Ben Does Life
September 20, 2010 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Ben’s 120lb Journey. “Christmas of that year, I realized I was unhappy with my life, and just being there being with [my grandmother], I realized it was the time to do something about it. So I started my blog, BenDoesLife, wrote the address on the card, and gave it to her as a Christmas gift. She got me a shirt, which was two sizes too small. I told her rather than take it back, I was going to work on fitting in it. And eventually I did.” Ben running in January 2009 and then at his second weigh-in. Recent Interview with Ben.
posted by yeti (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I just came to MeFi to make an FPP on this. Great job on pulling this one together. An inspirational story!
posted by ericb at 12:54 PM on September 20, 2010

posted by Windigo at 12:56 PM on September 20, 2010

Yep ... in long distance races bloody nipples are common due to friction against your shirt. Some runners rely on vaseline and band-aids/bandages to minimize them.
posted by ericb at 12:59 PM on September 20, 2010

They even have these little sticky foam circles that go on your areoleas, with a cut-out part for the nipple itself, so that the foam gets the abrasion from the shirt, and the nipples remain unbloodied.

thread is now about bloody nipples
posted by Greg Nog at 1:01 PM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

I had no idea. I thought his nipples had spontaneously exploded or something.

September 20th, 2010 will always be the day I learned about the bloody nipple phenomenon.
posted by Windigo at 1:01 PM on September 20, 2010

Google is your friend, guys. From the bloody nipples FAQ:


posted by naju at 1:03 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of my co-workers at my last job was a marathon runner. Learned about the bleeding nipples thing from him. Also, apparently stopping to use porta-potties or whatever is considered too slow for the hardcore runners, so... let's just say I wouldn't want to be running too closely behind any of them.
posted by kmz at 1:05 PM on September 20, 2010

Well that sounds like the cause of the bloody nipples then.

Getting sprayed by urine from the runner in front of you makes the fabric of your shirt heavier and more abrasive to sensitive skin, and blam, bloody nipples.

Man, running sucks.
posted by Naberius at 1:08 PM on September 20, 2010

From his first measurements entry (January 07, 2009):

Height: 5”11.5
Weight: 350
Resting Heart Rate: 86
Waist: 50”
Hips: 56.5” (which is why I struggle finding blue jeans that fit)
Pushups: 13
Situps (In one minute): 17

I weigh about half he did then and I can only do 12 push-ups. Damn.
posted by Memo at 1:09 PM on September 20, 2010

MetaFilter: thread is now about bloody nipples.*

* - Yep. Only on MetaFilter.
posted by ericb at 1:10 PM on September 20, 2010

Don't even ask about what happens to road cyclists' taints.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:12 PM on September 20, 2010

Good on him!
posted by eeeeeez at 1:17 PM on September 20, 2010

so... let's just say I wouldn't want to be running too closely behind any of them.


As a non-runner, I think about runners and think about charity runs for cancer and people enjoying the morning quiet on park paths before work.

posted by Theta States at 1:31 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Amazing idea for the next Simon Pegg movie.
posted by GuyZero at 1:31 PM on September 20, 2010

I lost a lot of weight a couple years ago. I just did a lot of elliptical. Basically just a half hour a day, although before I got my own I would sometimes do an hour or (or occasionally two) at the gym.
posted by delmoi at 1:37 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

This afternoon, I'm going to row about 5 miles, and it's going to beat the living crap out of me.

Now, thanks to MetaFilter, I can't even feel particularly good about this accomplishment, given that it's only a mere fraction of what this guy put himself through.

But seriously, good on this guy. Definitely an inspiration, even though my workout goals tend to center around adding mass.
posted by schmod at 1:42 PM on September 20, 2010

Was laying down procrastinating about running.

Now putting on shoes and going running.
posted by pianoboy at 1:43 PM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Considering the posts and responses re: Andrew Solomon, Austin Seraphin and Iphone, Philippe Corizone and Ben I am feeling pretty good about the world and even hopeful for those who browse MetaFilter. BTW, as a long distance runner bloody nipples are an important rite of passage, a mark of distinction and provoke comments to your SO such as--see, the scabs are going away.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:53 PM on September 20, 2010

It really is amazing what physical exercise can do for your body and, especially, your mind. Congrats to this guy, and best of luck to anyone else who is inspired by this to get out there and, as Ben says in that first video, "do it."
posted by Man Bites Dog at 1:56 PM on September 20, 2010

posted by Windigo at 1:56 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Liberal usage of Body Glide goes a long way - prevents chafing pretty much everywhere. Feet, groin, nipples, armpits, waistband, etc.
posted by jpeacock at 1:58 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, memories of elite runner Uta Pippig who won the 1996 Boston Marathon. In her case it was diarrhea ... and it wasn't her nipples that were bleeding.
posted by ericb at 2:02 PM on September 20, 2010

See under 2005 Marathon World Champion.

