"HiManDaiKoku" Amerika no Debu to Ikikata
"Adipose Capitol" America's Fat Lifestyle

Top Left Picture: The Jan Dark of the Fat Revolution, Marilyn Wann. Her Fat!So? T-shirt is dazzling.

Top Right Picture: All-Fat Synchro Team Padded Lillies. This bountiful and pretty place is "sweeeeet"

"There are no people like fat people; when walking, the cushiony flesh of their shoulders and backs swayed like waves." In 1985, Shiba Ryoutarou gave this description on his first arrival to America in his book "American Rough Sketch" by Shinchou Book Collection. It's been 20 years since then, and the U.S. is continuing to fatten. Presently one in three U.S. adults are adipose, or approximately 60 million. So it is natural to present a challenging report on all sides - personalities, business, medical care, love, etc - of this "adipose nation" where one only needs to go a stone's throw to encounter these "cushiony people".

Debu wa Sabetsuyougo ja Nai?
Fat is not a discriminatory word?

There were people I wanted to meet. I wanted to listen when I met them.

"How is he this fat?" It is 1996. As we stared blankly at our TVs, images flew out men roughly breaking down the wall of a house, then a staggeringly large man being extracted on a forklift. The heavily breathing and collapsed body was carried to the hospital but was too wide for the entryway, at which point the lifesavers forcefully pulled this wall out and gradually brought him in the hospital. Amazing...

However, this person's amazingness did not end there.

Three years later, the news again brought his image to my eyes. In the middle of the screen he was again being taken out of his home through a torn down wall. Once was dramatic enough, now twice. Amazing, staggering...

The name of this man is Michael Hebranko. Ten years after I first came across him on the TV screen, I finally got an opportunity to interview Mr. Hebranko. This time on the following pages, I henceforth write in detail a continuing research on "The American Adipose". The reason is that the incidence of successive targeting of them is an inexhaustible river from which to draw. There is a theme of never-ending bad jokes arguing that "Americans are to fat as Russians are to snow and Japanese are to rice".

This feature covers the corner of the "adipose continent" in which this "fat-specialist writer" is seen.

Incidentally, I used the word "fat". In fact I'm unreservedly declaring "fat" in the title. Such words as fat may be perceived as discriminatory words, but the truth is this word is the one officially recognized by the largest pan-American fat liberation organization, NAAFA (translated as "Pan-National Fat Acceptance Betterment Association"), founded in 1969. The F in NAAFA is the F in fat. As a well-known member (Yukiko says "idol-like"), Fat!So? founder Marilyn Wann contends as follows.

"It is unnecessary to use "Overweight" and "obese" as substitute words. Fat is fat. Nevertheless, how do I use fat? I want to use fat not in a way to make anyone ashamed but rather bright and cheerful. Thus I want to wipe out the spread of prejudices like "fat = unhealthy = stupid = bad" which disease American society.

In America in the 90s calls for protection of fat people's human rights from people like her proliferated. Lately blogs like Big Fat Deal, Fat Chicks Rule and FatGrrl and fat-positive sites are blossoming. It is bearing fruit in movements in fat-specific medicine, businesses and entertainment in every field.

Though those aspects are the main feature of the report, in any case Marilyn and people of NAAFA seek understanding of the use of the word fat as a show of respect for all fat people.

Here the feature begins, so let's get to it.

Nowadays, there are hospitals which have supersize-specific wards.

Aru ByoutekiHimanja no Kokuhaku
One Sickly Fat Man's Confession

Sickly-fat people's ward; extra wide instruments are common. Look at how wide is the wheel chair Hebranko uses.

The first interview I had with Michael Hebranko was in 2004. Five years after the second time his wall had been destroyed to extract him, Hebranko was in a nursing ward in Queens, having been hospitalized and lost his livelihood, welcoming me to 17-RikiGetsuMe (must be the name of the ward).

Born in 1953 in New York, Hebranko gained from childhood. At age 12 he was 200 pounds, at 23 he cleared 400 pounds. At the first incident in which his wall was broken he weighed 850 pounds, the second time, 1020 pounds. Diets rebounded repeatedly, adding more weight than before.

When I first came across Mr. Hebranko he was remarkably large. This interview was carried out in his private hospital room where he sat in his wheelchair, and one could almost get lost in the extra large bed there. In a considerably mysterious situation of a closed-off room we commenced, "Why are you here?"

"Because I did not want to die, from hypertension, heart attack, fatty liver. I was on the verge of dying. Surely I had to face that attachment to food had for a second time increased my weight by 600 pounds. It was because I'd abandoned my self control that I was hospitalized."

