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.”
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