- 07 Dec 2009 at 10:00 AM
As previously mentioned, Neel Kashkari has been living in the woods since leaving the Treasury. Up in his secluded mountain cabin in California, Kashkari has been undergoing a four-step program of his own design called “Washington detox.” It involves building a shed, chopping wood, helping Hank Paulson with his book and losing 20 pounds. You might’ve thought that working 24 hours a day would’ve left the little guy gaunt and malnourished but au contraire– Kashkari packed on the lbs like it was his job, mostly by never having time to working out and dining on “family-size Cool Ranch Doritos.” And he’s determined to lose the weight not simply because he wants to fit into his old pants but because of what the fat around his waist represents– the most miserable year of his life. Yes, these are not just your average inches of flab. Each molecule of fat is a Congressman berating him on the hill. It’s him nearly having a heart attack while working on his first TARP report. It’s Paulson looking at him with eyes that say, “Maybe you should skip dessert tonight.” It’s a demon.
It’s personal, this — him vs. Washington. “It’s detox of a tough period,” Kashkari says later, wiping his forehead. “Through exercise like running, but exorcize is relevant, too.”
He’s been working hard, but he’s not there yet, and until he is, dinner is out.
Now, after six months of dieting and 45-mile alpine bike rides, the gym scale under Kashkari’s sneakers reads: 181.2. “No dinner tonight,” he grumbles.
“Are you detox’d yet?” A friend had messaged. Not until he weighs 180.
If it sounds like Kashkari’s being a little extremist with his diet, it’s just because he really, really doesn’t want to be compared to Larry Summers.
In Washington, Kashkari, about 5-foot-10, had ballooned — “I’m a stress eater” — to 203 pounds. His waistband cut into the folds of his stomach. His biceps felt like “bags of Jell-O.”…He’s put on classic stress-related weight under his chin.
But anyone can see Kashkari has made a lot of progress. Even his (prick?) former boss, whose book Kashkari is reliving the horror of last year in order to help edit, is noticing, and offering backhanded compliments.
The next morning of his D.C. visit, he knocks on Paulson’s front door.
“Neel,” Paulson says warmly. “You’re a different man.”
“I lost 18 of the 20 pounds.”
“Almost there,” Paulson smiles. “I remember when you were here in April, and you were fat.”
“And unhappy,” Kashkari adds.
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- Bess Levin
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