Gaining weight, in pursuit of happiness

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Somehow, in a life filled pretty consistently with thoughts of food and the consequence of obesity, I had not heard of "gay gainers" until a couple of weeks ago, when Zack Jordan, 29, got in touch via Twitter after reading, and liking, my book, "Fat Boy Thin Man."

I learned the term when I went to his Twitter page, which announces him as a gay gainer who wants to weigh 300 pounds. Since then, we've talked on the phone, and I've been enlightened about so many things, including that he's boosted his goal: He's now aiming for 350.

The whole idea of wanting to be heavier, in order to be happier, is foreign to me, and I've hesitated to publish on the topic for what I think is a good reason. But Jordan talked to me freely, and volunteered at the end of our interview that "some gainers are pretty private about it, but I don’t think it’s something to necessarily be private about. It was kind of cool talking about it."

Jordan said he was unaware of the subculture until encountering it on YouTube last year. "I’m attracted to fat men to begin with, so I just did a search for fat men. One of the results was a gaining video: Someone had made a video in which he took his shirt off and showed how much fat he'd put on since his last video."

Now, Jordan is making videos of his own. He says he weighed 165 when he moved to Massachusetts from western New York in 2006 and had increased to 190, unpurposefully, by November 2010, when he saw the video. When we talked, he was at 212, "so according to BMI [measures], I’m overweight but not obese yet."


I was chilled by this and several other things he said, such as, "I thought if they [in the videos] can, I can. and what’s the harm? [Emphasis mine.] And, at any time, I could stop."

That last part is, of course, the epitaph of every addict, which I pointed out to him.

His first answer was that this isn't addictive — and he might be right; addiction has to be a self-diagnosis. But in his next breath, he allowed that he might have "addictive tendencies" ... to pornography — "I feel it is a coping mechanism maybe for loneliness." ... and to food — "In the past, when I was angry or distressed, I would turn to food. That’s why I liked your book, because I could relate to some things in there ..." ... and "oh, I’m also a compulsive spender. I tend to go shopping when I feel bad, and then I feel bad more when I spend a lot of money."

Beyond addiction, of course, is the wider question of good health, which became germane immediately when he said, "what's the harm?" To start, there's the increased incidence of cancer and heart disease that fat people encounter, and then of course, there's diabetes, but I didn't have to tell him that.

"What I’m most afraid of is diabetes. I guess a heart attack too, but that’s a long way off. I think I can reach the weight I want, and if I decide to go back, for whatever reason, i can just lose it, because I'm still young, 29. I don’t feel as much at risk of dropping dead than if I tried doing this at 50 or 60. I know it probably sounds naive, but I am aware of the risk."

If there's risk, what's the reward?

"I feel my life has more meaning."

That's hard to argue with, if also hard to identify with. But the behavior! If anything, he is more straightforward about what he is doing than I was in my binging days:

"I'm getting more serious about wanting to gain weight. Now, at the store, I look for higher calories, higher fat, deliberately, like totally the opposite of what most people do. I don’t always eat fast food because it doesn’t make me feel very good if I have too much of it. But like today, I am kind of free, so I might go out and binge at KFC, and I have some Burger King coupons. And I know they have high calories and a lot of fat."

In addition to straightforwardness points, I gotta rank him higher than many of those chain's customers on awareness of what they're serving.

So what's up with the number 350? I worried a little bit that I'd influenced him to go bigger, since 350 was my highest neighborhood, but Jordan eased my fear. He said he saw a guy on "The Biggest Loser" who was about his height (5-foot-11) and about that weight, "and I kind of liked how he looked." He's not wedded to a number, though.

"I don’t even know what it will look like at 350. I might not even make it! I might get to 270 and decide that’s enough.

"There's a lot of mystery about what I’ll be satisfied with," Jordan said.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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