The race however is remembered more for a notorious moment towards the end when Radcliffe, feeling hindered by bowel discomfort and in need for a toilet break, stopped and defecated on the side of the road in view of the crowd and TV cameras which broadcast the incident live.

posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:20 PM on September 20, 2010

"And all it took was a little inspiration."

Yeah, I'm gonna call bullshit on that one.

"And all it took was a little inspiration and a boatload of willingness."


Also, speaking as someone who's been working on making the transition from inactive & out of shape to active and fit, I'm impressed that he did it through running. Running is not an easy way to get started, IME.
posted by Lexica at 2:21 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm working on losing the same amount of weight myself and daaaamn. That's some inspiration right there.

Well, that and the fact that seemingly everyone I know has come down with cancer or worse this year and it finally flipped my freakout switch to VERY VERY VERY.
posted by at 2:38 PM on September 20, 2010

The whole thing is designed to make you tear the hell up, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I started to cry when I saw his Boston Marathon medal: it's damned hard to get into the BM.
posted by jrochest at 2:42 PM on September 20, 2010

Very, very impressive. I started cycling in the first week of July - I now bike my daily commute rather than drive. 1500km so far.

As someone who found the whole idea of physical exercise alien, I needed the "point" of getting to a destination to make it worthwhile. Now that I'm doing it five days a week though, the idea of doing something else simply for its own sake is becoming far more compelling.
posted by clicking the 'Post Comment' button at 2:45 PM on September 20, 2010

I lost a lot of weight a couple years ago. I just did a lot of elliptical.

Tru dat. Elliptic and cycle machines all the way. Treadmill destroys your shins if you're starting out.
posted by Damienmce at 2:57 PM on September 20, 2010

YAY Ben!!! Bravo. So inspiring.
posted by nickyskye at 3:07 PM on September 20, 2010

It's always interesting to read weight loss stories, having not so long ago gone on a successful mission to disconnect myself from disconnectedness. We live in such a culture of twisted body imagery, and everything's a morality play, or a story about how much we're worth, or an excuse to turn on ourselves. It's hard to figure out what you really need to do, especially if you're the kind of fat guy I am—inordinately and inexplicably healthy, except for a hereditary case of early onset arthritis.

I watched myself for a while, right when I was in a real deep funk, pursuing a freelance contacting career that called for management skills I just didn't have at my disposal, and I felt out of control, off-center, and like I was floundering. I got fed up, and I sat down, read and researched a lot, made a plan, put together a spreadsheet and a system to track everything I ate and did, and set to work.

I didn't do anything complicated. I figured out how many calories I needed to stay at my current weight, counted every calorie I ate, and lost a pound for every 3500 calories I ate under my stay-there count. I walked or rode my bike for at least a few miles a day, but I stayed well clear of my weight bench, because I'm one of those guys who puts on muscle mass every time I pick up a pencil, and I was playing a system and wanted to keep it all simple and linear. Besides, I'm already strong as an ape, and there's not much use in adding strength when I can kick the door off a car if the need arises.

Counted the numbers, kept index cards in my pockets at all times, tracked the rise and fall of hunger and resolve, allowed myself the occasional mistakes, and weighed myself three times a day. You get this sense of things, watching all the numbers, a feel for what works and what doesn't, and how much water you're retaining at any given moment.

The weight peeled off, precisely as my spreadsheet predicted. Everyone started telling me I just looked fabulous, that I just looked younger and more vital and so on and so forth, and the weird thing that you just don't expect is—well, I hated that part. It just reinforced all the old bullsh!t, all the fatphobic, insulting, idiotic cliches that most Americans believe. It's like you're running a marathon, with everyone cheering at you like you're fresh from the Special Olympics and you just need a million billion magical hugs and I wanted to punch people every time I got the pat on the back, even though I know damn well they mean the things they mean in a good way. People just don't know. We're so brainwashed as a culture.

I did get happier, though. Pants were cheaper when I could buy them at Target instead of the Big & Fat store. My underpants fit better. I could finally start riding my spindly French bicycle without fearing for my life.

Working as a contractor, I could leave work at the end of the day in my overalls and work boots, comb a little wax into the curly tips of my mustache, and walk into the Eagle and be guaranteed that someone would be interested.

There's just this little doubt, there. I am the same guy I was before. Same ideas, same dreams, same motives, morals, and love of lopsided adventures, but that guy didn't get a second look. But hey, you know, I look younger, and yes, I have lost weight.


The thing is, I could have lost the weight anytime during the last twenty years. I'm disciplined to the point of fascism when I need to be, but it takes a reason to take on a project like reengineering your own body. The reasons most people lose weight are the reasons they fail, because they're borne out of self-disgust:

I hate my body. I hate my love handles. I hate my big ass.

No one will ever love me unless I'm skinny.

I'm bad because I eat bad things. Chocolate is sinful.

