Will:“Dad, I know opposites.” Me:“Really pal? Then tell me, are mom and I opposites?” Will:“Yes. Mom is skinny and you are — “ Me:“Yeah I get it bud, thanks.”
At first, this made-for-TV-sitcom moment had me laughing. A 5-year-old kid innocently uses his newfound knowledge to inadvertently make a fat guy crack about his dad? That’s funny. It’s always been funny. I even tweeted it and recounted across my other social media channels. Because, well — I am fat. I’ve always been kind of fat. And as most fat guys will tell you, being jolly and self-deprecating about your weight is the first rule of being a fat guy.
But after 24 hours of thinking on it and letting my son’s comments bounce around in my head, I’m no longer laughing. Because it’s not funny.
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:
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.
I write for a living. All day long I wrestle with words, carefully and meticulously deciphering which ones I want to use to convey the right message to my audience. And then, when my workday is done, I come home and tend to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and these very blog pages to do more of the same. In short, words are my life.
Which is why I’m having a difficult time figuring out why I have so much trouble refraining from saying stupid and potentially harmful things in front of Will.
It’s not like I’m swearing in front of him or verbally abusing him. But
at least that would be easy to identify. Nope, what’s been happening lately is much more subtle (and far more frustrating). Unlike the past few years when Will couldn’t comprehend most of the things I’m saying, suddenly he understands EVERYTHING. Even if he doesn’t quite grasp the words I’m using, he somehow gets the concept and gist of what I’m talking about and the meaning behind it. And when I say something — regardless of my intended meaning — he takes it another way.
Case in point:
Me: “OK buddy, I’ve gotta go to the gym for a run.” Will: “Dada, why do you run?” Me: “Because I’m too fat. So I run so I can get skinny like you.”
Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it. I was calling myself fat (a fact) and I thought I was setting a positive example by showing him that it’s important to exercise and be fit. Nothing wrong with that right?
Well a few hours later after I got back, Will got really revved up and would not stop running around. It was like someone had mainlined Pixy Stix directly into his bloodstream. When I finally corralled him and asked him what was going on, I was floored by his answer.
“I’m getting fat so I needed to run like you, Dada.”
For some naive reason, I thought because I’m raising a son I would never have to deal with body issues and all that crap. Which is hysterical because I’ve hated the way I look and the fact that I’ve been pudgy since I was a kid. But suddenly I found myself knee deep in it.
I never meant to scare him or make him feel bad about himself, but I also failed to realize that by talking about myself negatively, it affects him too. To the point a 4-year-old had to exercise to avoid feeling fat. All because of an offhand comment I made in my rush to get to the gym. Now he’s intermittently afraid to take his shirt off in front of us because he thinks we’ll call him fat. And he’s obsessed with standing on the scale because he sees me weighing myself all the time.
I just can’t believe what started as me wanting to get healthy, go to the gym and live longer to enjoy life with my son, has turned into me giving aforementioned son unhealthy body issues and an obsession with weight at the tender age of 4.
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.
As you all know, I’m in the middle of a weight-loss competition called “Fat Slap.” To date, I’ve lost more than 25 lbs in 6 weeks. That’s good not great, but I’m working on it. So some of you might be thinking to yourself “Who the hell is this asshole to be doling out weight loss advice when he’s still a fat fuck himself?!” It’s a valid question and the answer is simple: I’m not giving out advice. I haven’t accomplished my goals yet, so I’m in no position to tell anyone what to do or how to do it.
But a few of you have emailed/tweeted and asked me how I’ve lost the weight so far. And seeing as I’m hard-up for blogging material, I figured I’d answer. This isn’t advice, it’s just personal reflections from a fat guy who’s actively trying not to be so fat. Take it with a grain of salt (actually don’t eat salt, it’s not good for losing weight).
1. You Have to Be Ready Don’t start trying to lose weight until you’re truly committed to it. If you do, you’ll do it for a day (or less) and then give up. And if you’re anything like me, that defeat will make you feel so shitty you’ll go right back to eating monstrous amounts of food to comfort yourself. I really believe, for me and many others, half the weight loss battle occurs before you ever hit the gym. If you commit to it in your head and make a workout schedule and map out your caloric intake beforehand, it’ll be much less of a shock to the system and your chances of success are optimized.
