I Am a Man and I Am Fat

Josh Magill at the beach with one of his children

Josh Magill at the beach with one of his children

Josh Magill is fat. He’ll tell you how he got fat and how he’s battling it.

I get it. I’m fat.

A few weeks ago I was pushing 260 pounds and only looking for more food to shove in my face. I was a garbage disposal with teeth that spewed gas after every meal. Yes, I said gas—burps and farts, maybe even some gas that just seeped from the pores in my skin. Either way, it was coming out because I was so fat something had to give and that process had begun with this gaseous leak.

I get it. I’m fat. I’m smelly.

I want to change my lifestyle, exercise, eat right, and know that I’m going to live past my 40th birthday. I picture myself lifting weights, sweating in my skin-tight spandex that show each fine-tuned muscle, and I’m oozing with masculine sexiness. While on a business trip, I envision the spicy stewardess giving me that knowing glance that I have to decline because I’m happily married to a beautiful woman, but grinning because I was wanted.

I get it. I’m fat and none of that sexiness is soon to happen.

At 37 years old I thought I was happy with myself, but then one day not long ago I looked in the mirror and wondered who the blubbery beast was looking back. The person appeared vaguely familiar, except bloated and grotesque—the epitome of Fat Bastard in the Austin Powers films.

“I’m dead sexy. Get in my belly!” I mimicked the character, using an accent and a slight smile, but then my smile turned to a frown. I whimpered, then pulled on my stretched out jumbo underwear, got dressed and decided it was too difficult to lose weight.

I’d been at home for more than two months after being notified that my job would be eliminated and the company was kicking me to the curb. Travel for work had been halted and I was leading the process of finalizing the closure of the division from my home office, sealing the demise of my career. I’d put eight years into this company, even moved my family to Seattle three years before, and I had no clue what job I would be able to find here so far from any of our family. And on top of that … I was fat.

Though I hadn’t been taking care of myself physically, traveling was the one thing that kept me from getting to obese. My job allowed me to consistently walk large home improvement stores, which unintentionally allowed me some sort of exercise each week. Yet, I would overeat at fast-food establishments and binge on chips and candy each night in my hotel room. Candy was my mistress. I adored it, cherished it and even hid it from people—Sugar Babies, Hot Tamales, Snickers, Boston Baked Beans, Payday, Mike & Ike’s, and Burnt Peanuts. Mmm, yummy!!

I get it. I’m fat. And I know why I’m fat, but candy is so freaking good. Shut-up! You know you eat candy, too.

In mid-January, two interesting things happened.  First, I was offered a great job that would allow my family and me to continue our economic stability, but we had to move to Denver. We were okay with this because I had lived there in the past and loved it, plus it was much closer (within a day’s drive) to most of our extended family. Second, I learn of a book by Mike Magnuson called Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180 that I began reading. Magnuson was once a professor of Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where I went to college between the years 2001-2003. Some of his graduate students were my English teachers, which allowed me to learn some about him, but it was an assignment to read from his memoir, Lummox: The Evolution of Man that left me enjoying his writing. So the opportunity to read another book by Magnuson enticed me, but it was the front cover picture of him riding a bike, naked, straining against the weight—the fat—-that truly grabbed my attention to read “Heft on Wheels.”

♦◊♦

Today, I’m seven chapters in to this 19 chapter book. It is an easy read, well written, but I had to quit reading because I hated Magnuson after reading those seven chapters. He describes himself, his obese weight, his addictions, his desire to change, his efforts to lose weight riding a road bike, his ability to fail often, as well as his anger and loneliness when he did fail. I didn’t hate him for this; I hated him because he was also describing me. Magnuson says in chapter six, talking about that obese naked picture of himself, to try being “one of those people who’s too ashamed of your lousy body even to take your shirt off at the beach, a remote beach, where no one else is there to see you shirtless in the first place.”

I am eating better food, but feeling angry, lonely. What the hell?

