Fat City

by Rob Gregory Browne

I am so fucking fat.

Yes, it’s true.  I’ve put on at least forty pounds in the last four years.  That’s ten pounds a year folks. Disgusting.

This really hit home when I was in Hawaii last week. You see, going to Honolulu is kind of a free-for-all in the food department.  Even though we rent a house, we usually dine out every meal (although breakfast is often just a cup of coffee).

And when I say dine out—you gotta understand.  Hawaiians (meaning people who live in Hawaii, not just the native Hawaiians) REALLY know how to eat.

Here’s the typical plate lunch, which is a staple over there:

Three hamburger steak patties, two scoops of white rice, A scoop of macaroni salad and one honking shitload of gravy.

Substitute chicken, fish, teri beef, tonkatsu for the hamburger on subsequent days of the week.

And that’s just lunch.

Anyway, after eating like that for a week and a half, you tend to walk around feeling like you’ve been vacationing on a cruise liner and hitting the buffet every ten minutes.

Don’t even ask me about undressing in front of a mirror.  Burn that image into your brain folks—it’s certainly burnt into mine.

Around about day six, I could barely walk.  I was dragging my fat around like a pregnant otter.  I took a look at myself and said, “Rob, this is ridiculous.  You’re turning into a blimp.  Seriously, you’ve gotta do something about it.”

I think I can safely say that my wife agrees.  And I don’t blame her.

So now I AM doing something about it.  Ever since we got back, I’ve begun watching my calories again—which is how I lost 50 lbs back in 2005.  (Can anyone say YoYo?)

I find that if there’s actually low cal food around—meaning fruit and veggies and other goodies—I don’t have a problem eating right.  But if there’s nothing in the house… ugh.  I’m tempted to grab a tortilla and a pound of cheese and make a half dozen quesadillas.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to resist such temptation so far.  And every day, I enter my consumed calorie count into my little iPhone Lose It! app (thank you, Brett) and watch my progress.  In fact, in just a few days of not eating heavy island-style food, I’m already feeling lighter on my feet.

Go figure.

The great thing about Lose It! is that you can enter you current weight, your target weight and a few other factors, along with the date you’d like to achieve that target, and it’ll tell you how many calories you can consume a day.

Currently, I’m at 1,869.  Which isn’t bad, considering the average is 2,500 for males.

As of this writing, after breakfast lunch and dinner, I’ve only consumed 1,416 calories.


But I think I’ll go for a walk, first.  That’ll subtract a couple hundred calories from my count.

Nothing like food for incentive, eh?

So the question today is, do you ever diet?  And what diet plan do you use or recommend?


31 thoughts on “Fat City

  1. Alafair Burke

    I also do calorie counting. I started with Lose It but now also use a Bodybugg, which monitors calories burned. Our work days are incredibly sedentary. It takes more than a gym workout or a couple loops around the block to make up for that. The bodybugg keeps me aware of and slightly insane about the number of calories I have to either burn or not eat tomorrow if I want to splurge on margaritas and texmex. I was obsessive about it last year to drop about 10 pounds but now I’m content-ish enough to diet a little less.

    Just a couple weeks ago I started doing a couple detox days a week if I have two days with no social meals. No wheat, dairy, sugar, meat, or alcohol. Even two days of that kind of sucks but then I find myself grateful for relatively healthy stuff the next few days.

    Good luck!

  2. Spencer Seidel

    Speaking of sedentary, I used to wear a step counter to combat the holy-shit-I-just-sat-at-my-computer-for-8-hours-straight-and-didn’t-move-anything-but-my-fingers syndrome. You end up treating like a game: 8K, 10K, 15K steps? High score!

  3. PK the Bookeemonster

    Yeah, this is a struggle of mine too. Always has. The best I found was to eat less (400 calories) more often and to be more active. I did three 400 calorie meals with two "snack times" in between and pretty much only walked my dog for 45 minutes to an hour and I lost weight.
    Right now my problem is finding the time to truly be more active. I’m working 10 hour days starting at 6am. I’ve got to get my brain to accept Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and times I can do more. Three days is better than none. 🙂
    Good luck. You can do it; you did it before. And I’m glad to hear you weren’t calorie counting while in Hawaii.

