You ever see those b-roll clips of headless people? The ones the media shows on the news whenever they talk about the obesity epidemic in America? I’ve often wondered who those people are, what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking. It crossed my mind so much, that it triggered the short story, “A Few Extra Pounds,” that has been so graciously included in the anthology, TRANSCENDENT.
Let me back up a bit. Weight gain isn’t a uniquely American feature, but we excel at it. Sure, diet—what we eat—is part of it, but there are plenty of physical (and mental) disorders that can lead to chronic weight gain. Women are unfairly targeted when it comes to their bodies. In general, shame is heaped upon anyone deemed fat by ubiquitous media. Between shifting attitudes in Europe that migrated and evolved here in America, it’s become a deep and contentious issue. Because of the patriarchal structure of our society, men aren’t often punished as often as women are for their bodies. Despite the constant visual-media onslaught of men with chiseled torsos, there are just as many examples of softer, heavier men being elevated. What isn’t often discussed in public is the mental affects of being saturated with movies, television, toys, comics, book covers, and more that feature the chiseled, male torso. An unrealistic body image for such diverse humanity. Even if we all engaged in a strict meal plan with regular, intense exercise, we wouldn’t all be muscularly defined. Not everyone carries muscle and fat in the same way. This disconnect can give or exacerbate personal anxieties to no end for someone’s entire life. As a society, we’ve established an impossible ideal rather than a fulfilling one. We’ve put cosmetics ahead of health.*
Which is how “A Few Extra Pounds” came to life. Like most stories, there’s a what if at the center. I’ve served in the Marine Corps, run 5K obstacle courses, trained for several years in the martial art Krav Maga, and been otherwise very, very physically active. It has easily consumed a third of my life, but I never obtained a chiseled torso. Ever. I’ve gone up and down in weight more than twenty pounds, but never saw abdominal muscles poking out or developed massive biceps. But I have met and know quite a few active people. It was never my thing; I was pursuing an ideal that was stuck in my head, trying to feed a paranoia about being physically out of condition for whatever emergency was around the corner. The people who do this for life? Well, for them, it’s a lifestyle, it’s the way they live, where they find their personal strength and comfort. It’s awesome to be that way, to find what you love and to engage it with passion.
It would be horrifying to lose it. Not just in a catastrophic accident or the souring of friendships, but something more insidious, something gradual and seemingly uncontrollable. A life of outdoor sports comes with connections, just like any other activity. Over the years, a village is built, a network of friends and colleagues of support. Sometimes, a lover is found. Being unable to participate anymore means the luster is lost, that in many ways, life is lost. What does that do to a person, how wrong can it go? In my imagination, I’d say it can make a mental mess of someone. If that mental burden became physical and manifested itself in just as uncontrollable manner? Even worse.
*It’s better to be healthy than chase some arbitrary weight ideal.
Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Errick Nunnally served one tour in the Marine Corps before deciding art school would be a safer—and more natural—pursuit. He strives to develop his strengths in storytelling and remains permanently distracted by art, comics, science fiction, history, and horror. Trained as a graphic designer, he has earned a black belt in Krav Maga/Muay Thai kickboxing after dark. Errick’s successes include: the novel, Blood For The Sun; an upcoming novel with ChiZine Publications; a comic strip collection, Lost in Transition; and first prize in one hamburger contest. The following are some short stories and their respective anthologies: Penny Incompatible (Lamplight, v.6, #3); Jack Johnson and The Heavyweight Title of The Galaxy (The Final Summons); Welcome to the D.I.V. (Wicked Witches); Harold At The Halfcourt (Inner Demons Out); The Last Apology (A Dark World of Spirits and The Fey); You Call This An Apocalypse? (After The Fall);and A Hundred Pearls: PROTECTORS 2 (stories to benefit PROTECT.ORG). He also has two lovely children and one beautiful wife.
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