Fat man walking

Steve Vaught’s quest to shed the dozens of kilograms of fat he was lugging around began with a single step, as did his one-man expedition to cross the United States on foot.

Vaught, who began his trek last April in Oceanside, California, has so far covered more than 3 700km—the last leg to New York with freezing Midwestern winds snapping at his back.

As the kilometres have mounted, so too has interest in Vaught, a sort of slow-motion, portly, country-crossing Forrest Gump doppleganger.

Supporters have tracked his progress through his website, logging hundreds of thousands of hits, while others have watched him interviewed on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show.

In the United States, where obesity has become a national concern, his appeal is as broad as he was heavy when he began the journey he hoped would help not only shed pounds, but the mind-set that led to his weight gain.

The 39-year-old ex-marine, who is married and has two children, said on his blog earlier this month: “When I first started this walk I weighed around 410 pounds [184,5kg] and I was carrying an 85-pound [38kg] backpack.”

Crossing Ohio, about six weeks from his goal to reach New York, he wrote: “Now I weigh 296 pounds [133kg] and I am carrying a pack that weighs only 30 pounds [13,5kg]. That is an overall reduction of almost 175 pounds [79kg] off of my feet.
So it will only get easier from here.” He is about 965km from New York.

Vaught set the cross-country challenge as a way to walk off the weight, and he thought he would be avoiding the temptation of junk food once he was on the road, where he usually camps out in a tent between towns at night.

“However, being back on the road forces me to have to deal with my weakness in the real world; food. It is amazing how hard it is to find good, healthy food while on the road. Most restaurants, fast food and sit-downs, offer limited choices and usually you are relegated to a small variety of beef products with potatoes.

“It seems that there are several components to food addiction; sugar is not the only one. Among others there is comfort, familiarity and ease. Most of the things that we need to do for our health require effort on our parts and that, I find, is very

difficult,” Vaught wrote in his March 11 posting.

“I allowed myself to indulge in a roundabout way. I decided not to choose the right way over the easy and that is how I get trapped inside my own weakness. I am trying desperately to understand and remind myself everyday about the responsibility of my actions. This I think might ultimately be the most difficult lesson to be learned. And I suspect it might also be the one that supports most of my demons,” he wrote.

“The rest of the story is that I have not always been fat. I have been many things in my life from a lanky teenager to a muscular marine and now I am fat. This latest incarnation is without a doubt the worst.”

Vaught has plenty of company; two-thirds of Americans are overweight.

“Being fat is physically and emotionally painful. It diminishes the quality of the good things in life and it will ultimately bring about an early demise. So being overweight darkens every good thing that you achieve in your life and even prevents some things from happening at all,” he wrote.

“My main purpose in undertaking this journey is losing weight. More importantly though, I need to change the behaviours that have allowed me to be in this situation in the first place. I know that to permanently lose this weight I must learn to be more responsible to myself,” he vowed. - Sapa-AP

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