“Strangle Hold” | Outside Magazine March 2013

strangled-bill-gifford

Your fat has a brain. Seriously. And it’s trying to kill you. Body fat is just an inert layer of blubber, right? If only. New research shows that it’s more like a toxic parasite that doesn’t want to let go.

The good news: if you exercise and eat right, you can force it to.


Phil Bruno was super-sizing again. It was just past 5:30 on a spring evening in 2004, and he was driving home from work. He pulled into a White Castle, one of many fast-food outlets lining Route 100 in his hometown of Manchester, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. He was only a mile from his house, where his wife, Susan, was cooking the usual big Italian dinner for their family of five, but he was hungry now. The urge was automatic.

Ten minutes later, with a bag of burgers steaming on the seat beside him, he pulled into a McDonald’s and ordered a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, an apple pie, and a chocolate shake to wash it all down. “I did this because I would be embarrassed to order too much from one drive-through,” Phil explained to me. “I didn’t want the person at the window to look at me funny.”

Phil had always loved food, which was part of the fabric of his tight-knit Sicilian-American family: Grandma and her lasagna were right down the street. But he’d been athletic in his youth, playing high school football and carrying a robust but reasonable 215 pounds on a six-foot-three-inch frame. Then, in his mid-twenties, he’d stopped working out, as many of us do when life starts to chew up our time. Over the years, his regular meals and high-calorie bingeing had turned him into a physical and emotional wreck.

His joints ached whenever he used the stairs, his heart hammered, and he was possessed by a strange, burning thirst that no amount of ice water could quench. “I was 47 years old,” he says, “but I felt like I was 80.”

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“Strangle Hold” by Bill Gifford | Outside Magazine March 2013 | Photography: Joe Baran

 

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