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Read This Book and Laugh Your Fat A#$ Off!

September 9, 2010

Seinfeld fans surely remember the episode where Kramer sells stories from his life to be part of J. Peterman’s autobiography.

Reading Edward Ugel’s latest book felt a bit like my life was that Seinfeld episode.

In his book, I’m With Fatty: Losing Fifty Pounds in Fifty Miserable Weeks, Ugel details how, over the course of nearly a year, he struggled to lose 50 pounds. The decision comes on the heels of being forced to wear a CPAP mask to prevent sleep apnea, caused by his being overweight. If Ugel can lose the weight, perhaps he can lose the mask too.

What follows are the escapades of a foodie and food  junkie trying to gain control of his life. From his experience at the sleep disorders clinic to finding an honest-to-goodness nutritionist and personal trainer to his love/hate relationship with the city of New Orleans, Ugel tells a great story sprinkled with dry-wit one-liners that truly made me laugh out loud.

Here’s an example. His “Fatty Project,” as Ugel calls it, includes the holiday season. Here’s his plan for surviving:

“1. Exercise five days a week. Okay–four or five days a week, but definitely four. 2.Document all meals in a daily food journal. 3. Eat a real breakfast every morning (egg whites, fruit, chicken sausage, smoked fish, veggies). 4. Stay away from white food (sugar, pasta, bread…buttercream icing). 5. Resist urge to choke Santa at mall. It’s not his fault you smell Cinnabon and can’t have it. 6. Cancel plan to make Hanukkah menorah out of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.”

He loses weight too. Over the holidays!

I loved the chapter where he details undergoing a cleanse and a colonic. I know…potty humor. Deep down, though, all real men–and some women I know–are 11-year-old boys who think farts and poop jokes are hilarious. We just do.

Along the way, Ugel learns he’s a food addict, a binge eater and a compulsive eater. Joyous news indeed. He also learns that he likes exercise, especially if (like playing racquetball) it doesn’t feel like exercise.

All of his revelations and memories are laced with humor and sometimes biting satire. To all of which this reader could relate. I’ve worn the CPAP, tried several diet plans, gone crazy with exercise (some may say I’ve done that again), and on and on. Then came Chapter 8.

Ugel chronicles, in great detail, a five-day eating binge he embarks on while his wife and daughters are out of town. For me, reading his words was like coming face to face with my own food demons. I know from eating binges. I also know the feeling of both joy and shame that comes from just flat letting yourself go out of control. Some small part of your brain thinks you’ll enjoy the food, but you don’t. It’s not about tasting and savoring food as much as you attempt to fill the seemingly unfillable hole that exists somewhere inside you. A hole that all the Chinese takeout, ice cream and Big Macs in the world can’t fill.

Ugel realizes food is his addiction. The food high and subsequent shame are part of the very same cycle as addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc. One key difference is that most of us can live without those things. None of us can live without food. We’re surrounded by it. We think about it. Heck, I often think about my next meal while I’m preparing to eat the meal before me. Food, little of it nutritious, stares us down at the gas station. We drive by it on the way to and from work. Ugly clowns, funny cows and faux kings call to us. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We show love by cooking for others, and we accept love by eating what someone has cooked for us. We can’t escape it.

Which isn’t to say the food itself is to blame. Those of us who struggle with our weight made the many choices that lead to our conditions. And, with help and support, we can do the hard work necessary to take the weight off.

As a Weight Watchers member, I was heartened that Ugel ended his book with the account of attending his first Weight Watchers meeting. I’m not a shill for the WW, but I know from personal experience the program works. It works because it’s realistic, you can eat the foods you love and not feel guilty about it, and you’re surrounded by people who are in the same place as you.

There are no magic pills. Ugel’s story doesn’t offer magical get-thin-quick schemes. He tells it like it is. Hilariously, honestly.


From → Fatness, Food, Weight Loss

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