Sundae Slide

December 19, 2011

Remember the ’80s Nickelodeon game show “Double Dare”? I remember watching it at my best friend Sean’s house when I was a kid – he was also my next door neighbor, and his family got cable television a few years before mine. I used to dream about being a “Double Dare” contestant with Sean (contestants were in teams of two) and winning the game, giving us the chance to run the messy, ridiculous, awesome obstacle course at the end of each show.

One of the obstacles was called the Sundae Slide. First you had to climb up a slide that was covered in pudding, then slide down a different slide into a different pile of pudding. Climbing that first slide was one of the hardest stunts on the obstacle course, and it would often make or break the team: if the contestant did well on the Sundae Slide, they had a fair chance of winning the whole thing, but if the contestant stumbled, it was very hard to recover.

Agile and physically fit contestants would straddle the slide, only letting their feet touch the sides of it, and scamper up it like a monkey. They’d avoid touching the pudding altogether, because they knew that pudding + shoes = a loss of all traction. This will jog your memory – The kid at the 15-second mark in this video really struggles going up the slide, but the kid at the 1:55 mark handles it like a pro:

Watching “Double Dare” was a treat, since I couldn’t watch it at my own house, and my dream of being a contestant would keep me up at night: I could win awesome prizes like Casio keyboards, a year’s supply of gum, or (gulp!) a trip to Space Camp! I could take part in sloppy physical challenges that involved vats of whipped cream and picking giant plastic noses! I could be on TV!


Me and Sean in middle school, a few years after my "Double Dare" dreams. I have no idea what I'm doing in this photo.

There was one big problem in my dream of fame and fortune that I needed to solve, though: the team that got to run the obstacle course would alternate through the tasks, and I needed to ensure that Sean would be the one who did the Sundae Slide. This was top priority. The thought of myself, the chubby kid, on the Sundae Slide quickly turned my dream into a nightmare. I knew – I just knew – that I wouldn’t be able to get up that goddamn pudding-covered slide. I knew – I just knew – that the entire 60-second time limit would evaporate as I struggled under my own weight. I knew – I just knew – that the scampering monkey technique was beyond my physical abilities. I knew – I just knew – that I’d end up looking like a weak, pudding-covered fool. I really wanted to go on “Double Dare,” but I didn’t want to humiliate myself in the process. And I certainly didn’t want to be blamed for Sean not winning a Walkman or a pair of rollerblades. The Sundae Slide, simply put, terrified me.

So I developed strategies. If Sean and I somehow got picked to be contestants (which would be a miracle, since I never bothered to learn where the show was taped or how kids got on the show), then I’d be prepared.

  • Plan 1 would be to get Sean psyched for the Sundae Slide, as if we’d already discussed that he’d be the one doing it. I’d start the second we learned we were going on the show: “Sean, you’re going to kill it on the Sundae Slide!” “Sean, aren’t you excited about the Sundae Slide?” I was ready to convince Sean that we had already discussed how he’d do the Sundae Slide, and that he must have forgotten our conversation. Sean’s no dummy, so I’d have to be careful with the mind trickery, but it was worth a shot.
  • Plan 2, to be implemented simultaneously as Plan 1, would be praying daily to God that the Sundae Slide would be broken the day our episode taped. I went to Sunday school and church nearly every week from first through eighth grade, so I could even reinforce my daily prayers with major Sunday prayers.
  • Plan 3 would be to avoid committing to who would go first on the obstacle course until we were in the studio, and the obstacle course was set up, right there in front of us. Then, and only then, would I start insisting on going first or second, whichever meant not doing the Sundae Slide.

Of course, none of these plans were ever actually needed, because I was never a contestant on “Double Dare.” I’m not sure I ever even shared my “Double Dare” dream with Sean, come to think of it.

Last night, I had dinner with a bunch of friends, some of whom I went kayaking with in August. It was a lovely meal and a great time, and on the drive home my mind started wandering. I started thinking about that kayak trip, and how, for most of my adult life, kayaking was out of the realm of possibility for me, a man hundreds of pounds overweight. But thanks to a helluva lot of hard work and determination, I’m changed my life, and now kayaking is possible (and fun!). I don’t remember how I mentally leaped from kayaking to “Double Dare”-related memories, but I had a nice little epiphany, and it’s this: I’m no longer scared of the Sundae Slide. In fact, I’d love to give it a whirl!

So who has a time machine, or access to playground equipment, dozens of pounds of pudding, and a direct line to “Double Dare” host Marc Summers? I need someone to help with the logistics, because I just want to sit back for a little while longer and enjoy the reminder that it’s not just about the number on the scale: my weight loss is, quite literally, rewriting my dreams.

Keep it up, David!

Gain. Purge.

