cherry pies again for breakfast since I could get them out of the commons vending machines.

I was popular in high school.  I never went through the teasing that many other chubby kids endured.  In third grade Nicky tried to nick-name me King Fats, but since he failed third grade it didn’t stick.  I was terrible at sports and disliked gym class but I was luckily blessed with gym teachers who understood that and were nice about it, never making a mockery of me like other heavy kids had to endure in their school days. And still,  I ate, and ate and ate.

At the start of my senior year of high school I decided I did not want to graduate as the fattest kid in my class.  I got our general practitioner to prescribe diet pills to me.  They were wonderful. I was never hungry and came up with the best diet in the world for losing weight.  Every other day I ate two hotdogs, two buns and two cans of diet root beer.  I lost 70 pounds in three months.  I finally lost weight and looked great. A year later I had gained 30 pounds.  I was drinking coke by the six pack and eating Snickers bars.  Fat, funny Kenny was back.

I am now in college.  I lived in the dorms and was required to take the food plan.  It was like eating a buffet of fatty, starchy foods three times a day and it was unlimited.  I ate like most of the guys in my dorm did.  The only difference was that they played sports, worked out and were active.  At nights we would drink wine or beer and eat pizza (you could buy 12” Tombstone Pizzas for $3.00 at my dorm).  Every Wednesday there was a Dynasty parties on my floor.  20 college aged guys watching Dynasty, drinking wine from cardboard boxes and eating pizzas. I drank coke like other people drink coffee.  I had two snickers bars around 10:00 AM as a snack to tide me over for lunch.

I did a lot of theater in college.  There were times I was working on six shows at a time.  This was true for many of my friends as well.  After rehearsals we would go out for pizza or subs, or deep fried cheese curds.  Our hang out was Laughin’ Lugis.  I still remember getting the foot long beef sub almost nightly.  Then around 11:30 PM, I would walk back to my dorm room and then usually have a pizza with my roommate.  I went directly into Graduate School at the same university.  The last house I lived in was next door to a McDonalds.  My last year of university I ate at McDonalds a couple of times a day.  I always had the Big Mac meal, super-sized with a 10 piece McNugget smother with hot mustard sauce.  By the time I quit grad school I had gained all 70 pounds back.  I weighed in at 240 once more.

I decided I needed to lose weight again.  This time I decided to do it differently.  No diet pills and no hotdogs.  I drank a lot of water everyday and I ate 3 grapefruit during the day.  Then at night I would eat half a sub from the K-Mart deli (I know what you are thinking and they were not that bad.)  Within three months I had lost all 70 pound and then some.  I weighed 165 pounds and I looked and felt great.  Friends from college said I looked too thin.  I thought they were crazy.  My life was dieting and exercising and work. I kept the weight off for over two years.

By this time I got hired to work at Classic Arts Dinner Theatre.  We got an employee discount to eat there and guess what; they had a lunch buffet there that only cost me $3.00 a day to eat at.  By this time I was tired of grapefruit.  I kidded myself by first only eating salads—smothered with blue cheese dressing and cheese and croutons.  Huge platters of salad, pretty soon I was adding the entrees to these and then the rice or potatoes dishes.  I remember a coworker there noticing how my appetite had been increasing.  I was embarrassed so I started eating at a buffet across the street where I would not be noticed.  Besides, they had a huge selection. On top of that, there was an A&W drive-in across the street that I would go to every night after the shows so I could get something to eat to “relieve the stress.”    With in a year I was 25 pounds heavier and I had stopped exercising.

Theatre doesn’t pay well, especially Midwestern dinner theatres.  I had to make more money.  I got a job as a waiter.  Kenny surrounded by food 8-10 hours a day equals danger Will Robinson.  The place I worked in had great food–all high in fat and carbs.  We specialized in burgers and subs and had the best chilli I have eaten to this day.  I would finish my shift and eat there.  We served these deep fried potatoes that were called potato planks.  We would smoother them with melted cheese, sour cream and onions.  I would eat a platter of them along with a sub or burger and unlimited refills of soda.  I ate this daily for lunch and dinner.  After work we would usually go out to eat and eat the same kind of food we ate all day at work.  By the end of 18 months of working at the Sandwich Factory I had regained all that weight and more.

