When I was a young girl, my class was assigned a book to read called "Flowers for Algernon." It was a story about a mentally disabled man named Charlie, who had an IQ of 68 and went to a special school for "Retarded Adults." Somehow, he was chosen to take part in a research project where he would have surgery to improve his intelligence. The experimental procedure had been tried on a little white lab mouse named Algernon, who had become super-intelligent as a result.
After the surgery, Charlie's IQ gradually increases to 185. The story is written as if from Charlie's own pen, and you can see the improvements in his spelling, grammar, and thought processes as time goes by. His awareness increases; while he used to not notice people making fun of his disability and used to laugh along with them, now he understands the jabs and is hurt by the way he was treated. He sees the whole world with new eyes. His entire life has changed.
But then, sadly, Algernon starts becoming confused. He can no longer do complicated mazes with amazing speed. The little white mouse starts to regress and become less intelligent, until finally he is as "stupid" as he ever was, and died. Charlie, still a genius, now understands that his gain in intelligence is temporary. And he is absolutely pained by the thought that he is about to return to the mental state he was in prior to the surgery. He does, in fact, regress. But he remembers how he used to be. He has new insights that pain him, even though his IQ drops back to the "mentally retarded" category.
Why am I retelling this story? Because I feel like there is a parallel to losing weight. I feel, sometimes, like before I lost 100 pounds, I really had no idea what I was missing. I just went along, living my life as it was, doing the best I could, thinking it was fine. And then I dropped those pounds, and as they were shed I gradually began to understand exactly what I had done to myself... what I *could* have... how life *can* be. It was like the scales had fallen from my eyes. Blinders were off. Wow, is this *really* what life can be like? I am free, I can move, I can do so many more things than I could ever do before. People treat me differently. My brain actually feels clearer. My life is so much richer. I have so many more opportunities that I did not have when I was 100 pounds heavier: I can ride a horse, go on amusement park rides, ride a bike. I can roller skate, walk for miles, fit in booths. I can go in a rowboat or canoe, play soccer with my kids, sit in lightweight lawn chairs. I have more job opportunities, I can buckle any seat belt, and shop in the regular clothing department. It is a whole new world.
I admit that over the past few months, there have been times of great struggle. Instead of awareness, some days I'd revert back to old habits of mindless eating and even binges. Sometimes I have gone for days or even a whole week just ignoring my body and eating stuff that I *used* to eat in the manner I used to eat it. And I'd gain weight. And I'd think of Algernon, and Charlie.
It would be easy to slip back, I think. Scarily easy. Blacking out the new awareness I have, going back to old ways, and I could go back to the state I used to be in... forgetting the new life I once had, the opportunities slipping away through my fingertips. I could be the 278 pound woman in black stretch pants and a stained 3X tee shirt sitting on my couch all day eating Doritos and Little Debbie cakes. I could. If I let it happen.
I don't want to go back, and the thought is frightening. But unlike Charlie and Algernon, I have a choice. The regression is not inevitable. I *can* stay aware and in control. I *can* keep the new life I have found. It is completely up to me.
And I am choosing to keep it.
Food on the Brain
1 day ago