  4. Cornelia Read

    The only thing that really works for me is to cut out carbs a la Atkins, including fruit and fruit juice. I lost 35 pounds last fall and this is probably the longest time in my life I’ve held steady at one weight. I’d like to lose another 20, but just not going back up again is good. And having the "right" stuff in the house to snack on is essential. If there’s junk food around i’ll eat it.

    Good luck!!

  5. Rachel Brady

    Hilarious opening line. Loved it.

    You might check out a book called Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. It’s a dry read but it has great explanations about why to choose certain foods over others (some are not intuitive). I read it for continuing ed credits to keep my fitness instructor certification active. Ever since, I’ve changed the way I eat. No dieting involved, just knowledge. Once you know what’s what, the choices become no-brainers.

    Good for you for seeing a problem and tackling it. Way to be.

  6. toni mcgee causey

    Oh, this issue is driving me nuts, as well. I’ve been a lot more sedentary since fracturing my foot six weeks ago, and it’s still swollen to the point where I cannot wear shoes–so I can’t walk on the treadmill. (It’s healing–it’s just a lot freaking slower than I had hoped.)

    I’ve been trying to do floor exercises, but I get bored, fast, even with the TV on. I really really need to find a new series I can buy/rent that will keep me in the room for that period of time.

    But I have vowed that our lives are changing. I’ve been cooking (I hate cooking, but I’m turning out to be pretty good at it). Trying to keep good foods to eat (which means more shopping trips for fresh produce / vegetables).

    I love the concept of the BodyBugg, but I think it would depress me to discover that in the entire day, I managed to walk .03 tenths of a mile. (Office is next to bedroom.)

  7. Debbie

    For me it’s just lazyness; if I’m hungry I’ll just grab something quick and thats usually loaded with sugar, fat, and/or carbs.
    Two motivators that I know of to make lifestyle changes more permanant: one is a medical condition, the other disqust. Not when everyone else is delivering that message to you, but when you deliver it personally. Oh…having a partner who can work out with you or eat healthier with you helps too. My goal is to join a gym and work out when the kids head off for school – and maybe I should cut out junk food too? Nah, I’ll just cut back! (Having said all of that, I must confess that I spent the morning baking cookies.)

  8. Judy Wirzberger

    Please refer to the archive files showing what a buffet is like in Southern Illinois. No meal is without gravy, bread, butter, potatoes and fried meat. If it’s roasted, that’s with potatoes and a thickened gravy (I didn’t grow up with the word sauce in my vocabulary). We did eat lettuce – iceberg – dipped in granulated sugar. Vegetables were canned, except for eared corn in season, and tomatoes right off the vine (but the tomatoes were served with Miracle Whip).

    I’m waiting for a pill.

    Good luck – keep us informed and don’t go to southern Illinois. (Did I tell you my favorite show is the food network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. No Hope! None at all.

  9. pari noskin taichert

    I’ve been using Weight Watchers online since late January and have lost about 20 pounds in a sane and easy manner. I could stop here but want to get down another 10-15 or so.

    It feels great and I like having to pay to keep track because I take it more seriously. Am also exercising every day.

    One of the most therapeutic things I did a month or so ago was to go to the store and pick up three 5-pound sacks of sugar. I told myself: "Isn’t this wonderful? I’m not carrying this weight around on ME anymore!"
    Then I put those sacks of sugar back on the shelf and grinned from ear to ear.

