Saturday, April 9, 2011

99 Bottles of Beer on my frame. How I gained weight in college.

It all came rushing back.  Suddenly I remembered the collegiate version of myself:  town idiot. 

This past week, I had the opportunity to do a market visit in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.  For those not familiar, this is the triangle of Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham.  It also contains a number of other towns such as Cary and Wake Forest (which oddly enough does not house Wake Forest University -- moved to Winston-Salem in the 50's).   It is also home to my beloved Alma mater, Duke University. 

By complete coincidence, the night I was going to be arriving happened to be the night of the final game of the NCAA Tournament.  My Blue Devils had already been summarily blown out in the Sweet 16 vs. Arizona, and UNC met a similar fate one round later to Kentucky.  Therefore, any huge rivalry that might otherwise be swirling around Tobacco Road had largely drifted away.  Given the less war-like atmosphere, I made the decision to spend the night in Chapel Hill.  Why?  It's more fun and more college-y than Durham. 

I called on an old friend and fraternity brother who now lives in the Chapel Hill area to watch the Butler/UConn game.  We decided to watch it at a traditional Chapel Hill college bar, Top of the Hill.  I will admit that it was a little surreal for me as a Duke fan to watch UConn (whom I despise) play Butler (whom I gloat over) in a UNC (for whom I have great distaste) bar. 

It was a beautiful Spring night in North Carolina.  It started harmlessly enough as I found myself happily working through a nice piece of salmon served over cheese grits.  It went South (no pun intended) from here as I somehow got lost in a bottomless glass of beer watching the game.  After all, here I was with an old college buddy in a college sports bar immersed in hoops.  Just like old times. 

The next morning I was reminded why it's not a good idea to dive into a bottomless glass of beer -- I had a headache delivered by a rusty ice pick.  The only cure for this is exactly the antidote that my local team supplied:  that true North Carolina delicacy, pork BBQ.  Just like old times, I happily shoved my snout into a plate of pulled pork BBQ (Eastern style), Brunswick stew, baked beans and...  hush puppies.  Only later did I discover that hush puppies carry the heavy excise tax of 5 PointsPlus values for two.  It should go without saying that I had many more than two. 

So this is how I gained 40 pounds my freshman year!  Doesn't seem so surprising now that I think about it.  But it does beg another question.  What the heck happened to me in college?

Pre-college, I was a pretty hard working young man.  I woke up every morning for about four years to deliver the Washington Post newspaper -- a fact my children will never live down.  I studied hard.  I lived a clean life, at least until senior year of high school -- and even that was pretty tame. 

College came, and I kind of lost my mind.  I quickly found myself hanging out with a great group of dudes, and soon joined a fraternity full of goons and degenerates.  Next thing I knew I found myself on a close to four year bender of beer and horrifically caloric food.  I literally had no self-restraint whatsoever.  I turned into Bluto from Animal House, but less funny and less charming. 
So this is why I couldn't get a date in college...

In many respects, college was the ultimate obesogenic environment.  Back in my days of college, the drinking age was 18/19 so acting like a drooling buffoon was a fully accepted practice [this comment inserted in case my kids read this and need to be reminded that the drinking age is now 21].  Every Thursday night we had kegs at the fraternity.  In fact, there was pretty much no night of the week other than Sunday that someone wasn't having kegs somewhere.  The college itself (yes, an otherwise prestigious academic institution) would regularly allow events where a huge tractor trailer would pull up on campus and tap 40 kegs of beer and supply a band to go with it.  There was a reason to go out pretty much every night of the week.  Combine the cheap beer landscape with all-you-can-eat cafeterias, BBQ joints, pizza and every other nasty food I can think of, and it is no wonder I burst out of my frame. 

I used to drink these warm.  Sad...
I often wonder how many PointsPlus values I racked up in a debauched college day.  A twelve-pack of Goebels or Milwaukee's Best beer (yes, I was a craft beer connoisseur)  alone would be 60 (12 X 5 per 12 oz).  I had to easily be breaking 100 many days, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a 150 PointsPlus value day.  Frankly, it's  a wonder that I didn't weigh 80 more pounds than I did.  There is little I wouldn't do to retrieve my youthful metabolism. 

How I ever graduated  in one piece remains a mystery to me (and to my parents who watched my transformation in near horror).   In the years following college, I was able to resurface the work ethic I had in high school.  By the time I went to business school at night, I was a completely different person.  Maybe the fact that I had to pay for it myself gave me adequate incentive not to act like a complete idiot. 

These days, I am kind of a control freak when it comes to my lifestyle.  I sometimes wonder if this is due to my knowing how easily I fell into depravity during my college years.  Maybe I'm afraid that if I let my guard down I will find myself slouched in a broken-down Lazy Boy chair, donned in a mustard-stained T-shirt watching TV with beer cans and pizza boxes served on top of a stained carpet.  Attractive! 