That is exactly me, but I justified that his addictions were different—alcohol, partying, etc.—so at first I thought I was different, better. But as I read each new sentence, I found that this book was more about overcoming addictions than about losing weight, and I hated reading about myself in the simple, pointed way that Magnuson writes. I am now, finally, admitting that my addiction is candy, chips, sodas, or just gorging on food in general.

I get it. I’m fat … because I’m addicted to candy and eating. Damn you, Magnuson! (Why do I feel like I’m at Fat Boys Anonymous?)

I started that new job in the first week of February and began traveling again. I began once again walking 15-20 large home improvement stores a week, usually dragging my bags through two airports a week, using the stairs instead of the escalator. I began eating better food, the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the tasty breaded one, hearing my wife’s voice the entire time as I choked it down. I fought through each night without candy or chips in my hotel room, even going to bed early to avoid running to the gas station next door. I felt punished somehow, angry, lonely, but a week ago I warily stepped on the bathroom scale. I’d lost 24 pounds. What the hell??

I went back to “Heft on Wheels” today and read the last couple paragraphs of chapter seven, in which Magnuson says, “I say that the only rule I know for improving is this: We learn by getting our asses kicked.  … if you want to do this the simplest, least humiliating way, you must learn how to kick your own ass.”

I get it. I’m fat … but I’m learning.

photo: Magill Family

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About Josh Magill

Josh Magill is a writer, cloaked as a sales manager. His essays and reviews have appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, Beyondthemargins.com, The Review Review and The Good Men Project. Magill's short story, The Fisherman and Maddie, was featured in the 2013 spring edition of The First Line and his debut collection of short stories and essays, A Day to Remember, was published in May 2014. He is the editor of his own website, The Magill Review.

Comments

  1. Way to go! 24 lbs down!! Keep up the good work!

    Your writing immediately struck a chord in me because I also peaked at 260 some years ago and I’ve been through much of the same experiences, including job loss, insecurity and even picking up my life and moving across country for a new job – and a new start. These days, healthy again, and some 85 lbs lighther, that sick, unhealthy, unhappy person is a distant memory.

    You’ve started the journey, my friend. There will be ups and downs, expect them, accept them. You will have bad weeks and maybe bad months, that’s the way life comes at you, just keep picking yourself up and keep kicking your ass. Good luck!

    • Thanks M.
      It is about making the “unhappy person a distant memory” and creating a new person on the inside by starting with the outside. Now I just have to make a routine, a habit, out of it every day.

  2. Thank you for this article. I’m a 30 year old woman and probably have nothing much in common with you, for the most part. I would just like to say: read the book “Eat Fat Lose Fat’ by Mary Enig, and follow the ‘diet’ in that book. Your life will change, and easily. http://www.eatfatlosefat.com/ I’m an independent health care practitioner, in no way associated with this book or the author. It’s just the best method, and it works, and is sustainable. Also check out Mark’s Daily Apple online and read some of the Friday testimonials. You can do it!
    Best of luck.

  3. In my own struggles with weight (and probably a lot of people can relate) one of the worst things that can happen is to be off to a good start and then have some sort of disaster or bad thing happen in some other part of your life.

    Last year I joined a gym and had the usual mental images of being slimmer, being able to fit in smaller cars (but not much smaller because no amount of exercise will take away from my 6’4”), and actually thinking that people may be checking me out when I’m out and about.

    Then I started dated someone and my world just nuts. Yes it sounds odd that dating someone would put you off balance but it did and thanks to not working my way through that properly I’ve now gone about 6 months without going to the gym.

    Got ready to go back this week and then car troubles crept up on me again. (FYI it would be easier to chart the last 10 years of my life with car problems than just about any other event.) Stress levels through the roof and now I’m slipping in terms of eating right.

    Life events can wreck havoc on your body as well as your mind.

    • Almost every time I try to start up a new exercise regimen, within the first month I get sick, derailing my workouts and diet for a few days. And that disruption is just enough to throw me off the whole plan. I feel your pain!

      • You MUST keep getting back up!

        See a dietician or nutritionist. Many years ago I discovered I was consuming a vast amount of sugars. Also, AVOID fast foods and other processed foods.

