My song today is ‘The Fat Man’. This was a song by American rhythm and blues recording artist Fats Domino. It was written by Domino and Dave Bartholomew and was recorded on December 10th, 1949. It is often cited as being among one of the first rock and roll records.
The tune is a variation on the traditional New Orleans tune ‘Junker Blues’ as played by Willie Hall, which also provided the melody for Lloyd Price’s ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’. The Fat Man features Domino's piano with a distinct backbeat that dominates both the lead and the rhythm section. Earl Palmer said it was the first time a drummer played nothing but ‘backbeat’ for recording, which he said he derived from a Dixieland chorus.
Being extremely large (fat) in body volume is seen by different cultures in the world in very different ways. In some Eastern countries, being weighty is seen as being a sign of wealth and opulence, whereas having too much weight in the western hemisphere is more often perceived to be unhealthy and physically unattractive. There is a world of difference in how a sumo wrestler (rikishi) is both perceived and respected by their Japanese followers and how we in western society would view an unfit man of gross size, and whose weight prevents them living a reasonable life.
Indeed, the very fact that Sumo wrestlers are known as ‘rikishi’ in Japan identifies the way they are regarded by Japanese society. Rikishi is two characters of the kanji meaning ‘strength’ and ‘warrior’.
The heaviest Sumo wrestler in history was Yamamotoyama who weighed in at 265 kg (584 lb). He was born in 1984 and is also thought to be the heaviest Japanese person who ever lived.
When we compare the heaviest man ever born (Jon Brower Minnoch) with the heaviest ever Sumo wrestler, we soon spot the difference. Jon Brower Minnoch had suffered from obesity since childhood and eventually grew into a man who weighed 442 kg (974 lb); nearly 400 lbs more than the heaviest ever Japanese Sumo wrestler. He lived in Washington, U.S.A., and died just before his 42nd birthday.
While the Sumo wrestlers deliberately eat to bulk up their body weight, any western person wishing to reduce their weight should take close note of how the Sumo ‘deliberately’ gets fat, and do the very opposite to bring about their desired body weight. Whether one desires to be either fat or thin, the two worst things one can do is to either starve one’s body of calories or consume too many calories. Whereas fat Sumo wrestlers get their bulk weight from eating large amounts of chankonabe (a soup that is rich in calories), obese eaters in the west gain their weight by eating high-calorific and sugary processed food and lots of carbohydrates; which is found in all ‘fast food’. Two other significant differences between Japanese Sumo fat and western McDonald fat is where the fat is lodged in one’s body, as well as the degree to how the consumer exercises their body.
Sumo wrestlers eat up to 7,000 calories a day and weigh 300 to 400 pounds on average, or two to three times as much as the average adult male. While that may not sound like the healthiest lifestyle, you should not judge a book, or a body, by its cover. Take a closer look, and you will discover that what really counts is not the number of calories consumed but what is going on inside the Sumo wrestler’s body.
Normally, people with obesity store a portion of their extra fat deep inside the abdomen, where it wraps around the pancreas, liver, and other vital organs. We call this ‘visceral fat’. It pollutes the blood with molecules that can cause inflammation, and this is the major factor why obesity can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and heart attacks.
Sumo wrestlers, however, do not usually suffer from these symptoms during their professional careers. So, what is their trick? CT scans reveal that Sumo wrestlers do not have much visceral fat at all. Instead, they store most of their fat immediately beneath the skin. That is why scientists think Sumo wrestlers are healthy. They have normal levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in their blood), and unexpectedly low levels of cholesterol; both of which lower their risk of heart disease, heart attack, and strokes.
So, how did they manage to hit the jackpot on fat? The secret lies in their name, ‘Sumo wrestler’. Studies show that intense exercise may prevent the build-up of visceral fat. Basically, it has to do with how exercise increases a hormone called ‘adiponectin’. Adiponectin guides glucose and the unhealthy fat molecules ‘out of our bloodstream’, where they would otherwise build up as visceral fat, and instead, it puts them instead, underneath the skin of the Sumo wrestler.
