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The End Of The Fat Guy

August 11, 2010 - John Whittaker

 I'm not a workout guy, but I understood Nautilus. It made sense. There were arm machines and leg machines. But have you seen these people who are using the stair-master? Huh? Have we turned into gerbils ladies and gentlemen? People are paying money to go into a health club and walk up invisible steps over and over again for an hour and a half. "Where are you going?" "I'm going up! And I paid for it too! I can stay here as long as I want!" Folks, you wanna go up and down stairs, move into a fifth floor walk up on the lower east side. Ok? What's next? A (expletive deleted) chair master!? "I sit down. I get up. I sit down. I get up. I sit down. I get up." The door master. "I open the door. I close..." 

Denis Leary
Let me let you in on a little secret. 
I bear more than a slight resemblants to a pear. 
If you walk into The Post-Journal's newsroom, look for the really pale pear in a button-down shirt and tie. Chances are, that guy's me. 
And you know what — I'm fine with that. 
As I've gotten older, my metabolism has slown down. It takes a heck of a lot more effort than it used to for me to stay in shape. I can still get there, but the journey sucks. 
But, I know four things for certain, as sure as I'm sitting at a computer listening to Bruce Springsteen right now: I'm happy with me, for the most part; I'll never look like Brad Pitt; I'm not keeling over from a heart attack tomorrow; and I could end up ballooning and looking like Gabriel Iglesias, and my wife will still love me in the morning. 
So, why waste three hours writing this post, then? 
For years, I've made jokes about me being the fat guy. I'm 5 feet, 5.5 inches tall (and yes, I count that half-inch). I weigh around 185 to 190 pounds, depending on how much activity I've had and what I've eaten that week. I'm not the fastest of runners — though I wasn't exactly quick when I weighed 110 pounds, either. 
Because I look a bit like a pear, I adopted a Fat Bastard accent, joked about eating babies and being six months along toward having a kid of my own. I jiggle my belly like Santa Claus on Christmas morning because I think it's funny. I'll joke about things going right to my waist — like planets because of my belly's gravitational pull. Like I said, I think it's funny. No more, no less. I'm not above making jokes about myself if I think it will lighten the mood or get a laugh out of somebody. 
After years of being the fat guy, those days are finished. 
Starting today, I'm no longer calling myself the fat guy. 
The gimmick is retired. The joke is dead. 
This is a sad day, because I've gotten a lot of mileage out of being the Fat Guy. And yes, I'll kind of miss it. At the same time, I think maybe me calling myself the Fat Guy has led to other people deciding I'm the Fat Guy Who Needs Saving, or a Fat Guy Who Might Keel Over On His Way To The Refrigerator; or even The Fat Guy Who Needs A Telescope To See His Genitals.
I'm not one of those Fat Guys. 
A recent conversation I had with a friend of mine kind of got to me a little bit, so I'm retiring the fat guy gimmick. For those asking, yes, the recent Fat Guy Intervention might have been going a little too far. 
I've realized a few things, though, that I thought I'd share with you, my loyal 13 readers, before the gimmick goes away once and for all. 
1. Just because you run marathons, devoting yourself to fitness isn't for everyone. I had a YMCA membership — the only thing I really want to do at the Y is play basketball. That's all. I hate treadmills. I dread the idea of walking in the same place for 45 minutes and not getting anywhere. And, after working out for six months, three days a week, I lost exactly, um, ZERO pounds. Walking ain't for this guy. Now, some people are really into the way they look and that's fine. I've got no bones with you. But, it doesn't matter if I quit my job and work out eight hours a day, I'm still going to have a little bit of a gut. I'm always going to be barrel-chested. Mr. Universe I'm not. I know that, when it's that time, it will take me about two weeks to get into decent basketball shape. I'll go out, run a half-mile or so four or five days a week and be ready to play my Y league games or on Sunday mornings. My point is, I have a hard time exercising for the sake of exercising. I have to have an actual, tangible goal in my future. After a while, I reach my goal and decide enough's enough. Running to lose 5 pounds just doesn't seem worth it to me. 
