Skip navigation

I was at work a few months ago and a friend of mine (who loves books) called me up and invited me to a reading.  Considering my Southern Oregon eighth grade public school education, I replied to his invite with the next logical question:  “what is a reading?”  He explained that it’s a book promotion tour done by the author–set up at a specific location, the author comes out, meets fans, and reads from his book.  I have to admit I was less than enthusiastic–it was a school night, the book store wasn’t near any good strip clubs (which is NOT an easy thing to do in Portland), and I had a date with myself to watch television. (I mean c’mon–when was I going to get another chance to watch that Two and a Half Men rerun?)  Besides–the “reading” was at Powell’s.  While I like a good musty bookstore as much as the next guy–and there’s (literally) no bigger bookstore on earth, it’s not exactly my favorite place to go.  I’ve been there on several occasions, and every time I interact with the staff there, I feel like I’m coming between them and their vegan cruelty-free soy chai mochalattafrappachinos.   Speaking of the staff, most of them look (and smell) like they could use a good scrubbing–and they have that typical Portland hemp-wearing, ultraslacker, I-always-recycle-and-ride-a-bike-to-work superiority complex that I don’t find particularly pleasant.

My friend strongly suggested that it would be a good thing for me to attend–not just because I could use a little bit of intellectual culture (What?  Two and a Half Men doesn’t qualify???)  but also because the book is on a subject of which I have some interest.   He goes on to tell me that the author lost 50 pounds–and while that’s a great thing to do, and I understand the effort he put into losing the weight, I didn’t really get why it was book-worthy.  I know so many people (including the one I look at in the mirror every day) that have lost the same or more pounds and I didn’t see them writing a memoir….but I got curious, so I agreed to check it out.  

I arrived at the bookstore a little early and saw the staff setting up for the reading, so I grabbed a seat near the back and sat down.  A bit after the starting time, about thirty people were seated and the author came out and introduced himself.  His name is Edward Ugel…Ed.  Right off the bat, he explained that he wasn’t a diet guru, or an inspirational speaker–he was just a guy that wanted to lose weight and wrote a book about it, so that’s exactly what he did.  I’m with Fatty:  Losing Fifty Pounds in Fifty Miserable Weeks is the title of his story, and it turns out the book is a lot like Ed–very funny and very smart.

So after his brief introduction, he read a little from his book, told a few stories–the whole thing was surprising ly entertaining.  The only thing that might’ve made it better would have been a few strippers flanking him, serving up some cold Pabst Blue Ribbon (Question:  if that was the beer that won the blue ribbon, how bad was the beer that came in second?) but otherwise, I had a really good time. 

At one point during his talk, he made it clear that he wasn’t the next Richard Simmons–and the book wasn’t a “how to” diet book.  He wanted to lose the weight and had some personal reasons for it, one of which was (of course) his health.  But he also went into how he wanted to look better.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  Here was a guy that was letting the cat out of the bag!  He wanted to look better!  He was self-conscious and he was a guy.  He didn’t like how he looked, he was starting to have health issues, and he knew it was time to change things.

When most guys start a diet, they just say they “want to get in shape” or something like that.  For a while there,  I would tell people I just wanted to get back into ‘fighting shape.’  But the bottom line was that I didn’t want to look like a fat slob any more.  Sure, the improved health is the real benefit. But for me, at the end of the day, it came down to vanity.  I hate to say it, but that was the real reason behind everything.   When people listen to weight-loss stories, mine included, they want some big spark–some out-of-body catalyst-type experience.  That time when someone hit rock bottom and knew they had to change, like after a heart attack.  Seeing the white light and somehow avoiding it makes for a good motivating tale, doesn’t it?  But for me it wasn’t like that. I just was tired of being tired, and even more tired of being fat.

At the end of the reading, I stuck around because I had a few questions.  I hate waiting in lines, so I held back until the crowd had thinned out a little and walked up to the table where Ed was sitting.  Introducing myself and asking for him to sign a copy of his book, I asked him point-blank:  since he made it clear he did want to be labeled as an inspiration, how did he deal with people who told him he was?  He looked up from the table, gave me a head-to-toe once-over, and replied with, “How much did you lose?”  Letting out a nervous chuckle and stammering for a minute, (which isn’t like me at all) he followed up with, “Why do I think you’re going to throw a huge number at me?”  I didn’t want to take away from anything he had done by trumping his fifty pounds.  We had essentially done the same process, I just needed to do it longer than he did–but the effort was the same.  Afraid of stealing his spotlight, I was also hesitating to say anything because of my number itself.  See when you tell people you have lost, say, 100 pounds, they’re usually quite amazed–but when you tell them you lost 375 pounds, they usually can’t compute it.  People don’t know how to respond.  It tends to scramble their brains for a few minutes.  It’s awkward. 

So I gave in and told him how much I had lost.  His initial response was verbalized as “Really?”  but his very surprised eyes were saying something more like “Bullshit!”  Sensing his disbelief, I took out my wallet and showed him my license.  (I’ve found that’s generally the best way to show people that I’m legit.)   He was very gracious, and that in fact, I was the true inspiration, not him.  He asked me how I felt.  I told him I still felt clumsy and fat.  My self-image hadn’t changed.  It’s hard to explain to someone unless they grew up in my size 14 extra-wide shoes.  I think this is my default mode.  I mean as time goes on, it’s taking a smaller part of my life–I’m so much more active and stuff–but I’m still struggling to lose that fat guy.  Every once in a while, I still catch myself off-guard and think I’m still at my old weight.  When people ask me how much I weigh now, sometimes I slip up and say 328, not my real weight of 228.  The last time I was under 300 pounds, I was about 13…it’s still unfamiliar territory for me.

Since that first meeting with Ed, I have exchanged a few emails with him–he is a great guy and I feel like I am starting to form a friendship.  After reading his book, I am amazed at how similar our experiences have been.  It’s a great read, and I’m not so much a reader–well, except for those times I have to insist I’m reading something JUST for the articles.  So few weeks ago, I attended a Book Club.  I use that term loosely, seeing as how it’s really just an excuse for a group of middle-aged, small town women to get together, pretend they’ve read something, and drink wine at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning.  The woman who runs the “Book Club” was looking for suggestions about what to read next, so I suggested Ed’s book.  I told them he used small words, he was funny–it would be perfect.  They read the book and everyone loved it–Ed was even kind enough to attend the club via the internet.

Sometimes during this journey, I need to remind myself of the incredible experiences I’ve had.  Meeting Ed and sharing Ed’s book with others is just another one of the highs I’ve felt on this weight loss roller coaster.   Who knows, maybe I’ve got a book in me…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: