Being alone since the beginning of July gave me the unique opportunity to undertake a special project beyond Tess’ list. I have been on a special diet. Pictured in this paragraph is The Old Charles - what I looked like just prior to going on the diet on July 15th. In fact, I looked worse since I had quarterly business meetings the week leading up to July 15th that always require lots eating due to the business lunches and dinners. These pictures were taken at the end of June.
Let me tell you how The Old Charles took shape. Back in February 2004, the weekend Tess was in the hospital with Pre Term Labour I turned to comfort food. A firm believer in “doing the basics” when one is under stress, one night after saying good night to Tess I drove to the grocery store to pick-up some necessities. Both Tess and I were under tremendous stress throughout that emotional rollercoaster weekend - the ride lasted for months. I thought I made this infamous late night trip the day the triplets were born at 26 weeks two days gestation. But writings of the time suggest it took place one or two evenings earlier. No matter, I was stressed out and turned to comfort food: my favourite white wine and Vintage Tasty Cheese.
Up until that point I had been loosely disciplined at managing my weight. Regular exercise was a challenge, and I managed to keep myself in the 202 to 205 lb range. Cheese was a major “no no” for two reasons. First, cheese causes my weight to increase. Second, cheese in excess often goes straight to the arteries… something I would like to keep clear to lead a long and happy life. On the other hand, I LOVE cheese – its consumption is a great comfort especially when accompanied by a glass of lovely white chardonnay.
Over the course of the next 17 months my weight swung like crazy. The various stressors always had me fall off the wagon if I attempted any diet, no matter how basic or simple. Dieting required emotional and physical energy that Charles just did not have due to the combined pressures of work and the triplets’ health. When Tess and I agreed that she and the kids would spend nine weeks in Canada this summer, I knew there was one silver lining in the dark cloud of being alone… I could draw a new line of demarcation in the sand to get back on course. And friends, family, that’s what I did. I started planning for this diet as far back as February!
I have followed this diet before but never to this level of intensity or duration. The diet, the name of which I will VERY reluctantly reveal to some people who ask, is controversial and potentially dangerous if managed poorly. The diet experts even suggest not attempting a diet of this duration unless having previously completed shorter successful attempts. I had that experience twice (12 and 19 days) and decided to push the diet to new limits: I was officially on the diet for 28 days with a seven day taper down period. I have half a day left in the taper down period for a total diet duration of 35.5 days.
I had a naturopathic mentor with lots of holistic dieting experience who coached me. Eddie watched my well being and progress weekly, offering input and advice when he thought I might be getting off course. (At one point he suspected I was not drinking enough water. As simple as that sounds, it potentially added to the diet’s danger so we fixed that!)
This holistic diet is known for its powerful detoxification. At Days 2 to 4 people usually experience headaches and nausea so powerful it causes program abandonment. I experienced that on the 12 and 19 day programs but interestingly enough I never experienced headaches this time around. Leading up to July 15th I throttled back on both alcohol and coffee intake knowing the headaches could cripple my plans. Yes, 35.5 days has required extraordinary commitment and discipline. I had two business trips during that time and multiple business meetings in Hong Kong that had to be managed around lunch. Moreover, I was very discrete about this diet, often meeting friends without telling people about my program. Even my HR Team skipped my birthday lunch (it’s promised to me in September). Yes, this regime was challenging but looking back it was much easier than the other shorter attempts at the same diet. Why was that?
I turned to God. Multiple times per day I prayed to God. I asked Him to help me achieve my dieting and detoxification goals. I, in turn, turned the diet into a spiritual adventure – a testimony to the power of prayer and faith. I took each day one day at a time. I praised God constantly for my success. I prayed when my commitment began to waiver. I prayed to fight off spiritual attacks, of which there were many. In return God rewarded me with an extraordinary journey… I learned about the habitual ways I eat food such as instinctively searching for salty cashew nuts whenever I walk into a hotel room. That stopped. (Okay in the taper down period this week I gave myself a small reward but only once!) I had insights about my eating behaviors and patterns. I saw how easily I turn to food for comfort when there are other ways of alleviating stress. Like prayer and exercise! I grew professionally. I achieved new levels of productivity at work as I managed my irritability towards the strict diet. Today, as I am about to take a week vacation, I see myself operating at a whole new level of maturity in my job as the company scales and grows even more.
Midway through the diet I discovered The Alpha Course was asking people to participate in a month long prayer program in preparation for a major September campaign. I picked up one of the booklets and joined the prayer team... coincidentally, or not (!), the first ten days recommended fasting! Hmmm... cool, I was already doing that!
I exercised regularly – a critical aspect of the program to insure I burned off fat floating through my system as opposed to having it park somewhere else in my body - like my arteries! (A colleague of mine did a similar diet years ago and, according to his doctor, it triggered a heart attack. Now you know why I am so reluctant to tell people the name of this diet!) Exercising was HARD. I had little energy compared to my normal diet. One day I hiked to one of the tallest mountains in Hong Kong – that required a lot of prayer. God got me through, safely, and I felt fantastic at the end of the 3.5 hour hike. Wow! I learned about myself spiritually, too, that my prayers work and God is listening. I became bold in my conversations with God. I felt God and His grace working within me. I felt joy - joy robbed of me by the stress and circumstances of the last 18 months. I am excited and can’t wait to see my fantastic family! Got Joy, folks!
Now, on the eve of the last half day of the taper off period I am about to climb onto a Cathay Pacific plane back to Canada. No one back in Canada knows about this diet, although Tess certainly suspects I am up to something. (I think the two helpers who remained in Hong Kong - Mila & De - let the cat out of the bag just like Mila accidentally let me know about Sela’s and Carys’ walking. (That was supposed to be a surprise.) I feel terrific and highly motivated to maintain my current weight through proper eating and exercising. I have agreed to join a corporate team to run the Macau Half Marathon in December and plan to follow the South Beach diet upon my return from Canada. I can eat cheese in moderation again. I believe in the power of prayer.
THE RESULTS? The night I started the diet on July 15th I weighed in at a whopping 217 lbs. Nothing fit me… and you know what, nothing does now, but for very different reasons! Friends, family, in October 1993 I completed the Victoria Marathon in Canada. My pre-marathon weight going into the race, after five months of training was 183.5 lbs. I am below that weight. Today, at time of writing, I weigh 182 lbs. Ladies and gentleman I am proud to introduce The New Charles - motivated, slim, spiritual, and committed to health and well being. Below is a picture taken six days ago in Bangalore. Yours truly is even slimmer now at the end of the taper down period.
I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came - arising I know not from where - the current which I dare to call my life. ~ Teilhard de Chardin
"But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Luke 6, Verses 17-18.
And reward He certainly did. Praise be to God.