Tag Archives: friends

The Perfect Family Photo

I have to admit, I was not looking forward to our family photo shoot last week. Why? I have several reasons.

First of all, well — just look at me! I’m not exactly photogenic thanks to a face that would make a train take a dirt road. That’s a fact that’s magnified tenfold when you put me next to my gorgeous wife and son. But what I dread even more than that is all the other crap that goes along with the family photo. What are we gonna wear? Where do we take the pictures? Do we all have to match? When can we do it? But the most important question — at least to me — was choosing the right photographer who is not only affordable, but who wouldn’t land us on one of the many websites solely devoted to awkward family photos.

And that’s when I got a timely email from an old college classmate.

In addition to being one of the very first readers of this blog, Meri Belanger is the owner of Sootie Studios where she is — wait for it — a professional photographer. I remember her being very talented in the arts at school, but I was nervous to take her up on her offer of doing a family photo shoot. Mainly because I was worried about not liking the pictures and then not being able to give her a good review. The dangers of working with friends and family.

Luckily, that turned out to be a non-issue.

As you can see by looking at these pictures, Meri is insanely talented. But there are some other things you need to consider that make these photos even more impressive:

  • It was hotter than 90 degrees that day
  • We were sweating like crazy
  • There was a 4-year-old involved
  • There was a crazy golden retriever involved

That’s no easy task to be outdoors in a public place (Borderland State Park in case you were wondering), with a kid and a dog in suffocating heat. But Meri not only took great shots, she did it quickly and efficiently. Probably because she’s also a mom of two kids so she gets it.

The other thing I really appreciated was Meri’s prep work. I really wanted to avoid the studio setting with a canvas background and stupid poses, but I wasn’t sure where we should go. So Meri suggested a few places and we settled on a great state-owned park in Easton, Mass. She did some advance scouting and had a bunch of specific spots picked out ahead of time. And she listened to my requests about not posing and just capturing us in our (mostly) natural state, and was able to get some really terrific candids.

You guys know I don’t do many reviews and I don’t recommend products or people I wouldn’t use myself. But I can promise you with absolute certainty that if you choose to go with Meri at Sootie Studios, you’ll be incredibly happy. And you’ll probably go back because she does newborn/maternity pictures, kids birthday parties, senior pictures, graduation pictures, weddings and any other event you can think of. That’s why it’s my

pleasure to recommend someone who is not only a professional and wonderful

photographer, but also a fellow parent and a friend.

So if you’re in southeastern Massachusetts and you want some fantastic pictures that don’t break the bank, done by a truly nice person who’s also a mom, check out Meri here or here and follow the contact information on her website to set up an appointment.

And on a personal note, I want to thank Meri for our awesome photos. Not only didn’t I end up on Awkward Family Photos, we now have a bunch of pictures that will grace our walls for years. We’re even going to give them to family members as gifts. I’ve never been happier to be wrong in my life!

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The FatSlap Conclusion & A Half Marathon

I don’t usually toot my own horn, so this feels a little odd and foreign to me. Like Lebron James winning a championship. But we have some loose ends to tie up around these parts and while I don’t say it often — I’m proud of myself dammit.

I know I’m guilty of letting the FatSlap updates slide around here, but it’s not because I abandoned it. In fact, I won the last two rounds! I don’t have the final pictures of Alex and Dave because those lazy bastards haven’t gotten them to me yet, so I’ll give you my final stats. Or better yet, they say a picture’s worth a thousand words. So here you go:

Before: 281 lbs After: 224 lbs

















Total Weight Loss: 57 lbs!
















When the dust settled, I lost a total of 57 lbs. From 281 lbs on Jan. 1 to 224 lbs now. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not there yet because I still have 25 lbs to go — but I’m pretty proud of myself. I made a commitment to tracking everything I ate, eating less, eating smart, and exercising. I ran in the freezing cold, snow and through the predawn blackness. I ran on the treadmill, basically lived on the elliptical machine, and even lifted a few weights. I pushed through injuries, did a lot of research, surrounded myself with people in a similar position and fed off the enthusiasm and support from everyone — especially MJ and Will.

