Week 27 – No Flowers for Algernon

July 15, 2011

This week’s weigh-in: 183 lbs

Weight loss to date:  53 lbs 

To goal:  13lbs 

I was a bad boy last weekend.  A very bad boy.

Bachelor party in Montreal.  Great time, lots of beer, little sleep, and whenever I had an opportunity to make the right food choice, I almost always made the wrong one.  I made some interesting ones, too.  Rudolph burgers (Caribou with gruyere, bacon and caramelized onions) anyone?  The result was four more pounds on Monday. Through hard work, some extra workouts in the pool on my “off” days and sticking with my nutrition plan, I was able to shed it all and get back to my pre-Montreal weight.

I think the Bachelor intentionally planned this.  One of the running jokes of the wedding planning is when I go in to get fitted for the tux.  The answer:  the last possible day to get fitted before they charge the rush service fee.  Didn’t want to get fitted so early that the suit would arrive too big of course.  The folks at Moore’s downtown Bank St. location were smart.  Since I haven’t been the same size in any two visits this year, they actually ordered me two jackets – the one I was measured for and the next size down.  Sure enough, the smaller one fit best.  I’m going to look good tomorrow.

I knew this would happen and I have only myself to blame.  Like Commencement weekend, I planned ahead but failed to execute those plans. Again, I brought protein bars to snack on, but didn’t bring them with me when I went out.  They’re pretty useless when you leave them in a hotel room.

Weeks like this make me realize how fragile and reversible my progress still is.  It reminds me of the short story Flowers for Algernon.  Its the story of a mentally challenged man, Charlie, selected for an operation that will make him smart.  It’s told through the point of view of his progress reports, or journals.

Sound familiar?  Yeah, thought so too.

And before you ask, yes, this was inspiration for the episode of the Simpsons where they remove a crayon from Homer’s brain and he becomes a genius.

For those that like movie adaptions over books and satirical cartoons, the 1969 film Charly with Cliff Robertson is absolutely heartbreaking to watch (unrelated fact:  Cliff Robertson owns a summer home in Cape Breton.  I met him in the Sydney airport when I was 14.  Besides being “Uncle Ben” in the Sam Raimi-directed Spiderman movies, he co-starred with William Holden in one of my favourite WWII films, the Devil’s Brigade. Anyone besides me catch the reference in Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards?).

You see Robertson’s Charlie go from a mentally challenged student working hard at night school to “be like the normal people” to becoming a genius with an IQ of 185.  Of course, if it was all good news, it would probably be a Lifetime movie of the week and not an Oscar winning film.  His co-workers at the bakery become scared of him and conspire to have him fired.  He finds it impossible to connect with people of average intelligence and maintain a meaningful relationship.  He becomes so intelligent he joins the researchers on his case and discovers a flaw in the same procedure that made him smart and realizes he will eventually regress to his former state.   It is made all the more real when he observes the regression of the lab rat the procedure was perfected on, Algernon.  Algernon’s behaviour becomes erratic, his test scores decline, and he eventually dies.  As he declines, he becomes frustrated with the memories of what he briefly was and checks into a hospital for the mentally challenged where no one knows him.  His last journal asks the scientists to put flowers on Algernon’s grave.

I was thinking about Algernon recently.  I first read it in a grade school English reader. Pretty sure it was ninth grade.  One of the few stories worth remembering from those books.  I’m seeing it in a different light these days.  It speaks to one of my fears with this journey:  relapsing.

The reason why I’m afraid of relapsing is that I know it can happen because I did it before.  You’ll remember from earlier entries that starting in September 2004, when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I went on an exercise jag until I left Washington, DC, and went from 244 lbs to around 180.  Then I went off to grad school in the land of milk and honey … and soul rolls … and Five Guys. The PhD student life is a rather sedentary one.  Coupled with bad eating habits from irregular class schedules, and you have pretty good chance of packing on the pounds.  In the five years between when I started and when I finished, every pound I lost returned.

Temptation, like death, stalks us all. One of my stalkers from DC, Five Guys, is coming to Ottawa.  Their website lists a Greenback Rd in Nepean location and another in Kanata as “coming soon”.  So glad I don’t have a car.  For those who don’t know the geography of Ottawa, I live downtown.  Nepean and Kanata are the suburbs.  For my DC readers, think Rockville and Glenmont.  If I want to go to Ikea and Home Depot, I go to Nepean and Kanata.  I ask friends with cars to take me (and promise the Ikea breakfast or the Home Depot hotdog) so I don’t lose half a day on the bus.  Five Guys might as well be in Timbuktu.  They’ll make it downtown eventually.  They’re like a Doctor Who villian stalking me across time and space.

It would be a tragedy not unlike Charie’s to get to my goal only to regress back to a fatty.  I’ve been enjoying the benefits of my increased fitness for some time and I can’t wait to reach my goal.  The reason I’m looking forward to reaching my goal is so I can start weight maintenance and learn how to keep this off before I my current sessions with my personal trainer are used up.  I won’t be going back to old habits this time.  Though it will be nice to sleep in … until 6.

In the end, I’m probably worrying too much.  I won’t relapse for the same reason I don’t have to worry about Charlie’s other problem:  alienating himself from those around him or, in colloquial parlance, becoming a jerk.  Some might argue I was already there when I was a fatty.

The real reason I don’t have to worry is because I have you.  The same way you call me on my bullshit and keep me down to earth, I know you’ll keep me in line on the post-training food choices.  You are a great support and I wouldn’t be here without you.


PS – After the weekend wedding festivities have concluded, I’m on a plane to New Brunswick and then on to Cape Breton.  The only wifi hotspot at the campground across the street is rather tenuous, so no update next week.


One response

  1. […] Remember, no Algernons here. […]

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