Great title, don’t you think? As soon as I click “publish” and put this post on line, it will join the queue of between twenty and thirty million bits of internet trash devoted to the subject of unloading ugly fat. Just how many sites come up on Google will depend upon how fat you are. If you want to lose ten pounds, fast, you’ll get 1.6 million hits. Fifty pounds gets just under a a million. But, if you are so large that you need to lose a hundred pounds, Google has over twenty million ways to help you. It is heart-warming how much the cyber-community cares about its larger members.
North Americans are obsessed with losing weight. And eating. If you spend as much time as I do at the grocery store, you are aware that every one of the better periodicals has, in every issue, a diet promise on the cover. While we wait to pay for our cartload of calories, we can learn the diet secrets that have worked for the Kardashians, the Jennifers, the Octomom. Who doesn’t want some advice on healthy living from the Octomom? And we can read of the heartbreaking serial fat relapses suffered by Kirstie Alley, Janet Jackson, the Kardashians. Like all of us slobs in the checkout line, the famous and fabulous struggle to stay buff and beach-ready.
Cruelly, all the other magazines are about food.
Most of the media anti flab blitz is aimed at women. Men aren’t as concerned about their weight. When a guy gets up in morning – just a little fatter than he was the morning before – he can look in the mirror, suck in his gut a bit, puff out the pecs, flex the biceps and be convinced that he looks just great. In fact, most guys can skip the gut-suck and muscle-flex steps and go straight into “Oh man, I am hot”.
I don’t know why women can’t do this – they’re so sensible in other ways.
Guys don’t weigh themselves very often. Scales are misleading. That number on the dial lacks context, can’t deliver nuance and simply fails to provide the whole story. When we do weigh ourselves, we do so with the comforting knowledge that our weight just naturally increases with age as we “settle in” and become more gravitationally attractive. It’s just physics.
Guys also know that “muscle weighs more than fat.” We’ll often say this out loud while standing on the scale. We’re not getting fatter; we’re getting stronger.
Guys also often claim to “carry it well”. Has that phrase ever been uttered with respect to a heavy woman? “Oh yeah, she’s heavy, sure, but, because of her build, she can carry a lot of weight.”
Finally, in popular culture, big heavy guys, fat guys, can get hot women. Fred Flintstone has Wilma. Ralph Kramden has Alice. The King of Queens has the Queen of Queens, whatever their names were. Jack Black’s corpulent characters get Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet in Margot at the Wedding and The Holiday, respectively. Seth Rogen? That guy always does well. Being overweight and ordinary looking is, according to tv and movies, no barrier to romantic/sexual success. Hot women like, maybe even prefer, fat guys. Never the other way around, however. Yes, you’re right; that’s not fair. But the sting goes out of this sexist injustice when you realize it is just a fantasy – the persistent fantasy of all those chubby fellows who make the movies. In real life, fat guys do no better than fat gals. When you see a fat guy with a hot woman, you can be pretty sure he wasn’t fat when they met. [I should pause here to note that, while fat guys typically don’t get with hot girls, really unlikable assholes do disproportionately well – an issue that ought to concern us all.]
We fight fat like crazy. According to the U.S. Food and Drug administration, Americans spent about thirty billion dollars in 1992 on all types of diet programs and products. [Relevant Canadian figures couldn’t be found without more time and effort than I was willing to devote to finding them.] By 2007, that figure was fifty five billion dollars and is now estimated to have reached sixty billion.
Sixty Billion Dollars.
In one year.
With that kind of money, you could buy nine and a half billion pounds of bacon. Had that money in fact been used to buy bacon instead of diet products, I doubt the results would have been much different. Because, despite spending close to a trillion bucks on the War on Fat in the past twenty years, Americans have been growing steadily fatter. As have Canadians. We’re not as fat, and we’re not likely to close the fat gap, but we’re growing along with them. About twenty four percent of Canadian adults are obese. That is ten percentage points behind the Americans, but hardly a figure to celebrate.
So, what does this have to do with me?
I have always been a “big” guy. Then I quit smoking and gained twenty five fat pounds in what seemed like a couple of weeks. I was being layered in lard that was, apparently, just floating in the air. I had become a fat magnet. Fortunately, I carried it well and I soon adjusted to the new, more substantial, me. Then, I turned fifty and and began to get bigger. And bigger, until I finally came to rest at a frightingly high weight. I guess I’d reached a point where I just couldn’t get any fatter. This is, I believe, the definition of “ideal weight”.
