Today I’m going to tell you how Dr. Gregory House, fictional nihilist, helped me lose 135 pounds.
See, I used to weigh 135 pounds more than I do now. This was because a.) I ate too much, and b.) did not exercise. I was fully cognizant of both these facts, but I simply did not care. I loathed organized athletics, and really liked junk food. In those days, a meal for me would have been large fries, a Big Mac, a 10-piece Chicken Nuggets, and a large Coke. This was gluttonous excess, but it did not trouble me in the slightest. In fact, I told myself, throughout most of human history, most people have starved. So, really, shouldn’t I be thankful to be 135 pounds overweight?
Granted, in hindsight this is an obvious rationalization, but at the time I believed it. We can lie to no one like we lie to ourselves.
So, at night, when I settled down with my bag of popcorn, my can of ginger ale, and my plate of cheese sticks (they’re a LOT better if you cook them in the oven instead of the microwave), I would watch things on Hulu, because Hulu is free, and eventually “House, MD” caught my attention.
“House, MD”, if you’ve never seen the show, is about the titular Dr. Gregory House, a genius diagnostician who has Sherlock Holmes levels of observation acuity and deductive prowess. Unfortunately, House lost a major chunk of his right leg to a blood clot, and consequently walks with a cane and has a Vicodin addiction to keep the pain manageable. House is also a tremendous jerk, and much of the show revolves around House’s efforts to free himself from his chronic misery. (He usually fails.) But despite his self-destructive habits, he almost always manages to save his patient in the end.
I found the show fascinating, because I saw a bit of myself in House. Not a great deal, certainly – I don’t have a cane, a Vicodin addiction, I’m not a nihilist or an atheist, and I don’t have a team of attractive young assistants to help me (alas). But I do have a day job that revolves around solving puzzles, and like House, I had always preferred the intellectual realm over the physical (see the “loathing for organized sports” above). So I watched the show with a good deal of fascination.
Then the bad habits caught up to House.
Towards the end of Season 5 (this would have been April and May of 2009), he began hallucinating due to years of Vicodin abuse. At first he thought the hallucinations would be a convenient way to tap in the processing power of his subconscious mind. Once this almost led to the accidental death of a coworker, House tried to ignore the hallucinations. But they grew worse, until he could no longer tell reality from delusion. To fix the problem, he locked himself in his apartment with his longtime love interest Dr. Cuddy and attempted to detox off Vicodin. After 24 hours, he was successful, and fell into bed with Dr. Cuddy (who apparently is not all that bright).
The next day House went to work to enjoy his new, drug-free life and continue his relationship with Dr. Cuddy…
…only to realize that none of it had happened. He had hallucinated all of it. He had spent the night, and most of the following day, overdosing on Vicodin, and the hallucinations had grown so intense that he literally could not remember taking Vicodin, nor could he stop himself from doing so.
The Season 5 finale ended with House limping into a mental hospital, his career and life in ruins.
And holy crap did that freak me out. It shook me the way that few pieces of art, whether books or movies or games or whatever, have ever done.
Because, I wondered, what if that was me? Like House, I valued the mental much more than the physical. Except the body is the house (bad pun) of the mind, and the condition of our body affects the mind much, much more than we would like to admit.
For a while I had had the uneasy feeling that something wasn’t quite right. And what if, I realized, what if it was the overeating? Was it going to catch up to me the way Vicodin had caught up to House? After thinking about it for a few months, I concluded that I should try to change (and that overeating had probably warped my life in other ways), and so I decided to try and lose weight. (More details of that can be found here.)
I suspect not many people are inspired to major life revelations from a medical soap opera, but I suppose I’ll take what I can get. 🙂