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personal growth
how it came to pass that i got fat.
by al brouilette

In September of 1988, as an incoming high-school freshman, I weighed in at a waifish one hundred and seventy pounds. In late 2004, I weighed somewhere slightly north of 315. That’s a gain of 145.

As a way to observe my New Year's rededication to Operation Ninety Pounds after a long holiday layoff; to celebrate the two-thirds mark of ONP; and to get to use one of my very favorite phrases, I would like to explain how it came to pass that I got fat:

Pounds 1-3: Freshman year lunch: Pizza, chocolate milk, and a grease cookie in the school cafeteria. Every day.

Pounds 4 & 5: Constant access to vending machines featuring chocolate milk.

Pounds 6-10: Discovery of ability to occasionally order, fund, and consume delivered pizza all by myself.

Pounds 11-13: Mandatory summertime Tasty Dog lunch: Nachos, cheese fries, XL Pepsi.

Pound 14: Taco salads, Fridays in the cafeteria.

Pounds 15-18: Sophomore year, for making-out reasons, I spend several months with two lunch periods.

Pounds 19 & 20: I discover that coming home after everyone has gone to sleep means that I can have a snack unpestered.

Pounds 21 & 22: Tasty Dog begins serving deep-fried cheese.

Pounds 23-50: Driver’s license obtained. Walking and bicycling are immediately cut by 80%. Regular errand runs for maternal parent are broken up by lavish snacking.

Pounds 51-56: Especially the $1.99 two-slices-and-a-pop deal at Little Caesar’s.

Pounds 57-59: Months of testing and negotiation result in finalization of a twelve-year standing order at Mickey’s Gyros: “Gimme one skirt steak sandwich plain, cup of cheese on the side, gimme an order a mozzarella sticks, and an extra-large Dr. Pepper to stay here.”

Pounds 60-62: Granny’s Restaurant adds eclairs to the pastry case.

Pounds 63-65: Theatrical obligations force me to eat dinner after nine p.m. on a fairly regular basis. As of this writing, I have not shaken this habit. It is probably radically underestimated as a fat factor.

Pounds 65-68: The long-rumored existence of local 24-hour dining establishments is proven. A fourth meal is added to Friday and Saturday.

Pounds 69 & 70: Employment at a summer camp two hours north of home leads to the discovery that a large pizza is a perfect way to pass the drive time.

Pounds 71-73: Burritoville discovered in DeKalb, IL.

Pounds 74-79: NIU dorm cafeterias are all-you-can-eat. I am, in retrospect, amazed this didn’t go worse for me.

Pounds 79-81: Identification and domestication of the "beer nugget", a 2" x 2" square of deep-fried pizza dough, sold in lots of 100. Delicious with garlic butter. Believed to be worse for one's health than smoking cigarettes.

Pounds 82-90: Burritoville “Delivery ’til 3am” policy discovered.

Pounds 91-100: Pagliai’s Pizza has a standing special: “All You Can Eat Pizza & Pop, $3.95" Pagliai’s no longer exists. I am personally responsible.

Pound 101: Effort lauched to personally eradicate Leona’s giant cheese sticks from the face of the Earth. Orally.

Pounds 102 & 103: Now entirely responsible for feeding self. Budget measures include frozen pizza, Tater Tots, and lots and lots of Pillsbury canned biscuits.

Pounds 104-106: Discovery of ability to regularly order, fund, and consume delivered pizza all by myself.

Pound 107: Ben & Jerry’s Mint Cookie Orgy (or whatever) located forty yards from residential entrance.

Pounds 108-111: Leona’s begins delivery of giant cheese sticks to Lincoln Park, where I am regularly spending the night to obtain a different sort of oral gratification.

Pounds 112-114: Philly’s Best delivers to Lincoln Park too. Oral gratification, indeed.

Pounds 115 & 116: Finances improve, allowing for the purchase of real food groceries.

Pounds 117-121: And the Pitmaster, a two-hundred-pound freestanding offset smoker barbecue.

Pound 122: Fried pork chop sandwich from neighborhood hole-in-the-wall hot dog joint found, savored.

Pounds 123-125: Personal pasta sauce recipe and garlic bread construction perfected in same weekend.

Pounds 126-128: Discovery of ability to constantly order, fund, and consume delivered pizza all by myself.

Pounds 129 & 130: Realization strikes that I can eat Pillsbury “Orange Danish Rolls” any time I damn please. I do.

Pounds 131-134: With the addition of fresh garlic, the last piece falls in place for stuffed pizza’s takeover from thin crust in the Pizza Pantheon.

Pounds 135-137: I discover that I can order previously unavailable food components from the Internet.

Pounds 138-140: In a romantic gesture gone horribly awry, I finally perfect gone-but-not-forgotten potatoes-and-homosexuality-themed restaurant "The Mashed Potato Club"’s formula for potatoes and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse’s formula for Cajun-style shrimp with bacon and combine them. Fabulously delicious but leads to exponential increase in waistband metrics.

Pounds 140-141: Commercial availability of “Heath Bar Crunch” triples in response to calls from the Big & Tall Industry.

