By Kristen McQueary
Aug. 3 fell on a Friday. President Trump was tweeting about 3D printer guns. Political numskulls were screeching on television. Twitter was erupting by the millisecond.
Like most days, hateful exchanges floated through Facebook feeds. Harmless political banter drew swift rebuke. Echo chambers displaced journalism.
Perhaps the crescendo of squawk and stridency ruptured something inside him. Michael Ungeran, a 45-year-old engineer and political junkie from Downers Grove, Ill., stepped on the scale. At 6 feet, 4 inches tall, his weight had crept to 275 pounds, up 35 pounds from two years earlier. He spent too many Saturday afternoons on the couch. He spent too much time scrolling through his phone. He had allowed the toxic environment of politics to conquer his attention. So he resolved to spin free.
A conservative-leaning voter who listens to talk radio on the way to work, he grew increasingly exasperated at the media’s obsessive overreactions to Trump. The outrage from both sides of the political spectrum made him antsy. Ungeran’s diet had not changed dramatically. But he was swinging through Starbucks for sugary coffee drinks in the morning, sipping energy drinks in the afternoon and eating what he wanted.
The morning of Aug. 3, Ungeran looked down at the scale. He thought of his two boys, ages 7 and 8. Rather than procrastinate, he executed. He turned off social media notifications. He stopped watching cable news. He disengaged from his Twitter family – yes, it’s a thing – and he began to fast.
He drank a protein shake in the morning and spooned through one 80-calorie yogurt at night. On weekends, his wife prepared for him a small dinner, maybe half of a chicken breast or a salad. But he kept his daily calorie intake to less than 500 a day. He replaced all beverages with water. He lost at least a pound a day.
As the pounds disappeared, and while consciously curbing cable news and social media, Ungeran spent less time on his phone and more time engaged with his family. He stayed centered on “the power a strong will can have over excuses. They held me focused on the amazing things I can roll up my sleeves and accomplish.” He charted his weight loss and texted friends for moral support. Six weeks later, he was down 45 pounds and lighter in every way. He then lost another five pounds.
Ungeran realizes his crash diet would not work for everyone. We all have different DNA and levels of discipline. But his journey raises an interesting point. As we head toward New Year’s resolutions, reset buttons should not only be about calories in and out. They should be about settling your insides, depriving your mind of the ticker tape to which we’ve all become accustomed.
Kristen McQueary is a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.