My 600-pound Bowl of Cheesy Fear
According to national health statistics, an average adult male needs 2,500 calories and an average adult female needs 2,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight.
Further, it takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound of weight. Lastly, the most common size for a bowling ball is 13 pounds.
Recently, at a friend’s house, my wife and I stumbled upon a TLC show called “My 600-lb Life” and were suddenly sucked into watching the trials of two women, both of whom were pushing past 600 pounds. The show is one of those reality documentaries that hit the people being documented at a point in their lives when they realize the dark abyss they have sunk into and are now seeking help.
The first woman could barely get up out of bed, her feet were the size of paint cans and her son, who was easily pushing 350 pounds himself, had to help her roll out of bed, into a wheelchair, roll her out to the parking lot, open up a van and help her roll into the back of the van just to transport her to the televised doctor’s office.
She said she wanted to lose weight but she didn’t really want to put in the work. “The work” mostly being not eating so much fucking food and taking a few walks a day. At the end of the episode, it was apparent she would be buried in a piano-sized coffin because she simply didn’t want to lose the equivalent of two whole people.
Don't worry, though. At our current rate of political genius, she'll be president in no time at all.
Around ten years ago, I was carrying around 265 pounds of weight. I was a chunky dude but I thought I was pretty strong and that most of it was “table muscle.” It was Christmastime and the food was plentiful. After gorging ourselves for three days straight - turkey, ham, cheeses, crackers, cakes and pies, candy, cheeses, pizza, pizza rolls, tacos, cheeses, mashed potatoes, yams, and bread in every fucking form bread could take, my mom suggested we all go to the gym.
I laughed. “I don’t go on some treadmill like a hamster on a wheel. No. Not for me.”
“You could use some exercise,” my mom gently nudged.
Reluctantly, I decided to go with she and my wife just to see.
LATE NIGHT PERFECTION
One Brick of Cream Cheese
1 can of Hormel chili with beans
1 white onion, diced
1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese
1 large bag of Fritos
Mix the cream cheese, can of chili, onion and cheddar cheese in a casserole dish. Microwave for eight minutes. Pour the bag of Fritos into a mixing bowl, dump the gooey mess on top and eat while watching your favorite sci fi series on your laptop.
While watching the TLC show, my mind was flooded with questions about being 600 pounds plus.
How do you get that big?
What do you do with your time?
How do you wipe your ass?
So, later, I looked it up online.
Weight gain in the land of plenty, regardless of your economic status is fucking easy. Fast food is the biggest culprit, followed only by snack foods. Rich people can afford personal chefs and personal trainers. Middle income people can afford to get a gym membership and like to run 5Ks. Poor people are pretty much fucked.
A Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Large Fries and a Large Coke (the biggest seller at most McDonald’s) contains 1700 calories. A bag of regular chips (the tiny ones) are 320 calories. A Chipotle Burrito is 800 calories. A beer has around 300 calories. Do the math, man. Walking a mile only burns about 70 calories so you’d have to walk 25 miles just to burn off that Mickey Dee’s lunch. Which is the equivalent of walking to Evanston and back from Smoke Daddy in Wicker Park.
You certainly don’t get to be 600 pounds by doing much walking, or yard work or going to the gym. Turns out, in fact, that working out has less to do with weight loss than simply not eating as much. Working out, however, improves your chances as it boosts your metabolism and stamina. And, you know, that heart thing.
Mom and Jen went off to work out together. I went to the stair master. I set the speed to 10 out of 20 because I wanted to start out slow. Couldn’t do it. Too fucking fast. I kept lowering it until it was at 1, the lowest setting, and I did those stairs until I was huffing like I was going to die, sweat pouring into my eyes. It took me less than five minutes.
So I moved over to an exercise bike. Same result. Five minutes on the lowest setting and I thought my chest was going to explode.
Maybe it’s just that I’m strong, right? I head downstairs to the weight room area. I can only do two pull ups. I can only do four tricep pulls with 30 pounds. I can’t lift more than 25 pounds more than ten times before I turn into a sack of sweaty, grunting suet. A woman sees me struggling with a dumb bell.
“Are you Jackie’s son? She was right. You got fat!”
BRUNCH ON A SUNDAY IN WICKER PARK
A three egg cheese omelette with sausage: 800 calories
A side of bacon: 210 calories
Hash browns: 300 calories
Three buttermilk pancakes with syrup: 600 calories
How far do I have to run to burn off that brunch? 20 miles.
I found out that for a 600-pound person to wipe his or her ass, they generally need a bidet or a stick with a towel on it, like one of those squeegee guys on the sidewalk. That they will lift a 125 pound ass cheek to get the stick up under and into the crevice-like ass crack. That to simply wipe your ass, you’re going to spend about 40 minutes to get to the toilet, take your enormous dump, wipe yourself and clean things up.
If it took me 40 minutes to drop a douce, I’m guessing I’d opt for laying around, the iPad teetering on my giant mound of stomach and just watching Netflix while casually munching on Chicken Nuggets. So it’s hard to lay too much blame on someone that size for deciding to give up.
I got home from Christmas and joined the YMCA. I’m not funny enough to be the Funny Fat Guy in any comedy troupe. I didn’t diet - I just ate half as much as I wanted to. I worked out for at least 45 minutes every day. I’d lose some weight and feel elated. Then do the same amount of work and eat the same amount of food and not drop a pound for two months. I’d eat bread the night before and gain four pounds. Pasta? Fuck you. Pizza? Get thee behind me, Satan. Cheese? Aw, christ - cheese is my kryptonite.
Snickers Bar = 250 calories
Two Pop Tarts = 400 calories
A plate of Curly Fries = 600 calories
Wendy’s signature Apple Pecan Chicken Salad = 570 Calories
Christ - even Fast Food salads pack on the shit like duct taping clay to your ass.
Two and a half years later, after completely changing how I ate and incorporating a fairly rigorous amount of gym time into my daily grind, I had dropped 80 pounds. The equivalent of six 13 pound bowling balls. Down to the weight I was when I graduated high school.
Ten years later, I’m pretty much still around that weight - five or ten pounds depending on the weather and the holidays. I still count every fucking calorie. I weigh myself every week. I still work out almost seven days a week. And I still feel like I’m a fat guy just dying to balloon back up. Once in a while, I go for a gluttonous meal. Once in a while, I’ll eat half of a Dimo’s Pizza (3,000 calories) or binge on Snickers Ice Cream bars (180 calories apiece.) I always feel shitty the next four days because it takes me four days to feel like I’ve worked it off.
Weight loss in the Land of IHOB (…really? IHOB?) is hard. It takes a determination to change yourself. All the quick fixes are horseshit and it's harder when you're poor than when you're rich. Weight loss is change and we don't really want change because change is work. If it's this hard to drop a few bowling balls offa yer giant gut, imagine the work it takes to change your worldview. Imagine the sheer force of will it takes to reverse your own racism or sexism.
When you're scraping by, dancing the dance to pay all of your earnings to a slum landlord and taking out a mortgage to get your colonoscopy, more work is just another big ass boulder to push up that mountain.
On the other hand, I'm guessing Sisyphus was in pretty good shape.