Pounds 142-145: During a trip to Paris Las Vegas, I am introduced to real pain au chocolat.

I'm trying to close this piece with something useful, or inspirational, or clever, but I can't think of anything other than how, after writing all that, I'm fuckin' starving. Go on a diet, and write about food. Clever me. I'm so hungry I could eat my leather jacket.


Al is an unemployed shiftless layabout with a laptop. He occasionally contributes to the Keys Network, which is linked somewhere nearby. He divides his pointlessness between Chicago and Key West. He is tall. And a mammal. He is also typing this late at night after a cocktail or two, so he is not exactly swimming in appropriate details about himself right now. But he does love to write about himself in the third person.

more about al brouilette


who's sorry now
an open letter of apology
by al brouilette
topic: humor
published: 4.14.06

"if you ladies leave my island...."
by al brouilette
topic: humor
published: 12.13.05


juli mccarthy
1.6.06 @ 5:53p

I need deep-fried cheese.


maigen thomas
1.7.06 @ 8:55p

I love this - I especially love the wrap up. It's brilliant and a reminder that I too can work on my "Lets Make Cookies at Midnight" pounds 149-153.

Good Luck with ONP.

lisa r
1.7.06 @ 9:03p

Go on a diet, and write about food.

Or read about it. I read cookbooks like lit majors read Tolstoy. I must say the endings are much happier than Tolstoy's, though.

tracey kelley
1.8.06 @ 9:54a

You're implying that...cheese...CHEESE...is bad for us???

Yesterday, I had a measly one scoop of ice cream from a desirable Midwest ice cream establishment while my husband had a whole big three-scoop sundae. I nearly cried at the injustice. After reading this, however, I realize that pounds 25-32 came from unlimited ice cream consumption, so apparently I've already had my smooth milk fun.


robert melos
1.20.06 @ 3:23a

I admit I ate a similar diet throughout high school, college, and still frequently wolf down Taco Bell Taco Supremes and Mountain Dew. I'm also lucky to have inherited my father's ability to eat and maintain my 180 to 190 lbs weight level.

I've found exhaustion also helps me lose weight when I feel like losing a few pounds.

I know, now you want to kill me and deep fry me because, why waste food.

Seriously, good luck with the diet.

louise arnold
1.20.06 @ 3:06p

I think one of the worst things that happened for me and my partner was buying a George Foreman grill. My man is somehow convinced that this canny cooking device makes burgers as healthy as an apple. I'm just impressed at how quick you can cook food when you squish it really flat. I also know that Cadbury's cream eggs not only being for sale at Easter anymore would account for a few more pounds. Great article - made me chuckle. And also ravenous.

louise arnold
1.20.06 @ 3:08p

Oh, I also discovered a new party food the other day. It's simplicity itself, covered in a thin layer of artery clogging goodness.

It's streaky bacon, stuffed with cheese.

No faffing with pastry, no seasoning, no other ingrediants. Not even a hint of garnish. Just cheese. And bacon. Drool.

russ carr
1.20.06 @ 3:12p

I'm on the wagon as well. We just had weigh-in for a small "Biggest Loser" competition here at the office. The winner gets $1/lb. from each of the others at the end. Good health is a powerful motivator. Cash is even better.

Nix to fast food, goodbye to soda (except for the Virgil's root beer and Bundaberg ginger beer still in the fridge) and casual desktop munching.

The dairy sacrifice will be difficult. I'm looking at a bottle of Naked Superfood or salad for most work lunches to get around that.

jael mchenry
1.20.06 @ 3:22p

Dairy means no cheese... which means no way.

We're cooking at home pretty much every day now, which really really helps control intake. I walked past a restaurant the other night and saw a breadbasket through the window and thought about all the bread I'm not eating. It was actually a good moment.

Of course when boy and girl cut back, the first couple of weeks, girl stays the same weight and boy loses ten pounds. Sigh.

sarah ficke
1.20.06 @ 3:59p

How (I'm almost afraid to ask this) do you stuff bacon with cheese?

louise arnold
1.20.06 @ 4:12p

You get a roll of cheese. Then you roll bacon around it. I think the cheese doesn't escape the confines because it's scared to, in case it touches something healthy and the two negate themselves. Either that or they use some kind of glue made purely out of fat and horse bones. Anyway, it's really good, but I don't dare buy any myself, as you can literally hear your life expectancy drop as you even look at the package it comes in.

jael mchenry
1.20.06 @ 4:56p

I've had something very similar with proscuitto and blue cheese/walnut spread. You put the cheese inside the meat while it's cold, with the meat just wrapped around, and then you heat it up.

And then you scarf 83 of them in 5 minutes and die of a heart attack on the spot.

al brouilette
1.21.06 @ 1:56p

"You get a roll of cheese. Then you roll bacon around it."

Then you go ahead and start smoking, 'cause why not, right?

(And Robert, I wouldn't want to kill and deep-fry you. What do you figure meat from an animal raised on Mountain Dew and Taco Bell tastes like?)


robert melos
1.21.06 @ 9:49p

I'd think Mountain Dew and Taco Bell meat would be sweet and tender. Filled with all the chemicals that are no good for you, but sweet and tender.

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