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  • Writer's pictureJeff Eaker

The secret to my success.

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Sometimes it seems

like home is just the place

most far away.

There are very few absolutes in life. Nothing is a sure thing. And the world is rarely so cut and dry that one can say, all is as it seems to be. Or should be. Or is as you so adamantly and desperately want to believe it to be.

You can deal with this in two ways.

You can spend your life continuously in search of the few absolutes that are out there—wasting your days in pursuit of a unicorn.

Or you can embrace it.

You can take comfort in the fact that no matter how squarely you find yourself standing between that which is black and that which is white, there will always be an ample amount of noncommittal grey space to cover your ass with.

Which is why even in a kingdom of failure there are tiny hamlets of success to be stumbled upon.

The holiday season of 2016 was a particularly special one for me. That was the year I ate so much that I gave myself diabetes. Which you have to admit, is pretty impressive.

It all started when I discovered the Autumn Harvest Pie from Achatz Pie Co—the world’s finest pumpkin pie. I fucking love pumpkin pie. Hell, I love pumpkin anything. It’s one of my absolute favorite things in the world.

In fact, I love it so much that I must pause the narrative and question the pumpkin industry’s go-to-market strategy. Personally, I think they’ve leaned into the holidays way too much for way too long. Pumpkin is a flavor but they sell it as a season.

Perhaps this was a good strategy at one time but I think pumpkin has the ability to reposition itself and create a more evergreen brand capable of generating sales through-out the year. In other words, you pumpkin boys are leaving good money on the table. Call me.

But I digress.

The Autumn Harvest pie from Achatz Pie Co is no ordinary pumpkin pie. It’s pumpkin pie perfection. It’s an art form. It’s the Mona Lisa of pumpkin pies. You can even see it for yourself on Goldbelly. But alas, you won’t be able to order it. It’s been sold out for months.

But in November of 2016, this was not the case. No, sir. The supply was plentiful that year. Which is why I happened to pick one up at the store on a whim the week before Thanksgiving.

What makes the Autumn Harvest pie so good is that it has one layer of pecan pie on the bottom and then one layer of pumpkin pie with a nice layer of whipped cream on top. I’m a decent writer at times but trust me when I say my description does it no justice at all. If I were to truly attempt such a feat of culinary reportage, with the zest and zeal the Autumn Harvest Pie deserves, it would take up way too much space on the internet.

When I got home, I thought it would be a good idea to sample it. Thanksgiving was a week away, so before I put the pie into the freezer to patiently await its big day, I cut a small sliver to do a tiny bit of quality control testing.

By the time I finished my taste test there was about a quarter of the pie left. I put it in the fridge instead of the freezer because I knew I would eat it for breakfast the next morning before heading out to buy another. That one would definitely, immediately go into the freezer.

And it did.

And it for sure would have made it to Thanksgiving under normal circumstances. But the holiday season of 2016 wasn’t normal. There was something in the air that year. A spark. A shift. A tiny crack in the universe that stayed open for just a short period of time before someone patched it back up with a bit of space spackle.

Whatever it was, it was palpable. And for me, it manifested itself in the form of a great hunger. An all-out attack of insatiability. A massive sink hole of bottomless appetite that appeared out of nowhere and swallowed everything in its path.

The pies and Thanksgiving were just the beginning. The feasting continued non-stop through-out the holidays. All of them. Hanukah. Christmas. New Years. Martin Luther King Jr. day. Superbowl Sunday. There was simply no stopping me.

Once the holiday break was over, it was time to go back to work. Which was good. I needed something to divert my attention away from food. Returning to a sensible routine at the office would help me take a much needed respite from the non-stop buffet I had been seated at for the last month.

Usually, returning to work after the holidays is like easing into a pool at the beginning of summer. Everyone knows the cold water is going to be a shock to the system so it’s understood that you’re allowed to take your time and spend the first few days hanging out in the shallow end.

Such was not the case though this year. We came back to a massive project with an impending deadline. It was a real bummer. These people actually expected us to work.

Which was just as well in my case. I needed to get lost in something.

When you get older, one of the first things to start going downhill is your vision. I’ve been 20/20 my whole life, but a few years before this I had started buying those reading glasses that old ladies get at the drugstore. They’re like six bucks and you don’t need a prescription. They work really great. Old ladies know their shit.

I had gotten a few pairs of varying strengths and progressively made my way through the collection. It was a new year and I needed stronger glasses. So, I decided to make a fresh start of things. Instead of going back to the drugstore and buying the next level up, I was going to do what a grown man should do. See an eye doctor and get some real reading glasses.

I went to a LensCrafters at the mall. It was a Tuesday or something so I didn’t need an appointment and in no time, I was heading back for the eye exam. They dilated my eyes. They did this and that. And then they lined me up with some machine that can see the backs of your eyeballs somehow. It’s amazing what they can do at the mall these days.

The technician does a few clicks this way and that way and soon she’s printing out my eyeball report card. I ask her when I’m gonna look at all the little letters and tell her which ones I can’t see. She said to hold on for a sec because she needs to talk to the doctor.

Within 30 seconds she returns with the doctor. They’ve got a look on their face. I know this look. It’s the same look an HR person has when you walk into the room where they’re waiting to fire you.

The doctor explains that I won’t be looking at the little letters and telling them which ones I can’t see. She says instead, I’ll be calling my doctor immediately and preferably I should do it while driving straight to her office.

I get there and explain what’s going on. She does a little bloodwork and then I get the big news.