Since hospitalization, are you continuing the usual intake of 1500 calories per day?

"Yes. It is tough, really. Up to now I was taking in ten times as many calories. My average diet was 500 grams of bacon, 12 eggs, a dinner of 22-24 pork chops, in addition to 500 grams of mashed potatoes chowed down with no regard. A usual order at McDonalds was 6-8 Big Macs, 4 bags of large fries, 3 packs of chicken nuggets and 6 apple pies. There are people who can't tell why they are fat, but my case is different. I love food! In my case, from eating I gain.

How so, Mr. Hebranko... How, by what means this kind of eating?!

"It was an addiction to food. I was carried out of a hole in my wall. I was ashamed. Nevertheless, it happened a second time. It could be said the reason is the same as for "your" addictions. Alcohol and tobacco addictions are about pleasure. You can live without putting those things in your mouth. But it's not good to go without 3 meals a day. Thus, at those times I was fighting this magma-like appetite to continue eating. A battle! A battle in a bottomless lake!

On leaving the hospital, didn't you fear descending into this same hell again?

Previously that was not understood. How many times I'd lapsed into this course. Memories before 20-kilo regains were vivid. However, thereafter it was more uncertain. I'd sit and eat and go to the bathroom in my bed 24 hours a day, gaining hundreds of kilos over several years. "Today it ends," I thought every morning; "Tomorrow..." I vowed in tears every night. Eventually, I thought this. I was definitely addicted. However, it wasn't necessary for me to gain so much. In my life hitherto, the gods were visiting a final ordeal upon me. But I think they also revealed to me, presented me with the courage to continue to live through it.

As I brought the interview to an end, Mr. Hebranko's face in profile opened up like a monk in satori (enlightened state in Buddhism), and the impression of a virtuous one engaged in exorcism all the more burned in to my mind. Later, at his house, with a 200-kilo weight loss target, he quietly left the hospital. To this day he hasn't rebounded, and many years later he is still resolving the financial reckoning of the task. He is starting up a blog (http://www.mikehebranko.blogspot.com), to expound on his daily personal concerns and experiences, and tackling them interactively along with others. How many times has Mr. Hebranko seen hell? May his life be one of great happiness from now on!

Hebranko four years ago. He is more slim now.

Note: Sickly Fat Person = exceeding 45 kilos over ideal weight or possibly 40 over BMI (called "physique index")

"DebuSen" no o Shigoto, Debu o Ugokasu
Fat-Specific Professions, to Mobilize Fat People

"I want to hold seminars in Japan", says an ambitious Mr. Dionne. His US-based lecture series is at http://www.bariatricrehab.com

Though Mr. Hebranjo has been in the limelight from the time he was taken out of his wrecked wall, there are many other sickly fat people like him being taken to hospitals. At any rate, there are in America from 720,000 to one million sickly fat people.

Still, even assuming enough forklifts and cranes can be found to safely transport them, even more challenges await. Vital nursing know-how for them is lacking. There are sickly-fat-specific hospital units, but in the US they can be counted on one hand.

Physical therapist Michael Dionne's work is the care of sickly fat people. He stated in 1985. In the hospital where he works, an approximately 500-kilo patient is being transported. The heavy breathing and collapsed patient, destined for a long hospitalization, is too heavy to be moved from a bed to a wheelchair by average nurses.

Someone can say 500-kilos, but consider that Konishiki (a popular sumo champion) in his active fighting days weighed 285 kilos. 500-kilos is nearly twice the weight of Konishiki. To hospitals perplexed by this kind of situation, Dr. Dionne sets a white-feathered arrow. The truth is, as an American national judo championship participant and jujutsu master, Dionne has devised a method of mobilizing patients, putting to use the body movements of judo.

"Sickly fat people who are unable to walk spend countless years confined indoors in their houses, and many become bedridden. Even in moving from a bed to a wheelchair there are significant barriers. If they can't use a wheelchair, medical treatment and rehabilitation are often never started. Nurses make unreasoned attempts to move them and end up injured."

Dr. Dionne's reputation is spreading beyond his own hospital, as requests for lectures and help come in succession. Subsequently, he is spending his life holding lectures to medical personnel, municipalities and universities on the subject, and presently researching and developing body movement techniques as well as sickly-fat-specific nursing tools and machinery and rehab methods. The movement techniques Dionne presents are truly deep blue brilliant distillations of judo and sumo skill.

I am called from all over the US. From 2000 requests have exploded at an astonishing rate. It seems the number of far people are increasing. As a result, I am out on business 250 days in a year. Sickly-fat people have for a long time been deeply injured by exposure to contempt. When engaging with them, it is most important to do so with an attitude of respect for their individuality and character. I always say to participants, "If you're looking at their thighs, you should look at their eyes."

