Fat Chris: the Journey & Final Fight

It’s summertime, 1995, Batman Forever is in the theatres and Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” is burning up the airwaves. I’m 8 years old and attending Sports Camp in Braintree, Massachusetts.

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Sports camp is really cool. We play games like kingpin (dodgeball that incorporates bowling pins, that if you knock over you win and/or get your team back in the game, depending on how many are left), hotshot basketball, and Dr. & Spy (another variation of dodgeball with wheelie carts).

During breaks, I see my older brother & sister, who are in the older kid groups. They give us water and juice made from kool-aid packets and Braintree hose water. At the end of each day, they award ribbons to the different MVPs of each game. You are the man if you get a ribbon.

I’m only 8 but there is a girl in my group that I think is cute. My crush has wavy red hair and reminds me of Nicole Kidman from Batman Forever. “If I was Batman, I would save her,” I think to myself.

It’s the last day of camp and I’m getting ready for the talent show. My brother usually wins it and this year he has tapped me to be on his team. We’re doing an act where he sits on me with a blanket, so it looks like my legs are coming from him. The blanket looks like a skirt, and I will have on pantyhose, and high heels. We have a Mexican Cha Cha song playing and I will be swaying and dancing my legs crazy as Rob dances with some mariachi shakers and makes funny faces like he is surprised at what his legs are doing. We got this talent show in the bag.

I have one more activity before the talent show and I’m sitting on the fold out bleachers at Dorhety gym imagining how I’m going to sway my legs. Just then my crush’s friend comes over points at my crush and goes, “Do you know what she thinks?”. Hmm, I think, that I’m wicked athletic and cool. I did win hotshot basketball and older kids talk to me at break because of my siblings. Maybe she has a crush on me too!

The crush tries to shush her, while they laugh, but she says, “She thinks you’re fat.” I’m gutted. Instant frown. I walk away pissed off and sad.

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I don’t let my heartbreak interfere with my family performance. We rock the talent show, win it, and I get a cool ribbon. After the talent show, I think the crush-girl knows I’m mad at her and tries to come to make small talk. But I ignore her with my 8-year old scorn and tell her whatever the 8-year old equivalent of “F off” is, probably something like “you smell, get away from me.”

Being fat as a kid sucked. Kids are mean and being fat makes you an easy target. I’d say 90% of my fights up to age 14 would start with some kid calling me fat and it soon turning to fists. Things that sting like my siblings, knowing I was sensitive about it, would reserve it for their low blows during arguments, “You’re just a fat kid.” or having the pleasure of two my “friends” making up a AOL screename in 6th grade to call me fat (such a girl move) or secretly knowing any girl I liked probably didn’t want to date a fat kid.

However, I didn’t let it stop me from excelling at sports or having an outgoing personality. I probably developed a lot of my comedy skills as a coping mechanism. Being fat, if I wanted people to like me, I had to be the funniest guy in class (or so I thought).

The first two years of middle school  I also had to deal with Osgood-Schlatters in my knees.  (From Wikipedia: Osgood-Schlatter disease is a common cause of knee pain in growing adolescents. It is an inflammation of the area just below the knee where the tendon from the kneecap (patellar tendon) attaches to the shinbone tibia). My doctor said I had the worst case she had ever seen (it still looks like I have four kneecaps) and it sucked for sports. What usually was an escape and an outlet turned into a nightmare. In hockey, if I got hit hard in the knee I would drop and not be able to skate. It reduced my speed in soccer and I remember my Irish coach saying, “I picked you because you were rated high, but your just slow and fat.” Youth coaches were big self-esteem builders.  

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Then in 8th grade, everything changed. My knees healed and I bought a bench press with my paper route money and as a Christmas gift from my parents. It was a set bench that I could lift without fear of dropping the weight on my neck (Freddy Krueger killed someone in a Nightmare on Elmstreet movie doing that, and I wasn’t going out like that).

Every day after my paper route I would bench press three 3 sets of 10 and do a leg workout. I soon progressed to 3 sets of 15 and then made it an incline bench to make it more difficult. I wasn’t doing the most scientific training, but it worked. After a healthy mix of puberty, lifting weights, and my knees healing, I wasn’t fat anymore. 

More than just not fat, I had become fast, real fast. Once my knees healed I won the sprint contest for my entire grade, won the mile, and won the turkey trot. And I was blowing by people in soccer, lacrosse, hockey, and basketball. This fat little duck had become a swan. I even had a girlfriend. Life was cool.

Then high school hit and got into drinking with my friends. In 10th grade, I made varsity soccer and I was the top distance runner at my school, but I was also splitting 30 racks and bottles of Cosack (dry-heaving writing that) with my friends every weekend. I knew jackshit about nutrition and thought it was perfectly fine to have Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, a Large buffalo chicken sub from Rosies from lunch, and then pizza for dinner. I quickly packed on the pounds.

My track coach Joe said I was wasting my talent, I was fat, and needed to lose twenty pounds to be good. He guaranteed if I lost the weight he could get me a college scholarship.  I half listened to him because I was beating 90% of my opponents, qualifying for states, and because being a track star wasn’t that cool. However, I wanted to go to college and knew track might be the only way I could afford it.

He told me that I needed to think bigger. I shouldn’t be satisfied with just qualifying for states, I should be dreaming about winning a title. He said I should train to the point where colleges are fighting over me, not just trying to somehow find a way to run in the NCAA (thank you for trying to open my eyes Joe!).