I wonder if everyone else who is tackling or has tackled a weight issue feels that they are constantly on the razor's edge of falling into the abyss of their old, less healthy life.  I am much more confident about handling my health than I used to be, but I also worry about gradually getting slack.  One little slip leading into another, seemingly unnoticed until they accumulate into a complete reversion.  Yikes.  Glad I worked out on this fine Saturday morning.  That would not have happened in college.  I'd still be sleeping. 




  1. I can't let this post go by without a comment. I was a graduate student at NC State from 1980 to 1985 (which I'm guessing is about the time you were at Duke.) I can really relate to the beer, BBQ, and basketball nirvana. So glad we have both come a long way since then (14 years at goal with a 73 lb wt. loss.) Thanks for the memories and perspective.

  2. I just turned 30 a couple of weeks ago, and the depravity returned briefly. I am now trying to work off the 5 pounds I gained in March! Something about letting go for the night made me feel young again, and the Taco Bell cure made me feel worse at meeting... today is another day.

  3. Wow?! Really! :) I had you pegged for a pretty vanilla sort with a bit of an edge here and there :) Can't stop smiling. This makes you human :) And it also makes me more square than I care to admit. My college drinking days were limited to one semester, until my grades came out. Then I had to straighten up and fly right. I'm hoping my engineering major was harder than whatever your major was...

  4. Hi David! When I moved to Chapel Hill from NYC two years ago, I really struggled staying on the plan. It was like going back to college for me, too, and the college feel of the triangle makes you more relaxed, more likely to indulge, etc. I gained weight and struggled for awhile. I am, like you, very Type A but I can easily go very far off course if I'm not careful. In New York, I kept myself in control, feeling like everyone else was working hard to be in control, too. At home in NY, every restaurant carries skim milk for coffee, etc. It's different down here! I find that people talk less about diet and weight...not sure why...and not every restaurant has skim milk, etc. I really love Chapel Hill - an easier life and absolutely beautiful - but I have found it a bit harder for healthy eating. (Thank goodness for WW meetings!) Funny how your environment affects you so much! Always appreciate your blog posts!

  5. Just had to post a comment! I'm an Eastern-NC native who spent two years in Jamaica, NY. It was living in NY that truly kick-started my weight loss journey, as I'd never had to walk so much in my (morbidly obese) life! I've long since returned to NC, and am a member of one of those RTP meetings. For the record, I graduated from Campbell, and though I didn't partake in the parties & booze that (*gasp!*) often made its way onto campus, the cafeteria was what helped me rack on about 75 lbs during my college years. Hey, we all have our vices & can trace them back to a point & time in our history. Needless to say, I'm mighty thankful for the plan & purpose that Weight Watchers PointsPlus offers! Hope you enjoyed your NC return!

  6. I really enjoyed this post and generally enjoy and appreciate this blog - brutally honest and real. This is my second significant journey with WW (now exclusively WW online), so I can certainly relate to feeling like you are always on the razor's edge of becoming that person, again. I am working on the final 8 pounds to goal weight and, to keep myself focused, I started working with a personal trainer. That has provided me with variety and something new to work on in what I call Phase 2.

  7. If funny how that happens, isn't it?

    My husband and I avoided all that by insisting our daughter's go to college locally .. oh, and they had to live at home.

    I don't know if they will ever regret not "experiencing college life", but we certainly won't ever regret keeping them with us a little longer.

  8. When people in their 20's tell me they've gained or lost a lot of weight without really trying, I always ask about their drinking habits. Some how we all seem to ignore the calories, points and hangovers when we are throwing back a few ... or six.

    And, from personal experience living and attending college in the South.. it seems like southern food really was made for hangovers, or at least that's the myth :)

    I just wanted to comment because I recently found your blog, and I'm amazed that someone can talk at length about weight and food and points plus and still keep it so interesting and engaging. That is a really difficult task, but you do a great job!

  9. I'm playing catch up with the blogs I subscribe to and it must be something in the air. I have been fighting this very feeling you talk about with feeling on the urge of 'falling off the wagon' and going back into old habbits. One 'slip up' makes it so easy to imagine happening. I had a moment of weekness the other evening but I'm over it now:

    I'm very close to becoming a lifetime member and I'm not going to go back to my old ways but I do have my bad moments. Thank you so much for sharing! Regardless of who you are in terms of employment I think what your write about is great and it helps so many people to know there is someone else out there going through the same thing.

  10. Sounds great. You've got me hungry now for a great lunch salad. Wish they delivered to Florida!

  11. Having the "college mentality" only two years behind me, I'm very glad I found WW when I did. The sloppy nights of burritos and pizza on the way home from the bar have surely added much more onto my frame than I ever thought.

    I'm glad to see there's people in high places that spent 4-6 nights a week drinking and endulging in the social side of college life, it was well worth the work I'll have to put in to shed the weight. =)