  10. gregory huffstutter

    I recommend the sports diet. Find a sport you used to enjoy in your youth — soccer, volleyball, dodgeball, whatever — and then join a league. Playing once a week in a city league isn’t what’s going to get you in shape, it’s the shame. Men are naturally competitive creatures. So after a few weeks of saying "Holey crap, I can’t catch my breath, my quads are killing me, and even the old guys are kicking my ass," it’ll motivate you to stick to a workout program other days of the week. If for no other reason that you don’t embarass yourself when you’re around other weekend warriors.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    BTW: WW online has some of the best low-fat and healthy recipes I’ve found in years. Really wonderful ethnic cuisine. I avoid any of the recipes that include fake foods — margarine, fake sugar, crap with even more crap in it that I can’t pronounce — and have still found hundreds of wonderful dishes that my whole family enjoys.

    Better than buying cookbooks.

  12. Robert Gregory Browne

    Pari, I think we’ve only seen each other face-to-face once or twice, but you never struck me as someone who even needs to think about losing weight.

    Then again, my wife always proclaims she’s fat, and she weighs, I don’t know, maybe a hundred and fifteen pounds dripping wet?

    "I’m fat for ME," she says.


  13. Robert Gregory Browne

    Gregory, I would have had to actually ENJOYED playing sport as a child. I was the kid who would rather sit in the library than get out on the field. P.E. was my least favorite class, and that’s saying a lot, since I hated them all.

    So not only would I be humiliated joining a local league, I’d only relive a childhood that was filled with the torture of being the last guy picked for the team — and reluctantly at that.

  14. Rae

    I’m definitely a calorie counter, and have had pretty good luck with it. I’ve struggled with weight all my life; what’s different now, contrary to years ago, is that I can actually find food that’s tasty that suits my calorie requirements. And I love that so many chains, like Starbucks and the local soup franchise where I get lunch almost every day, have websites with nutrition information. That stuff was not available 5 or 10 years ago.

    I’m also a big fan of following the BMI tables for appropriate weight and appropriate calorie consumption – they’re very rational, imo.

  15. gregory huffstutter

    Hummm, if you prefered the library and always hated all forms of sports, that would be a problem. How about if you approach it like research, and take an adult beginning martial arts class? That way you would be learning terminology and techniques that could be used in future action sequences — and as a side benefit, you burn some of those "calories" that Mr. Schwartz referenced.

  16. MJ

    We gave up meat and dairy. Kept red wine, though (hey, I have a lot of stress and stress hormones through work!).

    I am adding back periodic eggs, fish and fat free Greek yogurt but 60 days of being mostly vegan (and getting adequate vegan protein) broke us out of our beef/lamb/cheese habits. Had to happen.

  17. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rob

    Hilarious post. Remind me to be careful should we ever visit Hawaii…

    I’ve tried most diets in my time and the overriding common theme with them for me is…they don’t work. OK for a quick fix, but not in the long term.

    However, a couple of years ago we discovered THE ABS DIET by David Zinczenko, who is Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health magazine (yeah, I know, I need to follow something more girly) which is not a diet so much as an eating plan, designed for people who don’t have much time, and don’t necessarily want to live on rabbit food. Besides, the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had came from a chicken salad in Boston.

    Having never been breakfast eaters, we now have an oatmeal/All Bran/milk/live yoghurt/sugar-free peanut butter/chocolate whey protein/cinnamon smoothie to kick start the day, and we love the recipes anyway. It’s a relief to get home after being away and get back to it.

    It’s certainly worked for both of us – all we need to do now is get around to the exercise part. Does running around housebuilding count?

  18. Zoë Sharp

    Oh, and Toni – the foot is FRACTURED? Holy cow!

    So, you were walking us around the place for three days on a fractured foot?!?

    So NOW we feel guilty…

  19. toni mcgee causey

    Zoe, (argh! my umlaut thingie disappeared!)… I didn’t know it at the time–the first x-rays hadn’t shown the fractures, and I did have the boot on, so it was fine. We were having so much fun with you guys! No worries!

    It wasn’t ’til a week later, as the swelling started going down that we realized it wasn’t only a sprain.

