From skinny and tall to clinically obese and back again, David Kirchhoff of Weight Watchers documents his own struggles in "Weight Loss Boss." Here's an excerpt.
As a kid, I was embarrassed about how skinny I was.
As an adult, I hated being fat.
Some people are never satisfied!
These days, I am pretty content with the state of my weight—203 pounds, about 40 pounds less than my peak just over a decade ago. And yet, I’m hardly on autopilot. I know that staying here will not happen by accident. I will have to keep working to make these changes permanent.
Yes, losing weight is hard, sometimes. Yes, you’ll fail occasionally; I wrote the book on that (this one). But we’ll also enjoy our successes—and believe me, they are achievable. While this is work, it’s a job that has a big payday: It can help you live better, longer, more happily. As a special bonus, you can also look good doing it. (Style points count, right? Right!)
When I was a teenager, the very concept of being overweight was completely beyond my comprehension. In my family, I was a bit of a genetic freak. My father is 5 foot 10, as is my older brother, and my mother and two sisters clock in at 5 foot 2. I shot past them (to 6 foot 3) at a blazing clip; unfortunately, it left me looking like an underfed giraffe.
I was all arms and legs, and no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t gain weight. (Oh, I figured that one out big-time later on, though.) Throughout high school, I weighed a steady 170 pounds, which made me look like I was built out of coat hangers. There is nothing particularly cool about being able to see all of your ribs and discern a heartbeat between them.
Then I went to college, and everything changed: I gained 45 pounds in one year. That’s a disaster for most people, but for me, I finally looked seminormal for the first time. So I started to work out, got stronger, and rounded out my musculature. But after college, I went on to do graduate work in fatness. I was steadily gaining weight from newly acquired habits of nutritional debauchery and general slothfulness, sacrifices I told myself I was making for a high-paced professional life.
On July 23, 1999, at the age of 32, I got my first physical in about 7 years. In the time that elapsed between arriving in the waiting room and getting my blood work back a week later, my life would change.
My first shock was stepping onto my doctor’s scale. Watching the nurse slide weight after weight to the right before finally landing on 242 pounds was a punch to my expanding gut. How did this happen? As a tall guy, I could carry my baggage pretty well, and I’d almost convinced myself that I didn’t weigh all that much. Yet, if I was being honest, I also knew that every trip to the shower led to the recognition that I could pinch far more than an inch. I was grabbing slabs of fat.
There was more bad news to come, with the results of my blood work. My LDL cholesterol was at 181, and my triglycerides had spiked to 146. My doctor sat me down and told me that both numbers were far outside of the healthy range for a normal 32-year-old. She recommended that I start on statins but also that I get my lifestyle to a better place. She saved the worst for last: She looked me in the eye and told me that, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30, I was clinically obese.
The experience did motivate change, of a sort. I counted calories for a few weeks but soon gave up. I corrected a few obvious bad habits but not nearly enough of them. Over the next 18 months, I lost 5 to 10 pounds.
But fate delivered me to the people, and program, that would ultimately save me. Or, I should say, helped me save myself. In late December 1999, I got a job helping Weight Watchers start up its Internet business. In taking the job, I thought it would be a nice perk to maybe lose that weight in the process. Nine years later—yes, that’s right: 9 years!—I reached my goal weight, and I’ve been there for the last 3 years. I’ll have a lot more to say about how I managed that and why it took me so long. (I have total faith that you’ll be able to reach your destination faster; consider me a worst-case scenario—everybody else certainly does!) Today, my blood pressure is normal, my LDL has dropped to 76, and my triglycerides are at 82. I went from a human caution sign to green lights all around. As far as my blood numbers are concerned, I am now completely healthy.
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But does that mean I am “cured”? Is the old, plush David only a memory, a ghost of Christmas cookies past?
Consider my ice cream problem.
The second I pull the lid off a carton — yes, it still happens — and wield my spoon-weapon, I go all fuzzy in the head. My pulse jumps up to 140-plus, and I completely lose myself. It starts innocently enough with a single layer removal. If it’s my favorite (cookie dough), I simply have to dig around for big golf balls of the frozen goo. Being slightly OCD, I then evenly eat around the hole I just made. Then I take another layer out. Soon, half of a container is gone.
I really cannot think of a single other food that has the same kind of narcotic effect on me. I’m getting excited even writing about it. For the life of me, I cannot explain why I feel this way. It almost seems animalistic when my ice cream frenzies happen; they have a powerful emotional hold over me that I will never understand.
So how do I handle it? I make sure that we do not have big containers of the stuff in the house. If I do have ice cream, it is almost always in the form of a Weight Watchers prepackaged ice-cream treat. One of the most elementary tips for binge eaters: Never, ever eat straight from the carton. As you’ll see later on in the book, the key to portion control is doling out your servings, then putting away the bag, box, carton, or jug.
That’s why a single serving bar is great: one and done. Except I often find myself having two.
That’s why I now treat ice cream a little bit the way ex-smokers treat cigarettes: with close to zero tolerance. Generally I don’t endorse banning entire categories of food, but sometimes desperate measures are required.
Because of examples like that one, I know I will always struggle with my weight. I will always have to be careful. Living healthy takes effort. It requires an education. It requires change and committing to changes so completely that they become the new normal. It is not easy, like swallowing a pill, but it is very possible. And the important thing is: I now know that the way I used to live and eat was impossible and not sustainable. And when you look at change in that light, it isn’t a burden, it’s a release.
As my interest in weight loss grew, I fished around on the Internet and noticed a lot of smart women launching blogs, Web sites, and Twitter feeds on my new favorite topic. Yet, for whatever reason, there were very few men doing it. For women, talking about weight and weight loss seems as natural as breathing. Guys prefer to talk about how hard that 300-pound tackle hit the running back, not what the lineman’s strategy should be for achieving a 32-inch waistline. But guys need to be thinking about this stuff, too. That’s a big reason why I started my blog, ManMeetsScale.blogspot.com. (I devote a whole chapter to the man versus scale problem later on.)
When I started writing the blog, I assumed that the primary audience would be men. A bunch of guys do follow the blog, but I found that many more women were checking it out and sharing their own experiences. It seemed that my challenges with weight, both how I gained it and how I struggle to keep it off, were no different from what everyone else was dealing with. This isn’t the battle of the sexes, it’s the battle of the bulge, and we all need help.
Lots of us feel we are alone in our struggles—until we find that so many others contend with exactly the same set of challenges and issues. I began to realize that my own weight story was a very common one and that my own failings—and later on, my victories—were shared by many others. I also began to recognize that my weight gain and loss was in some way a microcosm of what has become an obesity epidemic.
In other words, I am not alone. And neither are you.
Let’s beat this thing together.
Reprinted from WEIGHT LOSS BOSS by David Kirchhoff. Copyright (c) 2012 by Weight Watchers International Inc. By permission of Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive