23 May 2011

I'm With Fatty by Edward Ugel

I spent a few hours of my day reading Edward Ugel's I'm With Fatty: Losing Fifty Pounds in Fifty Miserable Weeks. It's a pretty short read detailing 6 foot 2 Ed's attempt to lose 50 pounds - from 263 lbs to 213 lbs within 50 weeks (do I call him Edward? Ed? Mr Ugel? I guess Ed, because he talks to us really familarly). His writing style is pretty droll; I don't really laugh but I get his jokes/allusions to other literature works when he mentions them (in particular, the Thor reference!).

In dishing out his struggles, Ed sheds light on his personality, his culinary training (Dude! 5ish years of learning about ingredients and cooking with a French chef! I would love that!), his childhood food culture, his - frankly speaking - addiction to food, his exercise, and the way his family supports him. Stuffed in are snippets that make the story realistic: the occasional/frequent (depending on your point of view) relapses, the binges, the 3+ pints of ice cream in a day, the slurping up of a Big Mac (without the center bread piece, to make him feel better). You start to care for this Ed guy, perhaps due to empathy, or just the way he sounds so intent on trying. You want him to lose all those 50 lbs, even though the faceless obese 1/3 of the American population (or 2/3, if you want to stick in the "overweight" people too) need to lose some 50+ lbs to be labelled "healthy" according to BMI standards. The way Ed pleads with himself to stick to his "Fatty Project" and the clear fact that he gets all depressed and mindless when his wife leaves him (For a week. For a conference. This isn't a drama book.) all give some sort of sincerity to our narrator. In addition, he doesn't belittle us with any pompous attitude; instead, he uses layperson's speech and - the best part - he doesn't preach some sorta diet. This is a dude telling a story, not selling a fad diet/book/marketing some product for $$$ (*nod to Dr. Atkins, Dr. McDougall, Dr. South Beach, and the "Is Sugar Toxic?" article in the NY Times, by Dr. Lustig*).

Oh wait, Ed IS selling a book - this one. It's okay, he needs the money. This is his job after all; after being fired from his previous job, his "job" was to stay at home with his kids and adhere to his "Fatty Project" for a year, and write about it. Oh, and cook dinner, which by the way, was another reason I liked him, because my father staunchly believes that mother does the cooking.

Of course, there are parts that I disagree with. I almost skipped past the part about a juice cleansing diet thing that Ed and his personal trainer tried, because
1. Juices for a week for "cleansing" are terribly unhealthy. There is literally no protein in drinking raw vegan juices for a week, let alone much fibre. However, I'm fairly sure there are enough vitamins (except B12, but as Ed does eat animal products, he definitely has enough B12 to last a few months stored in his liver) and minerals for a week, and I suppose a short-term juice diet doesn't cause death or anything too serious. After all, it's better than the french fry & soda diet that 100s/1000+s of people go through, right?
2. Ed claimed that his personal trainer lost 10 lbs within 24 hours, and another 8 lb by the next day. Losing 10 lbs in one day seems rather far-fetched, and my Nutrition 517 professor, Dr Compher, said that it seemed highly unlikely. I suppose this can be explained if Ed's personal trainer has a high BMR (understandable). In addition, Ed did say that his trainer's muscles did look like they atrophied, so I guess that could be a source of the weight loss. Either way, still unrealistic for the layperson.

***Spoiler Alert***
So what happens in the end? After going through a roller coaster of weight gain and loss, Ed finds himself 46 lbs lighter, happy with the fact that he ate healthy and played racquetball through the winter holiday season, and only at an overweight BMI (as opposed to an obese class I BMI)! He's happy, he realises that people at gyms and Weight Watcher meetings aren't snobs or judgmental; they're friendly and/or indifferent. It's a pretty chill ending.
***END Spoiler Alert***

So why am I doing a non-science book review on a food blog? Frankly, I haven't read a good food book a while; in a lot of books, I find the author really critical or utterly obnoxious, or I disagree with a lot of the premises made because they aren't scientifically correct, or are just so self-evident it seems degrading to me to read it. Ed doesn't claim anything scientific, he doesn't arrogantly ridicule others. Quite the contrary. He details his addiction, his obsession, his compulsive eating, and he voices his fears and helplessness. He's one of us. We all want to lose weight for some reason, and we all subconsciously think about it even when we do EpicMealTime-esque dinners. He makes me see myself - I'm a food addict too! I'm obsessed with food too! Sure, I'm classified as "healthy" by BMI standards, but there's currently the frosh 15. According to Ed's doctor, gaining 10 lbs in a month (which Ed did in the first month of his Fatty Project) is a terrible feat. I gained 10+ lbs the first month after taking methimazole last year. Lovely, you know, as it was also prom/beach season (but I didn't go to prom! Harhar!). Since I've generally kept my weight out of this food blog, I don't think I'll stop now, since it's such a vapid topic.

Anyway, as Ed says, if you want to motivate someone to get off being labelled as class I or II obese, threaten them with the fact that they'd probably die from sleep apnea, oh, shall we say, tonight, and that in order to save yourself and see your kids grow old, you have to wear a humiliating breathing mask thing...unless you lose some weight.

I guess it makes me feel glad that, hey, at least I, unlike Ed, don't have "fat pants" - larger sized pants for in case I get fat during the week.

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