Monday night I posted Ask Anything on the Fat Man Walking facebook page.
Here’s what we got!
1. From the operating room to right now, what one event, obstacle or success had the greatest impact on you thus far?
Great question! Without a doubt the moment that sticks out of the most for me was the first time I hiked Coxheath Mountain with my friends Amy and Jenn. I write about that first climb in the book and it’s still a pretty emotional thing for me. It hit me on two levels. First – there was just the notion that I was now capable of doing something that physically demanding. I was still close to 350 pounds the first time we climbed it. I had no idea what to expect I just knew it was something I never would have tried before. Then, the second way it hit me was when I was sitting at the top and realized the mountain had always been there, basically visible from my old radio station, and I had no idea. When I was at my heaviest I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t know there were all these trails. I didn’t know it was a regular part of the lives of hundreds of people who enjoyed it. It all didn’t just pop up the minute I started to get active. It was all there when I was at my heaviest, but I had blinders on. At my heaviest I wasn’t able to see the things in life I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy. To 460-pound-Jay that mountain didn’t exist. It’s how I coped. It’s the only way I could cope. If it didn’t exist, I wasn’t missing out on anything. When your denial is so big it can hide a mountain, you have to wonder!
2. Skin Surgery. Is it always a “have-to-have” after a major weight loss?
This is tricky. I have a lot of excess skin – more than 30 pounds of it. There are lots of people who achieve weight loss at a slower rate than I did, and their skin can better adapt to the change. I’m down over 200 pounds and still have more to lose. That kind of loss is going to leave evidence. So yeah, I’m covered in collapsed stretch marks and I live in compression clothing. No matter what I do I’m never going to have a tight, toned body. And it’s not just a body image thing – it impacts the clothes you wear too. Without the extra skin I’d be wearing pants that are 2″ or 4″ smaller. I can easily wear an XL t-shirt but the hanging bat-wing of skin under my arms – especially my right arm – won’t really fit in an XL sleeve. So I’m stuck buying 2XL even though I don’t need it my shoulders or my stomach. I’m buying the larger size just to accommodate the excess skin. When I’m buying a dress shirt I can fit a 16″ neck but there’s no way that’s going to button over my chest. While that’s frustrating, it’s still easier to dress this body than it was to dress the body I had a 460 pounds. You pick your battles and it’s one I’m choosing not really to tackle until I get to a weight I want to maintain. It’s secondary to my health, although I did have a meeting with a plastic surgeon to talk about my options – and I talk more about that in the book.
3. Will you ever help people lose weight as a job?
I’m just happy I get to help people lose weight! That’s not even what I do, actually. I think what I do is help people realize they’re worth making the change. For some that means surgery and for other it means diet and exercise. I’m lucky to have met so many people at so many different stages of their journey. I feel like all of those conversations have given me a unique perspective on the battles people face. Plus, my honesty about my journey gives people a confidence in me that allows them to share things with me about their struggles they haven’t told their husbands and wives. I’m not a professional by any stretch and in the grand scheme of things all of this is new to me. It hasn’t even been two years since I started investing in myself. Will I ever do it as a job? Who knows? I can tell you that is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. It brings me more joy than anything I’ve ever been paid to do.
4. Any regrets after almost two years?
None! That’s not because I haven’t made regrettable choices along the way, it’s just because I don’t get hung up on them. It doesn’t help me. As long as there is a lesson underneath every bad choice I’ve made I’ll say it was all in the name of progress. It was worth it because I’ve grown! There is a burst of life that happens when you realize you’re out from under 460 pounds and all at once you start making life choices that are built around the excitement of finally having choices where before you saw none. My motto for a whole year was to blindly say YES to things I never would have agreed to in the past. That was an important time for me because it stretched my definition of myself and it got me doing things far outside my comfort zone. Would do all of them again? Are they things I want to do regularly? No, but I didn’t really know that before. I’m like a kid all over again – I’ve got test the limits of this new life so I can see just where I belong.