“Congratulations Mr. Eaker. You’re now diabetic. Hope you’re happy, you fat fuck.”

She didn’t say it like that, but she might as well have. I don’t even have a history of diabetes in my family. Developing it all on my own like that was an accomplishment. I should either be rewarded or studied.

Surely, the people at Achatz Pie Co. would want to know about this. They might want to sponsor me or something. Perhaps I could become a brand ambassador or spokesperson. The possibilities are endless. The heights we could soar to would be rivaled only by the impressive levels of glucose in my blood.

I go on a drug called Metformin and the doctor tells me I need to lose weight. So I start looking for ways to lose weight. I go through every diet there is. No carbs. All carbs. Vegetarian. Paleo. You name it, I tried it.

I also started exercising because evidently sitting on your ass, writing for 12 hours a day, doesn’t burn a ton of calories. The only problem is I fucking hate exercising. Exercising sucks enormously gigantic donkey dicks. I hate any and all forms of exercising with a passion that is substantial to say the least.

Gyms make my stomach turn. They’re depressing to me. Everyone in there is trying to improve themselves in some way. Meaning, by definition, that no one is happy with themselves as they are. Gyms aren’t a place where you go to make yourself better. Gyms are a place where you go as punishment for allowing yourself to become the person you are.

I give myself enough grief for having become the person I am. I don’t need to pay a membership fee for that.

I like to run but once I get into it, I get completely obsessed and before I know it, I’m spending two and a half hours every day on it and that’s just too much of a time suck for me. When you’re a parent of small children and you’ve got a full time job in advertising it’s a little tricky to peace-out for a big chunk of time like that every day.

So, I needed to find a solution. Six months went by and I lost three pounds. I wanted to lose the weight slowly and sensibly but I’m also impatient as hell. I needed to find something that would produce better results.

So I got creative.

The first thing I did was totally cut out sugar. It’s not that hard really. Let yourself eat whatever you want except sugar for a week or two. That’s what worked for me.

Then I stopped eating meals and started grazing more. I’d keep nuts at my desk and just grab a handful when I started getting hungry. I ate protein bars. I drank meal replacement drinks. I just started looking at food differently. I decided that food wasn’t going to be about enjoyment anymore. At least not all the time. I was going to treat food like fuel and give my body just enough to get me from point A to point B and once I was on empty, I’d give myself some more.

I know how sucky that sounds but you’d be surprised how easy it is to lose interest in food once you put your mind to it. It also helps if you can add in some depression. Nothing curbs the appetite better than sadness. Luckily, my marriage was beginning to totally unravel so I leaned into that which made the process much easier.

But there was still the exercise issue to contend with. And that’s where I had my big break through.

I hate exercise because it doesn’t accomplish anything. Sure, it’s good for you and has all kinds of health benefits but it doesn’t get you anywhere. You go to a gym and do all that work and all you walk out of there with is a bag full of sweaty clothes.

Same with running. Go out and run five miles. Great. Now you just gotta run five miles back to get where you started in the first place. I dislike that kind of inefficiency. My problem with exercise is that bettering myself simply isn’t enough. I want something tangible to show for my efforts. I need something extrinsic to make it worth my while.

And that’s when the lightning bolt hit and I discovered: Toiling.

I had just moved into a new house and it needed quite a bit of work. Nothing too tricky. A lot of painting. The floors needed to be refinished. A bit of landscaping was in order. Mostly just cosmetic stuff. So I decided that I could do most of the work myself.

The pandemic had just started. I was working from home and soon discovered that if I woke up early I could easily get my work done, attend necessary zoom meetings, get my kids through their school days and work on the house all at the same time. It was hectic and took a bit of hustle but I was productive as hell and got to spend more time with my kids.

The work on the house became my exercise. Painting, sanding, sweeping, vacuuming, lifting, carrying, digging, raking. This was my work-out. And it felt better than anything I ever did at a gym. At the end of the day my whole body would be sore. Arms, legs, back, shoulders. They were all getting worked. Not only did I start to get significantly better weight-loss results, but the new house was beginning to look fantastic.

So I kept at it. Even when most of the jobs were done, I found new ones. And if I couldn’t find a new one I’d vacuum the whole house, clean the floors, go outside and pull weeds, sweep the driveway, whatever. It didn’t matter. Work is work. And if you know your physics, you know that calories are a measurement of energy which can be converted to joules which are a measurement of work.


Toiling equals exercise.

In two years, I lost about 60 pounds. My A1C scores dropped below diabetic levels. And my vision even got better.

My relationship with food continues to evolve. I still try to treat it like fuel. And I try to burn up everything I have before I put more into the tank. At night, I usually eat a regular meal. Pretty much whatever I want. And I’ve even reintroduced a bit of sugar back into my diet because sometimes I use it as a quick way to get some calories in me before I go to do something that I know will need them.

As long as I keep toiling, the weight stays stable and the glucose levels stay where they should be.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I met Richard Simmons once. He had a class in Hollywood you could take and some friends and I went to it once to have a laugh and it didn’t disappoint. He’s nuts. But he’s a riot.

He’s also brilliant. When Richard Simmons first started getting interested in exercise, he found that most gyms catered to people who were already in shape. So he opened a gym that embraced people who weren’t and changed the fitness industry forever.

I don’t think toiling is as revolutionary of an idea as that. But for me it was. I needed to exercise. But I hated to exercise. So I found a hack. And that became the secret to my success.

Which we all know is fleeting. Only failure is forever.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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