Beer Vs. Beer Belly

If I analyze my health and fitness over the last 20 years there are clear patterns. When the quality of my nutrition goes up, so does the quantity of my exercise, which sets up a positive feedback loop. Good food makes me feel better, which makes it easer to exercise more, which makes we want to eat better. 

Wash, rinse, repeat.

But there’s another pattern, one that looks like a wave. Up and down and up and down and up and down. And within that pattern - with the valley being “overweight & out of shape” me and the peak being “optimal weight and & in shape me” - there’s year another pattern. At each of valleys I’m not following any sort of diet while at each of the peaks I am. 

During every peak I’ve had some sort of prescribed protocol for eating (and drinking). 

But every time I’ve gotten to a peak I’ve dropped off the diet which has invariably led to a slow decline towards being overweight and in suboptimal fitness again. 

Every. Single. Time. 

I can trace that all the way back to the early 2000’s when I worked at Unifi Technology Group as a computer programmer. I remember riding to airport one morning for my flight and realizing that my pants were busting at the seams. Looking down, I could literally see my skin between the stitches. On the flight back from Austin I happened upon a book called Body For Life. It laid out an easy to follow diet and exercise plan that I followed. 12 weeks later those same pants were way too big for me to wear and I was in the best shape of my life. 

But as soon as I reached that peak it was all cheeseburgers and beer, all the time.

With predictable results. 

I’ve done the same thing over and over: achieve the goal, drop off the diet, get fat and out of shape again. 

So I’m once again following a diet, Tim Ferris’s “slow carb” diet which I’ve used in the past with good success. I’ve got a big red check mark on the calendar for each day I follow it including the cheat day on Saturdays, which is when I drink beer. 

This past Sunday I was knee-deep in the water at Carolina Beach with the sun beating down, the waves crashing, and the fish not biting. The desire for an frosty beer was strong. 

STRONG. 

It’s a Pavlovian response. I smell the salt in the air and I want a beer. 

I started to make excuses for why I could drink one. 

“Yesterday was cheat day, and I didn’t even eat that much.”

“I only ate one of those Twinkies.”

(Yes, I ate a Twinkie. Got it at the gas station. Y’all, those things are gross)

“Just one, what’s the harm?” I thought.

I still had a cooler full from the day before, so the struggle was on.

It was me vs. the beer and for a minute there I thought the beer was going to win, setting off a domino effect of beer, beer, beer, cheeseburger & fries. 

There would be no checkmark that day. 

Without a protocol to follow, I would have totally caved. 

But the simple act of having this protocol to follow made it easy to resist. It’s like I couldn’t let myself down - “you’re doing this, this is the way it has to be.”

Me: 1, Beer: 0. 

It’s taken me twenty-something years to learn that, nutrition-wise, I need a protocol to follow. 

I’m on my way back to the peak, now I just need to remember that when I get there.