After this I went to work as a Manager for Blockbuster Video.  My office was next door to Hardees.  I made a deal with the manager there.  She got free video rentals and I got free meals.  I was a vegetarian by then.  The problem was that I ate cheese and fries and load of fatty foods.  I needed the cheese to get my protein.  She watched a lot of movies and I ate lots of food.  We also stocked candy bars and soda in the store front and I would grab those several times a day and eat them for snacks — to keep my energy up.

After two years I got laid off.  I moved back to my parents and laid around in a funk.  By now I must have weighed 275 pounds.  I was grossly obese.  I worked around my parent’s house and ate, and ate more.  My parents have always had a well stocked refrigerator and kitchen.  I could eat all I wanted.  I would sneak downstairs at night make a huge plate of whatever was leftover and I learned to be so quiet, baking pizzas, making sandwiches and scooping ice cream.  I would gorge myself.

At the end of my two year funk I weighed 290 pounds.  I made stabs at working out but didn’t really commit to anything.  I would try aerobics, biking, Callenitics, and yoga; I even bought “Stop the Insanity with Susan Powter; I liked her and would do the workouts.  I even bought ankle weight and would walk with them on not realizing they were giving me shin splints.  And through this all I ate.

I went back to work at Ameritech, later merged with SBC.  It seemed that everyone there was fat; fat like me.  It was an office of overweight people who loved to eat.  Every other Friday we would have office “Pigouts.”  There were 250-300 people in my department and we would have a huge potluck meals and gorge ourselves on food; eating all day long.  It was around this time that gastric bypasses gained popularity.  A lot of the men and woman in my office started having them done.  It was the surgery du jour.  I was urged to get it done, but decided this time I would lose weight the right way and keep it off for good. I started Body for Life, experimented with supplementation and hired a trainer.  I took to working out like a duck to water.  I measured what I ate, drank protein shakes and ate nothing past 7:00 PM.  I became an encyclopedia of knowledge on weight loss and working out.  I started training other people.  For once I had lost weight in a healthy way, looked good and felt great.  I got down to 200 pounds but I was lean and healthy.  I was an example to people this time.  I worked hard to help others lose weight as well.  I was proud.

I knew it was time for a change in my life and I moved to San Francisco.  I shared a studio with a friend of mine.   He was very unhappy and his unhappiness spread to me.  Robert’s greatest joy was belittling me and I started to believe what he said.  I worked out diligently here but eventually I was worn down.  I started to overeat.  We would eat huge meals at night when he got home from work — 10:00 PM.  I would eat breakfast from the lunch wagon that drove past my first job here—2-3 corndogs a day and lunch was always from some fast food place.  I lost my interest in working out and would go sporadically.    People started noticing I was gaining weight.

I also started volunteering with a small, non-profit theatre company around this time.  I used that as an excuse to skip the gym.  I would work and then go to rehearsal.  We would eat a lot of crappy junk food and fast food there.  I resisted at first but soon gave in wanting to belong to something here and tired of being lonely.  People that work in theater tend to be messed up and old addictions and patterns started to reemerge.  There were always cookies around and soda, and I would eat them nonstop, all night.

Eventually I moved into a healthier living situation. A week after I moved, I go laid off.  To make ends meet I babysat that summer while looking for work.  I spent the summer eating macaroni and cheese, ice cream and hotdogs with the boys I babysat for.  At night I would eat at 7-11 since it was cheap or eating the $0.99 cent pizzas from Cala-foods.  I had to make it through the summer.  I got a workout buddy and started to train him hoping to reverse the fat, but I was still eating poorly; he made great strides with my advice and I got fatter.

