Whopper of a Why

I’ve heard it said, that if your “why” doesn’t make you cry then you’re not hungry enough. What they don’t tell you is that hunger, in the wrong context, will most certainly make you cry--when you realize you cannot stop eating for pleasure.

My life, like many, has been surrounded by the pleasures of the flesh, substances, and gadgets, but it was food that taunted me the most. I overstuffed myself with the pleasures of salty, sugary, and fatty foods to drown out the pain of not living up to my own expectations. Eating had a numbing effect on my emotions. I was an emotional overeater, eating to temporarily feel better about anything and everything. I also became versed in the art of lying to myself. I lied to myself about my appearance, my talents, my dreams, my desires, and I lied to my family about my feelings.

It seemed that I lied every second to myself, just to cope with the consequences of my habit and in that process, I lost myself. I couldn’t communicate effectively with any modicum of honesty. I became irritable, angry, and bitter whenever I was held accountable for my words or actions, especially when I was caught in a lie. Misdirected hunger was ruining my life rapidly.

I’ve always been a bit bigger than most people. I’m 6’ 1” in height and in the Spring of 2013, at age 36, I weighed 264 pounds at my heaviest. Mind you this measurement was taken back when I felt confident enough to stand on a scale, I probably weighed closer to 270, and STILL considered myself healthy because I was vegan (I’ll pause for your laughter)!

Living in Germany as a vegan presents its challenges, due to the vast amounts of sausage and dairy, which parades itself through every element of German culture. If I didn’t prepare a proper plan for what I was going to eat, ahead of time, then when hunger, inevitably came calling, my internal “Jabba the Hut” sounded the alarms to trigger the upcoming feeding frenzy.

Indulging in my lazy humanistic tendencies, I got into the habit of ordering pizza for the family once or twice a week. I was motivated to learn German just so I could communicate to the pizza gatekeepers that we needed sustenance NOW. I called in enough to feed an entire family, then I ordered what the rest of my family wanted. “Hallo! Ich möchte 3 Jumbo Kombinationspizza bitte!” The jumbo pizza measured a respectable 24 inches across for a whopping effect on the brain, stomach, and septic system.

I waddled through the door victoriously carrying enormous pizza pies, literally dripping with cheese, ham, salami, and a couple vegetables. The steaming pizza boxes wafted the rich smell of mozzarella melted over a tangy red sauce, spread on crisp olive-oil soaked crust all throughout the house signaling the family to eat.

Though we were eating mostly vegan, I told myself that this was a well-deserved treat and that if I picked off the salami and ham, I would at least be eating as a vegetarian, so I could probably get away with eating a few more slices. After eating all that pizza, I don’t know if I could have got up physically to “get away” from anything.

The act of eating the pizza could have been better described in a Penthouse Forum: “While chewing the salty, rubbery bolus of the mozzarella, he felt a true release as his neurons wildly ejaculated dopamine upon his brain’s pleasure receptors driving him into an orgiastic frenzy…..” I devoured slice after slice until I developed a lustful relationship with the experience of gorging.

After my family was done, they excused themselves from the table leaving me alone to complete my ritualistic habit. I remember there were many times that I stayed behind to finish what my then 6 year-old-girls, and my wife left behind because--you can’t waste food--right? I ate alone as my heart’s whimpers for mercy were haltingly hushed by the dictatorial demands of my brain.

It can be a blessing and a curse to be in a relationship with a partner that is so supportive of you and your happiness, so much so, that they’ll tolerate most seemingly benign behaviors to keep you happy. Though most meals I ate were vegan, many of the meals I ate were loaded with oils, excess sodium, and sugar, so I would continually overeat. My Michelle, allowed me the ecstatic experiences of caloric overindulgence while telling me that I was still handsome, sexy, and kind.

Though I felt I wasn’t any of those things. As I expanded physically, my self-respect and my soul deteriorated at the same rapid rate. Kindness was the first thing to go. Kindness was a buzzkill because it requires more focus and energy to become self-aware and it can become downright torturous when honesty halts the pleasurable inertia generated through constant indulgence.

Each day I grew heavier of the body and of mind. I was lethargic, low-energy, and grumpy, a lot. My chronic overeating dulled my mind, body, and soul providing the facade I needed in order to live out my daily delusion. Overeating encrypted and smothered my souls’ cries for self-realization, for greatness.

I was irritated and mean. My body was running on highly acidic blood causing inflammation in my muscles and joints. So, I was cranky, in pain, and fat all while telling myself I’m still vegan, it could be a lot worse.