But most of all I ran.

Perhaps the best thing about this experience was falling in love with running again. I did cross-country in high school and loved it, even getting down to a 5:55 mile at one point. Not nearly the fastest time, but I was always built for comfort and not speed. What I lacked in quickness I made up for in endurance. Which is why I nearly quit in January when I couldn’t even run a half-mile without keeling over and nearly passing out.

But I stubbornly kept at it. Each time I ran a little farther and a little faster. One mile, two miles and finally up to a 5k distance. It was slow and ugly, but that’s kinda my thing. And by March a funny thing happened — I stopped dreading morning runs. Instead, I began looking forward to them. Needing them even. You could almost say I craved them. And as my distances began creeping up even higher, a very strange and mystifying thought occurred to me.

“Could I possibly run a half marathon?”

Running 13.1 miles all at once seemed crazy. It might as well have been the moon. It was MJ who told me I could do it. Insisted I could do it. And then demanded I do it. If not for her unwavering confidence in me, I’m not sure I would’ve signed up for the Old Sandwich Road Race in Plymouth. But I did. Less than 5 months removed from weighing a whopping 281 lbs and not being able to drag my fat ass up the stairs, I ran the race and hoped for a best-case scenario time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I ran it in 2:14:13 instead.

I finished in 176th place. Usually I’d scoff at receiving a medal for finishing 176 out of 220 and want to punch anyone who was bragging about it. But not this time. This time I’m just immensely proud of myself for setting a goal and following through.

It is not easy to run a half marathon — especially for a fat guy with shin splints and bad knees. But I did it.

I did it for MJ because she picked up so much extra slack during the last five months while I went to the gym and for long runs. Even though she would NEVER admit that I was so fat she became less physically attracted to me, I know that’s the truth of the matter. She could barely get her arms around me before, and now — well, let’s just say this weight loss has been good in more ways than one!

I did this for my son. I didn’t want Will to have a fat dad who can’t do anything physical. It’s not fair to him that I got out of breath playing simple games and couldn’t chase him around the yard for more than a few minutes at a time without having a heart attack. As an added bonus, Will is paying attention to what he eats and asking if certain foods are healthy. He also recently asked me if he could run with me when he gets older. I nearly broke down in tears I was so happy to hear that from him.

But most of all, I did this for me.

I joked a lot about being the funny fat guy, but I always hated it. I hated being fat. I hated being unhealthy and grotesque. They say fat is beautiful and we should all just be ourselves — screw that. I didn’t want to be fat anymore because it’s not a healthy situation, so I did something about it.

And now I just feel…better. In every respect. I feel full of energy because I’m exercising and eating right. But more importantly, I feel confident for the first time in years. I know I’m still a big guy and I have more work to do, but I don’t mind looking in the mirror these days. And I can fit into all my own clothes — clothes that don’t involve XXL on the tag anymore. Shirts that button around my neck. Pants that actually close around my waist. It’s nice to wear garments that don’t double as Xerox copy machine covers.

I’m not giving out advice because who the fuck am I? All I’ll say is it’s never too late to get started and have success. You just have to really, truly want it and be willing to sacrifice to get it. But let me tell you, when you work for months and get to literally cross the finish line and complete a goal you thought was impossible — it’s all worth it.

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FatSlap Round 2: This One Hurt!

If you’re wondering what the hell FatSlap is, stop and read this. Go ahead, I’ll wait. You back? Then let’s proceed.

So as you know, Alex beat me in Round 1 by losing 50 lbs to my 21 lbs. This month we had an interesting monkey wrench thrown in when our friend Dave joined. As you might be able to guess, with Dave just beginning his weight loss he had the added advantage because Alex and I were plateauing. And, true to form, he ended up coming out on top.