        When you eat better you WILL lose weight and be a healthier person.

        Good luck to you!

    • Danny, I’m definitely afraid of the “let down” phase that keeps me from dropping the weight consistently, keeping me from reaching my goals. So I’ve never really set any goals I want to reach in my weight loss. As long as I feel good and my clothes fit better or I need smaller clothes, then I’m doing good. I’m trying to make this part of my life so that “life” doesn’t wreck it, but is part of the solution.

      KKZ, I struggle with Celiac Disease, (It took my gall bladder and has other disrupting symptioms) so I understand about sickness getting in the way. My father taught me to never let anything get in the way of what I truly want, so I just keep thinking of ways to do that, even just kicking my ass through hardships if I have to, no matter what.

      • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

        Josh,

        I have one of the IBD’s too (UC). Aside from the gluten sensitivity, we are so *lucky* to not be able to absorb normal levels of nutrients from our food…and often saps our energy for life, let alone the gym.
        Do make sure you’re eating high-quality, nutrient dense foods, it’ll make a great deal of difference in your energy levels and overall health.

        And way to go, that first 24 is no small accomplishment!

        • GirlGlad, sometimes it is tough to get out of bed in the morning, having no energy because of Celiac. That isn’t “manly” to say, but it is true and something I never had to deal with or noticed until I was diagnosed at 33 years old. Having to change the way I have eaten for 30-plus years is tough, but necessary.

  4. I was addicted to sugar too…change what you eat and the addiction will go away.

    http://nancyappleton.com/141-reasons-sugar-ruins-your-health/

    ***exercise is paramount …start slow, but start.

    We are what we eat.
    ;->

    • Joan, so far it is walking. I walk every day with my job and that has started the process. Now I MUST remove the sugar that clogs up the process of weight loss. I’ll check out the link. We are what we eat, and for years I’ve been a “greasy bag of chips.”

  5. shauna marie says:

    Wow, good for you. Thanks for sharing this and for your honesty. Keep up the good work, you can do it! It’s not easy, but not much worth doing ever is!

  6. The best “diet” advice I have ever heard is summed up in the following seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables.” I quit smoking cold turkey four years ago after smoking for 20 years. The thing that allowed me to accomplish that psychologically was two fold. First, I had to want to be a non-smoker more than I wanted to be a smoker. It sounds simple, but like most things that seem simple on paper, it was a challenge to really get to that point. Second, I had to quit one decision at a time. I couldn’t picture the “big picture” of going the next (hopefully) 60-70 years without a cigarette. All I could focus on at first was resisting the next craving, making the conscious decision to not smoke and eventually that decision got easier until I barely thought about it at all. I think weight-loss should also be approached the same way. Instead of fantasizing about how great you may look in a year, focus on just what you are going to order for lunch or focus on just getting in 30 minutes of exercise that morning. Then eventually, you will have to buy smaller clothes and the healthier eating and exercise will just be habitual. You won’t have to think about it so much. Also, in the beginning, avoid the scale. Don’t weigh yourself more than once a month or you will simply be setting yourself up for disappointment. People’s weight fluctuates from morning to night and the number on a scale isn’t a good indicator of actual health. Pay more attention to how you feel and how your clothes fit. That should be all the positive reinforcement you need. Best of luck to us both on sticking with our goals no matter what they be. After all, for anyone over 30, there will never be a morning when we just wake up in magically better shape. It is all down hill from here.

    • “Pay more attention to how you feel and how your clothes fit.” My wife said this exact thing to me recently when she packed the scale for our move. I weigh myself each morning and was frustrated, but after she said this I remembered that it was how my clothes fit that made me go to the scale in the first place to start this journey. Thanks for the advice and I like the “one decision at a time” thought. I’ll use it.

  7. For guys who find themselves in “The Friend Zone” and get all mad and resentful about it… Maybe you need to just look in the mirror and get real….

    • John Schtoll says:

      Leia: Nothing like a good objectification first thing in the morning

    • I would look in the mirror and say that I’m better off not being with a person that is judging me by my physical appearance.