Then again, everything changed. During a night drinking with my friends, I blacked out and chugged a huge handle of Cosack Vodka. I started puking and my friends tried to carry me to a car but dropped me and I split my head open on the concrete. I then got up (from what I was told) and ran full speed, tripped on a curb and split my head open again off a fence post.

I woke up in the hospital the next morning and the doctor asked how much I drank. I tried to play it off, but he said I should be dead with the alcohol level I had. Wow.

Besides my massive concussion, I also felt something else change in me. I needed to do something with my second chance, try harder, be better and start to actually go for it. God kept me alive for some reason, and it wasn’t just to be a fat drunken slob.

I got sent to Nantucket that summer to work and get away from the trouble I had been getting into. And it worked. I lost twenty pounds, trained my ass off in running, worked 40 hours a week making good money a the Hyline, got into Steve Prefontaine (who made track cool for me) and made a positive new group of friends (shoutout to Ricky)who showed me I could chill out a bit and be a nicer person. (I will write a whole blog sometime on my first full summer on ACK. Still feels like I lived a movie or at least my version of the OC). 

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“That’s O’Day he’s from off island but not rich”

I also got really into nutrition and working out. I read all about calories and thought back to all the cookies, chips, and sodas I would eat daily after my paper route. No wonder I was fat!

When I saw my track coach at the Thanksgiving 5k that fall he was pumped. I only placed 3rd, I thought he’d be bummed, but he was ecstatic. He said, “Screw the race, who cares, you’re not fat anymore! We’re going to do big things this year!”

We started placing at state championships and colleges started calling. I was really into lifting and would use my paychecks & hustle money to pay for running shoes and personal training at the Weymouth Club (shoutout to Kevin Vacca, best trainer there during that period). I got a little too obsessive with weight and would often starve myself only to binge later that night. I even messed around with weight loss pills but they turned me into a weirdo, so I swore them off forever.

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New England Championships 2005

During my senior year, I started to have a healthy relationship with food. I stopped starving myself and just ate healthy (salads for lunch, eggs, a variety of fruits) and ran more miles to control my weight. I didn’t lift as much because the summer before I did it religiously and put on way too much muscle that slowed me down (Trunks vs Cell for my DBZ fans).

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I went to college, did the whole freshman 15 thing, but I really didn’t have to worry about weight too much. We ran 10-15 miles a day and senior year I would do 20-mile runs on Sundays at 6:18 mile pace. Any pizza or beer we had the night before would get burned off by the mileage we were putting in. I clearly remember being in Taylor dining hall downing a massive plate of breakfast, filled with pancakes, eggs, bacon, cereal, sausages, while my friend said, “If you ever stop running, you’re going to get so fat.”

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Skinny College Days ACXC at Bryant 2007?

And they were right. My first summer post-college, I replaced 10-mile runs after work with two sandwiches and a nap. I was burnt out from running and just wanted to relax and be normal.

I got a desk job in Boston and ate out almost every day at lunch (not healthy or financially smart). I lived in an apartment with friends (shoutout 192) in Boston and we ate out all the time.  I started dating Ranna (thanks for staying with me during the heavy years babe) and would love when she made her awesome buffalo dip.

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I packed on major pounds. But I didn’t care. For the first time in my life, I decided not to give a fudge, and to eat as much fudge as I wanted. I started drinking Budweiser, eating Snyders Buffalo pretzels all the time, and taking the escalator instead of the stairs. I deemed this: The Fat Chris Period.

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At peak Fat Chris I even went on my own Mission Hill pizza crawl, where I stopped by every place that sold pizza and had a slice, two if they had buffalo (what a time to be alive). I would also eat out all the time on Nantucket and drink on the beach with my friends. I would run into people from high school and they would be surprised at my appearance and ask if I was still running: “Does it look like it bro?”

Fat Chris was fun but unsustainable. I went to doctors for my first checkup in 3 years. In college, 165 lbs was my running weight, and I figured I probably at most had gained 30lbs and weighed 199lbs. I got on the scale, it read 238 lbs, holy shit I was fat. I had put on 73 lbs in 4 years, Jesus Christ.

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Peak Fat Chris at Liz’s 30th

I was disgusted and knew I needed to change. I looked up different workout routines and did Kris Gethin’s 12-week hardcore trainer. I quit drinking for 12 weeks, ate mostly chicken, egg whites, broccoli, and followed his workouts to a t. I dropped 37 lbs in 12 weeks and got back from looking obese (Thanks Kris!).

 

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Since losing all the weight I’ve followed the same rollercoaster. I will pack on some weight and then sign up for a marathon or activity like a boxing match. I will lose a bunch of weight training, complete the goal, and then take the summer off where I gain the weight again. I’ve had multiple people say they’ve never seen someone gain weight faster or lose it like I do (nothing to be proud of, probably not good for me, I’m not an actor getting paid millions to do it). It’s been a whole lot of half-hearted attempts at a comeback where I get 75% there and decide “f it”, and enjoy the summer. 

I want to break the wheel and do a real return to running. I still have goals In running I want to accomplish. I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I could have done it in my sleep in college and there’s no excuse for me not to be able to do it, besides being a fatty. I want to run a sub 4:20 mile on the Braintree track (beating O’Rourke’s 4:22 mile on the Braintree track, that he reminds me at every chance) and try to PR in several events.

I also want to be a healthy husband for Ranna. She doesn’t deserve a fat groom and I should look good in our wedding pictures.

With that in mind I have signed up for a marathon Sept 8 and will spend the summer training to prepare for it. I recently had nose surgery and was sidelined for a month from training, but now we are back at it. Will post updates on my return to running.

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