What happens when a sickly-fat person reaches the point of using a wheelchair is a loss of livelihood. Dionne says, "Diets to lose weight are the ideal, but it is easy to rebound. For such people stomach-curtailing bypass operations are very effective." Accordingly, this report turns next to these bypass operations.

Helping a bed-confined patient take a step in life.

Saigo no Hitote, Shujutsu ni mo Otoshiana
ByPass Operations a Pitfall In the End.

Mr. Ropata, post-op, times of once more eating beginning to increase, a dejected facial expression.

This is no good, that is no good, how many rebounds, and finally in the end established tactics pile up before the gates. The final measure of fat people with this kind of deep extreme anguish is the so-called bypass operation. Among representative examples of this, the top part of the stomach is suppressed by a stapler-like tool, creating a visceral bypass (Roux-en-Y), and constricting the top of the stomach with an elastic band (lap-band) are two kinds.

As the operations make the stomach smaller, it is also said to be tremendously effective in making foods high in sugar and fat indigestible. Recipients conspicuously grow in numbers, and from 16,000 people in 1994 to 177,600 in 2006 received this surgery.

In the post-op stomach, as a matter of course, as one can't stuff in as much food as before, almost all patients experience a dramatic reduction over a year. However, what is unexpectedly unknown are the subsequent trials.

To begin with, for many patients eating becomes the central objective in life; as food must be extremely restricted life becomes one of despair and hopelessness, in the worst case ending in suicide. In some cases, leaks occur from Roux-en-Y staples, and even after successful surgery, because they "megalose" several tens of kilos, possibly hundreds of kilos, skin hangs down, and there are patients who end up unable to walk. In this case, cosmetic surgery cuts off the unnecessary skin, sometimes as much as a surprising 75 kilos of it! (This does not contain only skin, just to be clear).

Moreover, over time, gradually the amount of food which can be taken in ends up increasing. Real estate businessman Marty Ropata, 68 years old, is one such person. This man, who fell into a chain of failed diets, had Roux-en-Y at 131 kilos and dropped to 99 kilos. However... "Truth is, I still could eat. I couldn't control myself, I tried to eat steak and desserts little bits at a time. From the outset I belched. But gradually my body began to accept this. Naturally, at once the times I ate became 6 times as many, and I ended up studying this afterwards."

Ropata, saying "In half a year I gained 20 pounds", continued the conversation with an expression of dejection.

"In my case, my post-op progress went I spent ten days in ICU, and tasted a deathlike grievous pain. It was certainly deja vu. It was like birth. Does not a woman say, 'One feels this kind of pain twice'? However, "if it goes beyond the throat" (seems to be way of saying "if the danger passes") I think I should have sex in a very calm way. I may be in the same company as women who have ten or twenty children."

On the progress of people like Ropata, Dr. Howard Eisensen of North Carolina's Duke University Hospital puts it this way.

 "Eating in small quantities but frequently, of course they commence to rebound. Again, by way of continuing to eat, it is the case that a stomach made small at great pains ends up stretching. Nevertheless, surgery costs are ordinarily around $25000, and the plastic surgery is around $30000. In addition, the motivation to overcome the grievous pain accompanying surgery and subsequent hospitalizations and so on, the great number of hurdles, becomes expensive. In that way there is a big difference from the usual diet."

There are many hidden pitfalls in a bypass surgery that is apt to appear flawless at first. Hmmm, the agony of fat people is deeper than the ocean...

Kyuuseishou suru "Futotta manma no Shouhin"
Rapidly Growing "Presently Fat Commerce"

Barry and secretary, whose business of earnestly catching up to the fat lifestyle has blossomed.

The place where fat people are numerous and merchandise for them is many is America. To speak of fat-specific merchandise, diet foods and exercise machines are representative but, here, in polar opposition to such articles of reduction, I think it is desirable to introduce items of use to "presently fat circumstances".

These kinds of merchandise are deeply connecting with fat human rights organizations which have become popular since the 90's. Despite "fat is not good" being the aggressively stated local standard attitude, it is a fact that many entrepeneurs and people in charge of development are fat themselves.

In typical scope, women's supersize clothing and accessories commerce is the largest segment, total sales in '06 having increased 9.2% over the previous year to $19,700,000 (based on an examination by the NPD consumer trend survey organization). In this exceptional field, the whole picture of small-scale businesses are not visible, nevertheless its daily continuing growth is an unmistakeable reality.

