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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Man walks across America -- He is searching for thinner self

Monday, January 23, 2006

Top photo: Ivy Herron photo

Brazil Family Restaurant waitress Molly McKenzie talks with Steve "Fat Man" Vaught about his web journal and upcoming book about his nine-month weight loss trek across America. People who want to keep up with Vaught's travels can log onto www.thefatmanwalking.com.

Bottom: map found on http://www.fatmanwalking.com

Steve Vaught keeps a map of journey on his Web site. On Friday, he was in Brazil. The day before, he was interviewed on NBC's Today show while walking through Terre Haute.

With each determined step, Steve Vaught is walking his way to a new and healthier life and a lot of public attention.

This self proclaimed "fat man's" strange odyssey began with a shopping trip to Target in April 2004.

"I was 39 years old, 410 pounds and couldn't walk through the store," He told The Brazil Times on Friday morning at the Brazil Family Restaurant. "I had to sit down. I realized then, if nothing changed, I'd be dead in five to 10 years."

Married with two small children, he didn't want to burden his family with his premature death.

"Dying from obesity is not pretty. It's the epitomy of selfishness," he said. "If I didn't do something to change things I knew I was telling my family that eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it was more important than they were. I couldn't do that. I asked myself: Is material things really worth dying for? No they're not."

Committed to making a change, the next day he walked one-quarter mile.

"I was so exhausted afterwards, I went home and slept for three hours on the couch," he said, laughing at the memory. "But I was determined to change things, and, after talking it over with my wife, quitting my job and training till I could walk at least four miles straight, I left 12 days later."

Vaught knew that his journey across America wasn't going to be easy for himself or his family.

"My family may suffer a little now, but when this is over I'll be healthier. I'll be alive to be there and fix what goes wrong," he said. "The greatest asset we have as Americans is so overlooked. This is the one place where you can fall flat on your face and get right back up again. You try that anywhere else and you'll never get back up."

Walking along the highways of America for nine months, Vaught is amazed at all the wonderful people he's met along the 2,000 miles he's walked by himself.

"People just want to be a part of this thing. They say it's inspiring, and I guess it's true, but the people I've met have inspired me," he said. "The world is not a big horrible place like its been made out to be.

"I've not had a single solitary issue of violence along the way."

There have been many memorable places and people along the way that will forever stick out in Vaught's mind.

"Brazil's one of those places," he said of his day layover in town. "I've met some really nice folks here. They're just a little happier than in a few other places I've been. There's a definite difference here."

In the beginning, every step the ex-marine, took was painful and time and progress were brutally slow. Many times he considered quitting. Now, his daily routine begins at 8 a.m.

To get the blood flowing and the calories burning, he takes a quick walk of a mile or two to find a place to eat breakfast, then another hour or so of walking before a rest stop, and then he hits the road one step at a time until dusk. He averages 15 miles a day, running at least one mile, before stopping to camp or find a motel room to stay in overnight.

The solitude of the road has become therapy for Vaught, who's searching for the emotional reasons for his own obesity.

"Being overweight is a physical manifestation of an emotional problem, and depression, fast food and a lack of exercise only help make it worse," he said.

"You have to recognize your own responsibility to fix why you're self-destructing. Until people realize obesity is an affliction, and not a disease, only then can they fix the problem."

Admitting anger, frustration and issues of trust have weighed heavy on his spirit, Vaught is writing about what drove him to self destruction for a Harper/ Collins book to be published sometime after the completion of his journey.

"The book will air some difficult things from my past, but it's another form of therapy," he said, crediting the time spent alone for the new sense of peace in his life. "I'm ready for it now."

With a little more than 800 miles to go until the end of his very public yet personal journey, Vaught is happy with his weight loss attempt.

"People expect me to have a lost a lot more than I have, and to be honest, I thought I would have lost more in the beginning. But I've lost a little more than 90 pounds, and doctors say that is where I should be. I've really muscled up in my legs, but my upper torso and midsection haven't seem much change," he said.

Vaught has recently changed his diet in favor of fewer calories and no carbohydrates after 2 p.m.

"A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about weight loss, but you have to lose weight like you gained it, slowly over time."

Vaught urges people to get control of their lives, take responsibility for their weight problems and make a dedicated commitment to changing their lives.

"I feel 100 percent better mentally and physically," he said, gathering his things to take to the road once more. "It is not the success daily that counts, it's the success at the end that matters most. Weight loss is a life- long process, and I'm going to be there for my family."

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