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The Fat Man Sings 

A journal of obesity in America

Wednesday, Aug 5 1998
I hold my own out in front of me. My wrists are thin, a reminder of more slender times, but my forearms - they're meaty. They remind me not of thinner times but, rather, of how much the human arm can resemble the shank of a lamb, or cow or pig. I doubt this comparison is lost on the majority of the obese.

Also: The wrists are a brutal reminder that you are not "just big-boned." You're just big.

Later, I mention the results of Meridia's NDA to a friend of mine. Immediately she's on my case.

"So, you've stopped taking it, right?"

"Eh, well, no, actually."

"But the studies. Aren't you afraid of a heart attack?"

"You don't get it," I say, frustrated and embarrassed. "Meridia squeaked by - but so do most new drugs."

"Really? Well, you are exercising, aren't you?"

I tell her I'm walking an hour three times a week - three times in a good week.

"Oh, good," she says. "But don't push it too hard, okay? I mean, I never thought of you as fat, anyway."

Yes, and I'm sure you thought I was just big-boned, too.

Day 22: Headache and lethargy. Lunch tastes like thumb; I finish less than half. I can't figure out if this is a side effect or the point of the thing.

There's another side effect that isn't listed on Meridia's packaging, and today I have it. To be fair, it's a side effect that perhaps only I experience. I call it "thought perversion." Thought perversion is when someone takes a central-nervous-system drug and then proceeds to think far too deeply about completely ridiculous things.

Such as: Once, under the influence of laughing gas, I heard the '60s hit song "The Locomotion" over the dentist's sound system. I suddenly became quite serious. What, I worried, had ever happened to Little Eva, who had made the song so famous? Was she alive? If so, was she okay? Had someone cheated her out of her royalties? I bet they did. That always happens. How sad. I wonder where she lives now. Maybe she's sick. Or maybe she's an alcoholic in rehab. Who knows? Terrible! How did a society like ours ever become so brutal as to let something like that happen?

Today I am obsessing about being big-boned.

Again, perhaps this is a side effect experienced by me and me alone.

Day 23: Sleeping better. Headache again, but not discouraged. After all, I'm not far off the mark!

Day 24: East Indian woman behind the pastry counter is very friendly this morning. I muse, while ingesting a slice of panetone, that not all cultures think chubby is unattractive. Or even unhealthy. Once, while traveling along the upper reaches of the Irrawaddy River in northern Burma, I chanced upon a small village of native Kachin tribesmen. I was with a group of younger male travelers, all possessed of that raffishly handsome Bruce Chatwin angularity that I had long ago buried under too much panetone. But the women - they were mainly interested in me. As the evening wore on and my translator indulged my flirting, he finally turned to me and said, "You know, this is because you are so fet."


"Yes, fet. That's why they are paying so much attention."

"Because I'm fat?"

"Yes, eh, because, actually speaking, they know you must eat a lot, while the others are so skinny. So you must be

the leader."

"In other words, because I am big, it must mean that I am the most important guy in the group?"

"Yah. The others just eat what's left over, no? Now, do you have a brother who is also fet?"


"Well, don't tell these ladies. Because they see you are married and are hoping you have a fet brother for them."

Day 25: Shopping for new pants.

No change!

Day 26: The day of reckoning approaches. Have I lost that four pounds? My wife says I'm setting myself up for disappointment. "You're making it an event," she says. "You make it too dramatic." She tells me she weighs herself all the time. "Whenever I think about it," she says. "Then it's no big deal."

Certainly, drama is the secondary indulgence of the obese. It's the necessary cocksureness before the third cream puff, the swoon before the midday chocolate orgy. For the overeater, drama serves much the same function as it does for the alcoholic, the addict, the compulsive gambler or shopper - it's the narrative of one's "fall" from grace, a prettified version of the self-indulgence, self-delusion and fear that lead to the inevitable slip backward. Without drama, we'd have to eat like normal people. As young

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