By: Conor Bezane
I used to be rail thin. Skinny jeans and all. Ironically, since getting sober seven years ago, I’ve developed what might be mistaken for a beer gut. It’s not drastic, but I have definitely changed from a small to a medium shirt thanks to my potbelly. At 5’7”, I weigh 174 pounds, which is considered overweight by body-mass-index standards. It was a rude awakening when I recently had to check the box for “a little extra” on the dating site OK Cupid.
Nearly two-thirds of American adults are overweight: more than 70 percent of men and 61 percent of women. Nearly one-third are considered obese.
According to Psych Central, 35 percent of us bipolar individuals are obese, making up a larger population compared to other psychiatric conditions. That puts us at an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
It’s a bummer that I’ve changed t-shirt size because I collect band Ts and am no longer able to wear my Foo Fighters, David Bowie, or Joy Division t-shirts. They rise up, exposing my mid-section.
And that manic suit I often refer to — the pinstripe Paul Smith I bought for $1,600 in the Great Major Manic Episode of 2008 — no longer fits, particularly the pants. I hope I don’t need to go to a wedding anytime soon, since I won’t have anything to wear.
To be honest, my diet isn’t the greatest. I subsist mainly on bananas, takeout Chinese, chocolate (a not-so-healthy cross-addiction), pasta, and pizza, and I don’t eat nearly enough vegetables. I’ve eliminated sugar from my coffee, using Splenda now instead of white granulated sugar, which I used to pile high in my coffee cup, so that’s a start. Consumption of and addiction to sugar are very real problems for me — sugary drinks being one of the unhealthiest offenders. I should cut out my daily afternoon pick-me-up of sweetened iced coffee.
As a single bachelor, it’s easy to eat whatever I want, whenever I want it. If I had a partner, I would cook for us and have a better diet. But cooking for one isn’t easy or fun for me.
In many of the bipolar Facebook groups I’m involved in, posters often bemoan the side effects of medication, particularly the mood stabilizer Seroquel and the antipsychotic Zyprexa. They deplore the weight-gain factor and increase in appetite.
Metabolism can be negatively affected because of meds like these. Hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline cause variations in metabolism. They also affect blood sugar levels.
I take Seroquel, which may cause me to snack more often than I would had I not been on it.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and have the munchies. When I’m at my worst, I order freshly baked yum-yums from Insomnia Cookies, an all-night delivery service that caters mostly to college students. The still-warm cookies arrive in a cute mini pizza box, the aroma immediately permeating my entire apartment.
I seriously need to go on a diet, a venture that has taken a backseat to quitting smoking. I’ve smoked a pack a day for nearly 20 years and my psychiatrist and I decided it was more important for me to focus on quitting and then deal with my weight gain.
Then there’s the matter of exercise. I love walking and I do a lot of it, but not much else. Biking on Lake Michigan had been a favorite childhood pastime, but now, I can count on one hand the number of times I went for a bike ride on the lake this summer.
I have a yoga ball, purchased at my mom’s urging, and I had planned to perform 75 sit-ups a day when I got it last winter. That regimen petered out after only a couple of months.
When I was manic, I exercised almost daily and took advantage of the free gym in my Brooklyn apartment building. M.I.A.’s album Kala was my go-to soundtrack for workouts. Once I get back on the fitness track, I’m hoping to use music as a motivator once again, as many of us do. I’ve already started making meticulously crafted mixtapes to be the soundtrack to my workouts. From warm-up to cool-down, my soundtracks will have the perfect number of BPMs (beats per minute).
Here’s my first playlist, still a work in progress (just like my exercise routine):
Fischerspooner — “Emerge”
New Order — “Blue Monday”
Donna Summer — “I Feel Love”
Michael Jackson — “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”
Guns N’ Roses — “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
Underworld — “Born Slippy” (from the Trainspotting soundtrack)
Air — Cherry “Blossom Girl”
As readers of my personal blog know, my solution to almost everything in life is music. Music is my higher power in AA, and I listen to music for a couple hours every night as a means of meditation.
And music just may be the key on my journey back to a size small.