expanding man - balloon

by Joe Buonfiglio

Right up front, let me put you in the loop on some important backstory. See, I am what is known as “an expanding man.” If we were the type of associates who might meet each other at a convention we both attend annually, one year you would see me and think, “God, he’s packed on some weight.” The next year you’d see me at the professional event and think, “Wow, he looks pretty good. I wonder if he was going through a divorce or something last year.” The following year you’d see me and yell, “Holy fuck on a stick! We’re 30 floors up. Somebody shoot a tranquilizer dart into his fat ass before he gets on this elevator and we all plummet to our deaths!”

This roller-coaster ride of waistline inconsistency takes not just a physical toll, but an emotional one as well. Even worse, when the trend spirals toward heavier and heavier outcomes creeping up on me as if a growing pile of dirty underwear as laundry day approaches, my demeanor can become — well — less than pleasant.


Okay, admittedly, I have anger issues. I can be a bit of a hothead. With undeniable certainty, I am a Type A— No, double-A— No, a TRIPLE-A personality.


Seriously, I am the absolute freakin’ last person you want to encounter in a road rage situation. If my red-faced seething could be measured on the Richter scale, I’d be what the folks in LA and San Francisco would call “The Big One.”


However, putting an end to my seemingly unmanageable, utterly inexcusable tirades whilst on one of my many forays into the mystical realm of the ultra-low-calorie diet not only is a fruitless venture, but borders on Theatre of the Absurd. When I’m on one of these starvation-encouraged nightmares, it is virtually indescribable with regard to the physical anguish and emotional despair. It’s as if—


It’s as if I am overtaken by a nihilistic blend of reverse anger-management and Tourette’s. I literally descend into this weird kind of incendiary madness.

So volatile in nature is this deprivation-driven dieting technique, it has literally been many years since I last attempted it.


My family and I lived in Los Angeles at the time. It was — as now — one of these “This weight has to fucking go!” crossroads moments in my life. It was a brutal, unforgiving process, but I pulled it off. Hiking daily in our “suburban mountains” neighborhood of the Pacific Palisades Highlands while keeping my nutritional intake to no more than 500-600 calories a day was not only outright physically painful, but mentally taxing as well. It would have been easier to star in a YouTube reality show demonstrating how to shove whole eggplants up your ass while dressed in lederhosen doused in kerosene. Drinking battery acid with a urine chaser would have been more pleasurable than this weight-loss House of Horrors. However, while ultimately successful, the deck was more than a little stacked against me in this fat-cell casino of the culinarily cursed.

See, I grew up in a New Jersey Italian family. Food wasn’t just a big thing, it was everything. Eating marked all occasions, both public and private. To this day, it’s how we celebrate. It’s how we grieve. It’s how we cope with stress. It’s how we relax. It’s how we watch football, for Christ’s sake. Hell, we even use it for sex.

Growing up in the era of Joe Camel, “normal” couples might take a drag off of a cigarette after doing the deed. In my family, lovers shared a meatball sub and some wine after engaging in casual coitus. With this as my familial heritage, is it any wonder that the War of the Waistline is an endless campaign. I should get a Nobel Prize from Jenny Craig just for trying!

So when I dumped about 85 lbs. in LA, it was truly a momentous occasion to be marked with merriment. It was one of those increasingly rare “looking good, feeling good” epochs along my timeline. Yes, I had slimmed down beautifully; a celebration was in order.


Why an Alaskan Cruise, of course! Yep, that’s what Captain Cretin did to mark his newfound health.

Have you ever been on one of those cruises?

Food. Everywhere. 24/7. It’s a fucking floating buffet and it’s open all night.

Even in one of my slimmed-down modes, my inner child’s mantra of FOOD=LOVE would not be denied. At my core, the little demonic bastard that possesses my subconscious knew — and STILL KNOWS — that no matter how thin I may be at any given moment, I will always be a fat man trapped in a fatter man’s body.

After months of the Liquid Diet from Hell, it all sank into the caloric dark waters aboard the USS Gorge Yourself. The expanding man once again weighs anchor and launches full steam ahead into the seas of corpulence.

It appears that my inner child will not be happy until I return to a state of Orson Welles in his wine-pitching days. Of course, this drums up all the anger issues that ride along in the sidecar of my chubbycycle.

However, this time will be different. This time, I’ll be able to do the deprivation-therapy diet, lose the weight and keep it off. This time, I will not allow my inner child to overwhelm me, to deliver me unto some insidious smorgasbord. This time, I won’t let anger overtake me or—


I wonder if there are any cabins left on that Hawaiian cruise. I do so love a good pupu platter.


© 2015 Joseph P. Buonfiglio     All Rights Reserved.

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