      If I judged women like that, I wouldn’t have my three wonderful, beautiful kids as my ex-wife never weighed less than me during our entire relationship.

      I used to be obese. And I refuse to judge women on how in shape they are or aren’t because I didn’t want women judging me on that point then or now when I have women telling me that I don’t have any fat to lose when I do things like the Paleo challenge at my CrossFit box.

      And I did lose over 10 pounds in 8 weeks so there goes that theory. LOL

    • Leia says:
      April 12, 2013 at 10:30 am
      [...]
      I have a feeling that no matter how nice and proper people look on the outside, they are just dying to put down someone and make that person their whipping post…
      http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/brand-the-consent-challenge/comment-page-1/#comment-498549

      if your 10april post was posted on the right thread, then what are you saying here?

  8. Exercise and diet changes are not one size fits all.

    What works for me (CrossFit + Paleo) may not work for others.

    Also, what works in one stage of your life might not work at another stage in your life.

    I feel your pain on a variety of layers. When I graduated from college I weighed around 300 lbs. I was that way for a while until I made a lifestyle choice or replacing drinking and partying for eating less and working out.

    I have seen my weight and my shape get better and worse over the years. I joined a CrossFit gym about six months ago and I am easily in the best shape of my life right now.

    Since you live in Denver, you have a GREAT CrossFit gym in CrossFit Verve in your area. If you have any reservations about anything and need support, let me know.

    The key is to choose to be a little better today than you were yesterday. When you link together 6 months of todays, the changes are huge.

    For instance, about six months ago I got 7 rounds of work done in 20 minutes in my first CrossFit workout after my fundamentals classes completed. A few weeks ago I got over 12 rounds in the same 20 minutes one day after a really hard workout that had my legs fried.

    You can change your body more than you know.

  9. Tom Brechlin says:

    Being that through the years I’ve gained and lost a crowd of people, I can relate to some of what you said. One thing that I’ve learned though is that I don’t weight myself a lot. If I gained weight or didn’t lose enough weight, it would be an “oh fuck it” trigger. Then again, if I lost more weight then I thought, it could become an “I deserve to splurge” trigger.

    So I just keep plugging away. One other thing, if you do work out, you build muscle which weighs more then fat. So you could be maintaining a weight but actually be losing size.

    24 pounds is GREAT! That’s almost equivalent to a small child! Stay active!

    • The “splurge” factor sucks doesn’t it? I’m making sure to remember the muscle factor … when I was in high school, I ran track and cross country, wrestled and played a lot of basketball. I was thin, but muscular and it showed in my 185 pound frame, especially my legs. Much of that muscle is not gone unless you count “table muscle,” but I’m learning that I can’t compare myself now to myself then. Just be happy with what I can achieve as long as I’m pushing forward and not giving up.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I had gastric bypass and still struggle with weight every day. Josh we were cursed with the fat gene,depression gene,tired all the time gene, Karl Conner s love for food gene. And hate to exercise gene. So with all that all is left is will power and we also have that gene when we feel good and that’s not very often. so exercise when you can, eat healthy when you can and never give up.when you can love you

    • Josh Magill says:

      You are quite right Elizabeth (my aunt), I am haunted by a good bowl of grits that I learned to make from Grandpa Karl, causing me to love breakfast food for any meal at any time. He did love to eat and taught us well how to do it. I’m hoping (and think he does too) that we live longer than he did by eating healthier and exercising, finding a way to enjoy food without harming ourselves. The most powerful of the “genes” is will power and we must force ourselves to get up and fight with every ounce of it. Love you, Elizabeth; keep fighting the weight battle until you win.

  11. It goes unacknowledged that being fat is sexual suicide for men.
    Fat men are sexually worthless two-pennies.

    Women can be fat and still be considered physically appealing in their own way. There is this whole BBW chubby-chaser craze these days. It goes without saying that women find fat men’s bodies repulsive. There is no choice for a man but to have a lean, fit body if he wants to be sexually desirable to women.

