A Facebook Throwdown! The David Longevity Project: Read it and Cheer
By Patty Chang Anker on December 31, 2010
If you asked anyone to describe David S. in high school, the words "Jujitsu, Eurasian, sooo nice," would be up there, but "Skinny" would have topped the list.
Recently on Facebook an old classmate posted "then" and "now" pictures of David, and you could hear the collective gasp from those of us who know and love him but hadn't known what 20 years and 2 kids had wrought.
How did this happen?? The comments poured in. A likeness to Ted Kennedy was made. "I'm so much more substantial now," David quipped. But the cyber-beating sparked David to action. "It's a Facebook Throwdown!" he declared, promising to lose 15 lbs by New Years Day. All bets are in.
Since then, David's fans have tuned into his "David Longevity Project" status reports with genuine admiration and mounting excitement. Will he weigh in under 220 on January 1?
Facing 40 Upside Down is all about facing the things that are hard, and not letting fear of failure stop you from trying. It is about declaring in front of the world that you are taking a leap, and allowing the rest of the world to step up and keep you honest, to cheer if you fly and catch you if you fall.
I am so moved by David S's quest to live longer for his kids. I want us both to have many, many more July birthdays to come. I asked him to share his story here. Read it and cheer:
Q) What is the David Longevity Project?
A) The David Longevity Project (DLP) is simply that: an attempt to live longer, primarily by controlling my weight. I have never had a good diet, but when I was young I was quite active and athletic. As I got older my metabolism slowed down, I exercised less as I became more involved in my academic career, and the birth of my kids was just a weight gain catastrophe. So, basically, I am eating myself to death.
I was quite skinny in high school, but as recently as six month ago I found myself 70 (SEVENTY!) pounds over my high school weight. I wear XXL clothes, and was just horribly chubby. AND, I am at a very elevated risk of all sorts of health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, my Body Mass Index indicated that I was obese (although, I have to say, by American standards I am really not especially obese, just merely kind of fat...we are a very fat culture).
Q) Have you ever tried to lose weight before?
A) Yes, I have tried to lose weight twice in the last three years. The first time I lost 25 pounds in about three months, but was unable to keep it off. Also, I periodically travel to third world countries and do a lot of hiking (prospecting for fossils...I am a paleontologist) and eat rather simply. Then, I often lose weight, but I have never been able to keep that off either. I have now been dieting since late August (just over four months), and this is the longest that I have kept up a sustained weight loss program. The catch, however, is that "diets" per se don't work...really, what is needed is a lifestyle change in order to keep the weight off. I am more optimistic this time that I'll be able to achieve that, but I am not overconfident, either.
Q) Results (both tangible, and intangible) so far?
A) Thus far, I have lost 25 pounds since August (and 15 since mid-November, when I started posting about my diet on Facebook). I am noticeably slimmer around the waist (still fat, mind you), but my face is still quite puffy (I gain weight first, and lose it last, in the face). This time I have tried to move at a slightly slower pace than when I first tried dieting in the hopes that I will be able to sustain it, and so far I feel pretty good about that.
People like to talk about how great you feel when you lose a lot of weight, but I don't really FEEL any better. I suppose that I am a little less self conscious about the way I look, but at this point in my life (married, kids, losing my hair) that is not really what motivates me. Not dying young is a much more profound motivation. And, the public humiliation provided by my dear friend Adam also provided a useful motivation, too (see below)!
Q) What has been the hardest part?
A) The hardest part is really just passing up on the temptations that continuously bombard us. Fried foods, chocolate, starchy foods (mmmm, pasta....), salty snack food. I love all of that stuff. I'm actually sort of addicted to it, I think. I actually get physiological cravings when I walk into a convenience store. So that is kind of tough.
And it was initially a challenge finding healthy foods that I WANTED to eat. I can't eat small portions, and I won't do fad diets. I need to eat until I am full, and I find that fad diets insult our intelligence. There is no secret to losing weight....eat less (or better) and exercise even a bit more. So for me the key was to find a few healthy (mostly vegetarian meals) that were easy to make and that I could eat over and over again.
Another hard thing has been passing up family dinners. My wife usually does the cooking, and she cooks nice meals, but I enjoy them too much. If I start to eat them I will find my self eating seconds every time. So I cook for myself separately.
Q) How did making it public on FB help or hurt your efforts?
A) Totally helped. First of all, Adam posted "before and after" pictures of me wearing a tuxedo, once from the high school prom and once from a friend's wedding. This was very embarrassing but also quite funny (he did this in retaliation for my mocking him on FB about something else, so one good turn deserves another). And, of course, he has been single up until about a month ago and has no kids and bikes to work every day, blah, blah, blah and so he weighs the same as he did in high school (jerk!). I had already been on my diet for about two months, but when he posted the pictures it motivated me to really renew my efforts. I bet him $20 that I could lose 15 pounds by New Year's Day (about 6 weeks time). That was a pace that I knew would be challenging but that I could potentially achieve. In other words, it was neither easy nor impossible. As I have posted, I have three days to go, and am only 0.2 pounds short of my goal.
Q) Does the fact that so many high school friends continue to populate your conciousness through FB motivate you? (Kind of a perpetual reunion to prepare for!)
A) It has helped because they have been so incredibly supportive. I am not really worried about embarrassing myself in front of them so much as that they have provided really nice positive reinforcement. And, I am a bit of an extrovert so the attention is nice.
Q) What (or who) inspired you the most?
A) Well, in the broad scheme of things, I would like to live to see my kids graduate from college and get married and have children of their own. So that is the biggest inspiration. And my wife.
Q) What advice would you give to someone else who wants to live a little longer?
A) Stop doing the things that you are doing now that you know are really bad for you. For me, I need to stop eating like a teenager. Other people need to stop smoking or drinking or other drugs. But, living a life of moderation with respect to your daily habits is really pretty good advice (thank you, Buddha).
Q) Are there any goals you are willing to publicly declare on Facing 40 Upside Down for 2011??
A) Yes, I am going to continue my diet after New Year's Day. I will take one day to celebrate and eat all of my Christmas candy (Ferrero Rocher chocolates, my favorite) and have dim sum from my favorite Chinese lunch place (a little place in Chinatown in New York, called Mei Li Wah - all Chinese customers, menu is entirely in Chinese), and then I will start again.
I will try to lose an additional 10 pounds by Valentines Day (another six weeks, a slightly slower pace). If I can do that, then I will weigh less than at any point in the last 10 years.
If I can do that, then I will try to lose another 16 pounds by my wedding anniversary (June 19). That would mean that I will have lost 51 pounds in total. At that point I will weigh 194 pounds, 19 pounds over my high school weight. More importantly, at that weight and at my height, I will no longer be overweight according to the Body Mass Index, and my risk of weight-related disease will have gone down significantly.
Also, it would be nice to be able to fit into an XL shirt once again (not XXL).
Go David! We look forward to posting pics of you here on June 19!
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