For example, one would want to take a look at PlusSizeYellowPages.com. Here, as an over-the-web phone book where adiposity supplies merchants' contact information is inserted, clothing and accessories, health, hobby, bridal and other goods are listed in 56 categories, adiposity related commerce is certainly competing. For one's spare time, if one takes a glance, fat-exclusive cruises (BBW Cruise), scuba diving (Big Adventures), nightclubs (Big Boogie Nights, The Butterfly Lounge) and other activities are there. The word is, the greatest concern of fat people is from desiring leisure activities where they meet each other in an environment with a relaxed attitude. In addition, from sex supply shops where people can correspond about large bodies (Good Vibrations), to supersize speciality coffin makers (Goliath Caskets), the point is that business oriented to fat people has the appearance of a bloom of hundreds of flowers.

Timothy Barry is one such fat-speciality business trailblazer. He is himself fat (of course).

"21st century economic trends point to fatness and aging", he believes; in '05 he started the adiposity goods site Supersizeworld.com. Toiletries and bath, sports, hairdressing, and medical supplies, furniture and other items - a diverse range of devices for the necessities for life is arising.

For instance toiletries. Because fat people can't reach around their hips when going to the bathroom, there are tools composed of sticks at the end of which toilet paper is attached. There are extra large toilet seats that are twice normal width. Also nail clippers and sponges come with stick attachments. Bari, who became aware of the problem of "My doctor tells me to exercise, but there are no exercise clothes!", scored a hit as he developed extra-large size hats, life vests, bicycle seats and other such things.

Bari's store was subsequently purchased by a major concern, the Casual Male retail group. Presently as it changes its name to LivingXL, more and more it grows.

As adiposity related commerce is shut out from consumers and is not mass advertised, one doesn't see many such shops on the street. Instead, new commerce is introduced successively over the web. As fat people come there, fat business soon follows. Among the adipose community in cyberspace, more and more it is spurred on nowadays.

A fat-person-specific life vest, worn by this writer as though it's an overcoat.

Bottom caption: Fat-person-specific nail cutter.

All-Fat Synchro Team

The bouncy and airy Padded Lillies members. Shirlie is the second person from the right.

Floating is their speciality!

The history of the Lillies goes back to 1997. Several of the women attending a fat-specific swimming class in San Francisco resolved one day "We should do synchronized swimming!" Because far from hiding their fat bodies, they should be performing this synchro, they chose a quite bold decision.

"We wanted to prove what we who are fat can do. Moreover, we wanted to communicate to society that whatever the size of flesh, everyone is lovely and beautiful."

The one speaking, current leader Shirlie Sheffield, looks back on that time. These women, who quickly took on a coach and inspired a genuine practice, finally advanced to taking requests for performance.

"Because a fat body floats so easily, we are truly suited for synchronized swimming. On the other hand, we're not so good at submerging." <laughing>

Presently, there are six permanent members from their 20s to their 60s. When performing, 5 or 6 helpers, themselves fat of course, join in.

"The audience reaction is always favourable. Particularly, young girls return to rejoice, 'I came up with the courage to wear a swim suit.' And those children are not fat at all. In the present day America it's with 'Not to get slim is sick' that one is faced."

Incidentally, regarding the reflexive bursts of laughter in the naming of the Padded Lillies, how do the people themselves think about this? Concerning this, one of the members says, "It's bad not to have a sense of laughter! We understand that fat synchro invites laughs. In performing, we want to enjoyably adopt a sense of comedy. If there's no ill will, we welcome the laughs. Where there is not intelligence and a heart for play, it's because the messages we want to convey, that 'Every body is beautiful', is not being circulated."

In America, other groups besides the Lillies are the fat-person-only revue groups "Big Burlesque" and "Big Moves", Kate Dillon who worked as Vogue's first plus size model in '02, fat modern dancers, and a star named Alexander Bella are appearing.

Shirlie of the Lillies, last year, performed as an alluring figure in the Australian documentary "Naked on the Inside" (Kim Falando directing). This film is expected to come next year to American cable channel Showtime. Definitely see this!

A theatrical poster for "Naked on the Inside". Shirlie is 3rd from the right on the bottom.

Big Love. Debu Mo Sunari Ren.
Big Love. Fat People Have Passion Too.

Beautiful in the face of a 150-kilo difference, Avery and Kathy who are "goal-in" (more on this below)

Dimensions back issues. Presently it is published over the web.

