In today’s world where fast-food restaurants, soda, and processed foods reign supreme, does “fat dad” have to mean “fat kid”? Digital entrepreneur and beloved vlogger Shay Butler and his preteen son, Gavin, decided to find out the answer for themselves.
Before Shay became famous for vlogging about life with his boisterous brood of five, known on YouTube as the Shaytards, he was like many other American dads: He worked 9 to 5 to pay the bills, ate double bacon cheeseburgers during his lunch breaks, sipped soda throughout the day, and watched Netflix with handfuls of candy.
These small behaviors added up, and before he turned thirty, Shay was nearly 300 pounds. Motivated by the fear that he could have a heart attack before thirty-five, Shay decided to make incremental changes to his eating habits and exercise regimen. Adopting the attitude that every action, no matter how small, was better than what he was doing before, Shay lost more than 100 pounds and ran four marathons, becoming a source of inspiration for everyone who followed his journey on his ShayLoss channel on YouTube.
Now, at the age of thirty-five, Shay has discovered that “maintaining” is the hard part. He has also seen how some of his hard-to-break habits are affecting his children, particularly his eldest son, Gavin, who grew up during the years when his dad had “a little extra Shay on him.” Determined to get back into shape and inspire his son along the way, Shay asked Gavin to embark on a thirty-day challenge with him to eat clean and do thirty minutes of exercise a day. Full of Shay’s signature blend of humor, honesty, and unbridled enthusiasm, Fat Dad, Fat Kid chronicles the ups and downs of Shay and Gavin’s thirty days together, reflects on Shay’s lifelong struggle with health and fitness, and proves that it’s never too late for parents or children to embrace a healthier lifestyle—even when it doesn’t come easy.
Fat Dad, Fat Kid Day 1 Saying the “F-Word” THE FIRST THING Gavin and I did for our challenge was weigh in. My view is that your weight is just a number on a scale, and a number on a little device that sits on the bathroom floor doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you feel and whether you can do things like dirt bike and Frisbee golf. But it is one way to measure progress and changes in your body.
I weighed in at just over two hundred pounds. Aiee, mamacita! I want to lose just over twenty pounds. Either I have a lot of muscle or I’m a little bit chubby—the truth is probably somewhere in between. I know what my body would look like at 180. I’ll still be solid, but I’ll be able to run, climb ropes, do handstands, and jump over deer. At 181, I can’t clear a deer. But if I’m 180 pounds, at a full sprint, I can jump over a deer.
Gavin weighed in at 161. That is a great place to start, right here, right now. For him, it isn’t about setting a number so much as it’s about feeling good and being able to move his body. Once he can jump over a deer he’ll know he’s where he wants to be.
So we’re going to be chasing a lot of deer this summer.
After we finished weighing in, Gavin wrote a list of all the things he wants to do as we get healthier, the things that are maybe hard for him sometimes. Here’s his list:
♦ Building a fort
♦ Obstacle courses
♦ Dirt biking
♦ Frisbee golf
Man, looking at that list was the kick I needed. I know how it feels not to be able to climb a rope, especially when your little sister can shimmy to the top of the rope, no problem. I know what it’s like to want to use your body. You get sick and tired of not being able to do things because your body is too big. Gavin’s list pumped me up—it friggin’ motivated me. I want to do all those things, too. Maybe I shouldn’t even set a number for myself, I thought.
But when I watch the old videos I made back when I was really big, I can see what I looked like. What I looked like doesn’t even matter; when I look at my old self, I remember how crappy I felt. The heartburn. How much I snored at night. How I would sleep in until one-thirty in the friggin’ afternoon. How I could hardly bend over to tie my shoes. How it was as if my belt was the wrong size because it was so tight. I had to stretch out every shirt in my closet before I put it on because they were small on me. I was suffocating myself and felt helpless.
It sucks being like that. I know exactly what it feels like, and I know a lot of people reading this book know exactly what it feels like, too.
