Joining the Big Fat Club

One in a series of posts on my struggles with maintaining a healthier weight, starting in early 2019 and working into the present day

#Weight: 250-something in January, 2019

I’d been giving some though to the big, fat club of which I was a member.

In January 2019, I wrote:

The obvious remedy to being fat is to stop eating so much.

But here’s the thing: I can’t seem to do it. Or, at least, I can’t seem to do it over the long run.

Look, there are thousands of diet and fitness books out there. I own some of them myself. But I know that this isn’t about eating more meat and less bread or whatever. This is less about my body than my mind. 

Having said that, I imagine there are some genetic components. In my family, we males tend to gain weight on our hips and only later does it creep up and around our stomachs. At the beach, it’s all too easy to identify us as siblings. 

But, hey, even if there is a genetic factor, that doesn’t mean I’m somehow fated to be fat. It just means that losing weight is a somewhat bigger challenge for me than for some other folks. 

Yet, that are a lot of other folks, of course. Not long ago, I was at the shuffleboard courts and decided to look for men that weren’t fat or, at least, overweight. Know what? It was a challenge. We fats guys are legion.

Yeah, I know. Shuffleboard, right? The ultra-low impact sport of fat fellows. Especially older fat fellows. But here’s the thing. It’s getting to be a pretty popular sport among the Millennial and Gen Z generations, and a lot of them are pretty heavy as well.

But, again, shuffleboard! 

Okay, so go ahead and Google that stuff. You’ll see that an astonishing 80% of U.S. men ages 50 to 54 are either overweight or obese. It’s a frigging American epidemic.  And, though we U.S. guys are the poster children of fat people, being fat is a global thing.

We fat folk are over 2 billion strong, at least 30% of the whole world’s population. The number of overweight and obese individuals in the world increased from 857 million (20%) in 1980 to 2.1 billion (30%) in 2013. And things aren’t getting any better. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and over who are overweight or obese was a whopping 71.6% in 2015-2016. 

Okay, so there’s not just a genetic component, there’s a cultural one. We denizens of the so-called developed world are just a lot more likely to be fat. Why? Take your pick.

  • Jobs where we mostly sit all day long
  • Lots of processed, tasty and calorie-packed foods
  • Entertainments (Netflix anyone?) where we also mostly sit or, even better, lounge
  • Tons of work and life stress, especially in the U.S.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg. If we wanted, we could delve into the evils of advertising, the fantastic success of the modern agricultural revolution, and more. But you get the drift. There are a lot of external reasons so many of us have gotten fat.

And, for me, there are a lot of internal reasons as well, which I’ll get into later.

The Fat Men’s Clubs of Yesteryear

Does it matter? That’s a question I keep coming back to. At one time, being fat was fine, even trendy.

There actually were fat men’s clubs in the U.S. back in the day, meaning the late 19th to early 20th centuries. They were literally social clubs that you could only join if you weighed over 200 lbs (91 kg). Back then, the stereotype associated with being a fat man (and, yes, there was double standard for women even back then) was that they were financially successful, benevolent and, well, kind of jolly.

Times have changed, though. Now we fat folk are in a club that few folks want to be part of. Maybe that’ll change again in the future. For now, though, we are legion yet often still ashamed of our not-to-hot bodies.

Engraving showing the 15th Annual Clambake of the Fat Men's Association in Connecticut by Neosho Absecon

Enough of Too Much

One in a series of posts on my struggles with maintaining a healthier weight, starting in early 2019 and working into the present day

#Weight: 252 lbs on Jan. 20, 2019

I’d had enough of too much.

On January 20th, 2019, I wrote the following:

I’m sick of being fat. Thus, this fat journal, where I track my weight, explore why I’m fat and think about how I can get un-fat.

The easy answer for why I’m fat seems simple. I eat too much. I eat compulsively sometimes, to be honest. I eat when I’m stressed, depressed or just when I want to relax in front of the tube.

So, the solution looks simple to a lot of people, often including myself. Just stop eating so much!

Yep, simple. So, so simple.

Since my 30s or so, I’ve struggled with weight. I’ve been thinner at times. Down to 200 or fewer pounds, which is a more reasonable weight for a guy who stands around 6 foot 2 inches.

But I haven’t always been that thin, of course. Not by a long shot. In January 2019, I was 252 pounds according to my bathroom scale. That was pretty close to my all-time high. Even worse, my bathroom scale is generous compared to my doctor’s scale, so that bad news was probably worse than it appeared. I was starting to feel is was both dangerous and dumb to be that heavy.

The National Institutes of Health website site was telling me that if I were at a “normal” weight, I’d be anywhere between 145 to 193 lbs. Mind you, it’s hard for me to even picture myself at 145 pounds, which I don’t think I’ve weighed since I was a sophomore in high school. But 193? Sure, I could envision that.

Okay, so being overweight isn’t exactly the end of the world, right? Well, yeah, but I was overweight and into the obese range. Just to stop being obese, I’d need to hit 232. Then I’d only be “nearly obese.” Yay.

I could claim that the whole “body mass index” (aka, BMI) is a kind of unscientific hoax perpetrated by, well, somebody. Michelle Obama, maybe? The folks who run the fat farms? The bathroom scale makers themselves?

Ah, so many possible conspirators. Should I just stop worrying about it and tell the fatphobics to fuck off? After all, it’s just a social construct. Fatphobia ruins peoples lives, and there are plenty of fat-acceptance activists who are fighting for the rights of people like me so that we aren’t stigmatized. I support their cause.

In fact, I very much wanted to just stop worrying about it.

Except for one thing: my body was telling me I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I felt lousy, my head was foggy, my energy not-so-hot. I could just sense that I was on some sort of edge over which I could easily slip. Slip into what, exactly? I guess any of the usual haunts of abysses. Death, disease, despair.

Cardiovascular disease is the one I fear most, partly because it runs in my family. I’ve seen it up close. But also because of all the studies out there connecting obesity to heart disease. Here’s one representative snippet:

[A] study published in April 2018 in the journal JAMA Cardiology concluded that adults between ages 40 and 59 who are overweight or obese have a significantly increased risk (ranging from 21 to 85 percent higher) of developing cardiovascular disease as compared with their normal weight peers. Individuals who are overweight, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9, or are obese (a BMI of 30 or higher), also have a much greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease at a younger age. The research showed that individuals who are obese had a shorter lifespan.

Guess I’ll end the post with that sobering and, to be honest, deeply annoying thought.

Featured image from 

Big: An Introduction to My Weight-Loss Journal

The first in a series of posts on my struggles with maintaining a healthier weight

Back in January 2019, I started keeping an unusual kind of weight-loss journal that was also part treatise on today’s obesity pandemic. It documents my attempt to understand how I originally became overweight and how I might maintain a healthier weight.

What it doesn’t document, however, is everything I ate and how many calories were in it. That might be helpful for some people, but it’s just too tedious for me and, in my case, not as helpful as trying to understand myself better.

A lot of it deals with my thoughts about food and with our natural human yearnings to eat enough food to fuel our big, energy-hungry brains.

I’m a researcher by trade and a bonafide nerd by nature. So, it made sense for me to delve into the world’s obesity problem as a way of explaining my situation to myself. In truth, every fat person has their own story to tell. But I suspect most overweight people also share much in common, often including modern cultures where their condition has become the norm and where there are plenty of conflicts over issues such as body image, fat-shaming and more.

Now I’m going to turn some of that weight-loss journal into a series of posts in a way that I hope will be helpful to some other folks.

The first post up is Enough Is Too Much.

Featured image: An fMRI image of the human cranial region, showing the different parts of the brain anatomy, by DrOONeil