Dave lost 20 lbs last month, a loss of 6%. That beat Alex’s 20 lbs lost, good for 5.7%. And even though I lost 12 lbs, I came in last with a monthly weight loss of 4.6%. Which means not only does slap me and Alex, Alex gets to slap me as well.

If you’re wondering how I handled this, I’ll refer you to one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting. There’s a scene in that movie when Matt Damon is talking to Robin Williams about his abusive foster father:

Will: He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, “Choose.”
Sean: Well, I gotta go with the belt there, Vanna.
Will: I used to go with the wrench.
Sean: Why?
Will: Cause fuck him, that’ why.

I figured if I was gonna get smacked, I was going to make it worth my while. So I proceeded to taunt, berate, mock and terrorize Dave for weeks. And it all culminated on our 4-hour ride up to Saratoga last week for a guys weekend with all my college friends, which is where the slaps took place. I questioned his manhood pretty much the entire time. So when it was finally his turn to slap me — well, see for yourself.

Yeah. I won’t lie, that shit hurt. But look at how much he completely pussed out when it came time to hit a guy who’s bigger than he is. Pathetic. But that’s OK, I’ll make it up to them both when I slap the bejesus out of them next month.

I won’t bore you too much with our progress but I’m proud of myself and these other two clowns. We’ve lost almost 125 lbs combined, but that doesn’t even begin to describe the positive effects resulting from this lifestyle change. Now that I’m 30 lbs lighter I can play with Will again without needing oxygen. I can walk up stairs without wheezing. I can run 3.65 miles in 40 minutes and I own the elliptical machine. Even incorporated some free weights and lifting into my routine.

The point is we’re all healthier and feeling better. Our lives are genuinely improving, and it looks like this might be more of a lifestyle change than a fad. Which is awesome.

Here’s the visual proof. I’ve included the first pictures to the most recent, going from left to right.

First up is Dave:














Next is Alex:













And finally, me:

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Why I Don’t Want Any New Friends

There was a time — back in my youth before life made me jaded and cynical — when I loved meeting new people. It didn’t matter if they were friends of friends, strangers I’d befriend at the bar or even people I’d talk to online and then meet up with in real life. I was young, carefree and didn’t have a worry in the world. The more the merrier.

But now my motto is “no mas.”

I suppose it’s more than a little hypocritical for a blogger and communications major to say he hates meeting new people and making new friends. But it’s true. At least in real life. Meeting people online is great because, let’s face it, we communicate via Facebook status updates, comments and 140 characters at a time. It’s not like having “real life” friends because you can tune out or log off online. But in real life that’s not an option.

I love my friends. Both my real life friends and my online friends. But simply put, I’m done making new real life friends.

I know that makes me a misanthrope but I don’t care. I’m officially old, stubborn and set in my ways on this front. My real life friends have been there for years and they’re used to me. Because let’s face it — I’m not easy to get along with. I’m crass, brash, bold, loud and obnoxious. I make fun of everyone and everything, while expecting the same thing in return. Every time I hang out with my friends it’s basically a Comedy Central Roast. Nothing is sacred. But at the same time, no one takes offense. I don’t have to worry about offending them, making small talk with them or placating them with bullshit. It’s a nice little arrangement.

In a nutshell, I want to keep the friends I have and put a bubble over my world with a sign that says “New Friends Need Not Apply.”

But I made one big tactical error regarding my Bubble Plan.

MJ. She’s going back to school and still battling a host of medical maladies. In an effort to break her out of her funk, I told her to interact more with her classmates. In my head that meant study partners, homework buddies, etc. I never imagined — not even for a second — my advice might have repercussions outside the classroom. More to the point, I didn’t think it would ever affect me. Whoops.

“Hey babe, we’re going out to dinner Friday night,” MJ said to me a couple of weeks ago.