  20. anonymous

    My 24 year old son is a fanatic about his food. He lifts weights everyday and jogs. He has been on the Paleolithic Diet because it balances his pH and lost 7 pounds the first week. (and he is trying to GAIN weight) You can eat as much as you like but you have to cut out processed foods and cut the salt down and no dairy. Grass-fed beef only because it is lower in fat. It is the stuff you would eat if you were a hunter-gatherer. Nuts and fruits are ok. Meat, fish, chicken, eggs. Wild stuff. Nothing farmed. Veggies are ok but should be root veggies and greens. My daughter lost ten pounds on it. Oh yeah……..no grains. No bread at all.

    and no fucking potato chips. When they come out with the potato chip diet will someone wake me up?

  21. Zoë Sharp

    Sorry, but I had to lift this quote from one of the dinner party scenes in ‘Notting Hill’:

    Keziah: No thanks, I’m a fruitarian.
    Max: I didn’t realize that.
    William: And, ahm: what exactly is a fruitarian?
    Keziah: We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already.
    William: Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots…
    Keziah: Have been murdered, yes.
    William: Murdered? Poor carrots. How beastly!

  22. TerriMolina

    I’m the queen of yo-yo dieting! I’ve been dieting since I was 20!…which was a long long time ago! Then I had four kids and…dieting became a nasty four letter word.

    For the past five years I’ve been saying I need to lose at least 70lbs and it never happens. ;-\ Last December I went to a doctor and started on the HCG treatments. My husband went on the diet also…he wanted to drop thirty pounds. We did the shots for six weeks…he lost 30 I lost 25. (of course he also goes to the gym religously!) He’s still down 30…I’m back up 20. *sigh* Of course after six weeks on the diet the doctor decided to test my thyroid…needless to say I’m on medication for that and hoping to start another diet when the kids go back to school (August 9th).

    Anyway, with the HCG shots you are only allowed to eat 500-800 calories a day….which really isn’t all that hard. One of the things that helped with the calorie counting is a website we used called SparkPeople. You input the food you ate and it keeps a count of the fat, protien, calories, etc you had for the day. I’m planning to do the HCG again when we can afford it…it’s a bit pricey.

    Good luck with the weight loss, Rob.

  23. Doug Riddle

    I can’t do the calorie thing, keeping track of all those numbers makes me crazy and I need to eat to calm myself.

    What I have found that works for me is what I heard refered to as the White Diet. You don’t eat anything white….no rice, potatoes, bread, sugar, dairy. . . and it is not just food that is white on your plate, but food that was white as an ingredient……….very similar to the Paleolithic Diet. You are mostly cutting out carbs and sugar. I do exclude chicken and eggs.

    I do this for a month, month and a half a year and seems to get me back to feeling good both weight and health wise. Funny thing is, the only thing I really ever miss is rice.

  24. Robert Gregory Browne

    What I like about calorie counting is that I can eat anything I want, just as long as I stay within my daily calorie count — so I don’t feel as if I’m depriving myself. Want a slice of pizza? Sure, but it’s 500 calories. Okay, I can live with that.

    But you also find yourself gravitating toward lower call foods like fruits and vegetables because they fill you up, but don’t bust your cal budget.

    Zoe, I LOVED Notting Hill. One of my favorites.

    Alafair, steal way. But I expect a mention in the acknowledgements… 😉

  25. Robin of My Two Blessings

    I don’t diet per say II don’t count calories but do watch sodium due to high blood pressure. I gave up the things that were bad for me health wise and allergy wise. When I was a little girl was allergic to wheat, dairy and corn. I thought I was over those. Then recently came several choking scares and one that landed me in the er with steak stuck in my throat. Dr ballooned narrow esophagus. I gave up the wheat and corn which basically meant anything corn related. I refuse to give up my one vice – chocolate fudge ice cream, however. 🙂 I did give up my beloved 3 to 4 pepsi’s a day and chips. I dropped 12 pounds without trying. Also portion management. Actually read servicing sizes and stick to it. Watch the sodium content. No eating out, eat lots of fresh vegetables, drink plenty of water and exercise of course. You just have to practice mindful eating as one of my dr. friend espouses.


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