My Struggle with Gluttony

I use the term “gluttony” on purpose, because it reminds me of the sinful and disobedient nature of my struggle with food. Unfortunately, for too long, I have allowed food (or rather, my own pride and selfishness) to win. I’ve spelled out my struggle in all its sickening detail here so you will help to hold me accountable for dealing with it aggressively.

Most people wouldn’t look at me and say, “Man, what a fat guy.” I look more or less normal in Alabama. The problem, of course, is that Alabama, the South, and the U.S. are full of fat guys and fat women too. At 6’0″, my ideal weight is 158  lb. In my recent adult life I’ve weighed as much as 219 and as little as 170. At 219, I fell just a tad under the level of clinical obesity, not a good place to be for a man who enjoys life and wants to live to torment his grandchildren.

I am a battle-scarred veteran of the diet wars. I have used, at one time or another, at least six different diet regimens. I have tried fasting, Weigh Down, PermaSlim, Sugar Busters, DietPower, and several others. A couple of them actually worked, but then I would lose control and my weight would rise again.

I haven’t actually tracked my gains and losses over the years, but I’m confident that I’ve lost and regained at least 100 pounds. Because of this, my wife and family are sick of my declaring “victory” over my gluttony. I won’t do that again, at least not for a very long time.

All that having been said, however, I am encouraged about an approach I’m using now based on the South Beach Diet. As glitzy and trendy as the name sounds, the South Beach Diet is distinguished, I believe, by the soundness of the science behind it.The author, Dr. Arthur Agatston, is a cardiologist, not a nutritionist. I have no idea how to pronounce “Agatston,” so Amanda and I have taken to calling him “Arthur” for short. He lays out in detail how our typical American diet is loaded with refined sugars. As we eat one of these sugar-laden treats (like, say, the white bread bun of a hamburger or a big bag of fries), we cause a spike in our blood sugar level. This triggers a compensating spurt in insulin. This in turn sends an instruction to our cells to pack in as much fat as possible and causes a precipitous drop in our blood sugar, which will cause us to crave more sugar-laden foods within a couple of hours.

This cycle repeats itself several times in the typical American’s day, leading to deposits of fat around our midsections and an unprecedented nationwide epidemic of diabetes. Arthur’s prescription is to reduce sharply our consumption of foods that are high on the glycemic index, that is, the foods that tend to drive up our blood sugar level quickly.


As I update this on September 9, 2003, I am in the first two weeks of Arthur’s diet, when the reduction in high glycemic foods is most severe. No fruit, no bread or pasta of any kind, no alcohol, and of course no sweets. But plenty of fresh vegetables and moderate amounts of fat from olive oil, nuts, eggs, fish and cheese. Arthur allows moderate amounts of meat and chicken during this initial period, but Amanda and I eat a mostly plant based diet, so we haven’t done that. During the six days I’ve been applying his principles, my weight loss has been immediate and gratifying (5 lb.). It’s remarkable how few cravings I have experienced. Read that, this guy’s on to something.

In about a week, I will begin introducing foods that are healthy but higher on the glycemic index, like fresh fruit, whole wheat bread and pasta, sweet potatoes, and red wine. I will introduce these foods slowly, however, making sure that I identify any cravings so I can limit or eliminate the foods that caused them.

My only goal for the initial two week period is to remain faithful to the discipline. I will let the weight loss take care of itself. My goal after than (when I begin reintroducing healthy foods that are higher on the glycemic index) is to lose about a pound each week until I reach my ideal weight of 158 lb. I don’t want to get in a hurry. I just want to keep making progress.

Please pray for me. This is important for my health, of course, and I would certainly like to look better. Most importantly, however, this struggle with food has taken on a spiritual dimension for me. I’m tired of being a defiant glutton. I will always be a glutton, just as a person who has lost control of his drinking will always be an alcoholic. I just want to stay a recovering glutton. Lord have mercy on me. Christ have mercy on me. Lord have mercy on me.

9/15/03 update. 10 days into the diet. Still remaining faithful to the discipline. I ate too much quantity this weekend, but that’s because the boiled shrimp and grilled vegetables we prepared were just a little too scrumptious. And because Arthur doesn’t prescribe any particular limitations on quantity, I still feel fine about the discipline. Present weight is 184 lb., a loss of nine pounds since I started.

Arthur says one of the main challenges of compliance is persuading people actually to introduce those higher glycemic foods when the two weeks is up, and I know what he means. It’s working, and I’m reluctant to do anything that might stop it from working. Nevertheless, I understand that what I’m doing now is not sustainable as a permanent strategy.

9/20/03 update. 15 days in. Still faithful. Holding at 182.2 pounds. I’ve moved to Phase II, meaning I’m enjoying a glass of red wine at night now and some fresh fruit.

10/26/03 update. Still faithful, but the weight isn’t coming off as fast as I had targeted. My weight this morning was 178.6. As long as it’s heading in the right direction, it’s hard for me to be too concerned. Any time I want to drop the weight faster, I know exactly what I can change (less wine and fruit, fewer treats).

11/13/03 update. I’m at 177. Still moving in the right direction, with remarkably few detours or lapses in discipline. Arthur says that after you use his approach long enough it stops feeling like a diet and begins to feel like a way of life. That’s where I am now, I guess.

1/11/04 update. I’ve fallen off the wagon, wallowed in the mud, and laughed while doing it. I’ve bloated back up to 182.2 as of this morning. I’m having the same post-holiday remorse that everyone else is experiencing. The difference is that I am alone for the next two weeks, so I can implement a diet without having to coordinate it with anyone else. I’m going back on Phase I for a couple of weeks in hopes of cleansing my system and starting over.

4/16/04 update. The dalliance with Phase I in January was just that, a dalliance. I cheated like crazy. I’ve learned, among other things, that it is much easier for me to stay disciplined when my bride is with me. Okay, I got as high as 186.4. Now I’m slowly working my way back down. I was at 182.4 yesterday, and I seem to be moving in the right direction. This is hard work.

2/27/08 update. Yuk. It hurts to write this and acknowledge that I lost it again. I’m at 194.2 today. Having just learned from my doctor that I’m diabetic (my brother Tom calls it “the family curse,” because it affected my father and now three of his four sons). I now have yet another reason to take this physical discipline seriously. I keep saying I want to lose weight, but in those thousands of tough decisions I need to make each day about food, I keep choosing the wrong path.