People start with this litany of self-hatred and then wonder why all the weight comes back as soon as they've started feeling like they deserve to be looked at with love and lust.

Of course, I'm not the best example. I've worked as a stripper twice in my life—first when I was young, taut, and had the most kick-ass f'in' mullet 1986 could produce, then again, a hundred and thirty pounds later, when a guy approached me after a particularly good gig working as a disco-dancing monk for the American Visionary Art Museum.

"Hey, you're a damn good dancer for a big guy," the guy said. "You ever consider working as a novelty stripper?"

"What's that?"

"You know, like someone who shows up at an office in a gorilla costume as a joke stripper."

"You think I should be a joke stripper?"

"There's money in it," he said, and gave me a card.

Hell yeah, there's money in it. Showing up dressed as a plumber at 300 and some pounds with a boombox and cutting some of the finest dance moves imaginable in front of a bunch of screaming cubicle workers and the poor girl (or guy, once in a while) being humiliated with a joke stripper netted me $250 a shot.

"Ohmygod, GROSS!" just sounded like "cha-ching" to me, coming from a bunch of repressed ladies with lives I'd never envy. I may have been a fat guy joke stripper flopping around in a g-string for a buck, but you gotta work what you got in this world to get anywhere.

But the weight slipped off. I got a big award for a solo theater piece I wrote and performed, and I got the dream job of all dream jobs. I was happy. The new body felt weird and unfamiliar, and the compliments grated on me, but I've kept most of it off for four years now.

Lately, I've put about twenty pounds back on. I've got another new dream job, one that's a good bit more sedentary than the last, and summer in Maryland is the season where I hide out like a lungfish, sequestered in the dark with the AC blasting, so I haven't been nearly active enough. It's a seasonal thing.

Now, though, it's time for the next big blast of common wisdom.

"Well, you know, eighty percent of people who lose weight gain it all back and then some within five years."

"Oh, Joe, yo-yo dieting is so unhealthy."

"I didn't want to say anything, but you've put on a little weight."

That's life in America, kingdom of the morality cops, and everyone's got a fvcking opinion at all times, and is just worrrrrried about us, because we might always slip back into a state of physical despair. Sheeeeeesh.

Thing is, I have gained back twenty pounds, and I'm still happy.

I'll trim it off in due time, and I'll be happy. I might gain a little more and I'll be happy.

I'm happy because I'm happy. Being fat didn't make me unhappy—being out of control, unaware of how my body works, and having horrendous depression-based comfort eating habits made me unhappy, but those things and the body I inhabit really are completely different issues. I have to hope this guy is happy because he found that control again, and that he is happy because he knows how he works, not because he's become hot in a socially-acceptable way and is therefore now a valid human being.

I wish him the best.
posted by sonascope at 3:12 PM on September 20, 2010 [115 favorites]

A 5k is what got me into running too. I didn't even want to run the 5k; I was just tagging along with my buddies. Same thing with weights. I never liked the gym at first. I just wanted to spend time with my friends. I count myself very lucky that the friends I ended up with do sports for fun.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:37 PM on September 20, 2010

I weigh about half he did then and I can only do 12 push-ups. Damn.

When you weight 350 lbs a push up probably isn't the full range of motion that push up should be. Plus, heavy people are strong. They lift weight all day, every day.
posted by srboisvert at 3:56 PM on September 20, 2010

Just gotta say that all y'all who've done the massive reworking of the bod are inspiring. I've lost 4 pounds, and have at least 20 to go.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:18 PM on September 20, 2010

Pretty impressive work on Ben's part, and I hope he stays happy.

Julie Moss has set my tearing-up standard, though.

NY Times summary.


Radiolab: Limits.
posted by maudlin at 5:25 PM on September 20, 2010

That's a sweet story.
posted by Forktine at 6:29 PM on September 20, 2010

Competitive sport has given me a new perspective on exercise and fitness. Working out as means to being fit (which too often mentally shows up as "thin" and brings useless negativity and baggage) is not as fun or as logically motivating as getting fitter to be better. Better at skating, in my case.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:21 PM on September 20, 2010

This kinda made its rounds through my little fb group of runners a few days ago... I hang with a pretty crazy crowd -- we all do ultras and whatnot -- and I just wanna say, this totally embodies what we're all about. For most of us, it'll never be about winning the race or anything, it's about that next challenge and the overall adventure that comes with it. You'd be amazed what your body is capable of...
posted by ph00dz at 6:05 AM on September 21, 2010

Tru dat. Elliptic and cycle machines all the way. Treadmill destroys your shins if you're starting out.

I do elliptical machines as well, especially since my knees are shot from my teenage years (and bad genes, seemingly!)
Still, I never get in more than 2 hours a week, so still a long way to go.
I wish I could have an elliptical at home, but we just don't have the space, currently.
posted by Theta States at 7:17 AM on September 21, 2010

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