March 30, 2011

I woke up today, and this happened:

It’s the first time that I’ve ever gained weight in the 14 months since I started this whole shebang, and I really, really hate that my chart now has a line that’s going up.  I really hate it. But it’s there.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been in a funk about it all day.  Perhaps it’s silly (it probably is), because it’s just a pound, but my mind hasn’t wandered from that pound, and what it represents, all day.  I can predict what some of you are thinking: don’t be so hard on yourself… it’s just a pound… everyone stumbles… you’ll rebound… look at what you’ve accomplished… what the fuck is wrong with you that you’re so depressed so quickly after working so hard to rid yourself of the last depression? Didn’t you see the dozens of amazingly positive and supportive comments from your post on Sunday?

Yes, I’ve seen them, and today I re-read them, and yes, they help.  One of the things I battle regularly is the feeling that I’m alone in all this, even though I know I’m not, and your comments do wonders as ammunition in that battle.  And yet.

The photos above show the Gain I refer to in this post’s title.  Now for the Purge.

Don’t worry, it’s not that kind of purge.

I’m going to spill all of it.  I’m going to articulate exactly the thoughts that keep returning throughout the day.  They’re what I want to purge out of my system.  Maybe, once I get them out of my head and into the universe, I’ll be better equipped to just move on.  It’s worth a shot.

Take a deep breath, David.

Generally speaking, I’ve been feeling a little defeated lately.  Some of it, I think, is residual frustration from my recent month-long plateau, but a lot of it stems from a notion that’s really sunk in and grabbed hold lately – the notion that this really will be a life-long struggle; that despite my accomplishments this will never be easy; that I’ll never be able to really let my guard down.  Then, when I have days where I lose control, as I’ve had the past two Sundays, I start thinking about how close I must be to losing my footing altogether, and starting down a slippery slope that leads to me gaining back 165 164 pounds in a matter of days or weeks.

Yes, I’m aware I’m extrapolating to an end that, according to the laws of science, just isn’t possible, but I go there because that’s the theme of a recurring nightmare that I have.  Every few months or so, I wake up in the middle of the night from a dream about how, without notice, I’ve gained back every pound I’ve lost, and everything becomes excruciatingly difficult: None of my clothes fit.  The seatbelt doesn’t reach across my waist.  People point, shake their heads, laugh, and walk away.  These dreams terrify me.

It’s an completely unreasonable fear.  I know that.  But they’re the dream-world version of another fear: that a time will come when I won’t be able to keep it up. That my success has an expiration date, and once that passes, my willpower and resolve will evaporate.  My pride will disappear.  And the pounds will return, and unpack their suitcases, and settle back onto my body with no intention of ever leaving again.

I know I have to be in this for the long haul.  My weight has been a life-long issue so far, and it will continue to be.  There’s no way around it.  I think about the decades still in front of me, and reflect on how hard I’ve worked over the past year, and wonder, despite the new habits, if I’ll have the stamina to keep it up for 40 or 50 more years.

I hate where my mind goes next.  I caught myself twice on Sunday, and once earlier today, wondering: Am I worth it?  Am I worth staying on top of the ball for the years and years to come? I know the answer.  Of course I am.  No doubt about it.  But then why do I ask myself that question?  How does it even come up?  Why is it that despite all the good I’ve done, despite all the changes I’ve made, despite all the hard work that’s been paying off in spades, despite all of it, I still think like I used to think during the darkest days of my life? I don’t want to be terrified of my own mind, but in the past few days, I have been.  It’s the worst feeling in the world.

So when I lost control for an hour the other day, and found myself next to an empty box of Corn Pops, I didn’t think of it as a minor slip-up.  When I stepped on the scale this morning and saw that 1-pound gain,  I didn’t think it’s some small obstacle I could easily overcome.  My mind, instead, races way past ‘minor slip-up’ and ‘small obstacle,’ and settles quickly on ‘this is major, because now you’re so much closer to being back at square one, and you’ll never regain this momentum.  You’ll never be this successful again.  You’re inches away from returning to that place where you’ve spent years before, that place where you’ve come to terms and accepted the fact that you were meant to be obese and unhappy, with a life that’s ultimately unfulfilling, and, in all likelihood, solitary and short.’

I wish the stakes weren’t so high, but they are.  This is my life.

Earlier this evening, I talked through a lot of these feelings with my sister, and it was very helpful.  During the phone call, she said the one single thing that made me smile more than anything else today:  “You’re right, David, it will be a life-long struggle.  It’s going to be a life-long struggle for all of us.  It’s in our genes, and that’s just the way it is.  We all inherited weight genes, and depression genes, but hey – at least there aren’t any stupid genes that got passed down.  It could be worse – we could be stupid!”

She has a point.  This would all be a lot tougher if I were dumb.

I’m done purging now.  It’s 1:30 am, and I need to go to bed.  My immediate gut reaction is that I do feel better, so maybe this whole exercise was a fruitful one.  I’ll let you know how I feel tomorrow.  And, in the meantime, I’ll focus on some good things:  1) Today I ate really well.  2) Today I had a wonderfully brutal workout at my boot camp class.  3) Tomorrow I plan on eating well and have a great workout planned.

Look at that! Three reasons, right there, to say…

Keep it up, David!