Sep 122011
Authors: Joe Vajgrt

Two of my closest friends had just gotten married, and I was sitting at the bar nursing a beer while surrounded by dozens of people I hadn’t seen in years.

I grew up in a tiny little town where everyone knew everyone, and it seemed like everyone was related somehow. It was actually pretty creepy.

Ah, the wonders of small-town central Kansas.

An old familiar face walked up to the bar right next to where I was seated and ordered a drink. It was my friend Nic whom I hadn’t seen in about six years. I greeted him enthusiastically, only to have him give me a puzzled look and an awkward “heeeyyy” in response.

As Nic walked away, my mind was racing to figure out what I had done to deserve the cold shoulder. We were never best friends, but we always got along really well, and I was truly happy to see the guy.

Had I insulted Nic in some way? Perhaps made a crass comment about his mother while in a drunken stupor? No, that couldn’t be it. I’ve never been a big drinker, and I would certainly remember if I had done something like that. Unable to come up with any kind of an explanation, I decided to just let it go.

A few hours later, Nic came up to me and apologized profusely for being a little rude in our earlier interaction. He told me that he simply didn’t recognize me. Apparently, a person looks pretty different after losing nearly 100 pounds.

That’s right — I used to be a fatty. It’s hard for me to even remember what it was like to carry almost 250 pounds on my 5’ 9” frame. I’ve been overweight for the majority of my life, though.
I was always chubby growing up, but I really ballooned while in my early teens. I remained suspended in my obese state until I reached my early twenties.

I’d simply finally had enough of feeling disgusted with myself, of jiggling in all the wrong places (are there right places?) and of being in awful shape. I decided to stop being a victim and took control of my life and my health.

I bought a bike and starting riding everywhere. I hounded my friends to go out and play basketball with me at every free moment. I started playing tennis. I searched for any excuse to get my fat ass outside and moving around.

I also started paying more attention to what I was shoving into my face. Looking back at it now, the food I used to think was healthy I now see as an odd combination of sad, shocking and horrifying. It’s quite fitting that the acronym for “Standard American Diet” is spelled S-A-D.

I eventually started running, and before too long, I had morphed into the strapping young lad I am today. Right? Ladies? Ahem…

Joking aside, it’s easy to forget what I felt like back then. At the time, I was deep in denial of my own obesity. I was irritated by how large-sized shirts weren’t large enough, blaming the t-shirt manufacturers for unleashing their unrealistic body standards on my delicate psyche.

I also remember thinking to myself, “Sure, I need to lose 25 pounds or so.” The first 25 pounds I lost were the most stubborn and difficult to get rid of, but once they were gone, it was psychologically easier to lose more weight.

Soon, I had lost another 25 pounds. Now 50 pounds in to my nosedive towards a healthy body mass index, it became apparent that I still had quite a ways to go.

A funny thing started to happen: people were being really nice all of the sudden. Girls were making eye contact. Strangers were friendlier and more helpful than ever. It’s amazing how differently the world treats you once you burn through a few layers of fat.

As time wore on, I kept up with my daily exercise regimen. As a result, my weight has been stable and right where it needs to be for the past four and a half years.

I’m glad that I’m able to take a moment to reflect on how unhealthy I used to be. I was surely headed towards a life of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and a slew of other unpleasant complications stemming from obesity.

Since losing those 95 pounds, I moved to this beautiful state with endless opportunities to get outside and be active. I sure hope you’re out there taking advantage of it, too.

Joe Vajgrt is a senior journalism major who has always been beautiful on the inside. His column usually appears Mondays in the Collegian. He can be reached at

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