Three years removed from gastric bypass surgery, I weigh just over 200 pounds and still battle old demons daily. Writing about and reflecting on the past is a useful exercise for me, so I’ll be posting entries like this one fairly often.
At my peak weight in 2006, I rented a small house in rural Pennsylvania. My nearest friend was a 30 minute drive west, and I telecommuted for work. My friend visited sometimes, once commenting that the house smelled like a hamster cage. His observation wasn’t surprising since I rarely left the recliner for over an hour and I never cleaned. I’d toss dozens of empty pizza boxes and other binge eating evidence down the basement steps before he arrived.
I played a lot of stupid games with food service employees during that time. Attributing part or all of my orders to fictional people was part of my routine. I now realize that my stealth ordering likely wasn’t fooling anyone into thinking my 500-lb. frame was the result of bad luck.
The Penn Hills drive-thru tour was my favorite part of the day. Convinced that Wendy’s caught onto my ruse of ordering 3 value meals with varied drinks and burger toppings, I started hitting 3-4 restaurants per trip. Arby’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Long John Silver’s/A&W. One giant meal per day that usually culminated in sickness and 12 hours of sleep. I’d wake up with intense cravings; mouth watering, sweating, heart racing, constantly thinking about the next big feed.
Fast food employees would banter with me as might be expected with a very recognizable, daily visitor. I’d tell stories about how my grandmother wanted to try the new chicken sandwich or my brother asked me to pick up some extra sauce packets. At KFC once, the cashier asked, “Where’s the party?” The party was in my Jeep in an abandoned parking lot, but the mood was more like a funeral after her question.
Boston Market was my absolute favorite place to eat, but it was pretty far from home and my leg got tired from pressing the accelerator. I could order a Family Feast and 2-liter of Sprite without much elaboration and then dispose of the whole meal alone in the car. One night, I was startled by the lights from a police cruiser behind me. The officer came to the window to see why I was parked in front of Sears after hours. I’ll never forget how disgusted he looked when I explained that I was having dinner. A 2/3 eaten tin of meatloaf and several empty side dish tubs sat in the passenger’s seat. It scares me that I’m actually craving Boston Market as I type this.
I eventually got tired of going out into the world and turned to Papa John’s Pizza. I normally ordered 2 or 3 large pies and a dessert pizza, yelling during the phone order to imaginary people in the background. “Keep it down, I’m on the phone! Hey, do you want extra pepperoni?” Online ordering made this process even easier. Still, I’d answer the door announcing, “Yeah, I got it!” to the same fake housemates.
These stories are artifacts of a bizarre, dangerous, frightening lifestyle, but I’m not the only one. The following account from Michael Prager’s Fat Boy Thin Man reveals similar behavior:
“Foot-long roast beef with onions and mayo, please.” I always got that one; that one was “mine.” … The other sub’s ingredients were optional. If it was the tuna, I’d go for everything except olives… I might even add the repartee: “I hate olives, man, but my friend wants them.” The friend of course didn’t exist.
The magnitude of consumption still amazes me. I accumulated considerable debt by spending a couple thousand bucks each month on food. I’m better now, but by no means am I fixed. I know that I have to avoid fast food and eating in the car. I have to.