Over the last 20 years I've tried nearly every popular diet out there, and found no consistency in the assurances I would read beforehand, and the disappointing results I would experience by the end. My journey eventually led me to a breaking point, resulting in feelings of deep resignation to forever being overweight and, as I saw it at the time, less worthy of praise, love, and attention than my effortlessly fit friends. That was until I learned about the microbiome, a collection of symbiotic organisms living within my colon that dictated my metabolic, digestive, and mental health. With that understanding, I was able to reach an optimal body weight, increase and intensify my attention span, and banish weight anxiety from my life entirely, all over the course of two months.
2006 - I Don’t Remember Ever Not Being Fat. I carry all of my excess weight around my midsection, smuggling bad genes and pit stains through the gauntlets of high school under vests, scarves, and strategically buttoned hawaiian shirts. I trace meals back like a genealogist tracing back family lines, singling out ingredients and nutritional content trying to find a correlation between each variable, and my protruding gut. It feels as if, regardless to what I put into my body, I will always be fat. Eventually, nutrition leaves my concerns entirely, searching instead for instant gratification a la deep fryer. I make plans to have a chicken wing tattooed on my shoulder with the motto “Id est aurum et furva, deuolutus sum.” (If it’s golden brown, I’m gettin’ down.) emblazoned below it.
2008 - Bro, Look At Me… Try Keto. I gleam my first bit of nutritional wisdom from google searches and anecdotal evidence, becoming obsessed with supplements and nutritional science as taught to me by the trainer sympathetically watching me fight with resistance bands while slumped depressingly over a yoga ball. Late at night, in the 30th tab, I find myself believing the claims being made by what I imagine to be fitness gurus, leading me selflessly on the path to beautiful person enlightenment. I wanted to believe it all. I wanted to believe that the medical community really did hate this man for his one startlingly simple secret to losing belly fat. Or that 15 minutes a day could transform my baby (back ribs) bump into a hardened tickle gym for the girl of my dreams. Over time, I begin to notice some pretty consistent results with the help of all the fitness products and diet plans I’m using: still fat, and now broke.
2012 - An Unstoppable Force Meets An Immovable Ass. A college degree now wedged under what would soon be the torn remains of an over worked leather belt, I find a job and move out of the buddhist compound where my parents park their Mercedes. The realization that my work impacts more than the nightcap of a tenured finance professor hits hard, and concerns over my health and nutrition recede to the mental vault housing my expanding list of procrastinated tasks. Worry about my weight is now overshadowed by constant uncertainty about whether my “path” is the right one. I begin to approach pursuits like I’m on the last level of Super Mario with one life left, and mounting anxiety about the last time I saved, measuring my options by their likelihoods for success, instead of my own interest in them. I convince myself that it’s all for the best and take solace in a co-worker’s advice about playing the long game. Who knows, I could have a jacuzzi one day.
A Hard Look. Physical exhaustion and psychedelic substances toll on an already introspective mind. All I want is to go to sleep, but instead, my brain churns on, deconstructing all of my fears and anxieties in moments of brutal honesty. As time passes, a realization starts to emerge from the darkness: I have the power to change. I begin to laugh as I look at my life objectively for the first time, drawing back dusty curtains, hardened by shame, and other things, to peer into my own silly life. It was 3 AM, and I hadn’t slept in days, but I knew through the delirium that my life had changed in those moments. I begin to systematically review and address the sources of stress and uncertainty in my life: job, weight, debt, direction. As I attempt to mock up plans for the redesign of my identity, I stumble onto a subreddit linking to an article describing research being conducted regarding the human microbiome. The implications gleamed from a single research paper spur me into a month long research binge, forming the first outlines of the GUT book, and inverting my understanding of the human body entirely. As patterns begin to form in the information I am reading, I begin to selectively implement practices, using my own body as the subject for my experiments.
Bewilderment. A month passes and I have lost 12 pounds. I also notice a marked increase in attention span and energy. I am startled, but excited beyond belief. My activity level drops off slightly while I dive further into the research surrounding the human microbiome project, and my metabolism responds like a finely tuned machine, subtly instructing me to eat and stop at the appropriate times. My diet shifts in favor of eating smaller meals every few hours and I feel as if my body is burning calories more quickly. Even when I overeat at one meal, I feel as if a few hours later my body has returned to equilibrium, telling me when it is time to eat again.
I say this to a friend after eating a ridiculously large meal at a fast-food sushi restaurant. I can feel my body utilizing the food immediately, and therefore no longer feel any guilt or anxiety for eating. Another week passes and the mild acne on my face clears away, giving way to skin that feels and looks healthier. When I do get to the gym, I feel strong and intense, every movement intentional and focused. I begin to trust my body again.
After two months, I notice that my sleeping habits are beginning to change, falling asleep more easily and waking up feeling more rested. At this point I reflect back on my life and wonder,
What I found to be truly amazing, and what inspired me to share my experience, is that I didn’t really do all that much. I simply focused on feeding the good bacteria in my gut, and took steps to eliminate the bad, paying attention to my body throughout the process using research as a filter for my reflections.