I eventually got a job working for a dotcom.  I was pretty broke by then.  I was grateful that the office was located next to a McDonalds and a Taco Bell.  You get lots to eat at a cheap price.  My gym was also in the same building and I never once set foot in it during work.  It was around this time I discover the Asian Buffets of San Francisco.  I loved sushi and I loved to eat at these places.  I would gorge myself on sushi several times a week.

Before I realized it I weighed 300 pounds.  It was around this time, late 2005, that I became friends with Maggie.  She weighed as much if not more than me and loved buffets and knew where they were all over the city.  Our friendship ended over food (I told her I could not eat at buffets any longer—she took it personally). We would go to buffets at least three times a week and then go to Orphan Andy’s for cake and ice cream.  I think in all my life my unhealthiest period of eating came during my friendship with her.  The funny thing is she is a therapist who is in denial about her food issues and we supported each other in those denials.  When I started to be honest with myself about food issues it broke us up and she has resented it to this day.

A few years ago I was transferred to Illinois.  While there I ballooned even more to my highest weight of all time.   I discovered a whole new set of foods and restaurants.  I got tired of being so huge and soon lost 50 pounds eating lean pockets.  Since then I have moved to Wisconsin to help with some family issues.  My weight has stayed within 10 pounds of this 50 pound weight loss.  I feel like it’s now or never and I need to get healthy and release the weight once and for all.

I still over eat at times, but I am getting better.  It is hard for me to admit being powerless over food, but I deep down inside know it’s true.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

28 thoughts on “On Slaying My Dragons or A Tale of the Overfed American

  1. Debra

    Dear Kenny… I just caught your first post and this one. I admire your courage and your honesty in sharing this part of your story. I’m rooting for you…sending you loving strength and continued courage…and seeing you as the radiant, optimum health-full BEing that you are. I know you know this…your spirit/the whole of who you are is powerful beyond measure and so filled with awesomeness to share with the world. Your physical body is a prized vehicle for you to navigate life’s magnificence in. You choosing to begin anew in caring for your vehicle/temple in a more powerfully present way is an amazing choice to make. …and what a powerful time to be making it, on the cusp of one mega super full moon and the summer solstice turning! YAY YOU!! There are a million and three things I want to say…to encourage, to support…I’m quite the cheerleader at heart! 😉 Mostly though, just know I’m here…Mark, too…rooting for you! I know it’s not exactly the same, but I can so relate to much of your story. I too LOVE food, and have found my way to loving the way that vibrant food that is clean and healthy serves me, raises my vibration, and offers me the energetic support I need and love. The old way I loved food doesn’t even taste good any more. 🙂 Anyway… Love you lots. I See YOU. And, you’re so got this! XO Debra

  2. Penny

    Hi Kenny
    I don’t think you are as powerless over food as you think you are. It takes tremendous amounts of will power to lose 50 or 70 pounds. i can’t imagine being able to do it. But like any relationship engaged in a power struggle, it takes more and more energy to do less and less. it just isn’t sustainable. Don’t know if you knew this, but I was a registered dietician for many years. Every client I helped that was in your situation was different but it sounds similar to many. 3 common problems that might apply are
    1) It may seem ironic, but I often found that people don’t enjoy their food enough! Every bite, whether it’s veges or M&M’s should be savored. It should be an important event.
    2) Never stop eating a food you truly ENJOY while dieting. Learning to savor favorite high calorie foods in smaller portions takes lots of practice. Now is the time to practice. Only eliminate foods you find you don’t really enjoy all that much after all. (Sounds a bit what Deb was talking about.
    3) Surround yourself with supportive friends and family….not eating buddies or the food police either! This is your journey but the right help is a big plus

    Anything i can do to help. Let me know. Love and Light to you!