“Cool. Is it just you and me?” 

“No. We’re going out with friends,” she said with a hesitation that gave me pause.

“OK. Who? Dave and Amanda?”


“Vic and Alicia?”


“Craig and Kelly?” I said with a curious inflection.

“Nope,” she said, turning her face away from me which is what always happens when she’s about to deliver bad news.

“Well that’s curious since that about exhausts the list of friends with whom we can easily go out to dinner. What’s going on?”

“OK, don’t be mad but — “

I knew I was in trouble right away. Every husband knows nothing good has ever followed the words “Don’t be mad but…” And that’s when she told me she made dinner plans with a friend of hers from class. My jaw hit the floor. Partially because MJ had completely ignored the “No New Friends” rule, but also because it’s so out of character for MJ to put herself out there like that.

“Really?” I said with a mix of disgust and surprise. “Who is this girl??”

“Well,” she said. “Don’t be mad but…”

Yup. A double dose of trouble. MJ went on to tell me weren’t just going out with her friend from class, we were going out with her boyfriend. Alarm bells and sirens started going off in my head as the word “WARNING! WARNING!” repeatedly sounded through my brain.

Since I’m incapable of hiding my emotions and I have no filter, the look on my face must’ve told MJ exactly what I thought about her plans. But I can’t help it. I automatically think of all the forced small talk, the get-to-know you background conversations, the how-did-you-meet stories. And all the while I’m fighting the urge to check my email, jump on Facebook and tweet about what a horrible time I’m having.

Yes, I’m a dick. I know. And so does MJ. That’s why she wasn’t surprised at my complaining. I told her I hate the get-to-know you crap, the niceties and polite dinner conversation asking all the usual questions. Which is why she cringed when she dropped the third bombshell on me.

“Well, actually you can’t ask them about how they met or any of that stuff. They just broke up.”

“Uhhhh…what?” I said in disbelief.

“Yeah. They broke up. But she’s hoping this dinner will help get them back together.”

Boom. There it is.

We haven’t even been out with these new people yet and it’s already more trouble than it’s worth. Sure I hate the usual small talk, but at least it’s an option. Now MJ gives me a list of questions I’m not even allowed to ask them. Furthermore, she told me I had to pretend I didn’t know they were broken up because it would just cause unnecessary drama. I’ve never even met these people and I’m already mixed up in their personal relationship issues. It’s bad enough to go out with new people and find out their weird idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes in due time, but this is a whole other ball of wax. This is craziness right off the bat and the whole thing is starting off based on lies — they’re lying about still being together and I’m lying about not knowing about their break up.

All I can picture is going out for dinner with two people who’ve spent the last week fighting and having several of those 6-hour should-we-or-shouldn’t-we-break-up marathons. After a few drinks they start bickering with each other and throwing out little verbal jabs. Then comes the screaming match complete with a drink thrown in his face, followed by the two of them storming out of the restaurant before they can pay their portion of the check, which the waitress just dropped in our lap.

This is what happens when you open The Bubble!!

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Losing Weight One Slap at a Time


It all started with some stairs.

I work on the third floor of an office building but I often have to go to the first floor to drop things off. One day a couple of months ago I walked down and then back up, but I heard this sound that startled me. I happened to be walking past the copier and thought it was having mechanical problems, but it was off. And that’s when I realized — in a fit of horror — what was making the noise.

It was me. And I was wheezing from being out of breath. Like a full-on, Fatty McGee wheeze.

I’ve always been on the heavy side. Three years ago I freaked out when I stepped on the scale and saw I weighed 246 lbs. So I talked to a few of my fat guy friends and we decided to do something about it. We each put down $100 and had ourselves a weight loss challenge. My friend Alex lost 70-some odd pounds and I shed more than 30 myself. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to maintain my weight because Will was born and there just didn’t seem to be enough time to go to the gym when new dad duties were calling.