But really, I was too fat. I needed to lose some weight. Not a lot maybe. Ten pounds. Fifteen would be great. I needed some motivation. I decided to keep a Fat Journal – something to record my thoughts and my hopes and dreams on the fat front. It started like this:
Ross is Too Fat
Last evening, I was getting dressed to go out. I put on my new jeans. I decided to tuck in my shirt [to tuck or not to tuck is a vexing fashion issue for me]. I was uncomfortable. The waistband of my jeans wasn’t too small. It fit around my waist easily. But my fat spilled over it. I looked in the mirror. There was no adjustment I could make to how my jeans sat on my hips or how I tucked or untucked the shirt or how I stood that changed the look. I am a fat guy.
I’m about two hundred and forty four pounds. Six feet tall. This gives me a BMI of 33.1. According to the charts, this puts me well into the “obese” category, represented by urgent “high risk” red on the graph. Dangerously overweight. I could lose forty pounds and I’d still be “overweight”. The normal weight for a guy my height, according to this very depressing chart, is between one hundred and thirty seven pounds and one-eighty-five. I could lose a hundred pounds and still be a normal, healthy weight. That’s forty percent of me, gone, yet that’s a normal me. I think that if I were to have all the skin and fat and tissue boiled off my bones, those bones alone would give me a BMI in the normal range. I’m going to ignore the BMI. It’s obviously designed for small, hollow-boned creatures. Like birds.
None of my clothes fit right- but some don’t fit at all. Because I’m too fat. I’m going to have to start wearing sweats. No one wants to see that.
The other day, at the YMCA, I broke a machine. I was trudging along on one of those fancy step/glide/stride things whent the bolt holding on the left step sheared right off. Clunk. The thing slammed to the floor. I believe those machines are quite durable, but this one could not handle Big Ross. My weight has made me a danger to myself and others. I’m worried I’ll be sent involuntarily to a fat camp for reasons of public safety.
I eat compulsively, all day long. For example, I go through hundreds of jujubes a week. I keep then in a drawer in the kitchen. I prefer the red and orange, but will eat yellow and green if I have to. Never black. Did you know that six jujubes gives me one hundred calories? For a long time, I thought they had no calories. They actually have quite a few. Cookies? I love cookies. I buy them for the kids, but eat most of them myself. As fast as I can. Same with cinamon buns – well, baked goods of any and all kinds. Chips. Chocolate. My home has become a high calory crack house – I only leave the house to get more junk.
If someone were to describe me, that person would likely not use the word “fat”. “Oh yeah, I know Ross, he’s that fat guy.” No. “Big” is the word most often used. So very Big. I have a big frame. I also have a large, perhaps unusually large, head, which helps. I’d hate to think how freakish my head would look if the rest of me was of normal size. For me, obesity is an aesthetic advantage.
It went on like that for a while. Sounds like a guy on the verge of making big changes, right? No. It’s just a guy hating how fat he is. Eventually, I stopped writing in that journal. It wasn’t taking the weight off. In fact, I got heavier.
I did stop buying jujubes. That was, for a long time, my sole weight loss strategy. It reminded me of my drinking days. I was concerned that I was drinking too much beer. So I started drinking rye. It worked very well. In no time, I had cut my beer consumption in half. Obviously I was able to replace those missing jujube calories. At least I didn’t have all those black jujubes laying around anymore.
Will power is a tricky thing. It doesn’t take any willpower for me to not have a cookie, but, having had one, it takes a great deal of willpower to not have a second one. By the time I’ve finished my twentieth cookie, numbers twenty one through forty are beyond my control.
I did nothing about my weight for the next three years, other than whine and bitch impotently and curse my weak character, poor genes and bad luck. I wallowed in my flabby misery and felt sorry for my fat self. It was almost three years after that journal entry that, finally, I actually started to do something about it.
If you want to lose weight, it’s best to start out with a lot of it. I feel bad for those people who are just a bit overweight – they have so little to lose. I was able to lose twenty pounds in one month. Very satisfying. It was only when I had lost thirty pounds that I realized, “Jesus, I was more than thirty pounds overweight. In the end, I lost over forty pounds. I’m glad I didn’t know when I started that I needed to lose that much weight. It might have been discouraging. I felt great. I looked like a different person. Well, not a different person, maybe – the same guy but with a much bigger head.
People who hadn’t seen me for a while were stunned at my appearance. Without thinking, they’d blurt out praise to me for all the weight I’d lost, then have to add that they never really thought I was fat. Right. Sorry folks, but guys who are not fat don’t lose forty pounds, unless they have a major limb amputated. What they meant to say was “Geez Ross, I never realized until right now just how really fat you were.” It might have hurt my feelings when I was fat to be called fat, but it doesn’t hurt my feelings now for people to recall how fat I was.
“So Ross.” you are asking, “How did you do it? After twenty years of being too fat, what did you do to lose all that weight?”
Read this over again. Recall that Americans spend sixty BILLION dollars a year in a failing effort to lose weight.
And you want my secret for free?
Okay. A hint: It involves eating less.