2. For somebody who gets lectures about his health, I can't be that portly. I don't smoke — except for the second-hand pot smoke that comes with living above my downstairs neighbor which, by the way, explains my late-night Combos addiction. I drink rarely. The last two beers from the last six pack I bought had an AARP card by the time I finally drank them. My vices are Little Debbies, Combos, my morning coffee and a thick, juicy steak. I can still see my toes. I do not have man breasts. Last time I checked, I don't have a double chin. I can still run up a flight of stairs without sounding like Fatty McGee. What makes me worthy of such concern, then? 
3. I thank you for your concern, but ... My dad has worked in grocery stores his entire life until a recent job switch. There is enough activity in his job that his physical appearance hasn't changed much in 30 years. In my job, there is little activity. I sit at my computer researching story ideas, reading other people's stories, occasionally writing a blog, talking on the phone or writing on legal pads. That's the activity in my job. The hours are all over the place — which makes the 6 a.m. run or the 7 p.m. YMCA time every day kind of difficult. News happens — and I'm usually here. When I'm not here, frankly, I don't want to be sitting at the YMCA or out running, especially when it's 800 degrees and humid. Chances are, I've inherited my dad's genetics — which means, given my job, what you see is what you'll get, for years and years and years. My wife is, as she reads this, nodding with disappointment. The point is, I know what I should do if I want to drop 10 pounds. It's not a matter of not knowing about exercise. It's not a matter of not knowing what exercises to do. It's not even a matter of laziness. I'm a typical guy. I abhor doctors. If I get a cold, I take cold medicine. When I decide I can't do the things I want to do because I'm not in good enough shape to do them, I'll place more priority on getting into shape. 
4. I enjoy (most) of my life. Are there things I'd change? Absolutely. I'd certainly have eaten that apple pie my mother in law sent over, because it looked great. I wouldn't have signed a lease for my current apartment. I'd keep in better touch with a few of my friends that I don't talk to that often. That's about it. Do you know what you didn't see on that list? I wouldn't change my looks. I wouldn't change my diet. What's the point of living if you have to stay away from the things you really enjoy just to look 10 pounds thinner? I've got better things to do at a restaurant than count my calories. I'm not whipping out a calculator at The Pub to tell me that the ziti, roasted red pepper marinara sauce and meatballs has a few too many calories. And, if I want a honey barbecue chicken sandwich, I'm not just eating the chicken without eating the bread because the bread isn't the best thing for me. And, yes, I feel like a little less of a man going into a restaurant and ordering broccoli. You only live once. Frankly, I'm going to enjoy it while I do. If that means I want to eat half a bag of Combos while I'm sitting on my couch, watching TV in my underwear, so be it. And don't ask how I got the TV in my underwear — you probably don't want to know. 
5. When somebody decides what is and isn't healthy to eat, write it down. Until then, I don't want to hear about the next can't-miss diet or the new list of things you have to stay away from. In the last 10 years, I've heard them all. Do we all remember the Atkins Diet? How about the Cabbage Soup diet? Fruitarianism? We weren't supposed to eat steak. Red meat was the enemy. I get it. Everybody's got something they swear works for them. I know what works for me, too. Once every couple of weeks, I require a steak. A couple of times a week, I require skinless chicken breasts. At least once a week, I require something Italian — pasta, chicken parmesan, stuffed peppers or a meatball sub. Sometimes, I want a hamburger that, sometimes, morphs into a cheeseburger. Frankly, I like hot dogs and kielbasa. And, I think french fries go with anything. I really like potatoes. And, sometimes, I chase those meals with a glass of Pepsi or chocolate milk. Is any of that "healthy?" Probably not. Do I care? Not really. 
I am what I am. Anyone who doesn't like it can keep their opinions to themselves.


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The good Dr. Denis Leary also doesn't understand the deal with stairmasters.