So it was no surprise to me that I put on weight. I grew out of my large shirts and moved into the “XL” territory. You should know MJ buys all my clothes and therefore I don’t even know what size I am. I noticed my x-large clothes started feeling tight, but suddenly I had new clothes and they fit so much better. I naively thought maybe I had miraculously shed a few pounds without working out or changing my ABYSMAL eating habits. So imagine my shock when I looked at the tag and saw the “XXL” staring me in the face.

I won’t lie, that shook me. And it forced me to find an answer to a question I had been dreading for months and months. How much did I weigh? I hadn’t had the guts to get on a scale, but at this point I was beginning to get concerned for my health. I was in XXL clothes, couldn’t walk up stairs without requiring oxygen and could barely play with my own son for more than a couple minutes at a time. So I sucked it up and stepped on the scale to see…

281 lbs.

If other people hadn’t been around at the time, I probably would’ve cried. Two hundred and eighty-one fucking pounds. I was disgusted, embarrassed and horrified. But more importantly, I was ANGRY. The anger is important because that’s what motivates me. I know I should want to lose weight for myself, for my family, to live longer and be a good role model — but that’s not gonna cut it. Horrible, I know. But it’s the truth.

Anger motivates me. So does competition. Knowing that, I contacted my friends Alex and Dave — two of my heavier friends — to see if they wanted to make some changes. They did. Suddenly emails were flying back and forth as we tried to come up with terms for a bet. This time, instead of money, we borrowed from the popular TV show “How I Met Your Mother” in which the characters on the show settle their friendly bets in a rather unorthodox way — the Slap Bet.

And that’s how FatSlap was born. Here are the rules:

We all weigh in on our own scales. You must use the same scale throughout the duration of the contest. The weight loss is measured by percentage. This is important since I’m actually the lightest guy, so it makes things a little more fair. Alex and I started the competition early at the beginning of January. Dave is going to join in starting Super Bowl weekend.

We have monthly weigh-ins and at each weigh-in, there will be slaps. The guy who has lost the most weight gets to open-hand slap the other two in the face. The second place finisher gets to slap the guy in third. Which means whoever finishes last will get slapped twice. Oh, and did I mention all of it will be on camera for people to enjoy on YouTube?

This will go on until the end of May. At the last weigh-in, slaps will still take place as usual. But as a bonus, the winner will get to have two “anytime” slaps. That means the winner will be able to slap the other two at any point with no restrictions. For example, if Alex wins and decides to wait until Will gets married and I’m making a speech at the wedding to smack me in front of everyone, then so be it.

Like I said, anger motivates me. OK, and fear as well. That’s why the mere thought of losing $100 in a bet won’t get me going. But lemme tell ya, the thought of my two huge friends with brute strength slapping the ever-lovin’ shit out of me multiple times gets my ass out of bed to run at 5 a.m.

And yes, I’ve been running. I was at 281 lbs and now I’m at 263. That’s 18 lbs in three weeks. Not bad. But Alex, who weighed in at 399 lbs, has lost 42 lbs in that time so I’m in some trouble. But I’ve been tracking every single calorie that’s entered my body and I completely changed my eating habits. I run 2.6 miles 3-4 times a week. It’s slow going but I’m doing it.

As for Alex, I’ll let him tell you his story in his own words. Be warned, he likes to talk even more than I do:

Well for starters, I’m fat. It may be stating the obvious, but that’s the most salient detail, isn’t it? In this context, that’s what people want to know more about anyway. Who cares about the other stuff?

There aren’t TV shows devoted to people losing weight so that the audience can find out that Fatty McFatterson is an avid reader and movie buff (as I am). The audience wants to know how many X’s are on the tag of his shirt- mine have four of them these days, though there are a few brands where a 3X is better. Fun fact: the size at which no men’s clothing can, under any circumstances, actually be said to “look good on you” is 4XL.