5. Do you feel the band around your stomach?
Yes! After almost two years it’s become kind of second nature to me but I certainly know it’s there. It’s not painful or anything but when I swallow a bite of food I feel it pass over a speed bump of sorts. Remember, the whole point of the band is to ensure that the food I eat makes contact with the stretch receptors in the upper part of my stomach, sending a signal to my brain that I’ve eaten. I actually notice it more first thing in the morning. When I wake up the first thing I do is drink a tall glass of water and when it go down through the band you can feel the sensation spread out inside in a way that’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt. It’s hard to explain. But I like it. It’s a daily reminder that I was once so far off track that I did something pretty drastic to get control of it. While I’m learning to live a new normal I never want to forget just how bad it was, and how far I’ve come.
6. How has your weight loss changed your sex life?
I get asked this a lot. At this point I’d like to invite my family to move on to question seven.
It’s never anyone’s first question but they always get there, especially people going for the surgery. Here’s what I’ll say. Every part of your life benefits when you’re healthier and happier. My body has changed and the self-image issues change with it. You trade in your fat insecurities for a whole bunch of new ones. That’s just human nature. How has it actually changed, though? Honestly, I respect myself a hell of a lot more these days so I make better choices. I’m not proud of a lot of what I did in my 20s when I was growing to my heaviest. It was a really self-destructive time. A lot of what I thought was me having fun was really just me burying my problems – with food, alcohol, unhealthy relationships. I was investing more in people who would be in my life for a nigh than I was in the people who were with me every day. Dating now is a lot more fun – when you’re honest about what you want, and open to sharing an actual future with someone. Dating has purpose now. I took myself out of the game for a while because I didn’t think it was fair to try to share my life with someone when it was changing so much. There’s just an optimism about life now. When the right person shows up now I know they’re meeting the best version of me that there’s ever been. As for the nitty gritty? Well, every car runs better after a tune up.
7. In one of your old videos you talked about how hard it is to find the time to work out. How do you find the time when you’re so busy all the time?
You don’t find time. There’s no extra pot of time. We’ve all got the same time and how you chose to spend yours reflects your priorities You invest in the things that matter. You organize to protect the things that matter. You can’t ever find time. You can’t ever make time. All you can do is spend time. It’s currency. Spend yours where you want to invest. I spend time on me everyday because it’s where I want to see improvement. Where are you spending your time? What do you hope to gain from spending it there?
8. What’s been your lowest moment since starting all of this?
Standing in my kitchen squirting ketchup over a tray of cookies I bought at the grocery store. Buying them was a mistake. Taking them home was a mistake. Admitting to myself that I had to destroy them if I didn’t want to eat them was a real “this-is-who-you-are” moment for me. I felt like a druggie. Part of me knew that throwing them out wasn’t enough. I had to make them uneatable or they’d stay in my head, yelling to me from the garbage bucket. There have been a lot of moments like that. You don’t just change who you are overnight. Not even in two years. A part of me will always be that guy. You just can’t get hung up on it. It doesn’t define me, it just challenges me.
9. How many people have you helped go through the surgery? How did they do?
There are about three dozen people I talk to on a weekly basis – just quick Facebook messages to see how they’re doing. I know fourteen people who have gone for the surgery after me – people that were a part of my life before surgery. I have to two close friends who have each gone for the surgery. It’s been as life changing for them as it has been for me. One is about to have a baby she was told she’d never have if she didn’t lose weight. My journey has been filled with stories like this and they really keep me on track. Two other people I know are going for the surgery next month and both will do very well. There are some people who haven’t had as much success with it but they can still turn it around. At the end of the day anyone who can afford the cost can have the surgery, but only those who are willing to do the homework will see the results they’re looking for. I’m not an an example of what the lap-band is capable of. My story is an example of what I’m capable of. It’s up to each of us to make it work.
10. Will you ever put out a cookbook?
Assuming I don’t bankrupt anyone with my first book I think it’s something I’d like to do. I’d like to study nutrition more and then really work at that but for now I’m just happy that I’ve found a healthy role for food in my life and that I get to share that with other people who looking to make healthier choices.
11. How will you know when you’re done if you don’t have a goal weight in mind?
I’m never going to be done. As long as there’s a life to be lived there’s a life worth living healthy. I want a BMI that puts me at a healthy weight. Right now I’m just coming down out of the obese zone and in to over-weight. I started in Super Obese, which is just above Morbidly Obese. If I just keep doing what I’m doing I’m going to get there. Progress is success!