"Secrets" of Weight Loss: Part 8: Wet Drunk? Dry Drunk?

September 1, 2023

Overweight man eating in front of the TV

I grew up in a household where both of my parents were overweight.

When I say overweight, my mother was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds. My father was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 220 pounds. As a result, I was a fat, non-athlete as a kid. The kind of kid who was chosen last or not chosen at all. This is the story of how I got there and my current state of health today.

Strawberry jello with whipped cream

When I was in kindergarten and first grade in Napa, California, my mother was a housewife and my dad drove a truck and went to night school to complete his college degree. We ate simple meals in large quantities such as hot dogs and beans or tuna casserole. The food was served family style on large plates in the middle of the dinner table. We ate until all the food was gone. Then we ate some kind of dessert like red Jello with canned fruit cocktail mixed in. My father served my food, and he insisted that I clean my plate – after all, people were starving. Both my parents smoked. I rarely saw them drink but they never missed large daily consumptions of sugar.

When my dad completed his degree, he got a white-collar job in accounting, and we moved to San Mateo – a suburb of San Francisco. My mother got a job as a switch board operator in a nurse’s registry. In 1954, when I was 10, we got a television set. We began to eat our dinners on TV tables in a semi-circle around the TV set. Our meals were about the same as before - frozen fish sticks reheated in the oven. But the quality and quantity of our desserts improved. Now we had store bought desserts like Neapolitan ice cream and packaged cookies.  

We finished our meal and then had dessert. But we kept sitting there watching TV and every hour or so we would do another round of dessert. Between rounds of desserts, both my parents smoked and drank coffee. We continued this ritual until 1 am in the morning when Johnny Carson went off and they played the national anthem.

Chocolate cake

Sunday dinner was special and served at the dining room table. We had meals like leg of lamb with green mint jelly. We had luxurious desserts like home made chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream ala mode. Then we shifted into the living room, broke out the TV tables and began a series of our now fancier desserts while cigarette butts piled up in the ashtrays until the national anthem played.

On very special occasions like birthdays, we got a fancy cake from Blum’s. Blum’s sold rich candies and cakes. One of our favorites was Chantilly cake – layers of rich cake and whipped cream. The other was the richest chocolate cake you can imagine. Each bite was like a piece of chocolate candy. We ate this ala mode. We would usually finish the whole cake plus half a gallon of ice cream that night.

When I was 20, life radically changed. My father, age 46, died of a massive heart attack and I joined the Marine Corps. After 3 years in the Marine Corps including a combat tour in Vietnam as a squad leader, I entered the University of California, Irvine. I met my wife to be, and we were married in less than a year.

During courting and early marriage years, we quickly established a nightly routine of fast food like burgers, or fish and chips, or Mexican food. We followed this with ice cream. We hit our local 31 Flavors virtually every night. Then dessert took a quantum leap.

Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs ice cream showed up. A great date night was dinner, a movie and a trip to Haagen-Dazs. Soon we had several pints of Haagen-Dazs in the freezer at all times. My dilemma was not should I eat a whole pint of Haagen-Dazs. My dilemma was: should I eat the second pint.

At the end of 1972, I graduated with honors from UCI and went to work for Allstate. My wife, while working full time, got her MBA and got accepted to a PhD program at one of the best graduate schools of finance in the country – the University of Washington. We moved to Bellevue – a suburb of Seattle.

I worked 50-60 hours a week selling insurance and my wife did her course work for her PhD degree and taught undergraduate economics as a TA. Within 3 years she had completed her course work but decided she wanted to start a business rather than write her PhD dissertation.

In the spring of 1979, we moved back to Southern California and started our business. Never a big drinker, I quit drinking for good and began to live an even cleaner lifestyle. One of my first speaking jobs was for the National Council on Alcoholism. That is when I learned that people get drunk different ways. Just go to an AA meeting and you will see people trying to stay sober smoking heavily and powering down candy bars.

With over 40 years of speaking and coaching people all over the country, I have accumulated over 5 million miles with American Airlines.  

I live an amazingly clean and healthy lifestyle. The last real issue I had was over 2 ½ years ago when I was going through a really tough time. I broke down and for the first time in years I ate ice cream – Haagen-Dazs, of course. As I always say, if you are going to break your diet, go first class. I went a little crazy for a few weeks. And of course, my old demons of depression and anxiety attacks showed up.  

I realized I had a choice: either clean up my act, or lose the great life I had worked so hard to build. Thank God, I snapped out of it, and I have been clean every since. But like the alcoholic who can’t take that first drink, I can’t take that first bite of Haagen-Dazs.

Thank you for listening.

I hope this was helpful.