My delusions are as epic as the story of Gilgamesh.

To further highlight hypocrisy, I had been finishing my undergraduate degree in Complementary and Alternative health because I felt it was a great compliment to my massage practice and that I wanted to help people live the healthy plant-based lifestyle. I would ramp myself up and do some juices in the morning, telling myself that a good cleanse was all I needed. I was getting sick of the hypocrisy of eating junk food, while touting the importance of becoming vegan, so I began drinking more green juices and consuming more whole vegetable options. Still, I wasn’t progressing fast enough. I was still fat, grumpy, cranky, AND hungry!

During my time, in Germany, I’ve guzzled food through all types of stresses and worries when trying to numb my mind. I’ve spent a lot of time at home searching the internet for anything and everything in order to avoid the protests organized within my heart. I ate to squelch fears of the Illuminati, chowed down in order to make peace with chemtrails, feasting for the arrival of Aliens, and polished off plates for big brother.

The pattern here is that I was getting sucked into a vicious cycle of fear. When afraid, I started inhaling more calories, then I began lying to myself about my clothes getting tighter, then I became more and more irritated with my appearance and my family. Physically, I was experiencing changes.

I was developing a nice set of man tits. They coned out to a point which no size shirt could conceal. The constant sitting, all but permanently, flattened my ass, making the upper half of my body completely disproportionate to my legs. My torso thickened so much that it looked as if my head shrunk in comparison. I distanced myself emotionally from my family because I hated the way I looked, and I really hated what I’d become.

There is nothing attractive about hate. There is no peace when you hate. Even when I cast myself from everyone and everything that loved, I was never fully at peace. Building peace doesn’t just happen. It takes work. I had to develop a “habitual ritual” to get myself up and out of the abyss. I needed motivation.

Eventually, the haze of over-consumption cleared a small window allowing me to slowly wake from my ego-induced coma long enough to find that motivation. The cause of this small window is seen in a picture we took at Neuschwanstein Castle that summer. It was a long walk up to the castle where I was horribly gassed (out of breath) trying to smile next to my wife where she brightly donned a healthy smile.

I noticed the changes in my wife’s appearance as well as her energy levels. She was shaping up in a hurry, shrinking out of her clothes and donning an even brighter glow, wherever she went. Besides controlling her portions, she was doing something different than me. The difference was yoga.

She did it every damn day, and each day I would give myself grief for not participating. The guilt built and built until I could no longer deny the gravitational pull of my current shape.

Goodness, it’s hard to begin again. To stretch was agony on my rusty joints and breathing was restricted due to the massive amounts of adipose tissue lazily lying on my lungs, loitering like a rebellious teenager. It must have been more difficult for my wife to endure my chronic complaining and meddling mopery then it was to watch me try to participate in an hour of yoga.

Yoga asana was such a mental battle for my gluttonous ego, killing off parts of my psyche that had no place among my new, respectful realizations of self. Slowly, but ever surely, I conceded that yoga was making me stronger with each passing session.

I’m still aware of the struggle with overeating and my tendencies, so in my wisdom decided to become better educated in order to master my hunger. I found a profession that was growing fast which garnered my close attention and curiosity--health and wellness coaching. Coaching requires that you be a life-long learner to continually grow as a professional. I loved the fact that I could continue my love of learning into a field where I could help people realize their power in order to save valuable time and energy.

Coaching is a results-driven process where you are held accountable to your goals. Life is short and our list of “to-dos” is impossibly long, so make haste towards your dreams, or else they could evaporate as fast as the pizza once did in my presence.

What I’ve picked up in my education is the value of persistence, sincerity, and awareness. Through the fine-tuning of my diet to a whole foods plant-based model, staunchly limiting salt, sugar, and oil, practicing yoga and meditation daily, and the loving support of my family, I am 70 pounds lighter. I enjoy greater reserves of energy and massive increases in virility which are needed to keep up with my superstar wife who also lost a massive amount of weight through yoga and plants.

I am still hungry, though the hunger has shifted from over-indulgence in food to the hunger to help people going through similar frustrations. I am trying to become as transparent as possible by sharing this old folly of mine to help illuminate your own realization that we all have the capacity to artfully seduce our pain towards a loving transformation for the good of ourselves, our families, and our friends. I will continue to redirect my hunger towards the inherent good of my fellow human.

Maybe I’ll cook for you one day. Ever had plant-based pizza?

Shine the light of your intention upon the path where the darkness of fear once reigned. A walk through the unknown of a dark forest isn’t nearly as spooky when you carry the light.

Spencer Harber, M.A., RYT, MT