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Archive for April, 2009

April 15th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #2: The Video-Game Diet

About 17 years ago, I lost over fifty pounds. Just like that… boom. I called it my videogame diet and yes, it’s just about as dumb and irresponsible as it sounds. I was on winter break from university and had no Christmas obligations. My parents were in Rome with my mother’s family and my sister was elsewhere… Quebec City, I think. So that left me alone with nothing but a videogame called Ultima VII: The Black Gate and the constitution of a twenty-something idiot who doesn’t know how good he has it.

For three weeks, Ultima VII consumed me figuratively and literally. I lived off a one-meal-a-day diet, losing track of time and playing AM to the AM of next day. The weight melted off. Muscle too, I’m sure. Crash diets are apt for the wreck they leave behind. Maybe I should have taken it as a bad omen when a fatal glitch killed the game on the last level and prevented me from completing it, or perhaps it was an odd mercy. Regardless, I had lost the weight poorly and while it took a few years for the weight to return, it cashed in on me with interest. The pounds blossomed from 170lbs to 250lbs and never looked back.

I learned an odd lesson at that point. Part of it was the realization that I was a Darwin Award in the making. I mean, this is the stuff that strokes and heart attacks are made of. What I had done was beyond stupid. Crash diets and quick solutions don’t work. If only GI JOE cartoons had done a Public Service Announcement about that very thing when I was younger, I might have known, and knowing is half the battle, right?

Scratch that. I still wouldn’t have known better.

The second thing I realized was that even at my lowest weight, I saw myself as fat. But at both extremes, fat and skinny, I had my lovers and my friends and my family alike. I was loved every which way you looked at it. It was time to start treating myself with the same respect others paid me on a daily basis.

It took a few years to articulate that discovery, but the fact was some people found me attractive skinny and some when I was fat. The ones who literally loved me through thick and thin were the people I tried to keep in my life. It was at that point I realized that when I do lose weight, it won’t be because “I want to look beautiful.”

I want to lose weight because beauty is subjective; and health isn’t.

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April 6th, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #1: Body 4 Life

hat you see here is the beginning of a non-fiction project that I’ve had in mind concerning body-building. The details of the project itself are a secret, but my agent thinks it has legs. I do too.

It doesn’t start there, though, not by a long shot. Why write about body-building when I can immerse myself in it? Why write about it when I can live it? Thus begins a journey to write a book while training to become a body builder. We’re talking about taking me from who I am now, as an overweight writer, and transforming myself for life.

One year in the life of a body builder.

For one year, I will be training to get myself in peak physical condition using diet and trainers. And it will be part of my journey to write this book and instil habits I hope will remain with me for a lifetime.


Who am I? Let’s paint a portrait, shall we? Subject is 42, 5’11”, 285 pounds, 36% body fat. What doctors would call morbidly obese. A lovely term that’s meant to frighten the so-named into changing their life style and habits.

On the cusp of 40, subject received antibiotics for a root canal, which shot his gastrointestinal system and exacerbated mild lactose intolerance into a more severe version. After a year of exams and blood tests to determine the nature of the sudden lactose intolerance and wonky digestive system, it amounted to nothing more than IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) with lactose complications thrown in. It was a relief, frankly, given the laundry list of things that it could have been.

Meanwhile, the toll of being a writer and an avid computer gamer created their own problems. Back difficulties and soreness, creaking knees that sounded like a forest of complaints when I mounted the stairs, poor sleep, bad posture, slowed mental faculties and a general feeling of what’s best described as… blah.

In short, I’d stepped on the slope of middle-age and didn’t realize how steep it was to the bottom. My situation wasn’t bad yet, but it sure as hell wasn’t going to get better on its own. The days of punishing my body with irresponsible behaviour were over and the admission felt like a relief.

Now I could tell you all about overcoming not eating pizza and ice cream, or the fact that red meat had turned into a game of Russian roulette for my digestive system. Not terribly sexy, though, and more importantly, this wasn’t about feeling sorry for myself. And seriously… not eating the stuff that turns your bowels into a shotgun isn’t “overcoming” anything. It’s plain old sensibility at work.

Change had to come, and it had to come for the positive reasons before the negative ones forced me into action. Discussing my “problems” though, is generally against my nature, at least in this public a forum. But I had to. Claiming to change one’s health means nothing without a baseline to compare it to. A before picture if you will.

So back to the gym I went in 2008… another attempt in a string of attempts dating back to my late teens. And, as before, I started strong, sputtered along the way, and failed. Three days a week became two and then none. A million excuses why it happened, but frankly that’s the way we survive. Our egos can’t handle our own mistakes. We need to find an excuse that validates ourselves as victim. I did all the time. I’ve been fighting against doing it and it’s painful.

LucienLucienFinally, at the start of 2009, I tried a different approach. Rather than trying to fit my work outs around my schedule, which always created room for excuses, I opened my schedule to make work-outs a fixture. I started going in the morning when I woke up so the momentum of the day didn’t help build up resistances. Rather than going less to build up the habit, I went more. I went 4 times a week and discovered that the less “flex” I gave myself to muck about with my weekly schedule, the more diligent I became in following my routine. At the time I write this sentence, it is now 10 weeks in a row that I’ve hit the gym, four days a week. No skips, no missed beats. My energy is better, my posture stronger. Far fewer back aches, better sleep schedule, less knee complaints and less time spent at my desk.

Yay me, right?

Actually, if the story ended there, it would be boring and rather self-indulgent. Once I realized I wanted to write a book on body-building, something outside the description of exercises, reps, sets and diet and more on the human side of the equation, I realized I wanted to live one year in the life of a body builder. I decided to take it a step further, and change my life forever.

This is where I start and I am nervous. Nervous if I succeed. Nervous if I fail. But somewhere, in between, I hope to find the human experience in all this and not just write about it


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