  3. Bala Gandikota

    Hi Kenny,
    First of all you are very lucky to have had such a great life of appreciating good food. WE need to have a heart for that. Secondly, you have been provided that, i.e., abundance. There are many many people in this world that actually starve for food, esp in the 3rd world countries. So, pat yourself for being lucky that way!

    Regarding weight loss initiatives you have been taking, you seem to be knowing it all, with a thorough knowledge in healthy eating habits and foods. Having gone through some of the weight loss programs and losing weight successfully, it seems you certainly can do it. Looks like you have a lot of determination too, in anything that you do. I am sure you will come up with wise awesome strategies to do this!!!! Wishing you all the best and I can’t wait to see the progress in your initiative.

    {Just to give you a little more encouragement, I was overweight too for quite a few years. I avoided 5 things completely: refined white sugar, salt (ow take 1/4 th of what I was taking before), refined wheat flour (all purpose; use whole wheat instead), refined white rice (take brown rice instead), and any refined grains (take whole grains). This has helped me lose weight very quickly}.

  4. Kristine Dong

    You can do it, I love you friend…..we all have demons……..food is a drug, a constant struggle…I’m rooting for you kid…….

  5. Jamie Voster

    I believe YOU can do whatever you want to do! as you’ve posted, you’ve made changes in the past, but just not sustained them! Make small changes- you’ll start to feel better and eat better. you clearly have the right group of friends here (in Wisconsin) to support you! do you know what made you fall back into your old ways? Was it now accountability? Again, you have that support system now to hold you to it! 🙂 We’re all here to support you! I think the gym is an important one! Good luck! When we do the hu Hot visit, it will be a “one” tripper for all of us! JRV

  6. Susan

    Dear Kenny,

    Thank you for sharing your journey so openly and honestly. I support you in this 100%.

    The comment that resonated the most with me is the part about denial. I now look at everything I eat. Really look at it….feel its energy, feel my emotional response to it, feel my physical response as I consume and digest it. Allow my thoughts about to be heard and not rushed or avoided. If I feel guilty about eating a food that I know isn’t healthy for me, I don’t try to turn it off or deepen it. I examine that feeling….acknowledge it…not needing to react necessarily. Just let its truth sink in.

    It’s actually harder for me to feel light inside…to adjust to not feeling “stuffed”. Feeling comfortable worries me that I’ll get hungry later instead of just letting my body be for awhile.

    I’m finding that my cravings are changing and are not as in charge as they used to be. Healthier eating isn’t a contest for me. It’s truly awareness building. I respect you for taking such an honest look at this area of your life. It’s not an easy thing to do and takes courage, clear vision and love. You have that.

    You are indeed a really good cook with intuition about food. I believe you have ways to use that skill to honor your body and enjoy life. You don’t have to prove anything to me. I’m happy that you continue to reveal wondrous you.


  7. Tommytrc

    KENNY!!! You are making all us short-winded blog writers look bad. This posting brought back some memories of my upbringing and struggles with weight. I have been up and down more than a 6th grade gym class doing jumping jacks. I love reading your words of hope and struggles… KEEP ROCKING IT!

    1. Bala Gandikota

      Me too, some struggles with my weight in my teens! I could only do it very effectively when I started following natural diet, and also was able to sustain it.

  8. Nordy

    Hello my friend! I want to say that this article is amazing, nice written and include approximately all significant infos. I would like to see extra posts like this.

  9. Rachel

    Dear Kenny,

    This post about food made me so sad. I started to think of so many similarities with my own relationship with it- all the times when I was a teenager bingeing with friends- food always our drug of choice. All the years of hating my lack of control and the issue of body image negatively affecting my every day- even big life decisions. While I’ve managed to slowly get a grip on things over the years, the lure of falling into that place of no return with food is always on my heels. I feel the lure constantly and it is a battle never won but at least for now it has mellowed to a kind of Cold War. Keep trying no matter what. Your body needs you more now than ever and don’t ever forget that you DESERVE to feel good- healthy and strong. xo- Rach

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