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It's time to stop killing ourselves

I'm fat.

And not just a little fat. I'm a lot fat. The kind of fat where you look and say, "Wow, that guy is fat."

Now that I've admitted it (not that I could hide it) I'd like to ask something of my fellow fat people.

What have we done to ourselves?

I take a look around at some of our favorite hangouts - the buffets, the ice cream parlor, the snack aisle in the grocery store - and I'm stunned at how fat we've become as a nation. I live with obesity every day, and yet it still stuns me.

We're immense, to use George Carlin's word for the obesity epidemic. The signs of just how big are no longer restricted to the number on the scale:

• We need bigger cars. Auto manufacturers are making seats wider and adding more interior space. USA Today reported in 2005 that larger crash test dummies are now being used to test auto safety.

• We need more room at the game. According to the University of Michigan Record online edition, a poll on possible renovations to the football stadium indicated one of the biggest gripes was the seats were too narrow.

• We need bigger planes. While newer Airbuses "boast" 18.5-inch-wide seats, most older seats are an inch to an inch and a half narrower, making them uncomfortable for most passengers and unbearable for some.

• We need bigger clothes. Many mainstream retailers and specialty shops are now offering big and tall selections for men and plus-size clothes for women. An XXL T-shirt remains impossible to find in stores: not because they don't sell them, but because they're sold out.

• We need bigger beds. Some hotels are installing bigger, stronger beds in rooms and some college dorms are offering full-sized mattresses instead of twins.

• We need bigger medical equipment. Hospitals continue to order bigger and stronger beds, gurneys and operating tables, bigger MRI machines, larger gauge needles, roomier gowns, wider wheelchairs and sturdier crutches. And for us big people, when we leave the hospital, it's often not to go home but to go to the graveyard, which leads me to my last example.

• We need bigger coffins. When we kick the bucket from heart disease, stroke or one of the 1,000 other ailments obesity leads to, they have to make bigger boxes to put us in. A United Kingdom newspaper reports that even the crematoriums aren't big enough - an unbelievable irony, that we eat so much food in life that we can't fit in the oven for cremation at death.

And it's not just us big boys and girls. You people carrying just a few extra pounds are in this too, according to a study released this week that said being even slightly overweight can lead to premature death.

Two-thirds of the country is overweight. Why do we do it to ourselves? It has been drilled in our heads from birth: More leafy, green vegetables and fewer sweets. More water and fewer sugary drinks. More fruit and less ice cream. Eat a balanced diet. Exercise every day. Do that and you'll live longer and enjoy life more.

But we don't listen. We'd rather eat another helping and complain later about how uncomfortable the booth at the restaurant was.

I've dealt with being overweight my whole life. It is a burden that our increasingly rare thin friends can never possibly understand. The aches and pains, the grunts and groans, the embarrassment and the stigma are constant companions.

Everything you do, all day, every day, reminds you of how fat you are. Every chair you try to squeeze into, every staircase you climb, every stare you endure, every aching joint, and yes, every calorie you eat makes you feel guilty and ashamed and helpless.

After awhile you learn to laugh at yourself, to make the jokes first before someone else does. It keeps you from crying.

But at the end of the day you're still fat. You cannot escape yourself. There's nowhere to run, no magic button to press, no quick way off this ride when you're sick of being Big Nate or Fat John or Large Marge and you just want to be plain old Nate, John or Marge.

There is no way to get rich quick and there's no way to get thin quick either. It takes hard work and will power to be thin and healthy, and if it were easy we'd all be thin.

And that's why we don't do it: because it's hard. Food tastes good and jogging hurts. I heard a guy on the radio say it best: The only thing we hate more than being fat is being hungry.

I, for one, have had it. Almost 30 years of this is enough. I want to know for once in my life what it's like not to stand out in a crowd. I want to buy clothes without a bunch of X's in front of the L. I want to know what it's like to climb stairs and not worry that I'll die from a heart attack when I reach the top. I want to be around for my girlfriend and her children.

That is perhaps the most important thing: I'm not ready to go yet. But what we're doing to ourselves is more than just self-inflicted wounds - it's mass suicide.

I have no illusions that I will have any more success than I've had in the past. I may be just as fat a year from now. The only thing different this time is instead of promising only myself, I've proclaimed my desire to thousands of people. The inspiration to succeed at most anything usually grows with the size of the audience, if you'll forgive the pun.

Fat people, I don't want to be fat anymore.

Who's with me?

Nate McCullough can be reached via e-mail at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.

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