People aren’t interested in the fact that I travel 150-200 days and 125,000+ miles a year for a living. Not yet anyway. They want to know if I need one of those seat belt extensions on the plane- Believe it or not, almost never. However, there are a few planes that haven’t been refurbished since you could smoke on planes, flight attendants were called stewardesses, and many male stewards were called “confirmed bachelors.” On these planes I find one useful, but can get by without if I need to.

Who cares if I’m mid-thirties, single, with no kids? Folks want to know if I’m fat enough to break furniture- I am. Or more honestly, I have. It was patio furniture, sure, but that made it no less embarrassing. Oh, and one dining room chair, which I still maintain was of sub-par quality as it was probably 10 years ago and I was not that fat at the time (I weighed less than Aaron does now).

It’s okay. You can relax. I’m not bitter or angry. This isn’t where I snap and start typing in all caps, DO YOU WANT ME TO DANCE FOR YOU?  YOU WANT FATTY TO DANCE? Um, more to the point I guess it is. Just not seriously. I just figured this is what most everyone would want to know. I’m fat enough to be the baritone in a barbershop quartet in Skokie, IL. I’m talking like orca fat. Told you- movie buff. (As I hope you already know the whole “barber shop/orca” thing is a Usual Suspects reference. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this right now and go watch it.

As the fattest participant in this competition, I’m either the odds-on favorite or the underdog depending on who you ask. For the record, I should be the favorite. I’ve lost large amounts of weight before. On one of said occasions I whipped my friends in a competition similar to this one (money only, unlike this time around no actual whipping). Aaron was one of them. Dave was not. It can be done.

Here’s hoping I do it again.

Brass Tacks:

Name: TheViking (I like to keep what comes up on a google search professional)

Website: www.mightyviking.com *

Twitter: @themightyviking *

Height: 5’10”

Starting Weight: 399lbs.**

Weight loss method: Healthy low carb. There are lots of diets with lots of different names that all push the same thing. And they’re all corporate money sucking machines that try to sell you chemical-ridden “bars” and the like. So I won’t use brand names. Think eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, grilled chicken or lean steak and lots of veggies for dinner, with nuts for snacking. And lots of water.

*The domain “themightyviking” was taken, as was the twitter handle “@mightyviking”. It’s a little confusing, but it’s also too late to fix, so there it is.

**This isn’t an asterisk where I explain I had a big meal or my shoes on (true, false). I can hem and haw all I want, at the end of the day I was a four hundred pounder (“was” because, being the procrastinator I am, I’m writing this after the original weigh-in. As of this posting I’m closer to 350 than 400.  If you’re asking yourself “what’s the difference, you’re still huge?” good for you, you’re not fat- but there’s a difference. Also suck it, I’m working on it.) Either way, I’ve come to terms with 400. I own 400, so this isn’t an asterisk for that. This is an asterisk for those people who know me and are surprised to learn I weighed that much. This also goes for anyone who knows someone dieting (especially successfully). DO NOT TELL ME, NOW THAT I’M LOSING WEIGHT, HOW CONCERNED YOU WERE FOR ME (OR MY HEALTH, ETC…) AND HOW GLAD YOU ARE TO SEE ME DOING WELL LOSING WEIGHT. DO NOT REMARK ON HOW SURPRISED YOU WERE TO LEARN THE ACTUAL NUMBER. I plan to write about this in the near future, so I’ll save you the whys and wherefores right now. Just trust me on this. If you have to mention successful weight loss to anyone, tell them they look good (not better, good). I’ll leave it at that for now.

So there we are. Your first two participants. We’ll have Dave’s info when he joins us in a couple weeks. In the meantime, Alex and I are posting our “before” pictures even though it makes us physically ill to do so. Feel free to leave us comments (we appreciate the positive and we’ll feed off the negative) and we’ll post all the updates (and especially the slap videos) as they happen.

Alex & I in the dreaded “Before” pics:

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