That’s my new nickname for myself, stolen from an episode of “King of Queens,” in which the main character, Doug (my namesake, oddly enough) becomes self-conscious about his weight and decides to start working out. I’m a fatty, no question about it. When fully clothed, my cheap bathroom scale seems to groan audibly when I step on it, pushing the dial pointer almost all the way to its limit of 300 pounds. I figure I’m a solid 295 right now, naked–and I’m truly sorry for the mental image that this may create for you. At about six feet tall, that certainly puts me in the category that all the weight charts I’ve seen label as “obese.”
I haven’t always been Fatty McButterpants–when I got married in 1983, I weighed about 205-210, and that felt very fat at the time, given that my “normal” weight was around 175. When I did my big bike trip in high school, I tipped the scale at about 145 or 150. So riding a bike today is a bit like riding a bike in high school, except that I’m in far worse physical condition, and I’ve got an entire extra me on my back. No wonder my legs hurt so much…
As you can imagine, biking for me is a humbling thing. I’ve had to overcome all sorts of thoughts and feelings to climb on a bike again–I like to think of myself as someone who isn’t all that concerned about what other people think of me, but the truth is that when I’m riding, I’m wondering what passers by think of me. I imagine that there are some kind souls who think, “Way to go–at least he’s trying.” I also imagine there are plenty of not-so-kind souls who think, “Whoa–where’s your ‘Wide Load’ sign, dude?” Fortunately, I’ve got thick enough skin that, so far, I’ve been willing to ride anyway, knowing that my ample spare tire jiggles when I hit bumps, and knowing that when the wind blows my t-shirt reveals a very unattractive, flabby torso.
The one part of my body that isn’t flabby is my calves–they are huge, mind you, but they are rock-hard from transporting my nearly three-hundred pound frame around on foot. So let’s just say I’ve got a long, hard road ahead to get anywhere close to the 200-pound mark, or lower, which is what I’m hoping for. I’m trying to be realistic about this; I know that it has taken me more than 25 years to put this weight on, and it’s not going to go away quickly or without a lot of effort.
The thing that gives me hope in all of this is that I like to ride my bike. It’s been years since I was on a bike that was halfway comfortable to ride, and my big “daddy bike” is fun to ride, and brings bicycling back into the realm of possibility for me. And although my days of long-distance riding are long, long behind me, I’ve done it before, and I’m just optimistic enough (or perhaps stupid enough) to believe that maybe I could get in that kind of shape again, even as I approach my mid-50’s.
I’ve pretty much decided that the only way this is going to work is if I don’t let myself get too hung up on watching the scale. God knows that I have tried dieting at various times during the last couple of decades, and while I’ve been able to lose weight (as much as 40 or 50 pounds, once), I’ve never been able to keep it off. I’m telling myself that this is because dieting alone doesn’t cut it–the effort has to include exercise. I’ve tried walking it off, but walking frankly bores me, except when I’m doing it in an interesting place, not my neighborhood, and not the local junior high track. Plus, because of my weight, walking is hard on my feet and my knees, and biking seems to provide better exercise without the wear and tear on my feet and knees (and by “better exercise,” I mean I’m able to get my heart rate up quicker, and I’m feeling a lot more like I’ve been exercising).
So if the rain that came this morning ends, I’ll be back on my bike this afternoon, and if that happens, it will be the first time in a lot of years that I have exercised six out of seven days in a week. I find that encouraging. If you’re a Fatty McButterpants like me, I hope you’ll find it encouraging, too.