The Incredible Shrinking Chef: Part IV
In Part IV of “The Incredible Shrinking Chef,” Steve “Nookie” Postal’s running diary of his time in Mass General’s obesity treatment center, the chef talks about his progress two months after surgery, his precarious trip down foodie memory lane in Portland, Maine, and his first birthday bash defined by self-restraint. —Edited by Christopher Hughes
You know, this whole getting skinny thing isn’t all great. I mean, yes, I look damn sexy, but I think people are starting to hate me. I’m dropping a ton of weight, and it’s now super noticeable—so much so that people comment on it all day. But it’s been really hard.
For instance, I went to Portland, Maine with my daughter the other day, and there were so many awesome food experiences everywhere I looked: Fore Street, Duck Fat, Hugo’s, J’s Oyster, Browne Trading Company, and Standard Baking Co., where I bought my daughter a blackberry buckle muffin and watched her smash it into her piehole. That sucked! I really wanted a bite.
But, more than anything, I really wanted to eat at Eventide. For years, I’d heard people raving about it, but it was packed and I thought, “Fuck it, I can’t eat anything anyway.” I walked by 20 times, torn about what to do. I looked into their other restaurant, the Honey Paw, and imagined sitting there, just crushing some Korean fried chicken. Finally, I saw a few spots open up at Eventide and said, “Fuck it!” I ditched the $10 umbrella stroller I’d just picked up at Right Aid, sidled up to the hostess, and asked her if I could beach myself at the drink rail spot for 10 minutes—just long enough to inhale a brown butter lobster roll and a cup of water.
I waited impatiently, my eyes darting toward the kitchen. And when that roll came … I was overcome with emotion. I honestly think I’ll remember it alongside other seminal moments in my life: the birth of my children, getting married, my first BJ.
The steamed hotdog bun, the lobster butter, the slightly saline tail and claw meat—it looked magical. I just stared at it, alone on its rustic wooden cutting board. Then I pried my head away. And I just left.
Now, let’s get something straight, I’ve never left food behind before. Ever. Let alone something of that caliber. It was strange, and sad. The hostess flagged me down to ask if was everything okay, but I just wanted to get the hell out of Portland. There were too many memories and too many alluring food options trying to tempt me.
I have, and always will have, an addiction to food. That’s the hardest thing about this process: breaking myself of all the terrible habits I’ve developed. Portion control was just one small part. Now I need to work on all the others. I even created a new word for my grazing habits: artichoking. As in, “I artichoked a couple bites of pizza.” Meaning, I scraped the cheese and sauce with my front teeth, leaving the crust behind like you would a discarded artichoke leaf. Amazing, I know.
My wife said I’ve become something of a fat ambassador, which is pretty cool. As part of that, people ask me about what I’m eating all the time. Basically, it’s lean proteins and veggies. I’m allowed to eat fruit, but I’ve largely abstained because a lot things don’t agree with me anymore. I get an upset stomach easily. I’m often nauseous. I used to pride myself on having an iron stomach. Now a whiff of something fried and fatty, and it’s lights out. (Full disclosure: I ate one tater tot four days ago and it was awesome.) Yogurt is my go-to, but overall, I’m not eating a ton of food. Probably the same amount as my 3-year-old daughter. I practice the dictum: Eat your food only. I used to walk around the kitchen stealing bites of Ellie’s sandwich and Nicco’s lunch. But no more.
Frankly, I miss eating other people’s stuff.
Officially, I’m down 55 pounds. But once again, I wouldn’t be able to do this alone. It sounds cheesy, but the support and encouragement I’ve received is keeping me going. Especially with the exercise part of the equation. I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s obviously an essential part of the program. My embarrassing solution? Joining an over-40 basketball league.
Anyway, one final thought. Eight of us went out to Peach Farm for my birthday—the site of so many late night drunken food orgies. Despite my trepidation, I did all the ordering for the table: clams with black beans, pork with “amazing sauce” (yes, that is real dish), pea pod stems, crispy chicken, ginger scallion lobster, salt and pepper squid-, shrimp-, and pork ( pretty much anything you can salt-and-pepper), and a bunch of other stuff. I limited myself to a few select bites here and there. I listened to my body and when it said “That’s it!” I stopped. And you want to know what? I had a great time. I didn’t want to puke afterward. I didn’t walk around hating myself for the next 12 hours. I sat there and watched my friend Kate getting hammered, and I was fine.
They aren’t all good days. But lately, the good ones are outweighing the bad.
P.S. Follow me @chefnookie on Instagram, ’cause I love shameless plugs