Surmounting age, appearance and nationality, people make love. Fat people of course also make love. However, in the heavyweight class there are many having trouble with differences. One fat woman (25 yrs, 445 pounds) strikes it open: Because being fat doesn't make one popular, the dream of sex is still a dream. I don't even think about it." In opposition to this, there are assertive women who say "The disgusting thing is, fat women are love-starved, and if they're invited it is by men who misunderstand that they can come to take as much as they want. Those men meet with rejection."

Meanwhile, the existence of men full of anguish are not forgotten. Fat-admirers they are called, people who feel sexual charm for nothing but fat people. In America, the theory is 5-10% of the population are FA. FAs include both men and women, but the ones who feel the most deeply anguished about it are men. Have a listen to FA-oriented web site Dimensions' editor in chief, Conrad Blickenstorfer.

"On the pretext of their so-called ugliness, fat women are subjected to discrimination from society. For FA men, there are problems in loving these women. Unable to introduce themselves openly in the environment, the couple becoming secluded, it is for example like coming out, with family and friends rejecting her, ending up in relations going lacking and in some instances being severed."

Though this is a sad reality, I escort couples which surmounted these hardships to have a happy married life. I got to know a couple, Avery Colter (40years, engineer) and Kat Rhodes (41 years, potter) who did the deed in '06 met on a Yahoo fat dating site. ("Did the deed" was my way of translating Yukiko's "goal-in shita"; evidently courtship is like a soccer game, and getting through the wedding is scoring the winning goal.)

"During childhood, on TV I saw scenes of fat women stuck in windows. Afterwards, I dreamed I was rescuing them. Much of the time past childhood I really liked fat girls, and recognized I was an FA."

Is their 150-kilo difference in weight not an obstacle?

As long as one's feelings are strong, discrimination can be overcome. An FA male wants to have a self-awareness that is protective to their partners. On the other hand, for fat women, because you are perfectly beautiful as you are, I want to tell you to show your naked body to your partrner as much as possible and to live with brilliance and sparkle. For those who do there's a market without fail. Do not despair by any means."

As Avery says this, beside him Kathy, with an emotional expression, wraps him up in her large body like a "kozuka" (a little knife carried in a sword sheath) in "gunyu-n" fashion (someone's got some explaining to do).

"I really like her body. Bouncy (I assume this is what bunyubunyu is) and soft, I want to play her like a harp." (Avery)

"His favorite is horseback position (woman on top). <giggling> When making love his light becomes absolutely inextinguishable." (Kat)

"Indeed, I want to see all of her. Besides, the pressure from woman on top is a good thing to feel. For me, I mean, I want to climb on her tummy like a cat, so much do I like her!"

Whew! Speak your mind! In any case, be forever happy!

Big Love. Debu Mo Sunari Ren.
Big Love. Fat People Have Passion Too.

Queen of the fat sex world, Blank and her book.

Today, anywhere in America one comes across fat men and women who fall in love and who have sex. It is a bit of a common and interesting saying, but how generally do fat people have sex? Replying to this question with clarity, "Big Big Love" is extolled as a fine example of a fat sex instruction book. Cultural historian and author Hanne Blank, along with commentating on the cultural and historical points of view on fat sex, has in this book compiled lists of novelties and sex shops.

"Basically, there is not a great difference in sex among fat and non-fat people. The size of the machinery is generally the same. Nevertheless, just because belly and hips protrude, some scheming is needed," says Ms. Blank. Among the scheming she advocates are examples below-mentioned.

"During sex, always observe your partner's reaction closely, and if they appear to be feeling excessive pressure, roll off from your partner."

"There are cases where a fat woman's large breasts become a hindrance in making a partner unable to reach his penis with his hand. For such a person, sex while wearing a bra should be better."

Among recommendations for fat bondage, American leather goods and flexible kinds cords and ropes, here are techniques". (All above-mentioned quotations I see in "Big Big Love").

As there are various ways of being imaginative and creative, Ms. Blank, who says "mind over matter", says it is extremely important to emphasize, "Where there is a will there is a way."

One in 3 American adults are this shape; o/` "Because I fell in love" o/~.

Author Profile

Yanagida Yukiko

Born in 1963 in Tokyo. Graduated in first class of Waseda University's literature department. Entered into work with the monthly Esquire Japan Edition in 1989. Engaged in editing of "Fine Arts Magazines". In 1998 studied journalism at Cal State Long Beach as well as Stanford University. In 2000 as a publisher went the following year to the USA. Presently lives with her Irish-American husband in Long Beach. Contributing to "BungeiShunJu", "45Journal" and "Household Magazine". Translating "A Bloom in the Garden of the Rose of Sharon", and a book "Japanese Architecture Across the Pacific" in a NTT anthology. This year, she expects to publish a book about American fat people.