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A Crazy Way That Worked

December 14, 2011

Steroids will kill you. But they make athletes perform better. Period. If the top priority in your life is not longevity, things like heroin, dating freaks, and texting while driving can make a great deal of sense.

So when I knew I had to drop mass or lose a part of me that had once been at the core of who I am – my body – there was only one guaranteed modus operandi to kick-start the process and steel my will – The Stillman Diet, introduced about 50 years ago. Previous entries in this recap go thru Stillman’s plan of action – a radical isolation of allowed foods to protein (de-fatted meat), bathed in gallons of water to offset the potential for bodily harm.

It may not be as dangerous as steroids, but the Stillman regime is not “wholistically correct” either. But when it’s a “go/no-go” decision, and “no-go” had been eroding my ability to perform, there really was no choice. It was meat – only – and lots and lots of water for 6 months. Period, full stop.

Conceptual Kool-Aid Quaffed, I fine tuned the regime based on using it in years past. Although Dr. Irwin Stillman was a fairly hilarious person on the Mike Douglas Show (cantankerous, obstreperous, and intensely defensive), he was fairly clear about the things that are absolutely required to drop mass quickly.  Beyond the extreme water intake, you had to make sure you were taking a full range of vitamins.  He also recommended some form of physical exercise, but noted that it needn’t be too extreme.  However, there are a whole host of things Dr. Stillman did not address in his book or on TV, probably because they were simply too rude to put into print or on the air.  Here they are in fairly stark terms:

1.       While Dr. Stillman said there is very little “residue” left over after digestion, the truth is there is very little “solid” residue (well formed poops).  There can be, upon occasion, an extraordinary quantity of ill formed/loose by-product that, upon occasion, can have a fairly desperate desire to be released from your body.  Yes, I’m talking about diarrhea and yes, it can be somewhat shocking when the urge is present.  The bottom line is that you can go much longer between pit stops, but allow more time and more elaborate clean up procedures on average after the fact.  After 3 months your body adjusts, you just poop on a camel’s pee schedule.

2.       You really don’t have much energy.  Dr. Stillman touted the reality that there would be a “new found energy” as you are losing weight, but I think this was basically the emotional self-empowerment that dropping a ton of weight gives any fat person, and it is essentially a psychosomatic thrill.  Physiologically, without carbohydrates/sugars/fats there really isn’t a lot of happy-dance/kick-up-your-heels/positive-karma energy flowing through your veins.

3.       The lack of energy makes another corollary truth important: caffeine is necessary.  I used to hate being addicted to coffee.  I would perhaps have one or two 12-oz. “Bold/No Room” Starbucks caffeine injections each day for a week or two at a time and then take a month or two off, feeling quite virtuous – until I needed to stay up late or push through some design deadline.  On this regimen, you absolutely have to, without question, ingest a fair amount of caffeine (coffee and Diet Coke were my two crutches) or you virtually have no energy to greet a demanding schedule.  If you are a kept man, or retired, or are simply happy to be lazy, you probably don’t need caffeine on this regime.  But if you have a job, kids, or self-respect, you probably do.

4.       People who have been on similar diets say there is a meat-induced, ill-tempered aggressiveness.  No doubt, my wife would agree with this.  I, on the other hand, think that the no-nonsense, cut to the chase, I’ve eliminated almost everything I enjoy eating mindset makes trivial or competing interests less important or overtly annoying. . . so perhaps I did lose patience more easily when de-massing obsessed.

5.       I had food group abstinence panic.  Let’s face it; the vast majority of the foods that are denied on this regime are “comfort” foods.  When denied these foods, it makes you psychologically “uncomfortable”.  And most of us who need a diet in the first place usually react to discomfort by eating more food.  So for the first few weeks, be prepared to overindulge in the acceptable meats (I actually had a fairly hefty meat breakfast from time to time.)

6.       In truth, one of the fundamental things that forces all fat people to question the existence of a supreme deity is the fact that all of us, no matter how fat we are, get physically hungry when we are still really fat.  A just god would simply have created an animal that fed off its own fat and didn’t desire food until he returned to his appropriate Body Mass Index.  But no, life is not fair, and even the very fat get very hungry when they don’t eat for a few hours.  There will be times of overindulgence in “permitted” foods – and that’s Kosher.

7.       Pot (Farmer’s) cheese is essentially semi-hardened sheetrock joint compound in taste, texture, and palatability.

8.       During this regime I needed more sleep.  Pre-regime, I could usually get by with 5 or 6 hours of sleep, with an occasional 7 hours if I really needed rest.  Those totals were upped by at least an hour as I de-massed, and even then I was not totally rested.

9.     There are only three places on your body where you don’t gain weight:  your ears, your nose, and your penis (the canard is that your wrists don’t gain weight, but the truth is that I can now button my sleeves whereas I couldn’t before – although I don’t have any buttoning pants cuffs, my sense is that the lie about your ankles always being of a consistent circumference is also bogus).  It’s sad really that if your body goes to all this effort to gain so much mass and bulk it really doesn’t extend down to those of us who would really rather have larger ear lobes. . .

10.When you achieve your appointed poundage (or drop dead date) where the extreme dietary limitations of the Stillman diet suddenly stop, if you begin to eat a full menu of “normal” food again your body inflates pretty much at the rate that it deflated (pretty quickly).  The only way not to almost instantly re-mass is to plot out a gradual integration of most of the foods you used to eat, but leave the refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, etc.) for very “special” events.

The rewards of radicalism are self-fulfilling, whereas moderation is inherently, well, boring.  Would kamikaze pilots just buzz American warships (coming pretty close, but zooming away at the last minute)?  When you’re running with the bulls, would it make sense to run on a street that is parallel to where they’re running and say that you’ve experienced the thrill one block away?  Is it really the same empowering thrill to embrace Scientology when you become a Unitarian?  For most of us middling men, halfway is “no way”.  Kissing your sister, even if she’s really hot and you’re in Appalachia, is a sad simulation of what really grabs and sustains your attention.

But, sadly, all radical shifts come to an end one way or another.  Your plane either crashes into the water or into the USS Lexington, you’re either gored by a bull or get behind the garden wall, you either end up believing there is a mother ship or you don’t.

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