On my vlogs, some people write comments like, I miss the old Shay. The fat, bearded Shay. Well, the beard comes and goes, but why would they say they miss the fat Shay? Maybe I made them feel okay for carrying extra weight themselves? Because they don’t really need to miss me; I’m the same guy in all the ways that matter, but I feel so much better now. I don’t feel claustrophobic. I don’t feel stuck in a body that won’t allow me to do the things I want to do. I can play with my kids without dying from a heart attack. (My maternal grandfather, who was built like me and Gavin, died of one at the age of fifty-three.)
Some people write in to say, Oh, you weren’t fat. Don’t say that about yourself.
Most times, if you say someone’s fat, you know it’s an insult. In our society, fat is a gross thing. It’s important to realize why our society thinks that. Did you know that back in the day, in certain cultures, it was more attractive to be fat? It meant that you were a successful hunter, that you had food to spare. The fatter you were, the better looking you were; the rest of the village would look at you and say, Man, that fat dude is really making it! Values have evolved over time, and so have scientific discoveries about health, but that doesn’t explain why our society actively looks down on fat people. Most of the time it’s not even about a person’s health—it’s a cosmetic judgment. You can’t really talk about someone’s health without examining how that person lives his or her life in total.
Here’s the other reason fat gets a bad rep: fat is not necessarily bad morally, but it’s something that’s apparent. You can’t hide it if you’re fat. You can hide it if you’re a jerk. You can hide if you’re selfish or a liar. When you eat too much, you can’t hide the evidence. It’s right there.
Is it worse to be a liar or to be overweight? To me, it’s worse to be a liar. I would rather weigh eight hundred pounds than be a liar. Worst of all is a liar calling somebody fat: that makes them cruel.
We need to disarm that word. It’s just a word. It doesn’t affect me when people use it about me because I used to be fat. I used to make fun of myself. That used to be the basis of my comedy—fat-guy comedy in the tradition of Chris Farley or John Candy. The big men of comedy are some of the greatest.
F-A-T. It’s just three letters strung together, and it can mean whatever you want it to mean. To me, fat doesn’t matter; it’s all about health.
But what about for kids, though? In the schoolyard, it’s a word that’s often used to hurt others, and that kind of cruelty can’t be taken lightly . . .
My dad was asking me, “What do you think about the word ‘fat?’ ” I think if you call someone fat, that’s kind of mean. Sometimes other kids have called me fat, and it makes me excited to think about losing weight and showing up at school next year and being really healthy.
One time I was at school and this kid was being mean to this other kid. So I went over there to tell him to back off and leave him alone. And he stood there for a second and then he said, “Eh, um, well at least I’m not fat.” I just ignored him and kept playing. But afterward, I thought about it. And even though it doesn’t seem like it’s that offensive, if you think about it, calling someone fat is kind of offensive.
When I think of the word ‘fat,’ it’s a word that someone tries to use to make you feel bad about yourself. But fat, it’s just a word. To some people, it’s one of the meanest things you could say. But you just need to ignore it, because you can’t let one little three-letter word put you down.
When I think of fat, it doesn’t really offend me anymore. My fat, or my blubber, is kind of like my muscle. Being fat makes me big. And being big, to me, means that I’m tough.
Don’t be ashamed of being fat. It’s kind of dumb when you think about it, getting mad at a three-letter word. Nobody’s fat. It’s just our stomach is a little bigger than everybody else’s.
Another thing is, people call other people fat because they’re scared. They’re nervous about being made fun of. And I just want to say right now, please don’t do that.
Shay Butler is an award-winning digital entrepreneur and vlogger. His YouTube channels attract millions of subscribers, and he has been hailed as one of the “most successful video entrepreneurs on YouTube” by Forbes.com. Butler is a cofounding talent of Maker Studios. He lives in Idaho with his wife, Colette, and five children. Gavin Butler is his eldest son.
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