There's a difference between Falstaff and Fatso. Falstaff is jolly. Falstaff is quick. Falstaff is in love with life. Fatso is defensive. Fatso is winded. Fatso is scared to death of dying.
I thought I was Falstaff, but I was really Fatso.
Last year, I was on a brewery tour of the Czech Republic with the Chief Troll
and a bunch of other writers, and Falstaff was in the driver's seat. We were doing what you might expect a bunch of fat guys to do when on a beer tour: We downed tons of beer and ate hot smoking chunks of meat. I had to, you know, because it's my job.
Then we went to Ceske Krumlov, a wonderful little Bohemian town with a long castle perched on a hill that ran through the town like a spine ... and we had to climb the hill to the castle. Everyone else – even the 225 Club members
– walked right up that sucker. I was blowing like an elderly walrus halfway up and had to stop. Fatso woke up, looked around, and whimpered.
I was convinced then that I had to lose weight. (My need to lose weight is evident in this, my "before" photo.)
But I couldn't give up drinking beer and whiskey. Like I said, it's my job. Plus, I really, really like beer and whiskey.
So I looked around at the Europeans. They know how to drink – they drink more than any other group in the world, by a wide margin. You and your friends may think you drink a lot. We have all those football games, all that tailgating, all those beers and breweries. But Europeans still drink us under the table. The average American drinks about 20 gallons of beer per year. The average German drinks more than 30. They also drink more wine and spirits than we do, too.
They also know how to eat: Germans? French? Italians? Hell yeah, they eat. But with all that eating and drinking going on, there are no fat people in Europe. You don't see grossly fat folks like me there, no waddling porkbags with fat rolls hanging off the sides of their knees, the kind of fat you see everywhere you go in the U.S. I was grossly fat compared with these people.
So thanks to the example set by our plucky little European friends, I had an epiphany: I can lose weight ... and keep drinking! After all, as we proved last month, beer itself is pretty damn good for you
. At least when you consume it in moderation.
But I did have to change my diet. Because, let's face it. I was L-A-R-G-E: 6 feet, 1 inch, 342 pounds of beautiful round man. You don't get that big without the gross over-consumption of virtually everything. (The Chief Angry Troll
said I was so big that if I ever needed a hairpiece, I'd have to buy a three-pee.)
So this spring, I started Weight Watchers. I'd seen my wife lose 50 pounds with Weight Watchers, and I knew it worked. So I did what they said, and I wrote down everything – EVERYTHING! – I ate and its "points" value.
With Weight Watchers, you get so many "points" a day, plus a reserve per week. They even let fat shits like me have more points! When I stayed within the numbers, I lost weight. When I went over, I didn't.
But the beauty of Weight Watchers – and the beauty of the points – is that nothing is forbidden.
That's right, you can eat or drink anything! Bacon, butter ... even beer & whiskey.
You have to eat five fruits and vegetables a day, but they're low points, and then you're off on your own. You can drink a six-pack of beer, you can eat a pound of bacon, hell, you can eat a pound of butter – if you have the points. Once I realized that, the world was my oyster – and oysters are less than a point apiece, my friends.
In fact, you remember that trip to Canada I wrote about
, when we ate and drank our way through the country? I was on Weight Watchers that week, and I lost two pounds. Really.
Stout became my friend. You know, stout, as in Guinness, the beer so many people refer to as "a meal in a glass"? Please. Guinness is light beer. Literally – it has fewer calories than most "regular" beers. Weight Watchers knows this, even if most beer drinkers do not.
So as far as Weight Watchers and points are concerned, Guinness and Miller Lite are equivalent: two points, as compared to three for "regular" beer. I count up to nine real good: Nine points was three "regular" beers, but it was four and a HALF stouts. Stout GOOD!
And a shot of bourbon on the rocks? Two points. That's right, baby! Keep 'em coming, barkeep ... I got a long drive ahead of me.
So I kept drinking. Eating had to change, of course. Beef pretty much fell out of my diet, and I cut way back on my cheese for a while before I figured out how to work that: Get really flavorful cheese, sliced thin. A thin slice of Jarlsberg is only one point and adds a lot of flavor to a sandwich.
The only things I really miss are big heaps of really good fries and slice after slice of pizza. Both are high-point foods. But I eat a LOT of seafood, I probably eat even more pork than I used to and I'm eating plenty of sausage, now that I started making my own – I know what goes in it.
I don't buy the stuff I really like pre-packaged at the supermarket anymore. Now, I hit the cheese shops and the seafood market, and we signed up for a co-op farm program. And it's good. I'm happy, I'm eating good food and I'm not hungry. My Weight Watchers meeting leader actually gets pissed if you don't use all your points.
I'm sure to make up my extra points with beer and whiskey. Hey, it is still my job.
So how well does it work? I've lost 65 pounds in six months, and I just started exercising back in July; because I wanted to, not because I had to. (That's me a few weeks ago, my "after" photo, during a hop
tour in Idaho. I look like a different person.)
I climb hills and stairs with ease, and I'm in clothes I packed away years ago. Hell, even my shoes fit better. My blood pressure's down 25 points and my pulse rate is down around 65. My wife says I'm not snoring any more, and that's probably why I'm not waking up with sore throats any more, either. I've got a doctor friend; when I told him all this, he nodded and said, "Losing weight is a true miracle drug."
Meanwhile, I'm still fat, just not as fat as I was. I want to lose another 40 pounds, which will get me down around what I weighed in my mid-20s. Weight Watchers thinks I should lose another 40 pounds after that. We may have to compromise: That would put me out of the 225 Club
So I keep counting my points, eating a lot more good vegetables and pork tenderloin, and riding my bike. But every now and then, when I'm eating in a place with really good fries, I look at my weekly extra points and make a command decision to let Falstaff drive for a while. Falstaff loves fries. Hey, waitress! Falstaff needs a beer, too!
If folks tell you you're overweight and need to stop drinking, tell them about our skinny, hard-drinking friends in Europe. And then tell them about me, the guy who lost 65 pounds drinking beer and whiskey.