APPROACHING THE SINGULARITY
I could have called it “Weight-Loss Christmas”. I could have called it “Adrian’s Retirement From Dieting”. I could have called it “the Summit of Weight-Loss Mountain”. It’s the moment when you have to Trust the Force, close your eyes, and launch the proton torpedoes and destroy the Death Star—and try not to be destroyed yourself in the process. This last strikes me as very potentially applicable.
I call it the Singularity. It’s the destination. It’s where I’ve been going these past five years. Most of that time my determination, my dedication, has not been as keen as it is now, when that destination looms up in front of me. Five years ago, four years ago, it was way off, beyond the horizon, only visible as a faint blue shadow on the horizon if at all. I said it was my goal, to lose 65 kilograms, but I had little serious expectation of doing it. I thought it much more likely that I would fail in the attempt somehow. That I would make a good attempt, get maybe 20, maybe 30, even 40 kg—but then it would all come thundering back, a deafening, wobbling stampede of kilograms charging back, piling aboard, taking up residence on my back, around my middle, on my arse, my thighs, everywhere.
It nearly happened. Earlier this year, the unthinkable began to occur. Since my hospitalisations last year, I’ve been on Nortriptyline. It’s good for depression, but bad for fat. It’s like standing in a wind tunnel machine, only the machine flings fat at you at high speed, and it sticks, and your weight balloons. And while my mood improved under this drug, my weight piled back on. I was in the fat machine. Part of me, the part with the sweet tooth, with the weak sweet tooth, the part feeling dismayed with the world news and eating to express that dismay, liked being in the fat machine.
I gained back 13 kilograms.
It scared me straight. It scared me so straight I took action the same day I saw that result on the scale, and in due course I lost those 13 kg. An observer might have noted a certain anger around my features as I went about losing those kilograms. That I was not under any circumstances letting that bollocks stand. It’s true. I was furious with myself. I had let myself go. If I had stayed on that track I would have gone back to my original weight in two years. I wasn’t having that. That’s the thing about major, long-term weight-loss. You start thinking in terms of sunk investments. In terms of asset insurance. You want to protect what you’ve worked so hard to achieve. And the further you go, the more you achieve, the more you want to protect it.
You’re Gollum, and your weight-loss is your Precious.
It’s the Singularity because, like the singularities in physics, the dimensionless points of infinite density at the hearts of black holes, it distorts everything around it, including my own reality. It’s the Singularity because, like the mythical Singularity that was thought to be looming ahead of us in the near future as the pace of technological development accelerated to ever faster rates, to the point where mere humans could never keep up with it, that development would become the province of ever-smarter, ever-more-godlike machines—it would distort all of reality as we understand it.
The Singularity I’m heading for is perhaps not quite as grand as this. It’s going to be a pasty, baggy, white middle-aged man in loose undies standing on a set of scales at midday one day about eight weeks from now, and he’s going to feel a little rush of excitement, and he’s going to tell his wife, and he’s going to squeal a bit, and look at that number, and not know quite what to do.
But in his mind, in his heart, this Singularity will be every bit as grand as the technological one. It will be an achievement years in the making. It will be a physical and mental transformation. Not, it must be admitted, all for the good. In his mind, he’s one of those crashed, burned-out old cars stuck up in an old dead tree you see out in the bush sometimes. These last five years, thinking about “the program” all the time, the counting of kilojoules, of laps, of kilograms, of keeping track,of everything eaten, has been exhausting.
As hard as the past four and a half years has been, these particular last five months have been by far the hardest. These have been the time of the emergency “low-food programme”, where I’ve lost, as of this writing, 19 kg in five months (eating around 3500 kilojoules per day). Where I plan to keep at it until Christmas, to complete the project, the remaining eight kilograms.
The unbelievably hard part is the waiting during the long hours of fasting. I call it, sarcastically, “Cruise Mode”, as if it were a glib LA-type diet. But it’s fasting. Twenty-two hours or so of fasting. Of being hungry. News flash: it turns out that feeling really hungry is unpleasant but it won’t kill you. It’s exactly like a headache, but in your stomach. You can have coffee with artificial sweetener, and skim milk. You can have all the water you can drink.
NOTE: I DO NOT recommend this approach to eating. I do it because the programme I had been on had stopped working. My metabolism seemed to have more or less died. People who experience serious weight-loss find that their metabolisms slow to the point that any amount of food makes them gain weight, which is why so many people who lose major weight gain it back. They can’t help it. They reach the point where even breathing seems to make them gain weight.
This prospect is doing my head in.
No, that’s not true, I must confess. The ENTIRE PROJECT is doing my head in. Or, to be even more precise, and harking back to that burned out old hulk up in the tree, it HAS done my head in. By this point I am limping along. I am not romping home in the closing stages of the race. I’m buggered. I’m exhausted, fed up, hungry—I’m always hungry—and can I just say I am really and truly fed up with unasked-for diet advice. Everywhere I go, online and off, when people find out what I’m doing and the unorthodox way I’m doing it, I get advice. I get all kinds of advice. All of it suitable for regular, healthy people with properly working metabolisms and who aren’t taking major psychiatric medications.
