MEMOIR: THE SINGULARITY (Final, New Postscript)
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 far away, 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’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 one’s 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 accelerates 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.
My Singularity is going to be a pasty, baggy, 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 next.
But in his mind, in his heart, this Singularity will be every bit as grand as the technological one, and every bit as reality-distorting as the physics 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 I’ve 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 program”, 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 program 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.
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 program”. 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.
I may have to go into orbit around the Singularity. It might not be possible for me to go off into the 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’m worried I am not well inside. I’ve been worried about 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. 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 clothing 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, but also tired and perhaps a bit teary. I might stay in bed all day. Michelle will probably be quite excited, but also very glad it’s over. Mum and Dad will probably be more excited than both of us put together. A 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 folding into myself, and being all self-effacing.
The Singularity, up close, distorts the fabric of reality. It makes you believe wrong things. It messes with your head. It’s anxiety. It’s madness. It’s exactly where you’re trying to go, but going there is doing your head in. You can feel it, the noise in your head. The voices in your head are telling you that all the people you know are this close to defriending you on Facebook because of your endless weight-loss posts. Because you never shut up about it. You believe this.
This is my anxiety talking, my voices, my nerves. Mirror Adrian, the guy who lives in the mirror world who is still fat like I used to be, wants me to be fat again, just like him. So just when you might think I would be feeling proud and excited, getting ready for my big moment, maybe even a triumphant moment—I’m not. I’m anxious. I’m worried.
And I’m still eight kilograms out.
POSTSCRIPT: February 2018
Shortly after I reached my target weight on 7 December 2017, after a period in which I was consuming only 2500 kilojoules, I was diagnosed with a form of anorexia nervosa.
Since then I have been meeting with a psychologist specialising in eating disorders and working on a re-feeding program. It has been shocking, truly shocking, to find out how desperately ill I had become—how ill I had made myself—during the low-food program.
I had always thought, during the five years of my weight-loss project, that achieving the goal would be something to celebrate. But I found, when I reached the goal, the Singularity, that while I had indeed lost the weight, I was a shipwreck. I lost the weight, but also my health. My vim and vigour. My spirit. I was grey and haggard, hollow and sunken. Worse, my brain was starved, and barely functioning.
All self-inflicted. Because I had to lose the weight. That drive, that madness.
I still feel it now, calling to me.
I had planned to go skydiving when I reached my target weight. But once I got there, I knew there was nothing to celebrate. I felt awful. I felt like I’d failed at something, that I’d crash-landed. I staggered about, forgetful, vague, unable to concentrate. Miserable, foggy, barely present. All signs of prolonged starvation.
I’m a weight-loss survivor. I think that’s the best I can say right now. I got through it, and lived to tell the tale. One day I may write a book about it. For now, I’m just sorting through the burning wreckage at the crash-site, looking for clues and evidence. Signs and portents. I may have to lose weight again one day. It would be handy to know a better way to do it. Maybe I can learn something from what went wrong this time.