    There was a study that said that fat women actually have more promiscuous and sexually adventurous lives than women of regular size. Even fat women want fit lean guys for sex and can have them easily.

    • Josh Magill says:

      True. And the older the fat guy is the worse. Women don’t want an old (possibly wrinkly) fat guy. I’m hoping to trim down before turning 40 in a couple years that way my wife only has one thing to complain about.

  12. Good work so far brother. I know it’s tough with a family, but I’d like to second/third/whatever the recommendations for paleo. A buddy of mine lost and kept off 100lbs on Mark Sisson’s variant. I like Robb Wolf myself. He has an awesome free podcast on iTunes, The Paleo Solution. I’ve learned even more there than through his book, which I’d recommend if you have time to read. If you keep yourself low carb, it’ll be easier to get your body into ketosis nd using fat for energy, which should not only reduce weight more quickly but also help a lot with energy crashes. Anyway don’t want to hit you with too much info, best of luck man.

    • Josh Magill says:

      Never heard of paleo. I will have to check it out. No promises though that I’ll use it because I’m an “old school” run-or-bike-your-butt-off kind of guy. But who knows? I might like it.

  13. Clayton Rosa says:

    Hi Josh,

    I really enjoyed reading about your journey – sending words of encouragement and support your way.

    Throughout my adolescence I struggled with obesity and many years ago was able to right the course physically – at between 22 and 23 years old I lost over 100 lbs (I’m 27 now). It definitely was a learning curve and what I realized then was that the physical transformation was the easy part. To this day, I still continue to deconstruct the images I have of myself mentally – images that were developed through years of low self-esteem and confidence. What helped me to curb the weight gain was to think about the things I could control now. Ultimately, all I had to worry about were the decisions I made each day. I stopped thinking about my long-term goal and decided to focus on the goals I had every day, and slowly but surely this would create a habit which then led to a pattern and to weight loss.

    You’re definitely on the right path, Josh, and I wish you nothing but the best along this journey.

    Best,

    Clayton
    Twitter: @clayton_rosa

    • Josh Magill says:

      Clayton, losing the 100 pounds is great!! My wife did the same during her college days walking across campus, shedding the extra weight she had gained due to depression for many reasons that teenagers become depressed. She began to be happy again and the pounds fell off over a year or so. She has fluctuated since, but never returned to the heavy nature she was once at, and works to eat better each day. Her image of herself is just now, 13 years later, changing to that of a thin, healthy woman. It takes time. I commend you for sticking with it, and thanks for the support.

  14. For those interested in following the journey, my cousin, Jacob, and I decided to start a weight loss challenge with each other. We dubbed it “The Fluffy Man Challenge: From Fluff to Buff” and will start on April 15 for six months. Here is the link where we will chronicle the challenge.
    http://themagillreview.wordpress.com/the-fluffy-man-challenge/

  15. Keep up the great work! My husband and I decided we were both going in a bad direction in December, and after Christmas (and all the junk food that goes with it) we decided to go vegan. Big change, bigger results. He has lost over 40 pounds and is still losing fast, and I have lost 17 pounds and am settling at my ‘natural’ weight. My husband has been trying to lost weight for years and this is the only thing that has really worked for him. The next step in the process is to start exercising and tone up with some muscle gain. I will watch your progress on your weight loss challenge and wish you all the best in your journey for a healthier, happier you!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] who operate outside of it, examples of which can be found in worthwhile pieces from Noah Brand, Josh Magill, and Margitte Kristjansson that have been published by this magazine.  No deep insight, but an [...]

  2. [...] I had let my body go. I even wrote about my epiphany in an article for the Good Men Project called, I am a Man and I am Fat. I’d been reading the book Heft on Wheels by Mike Magnuson, learning how to kick my own ass when [...]

  3. [...] If you have ever had trouble with your weight and the hardships of trying to lose it, then you will understand the frustration that comes along with it. I wrote a piece in April about realizing that I was fat and wanting to do something about it. That article was published at The Good Men Project under the title, “I Am a Man and I Am Fat.“ [...]

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