I’m only too aware that what I’m doing is not, strictly speaking, all that healthy or advisable. I won’t be writing a diet book advocating the “low-food programme”. There wouldn’t be enough material for such a book. Eat 3500 kilojoules, and fast for 23 continuous hours a day. That’s it. You’re welcome. Bear in mind that the normal human intake per day is 8700 kilojoules. If you’re thinking, “My God, Bedford, you’re starving yourself!” you’re near the mark. I am almost starving. I am eating just enough to keep things ticking over. Most of my required daily kilojoules comes from my own stores of fat, of which I did have plenty, but now there is a lot less. I am being hollowed out. My skin is sagging on me. Where I used to bulge with round rude curves I now drape and droop with crêpey crinkles.
Five years ago, at my original weight of 165.5 embarrassing kilograms, I found myself in hospital for surgery to fix a shattered elbow. After the surgery at one point I needed to have a new cannula installed in my arm, but there was a problem: my pudgy skin made it hard to find my veins. I remember a young female doctor having the worst day of her professional life so far, trying again and again and again to find a vein in various points in the crook of my other elbow, in the back of my hand, and in fact anywhere she could think of, without success. It took ages, hurt like hell, and she was mortified at her lack of skill—and I was mortified at my pudgy skin getting in the way of her skills.
Flash-forward to now, 57 kilograms later. My blood-vessels are pipelines, terrain-features across the backs of my hands, along my arms. They cast shadows. Sometimes I find myself staring at them, turning my hand in the light just so, looking at shadows, thinking about that poor doctor, wishing I could contact her, and tell her how sorry I feel, how ashamed I felt, both at the time and still. How it was that incident that helped drive me on this weight-loss project in the first place. I had had enough of being too big. I had crushed too many chairs, gone sideways through too many doors, been unable to find clothes in my size too many times.
It’s the Singularity because it has consumed me and my whole existence. Nothing in my life is untouched by it. When I reach it, I don’t know what I’ll do, or how I’ll feel. So much of my life has been about getting there, but I don’t know about being there. Or about leaving it behind. Going beyond it. If what I’m doing here is writing a book about this experience, it’s mostly going to be about surviving contact with the Singularity, with your goal, and trying to rebuild your life beyond it. Because my life will be difficult. I can’t just resume eating like regular people. I still have all my food issues. And I still have my broken metabolism. I’ll still be in danger of regaining all the weight. I’m damned if I’m putting all that back on.
I may have to go into orbit around the Singularity. It might not be possible for me to go off into unexplored darkness beyond its comforting light. I might be too damaged. I might also be a moth, attracted to bright lights. I remember, when I was younger, and travelled into the city a lot, there was a big advertising structure next to the Perth Bus Station. It featured all these big signs, lit by floodlights, and at night the bright floodlights would attract hordes of moths, and the moths would go too close to the lights, and would burn. There was always a terrible smell, and smoke as the moths burned. I think about those burning moths. I’m drawn to my Singularity like those moths were to their light. The closer I get the more weight I can lose, the less I’ll weigh, the thinner I’ll be.
I said I was broken. This is what I meant. I am not well inside. I’ve known this for some time. I want to be thin. I don’t want to be a muscle-bound hulk. I want to be just a regular thin guy, normal for my size. But I want it badly. I’ve always wanted it badly, ever since I was a bullied kid getting picked on for being fat. Because clearly the fat was the problem. There were other problems, too (I wasn’t interested in sport, or other manly pursuits), but they were all aspects of fatness. If only I wasn’t fat, see, then everything would be fine.
This is the thought I’ve carried with me since childhood.
But I know it’s bollocks. I could be made of twigs, and bullies would decide I was made of the wrong twigs, or that twigs themselves were stupid. Or that, suddenly, it was cool to be fat for the first time ever.
Because the key point about bullies is there is no reasoning with them. There is no logic. There is no negotiating with them. They are bullies. They are undisciplined power used towards a bad end. Usually a stupid end. To inflict suffering. For no good reason. Suffering for its own sake. Power for its own sake. So saying, if only I wasn’t fat, if only I was thin, is no good.
Being thin has to be a good thing in itself.
It’s good for my health. My joints love it. My heart and lungs love it. I love being able to buy regular clothes. I can run. I’m looking forward to not having the letter X on my clothes labels.
I’m about eight weeks out from the Singularity. I imagine the day I get there will be weird. I imagine I’ll be very excited. Michelle will probably be quite excited. Mum and Dad will probably be more excited than both of us put together. A fair few people on Facebook will be pleased, but I’ll feel extremely self-conscious about making too much fuss about it there because I’m always worried about annoying people, and taking up too much space, and posting happy news when I know other people are suffering, so that I end up kind of folding into myself a bit. So I’ll probably say more over here on my website, both about being pleased to be here at the destination, and about my sense of apprehensiveness about what might be next, that I’ve been so focussed on getting here that I have no plans for the future.
Maybe in the next eight weeks I should get on that!