So today I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my entire life.
Not so long ago, I was waxing euphoric about never dieting again, all hyped up on Dr. Shapiro’s Picutre Perfect weight loss plan. He pulls a good trick, putting attractive platters of healthy alternatives opposite stingy servings of delicious, fatty, greasy food. “These contain the same calories,” he purrs. “Which would you rather have — half a cup of ice cream, or thirty cups of frozen yogurt with six cups of fruit?”
I say: Shut up and let me pull that whole gallon tub of Ben and Jerry’s over my head. You see, my problem is that I’ve always been an out-of-the-box thinker, and Shapiro’s either-or fantasies don’t fool me. I’m far too aware of my options.
My aptitude for eating frustrates me. Today, I ate a big breakfast. Before lunch, I wanted to see if the four-cheese chips Clyde bought at Sam’s were as good as they looked. After one chip, I knew these chips couldn’t deliver on their promise of delectable cheesiness … but I ate a few more … okay, a dozen more … okay, maybe twenty more … just to be sure my initial assessment was correct. (It was. They’re gross.)
At lunch, we re-heated pizza left over from the night before. After a slice or two, I was full — left-overs never really appeal to me. But I ate another slice or two … okay, three … because it’s just a shame to waste all that food.
We sneaked off to to theatre to see Chicago today. I wasn’t hungry in the least, so, instead of getting a large popcorn, I just ate a medium.
Tonight, we were slated to go to dinner at Ecco, a local high-dollar Italian restaurant, with friends. Just in case the food was bad, I had a snack — most of the rest of a bag of cocoa Oreos.
At Ecco, we paid forty dollars a head for a mediocre plate of pasta. I suggested the chef should make my Sicilian Penne spicy — he decided to make it a contest of wills, adding way too much pepper. I ate it — all of it — any way. I was full when the meal was over, but I still ordered tiramisu. (Unremarkable. So I ate all of it, of course.)
Later, we went home with our friends. A bit tipsy, our host burned the cookies. I ate two anyway.
I feel like one of those alcoholics you see in movies — the sort who lurks around after a party is over, polishing off other guest’s drinks. I’m out of control, you see … I just can’t stop myself. There’s this pressure to consume, to process food, to keep eating long after I’m satisfied … and long after I’m full.
How long, then, before I reach maximum density and, like some gravid stellar phenomenon and collapse inward under my own weight?
So tonight, I finally do what I said I wouldn’t do: I go to a doctor friend and request the prescription for Topamax.
Topamax is an anti-seizure drug, most often prescribed to stop a specific kind of epileptic episode. An interesting side-effect: patients lost weight. Lots of it. Much of the weight loss is apparently linked to a loss of interest in food.
Scary stories about Topamax abound. Johnson and Johnson started a clinical trial of Topamax as a weight-loss drug; they discontinued it when patients reported a number of negative side effects: tingling sensations, fatigue, sleeplessness, memory problems, and, in twenty-three cases, glaucoma. [Story here.]
For me, as a writer, the most frightening side-effect by far is what some patients describe as a “loss of word-finding ability.” Message boards are packed with patients who complain that, while on Topamax, their conversations just trail off into nothing. They reach for words, but can’t find them. They find themselves making — and missing — spelling and grammar errors they would never make under normal circumstances.
Other complain about Topamax’s mellowing effect, describing not unpleasant days spent drifting … just drifting … and getting almost nothing done at all.
So I’m a little scared. But, in the end, I’m even more scared of where my weight gain is taking me: the high blood pressure, the heart issues, the increasing discomfort, the feeling that I’m out of control.
So tonight, I fill my prescription at Eckerd’s, split the first little pill in two, and wash it down with lots of water. (Topamax dehydrates you; while taking it, you must drink ten big glasses of water a day.)
And so … it begins.
Want to read more? See part two of six here.