2. Have a Plan It’s really hard to “wing it” and be successful. Thankfully with today’s technology, this part is really easy. First of all go find yourself a calorie counting app. I use MyFitnessPal and it’s really good and simple. Most of the things we eat have bar codes on the packaging, so just scan the code with your phone and it automatically imports all the nutritional information. If not, their database is huge and you can search for any food you need. You have to track what you eat every single day. Once you fill in your personal information it will give you a calorie limit to stay under. From there you can track your weight and even input exercise and calories burned. The biggest eye-opener for me to this point has been closely examining what I put in my body. Frankly, I was horrified once I saw the nutritional content of the things I ate. And there’s something about having to input that junk into your phone that makes you feel guilty about consuming it, and eventually I started eating better because of that guilt. Whatever works.
3. Keep It Simple A lot of people like fad diets. South Beach, Atkins, etc. People and companies have made millions off convincing people they can lose a shitload of weight just by cutting out carbs or changing their diet in a certain way. I know, I’ve tried them. And while they worked for a little bit, I always ended up gaining more weight than ever when I fell off the wagon. No matter what anyone tried to tell me, I’ve found the only way to truly get the results I want is to eat less, eat right and work out more. That’s it. No need to complicate matters. If I live by that motto, I eventually get the results I want.
4. It’s All About Portion Control Personally, my biggest problem was portion control. I ate WAY too much. For instance, I will eat an entire box of Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies in one sitting. I can also devour an entire large pizza and a whole box of pasta all by myself without even blinking. And that’s a real killer because even if you’re eating fairly healthy food, consuming that much of it will put your over your calorie limit. It’s tough to cut down on what you eat because you still feel hungry. The only thing I can tell you is put your head down and muddle through it. It’ll pass. Eventually your appetite gets smaller and the cravings aren’t so bad. And just remember, the saying “too much of a good thing” really does apply.
5. Be Active Eating right will only get you so far. You really do have to engage in some sort of physical activity to truly bring your weight loss to the proper level. It can be something as simple as walking or joining the gym. For me, it’s running. I ran cross-country in high school and so I’m trying to get back into it. I won’t lie, it was rough at first. REALLY rough. The first day I couldn’t jog more than 1/4-mile before I was wheezing like crazy and doubled over. It was devastating because I felt so shitty about myself I wanted to quit right then and there. So you have to make yourself do it again. That 1/4-mile turned into a 1/2-mile the second time. Then I cut a couple of minutes off my overall time. Now I worked up the nerve to join a gym and I’m doing 3 miles at a time, as well as hitting the free weights.
6. You Have to Find the Time As a parent who works full-time and has a bitch of a commute, this was my fallback excuse. When could I possibly work out? I get up at 6:30 a.m., drive 90 minutes to work, work until at least 5 p.m. and then 90 minutes home. Once I walk in the door it’s dinner, playing with Will, bathtime, a story and then bed. After that I have to work on the blog and other freelance projects. When I looked at my day I just shook my head and thought “impossible.” But if you’re really committed to losing weight and want to make it a priority, you simply have to find the time whenever you can. For me that means getting up at 4:45 a.m. and going to the gym before work. And it sucks. There’s no way around it. It also requires lifestyle changes because I have to go to bed earlier and my wife needs to pick up some of my slack when it comes to taking care of Will. But I want to live longer and be with my family for years to come, so right now this is my priority. You find the time. I repeat, you find the time. No excuses. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way.
7. Don’t Weigh Yourself Daily I want to start by saying I fail miserably at this one. I weigh myself every day and it’s completely counterproductive. Ideally I’d weigh myself on a weekly basis at the same time of day because the daily fluctuations in weight can be pretty harsh. Sometimes I’ve lost/gained 6 lbs in a 24-hour span. But the point is, your weight isn’t the only factor that should matter. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. Maybe you fit better in your clothes. Perhaps you no longer wheeze when you walk up a flight of stairs. Or you’re not out of breath anymore when you play with your kid. Those things are important and indicative of success. The scale will eventually come to agree with you, but if you drive yourself nuts with daily weigh-ins you’ll constantly be at war with yourself. Like I am.
So that’s my advice as a fat guy. I don’t have all the answers and as you can see, I still have a ton of work to do. But if you have any additional tips, leave them in the comments section. I need all the help I can get.