I can relate to this one. Edward Ugel was 36 years old and had grown a beard to cover his chins. But it was time to lose weight, and his wife Brooke insisted he shave the beard, too. Ugel was on board with weight loss, but not fully on board with a clean shaven face. Passively complying, he shaved his beard, but left a goatee. Brooke demanded Ed return to the razor. Game on! Determined to force Brooke’s hand, Ed emerged again, this time with a massive 1970s style mustache, the kind that covered the upper lip and turned downward. Brooke, not afraid to play herself, announced that she loved it! Uh oh. Ed was trapped, with a dinner party that evening, and a mustache he wouldn’t be caught dead in. What to do? Kiss Brooke, of course. That would make her concede. But as he made his move, she feigned delight and announced it was like kissing Burt Reynolds! Ed caved, and began his diet.
Edward Ugel is a freelance writer and work-at-home dad in Bethesda, MD whose wakeup call came when his wife recorded his snoring. (Honey, I know you read this blog. Please never do this!) She took the recording to the family doctor (who I think Ugel has a man crush on), and after a night in the “sleep hotel” he was required to sleep with a CPAP mask. Apparently in need of work as well as weight loss, Ugel quickly formulated a plan to lose 50 pounds in 50 weeks, and write a book about his experience.
Ugel’s central question is whether a “foodie” can be a healthy eater. With relatives in the fine dining scene in Washington, D.C., Ugel is a skilled home chef. What he learns over the 50 weeks, however, is that he wasn’t fat because he’s a foodie, he was fat because of compulsive overeating. Ice cream runs that would serve a family. McDonald’s. Chinese. One of the funniest stories of the book is when his wife leaves town for a week and he reunites with his favorite Chinese restaurant after nine months on his diet. He hoped nobody would recognize him, but quickly was outed. “We thought you had moved!” the delivery man said with tangable relief and emotion. It was a vivid detail of the embarrassing emotional baggage we all experience around our food habits and their demons.
Ironically, Ed got hope when one of his “experts” – he hired a doctor, sleep specialist, nutritionist, and personal trainer – told him foodies are the most likely to succeed at weight loss, because they can appreciate healthy ingredients. And his 50 weeks were a success, though not entirely in the way he set out for them to be.
I’m With Fatty is not a literary masterpiece. It’s an easy read and leans heavily on male stereotyping. While it’s funny, I suspect Ugel is funnier in real life, when he isn’t trying to please a wide array of readers.
However, if Ugel were one of us, dispensing his 256 pages as a series of blog posts, I’d be raving about his story. That’s because despite my wanting every “Joe” who writes a book to have a literary alter-ego (like Dirk Hayhurst, for example), his I resonate with Ugel’s story. We learn from his journey, his mistakes, and his successes. If he can do it, maybe I can do it.