Welcome to the first episode of Slightly Off-Topic. My friends always ask the same question when they hear that I am starting a webcomic: “Is it autobiographical?” To which the answer is a firm “No”. To prove this, I have opted to start the strip with a clearly autobiographical strip and story…go figure.

When I started the Better than a Chest Spreader diet, I did it for three reasons. First, a close friend, a friend skinnier than me, was under-going a quadruple by-pass, and it didn’t look fun. Second, I was getting tired of having to go to the special store to buy clothes. You know the store, right? The one where you pay three times the price for clothing that still fits badly and wears out quickly. Finally, I had a dream. In this dream we were at a family gathering, and I stained my shirt playing football with my brothers. My wife told me to change so I headed to the car to grab a new outfit. When I got to the car, I caught a glimpse of myself in the window reflection and..well…I was fat. I’ve never been fat in a dream before. I’m not one to analyze dreams, but this stuck in my head. It seemed that my psyche was redefining itself as a truly fat man, and I didn’t like the thought of that.

So, I decided to change. My first thought was that I was not going to diet. I am quite good at dieting and can drop fifty pounds almost as fast as I can gain fifty pounds. That’s the problem with diets…you lose weight, stop dieting, return to your previous eating habits and gain the weight back…usually with a few bonus pounds. As I was looking for a long-term solution, I opted to by-pass this method. Instead, I sat down and looked at what I was eating and decided what the good choices were (I do so love my grape nuts and skim milk in the morning) and what the bad choices were (a quarter pounder with cheese is *not* a proper side dish for a filet-o-fish meal). I then made a plan on what minor changes I could (and would) make. I’ve always been a soda fanatic, and I knew cutting it out completely would lead to failure, so I decided to simply cut it out at home and work. If I’m out to dinner, I may enjoy a lovely cola or cola-based product (long islands count as cola-based, right?!?), but when I am at home or work, I fill that 32-ounce cup with water rather than sugar water…and I am okay with that. I keep fresh food in the fridge so that I can pack a healthy lunch for work rather than running to the cafeteria every day. These are small changes, but they work. At dinner time, I watch my portions and skip seconds. Small changes.

Exercise-wise, I injured my knee right before I started dieting, so my beloved cycling is on the shelf for the moment, but I am walking! I’ve found that if I go more than a couple days without walking, my knee gets really, really sore, so I have no problem keeping this up. I’m getting the yoga space back up and running in the basement so as to exercise the entire body and relax the mind, but mainly I walk.

I was in the doctor’s office the day after I started my BtaCS diet, so I was able to check my initial weight. Looking over the changes I had made, I calculated that I should be shedding about two pounds per week. My six-week knee exam was scheduled for November 16th. I steadfastly resolved to ignore my home scale and not to check my weight until I returned to the doctor’s office.

While I was only expecting a twelve-pound loss, as the day for the exam approached, I began to get really nervous. What if I wasn’t dropping two pounds a week? What if I only lost six pounds in six weeks? Worse, what if I had *gained* six pounds?!? I was going nuts, but kept with my plan and stayed off the scale. When I arrived at the doctors office, they actually did not ask me to get on the scale. I’ve never had a doctor not ask me to get on the scale. I actually had to sneak out at one point while the doc was consulting with a colleague to get on the scale. The result? Sixteen sweet pounds baby! You do not understand the relief. Life changes were working; my body was responding as expected. The BtaCS diet can not fail…but oh, those bratwurst….