Bear in mind the tremendous amount of daily exercise a Sumo wrestler gets. At a sumo stable, or ‘heya’, as it is called in Japan, training starts as early as 5:00 a.m. and can last for up to five hours without a break, daily. Also, the amount of energy expended is much more than what you'd expect to find at a typical western group-fitness class. For example, the exercise is intense and is relentlessly practised. During an exercise called ‘butsukari-geiko’, wrestlers take turns repeatedly hitting and pushing each other until they collapse to the floor from physical exhaustion. And then, of course, there is also the match, where competing Sumo wrestlers try to shove their opponent out of the ring or force them to touch the ground with any body part other than the soles of their feet.
However, here lies the hidden warning message in the lives of all people who vigorously exercise to keep fit and healthy; whatever their age and the type and extent of their exercise. As soon as the exercise stops being a routine part of their life, so do its benefits. When Sumo wrestlers retire, like all western athletes such as weightlifters, they also have to seriously cut their calory intake, or they become a high risk of contracting cardiovascular disease. That might explain why retired Sumo wrestlers reportedly die an estimated 10 years younger than the average Japanese citizen. So, while the thought of eating 7,000 calories a day might be appealing when they are daily in the wrestling ring trying to topple a 400-pound man, once they step out of this highly exercised world into a more sedentary one where all exercise stops, they hit trouble where it hurts most; in their health and more sedentary bodies!
If I could live my life over again, I would never diet as dieting does no good ‘in the long term’. Whereas most dieters may lose their targeted weight initially, just as soon as they stop dieting, they gain it back even quicker than they lost it, and with a few extra lbs in interest.
Now, if you are a fat man or a fat woman out there, and your health could significantly benefit from the loss of a couple of stones (relatively speedily), let me tell you what to do.
Do what I did. I got myself a food expert as a lover who is called ‘Sheila’ and like any wise married man, I learned to listen to my wife. Sheila is a Yoga teacher and is 14 years younger than me. She looks no older than fifty years (though she is 64). As Boris might put it, ‘she is as fit as a butcher’s dog!’ Her secret food regime lost me three stones in weight at a time in my life where three extra stones mattered considerably to my health, given my increasing immobility as I got older with the worsening osteoarthritis condition in my legs. Being unable to exercise much, climb stairs easily, and breathe without panting whenever I over-energised my muscles (with the history of two severe heart attacks within the space of one week at the age of 59 years), I decided that a change needed to come.
I had weighed 16 stone in the nude for around ten years, and even though two nine-month courses of chemotherapy lost me some weight initially, like most diets, the lbs went back on when the treatment stopped and my health and appetite improved. Even a dozen operations for three separate cancer conditions (seven operations and forty sessions of radiotherapy in a two-year period); even all that did not reduce me to less than the 16 stone man I was. I have always loved my food, and I still do, but the main difference today is this. Despite having three different body cancers currently (one of the cancers terminal), I feel remarkably healthier in mind and body than I have for many a year.
To improve the exercise of my lungs, I have engaged in a few hours daily singing practice over the past three years, and my lung capacity and blood oxygenation levels now register a healthy normal, having improved twenty percent since when I first began singing practice. I also allowed my wife Sheila to provide me with a food regime which she considered healthy for me; a food regime which contained food I liked eating, at amounts sufficient to fill me, and of a type which did not put on additional weight.
This was the best health advice I have ever followed by any person in my life. In less than one six-month period, I lost three stones and I have maintained this weight loss ever since. My previous Goodyear double-tiered gut has vanished, and although I cannot claim to have a six-pack group of stomach muscles, what stomach muscles I do possess today fit comfortably on the single stomach shelf of a 78-year-old man. For the first time since I passed sixty, I can see my toes as well as touch them. Come to think of it, I can also see other parts of my lower region, which I lost sight of long ago! Having three different body cancers currently and awaiting the probability of another major cancer operation; and having had nine cancer operations in the past 27 months, along with forty bouts of radiotherapy sessions, plus many other medical procedures, my three-stone loss in weight has proved vital to my sustenance and essential to my survival throughout.
I don’t know where that lass of mine gets all her knowledge about the many nutritional types of food and their positive and cumulative effects upon the body from, but the next time I go up to her bedroom and scour through her reading material, this former fat man will wager £1 to one penny that I’ll find a book there about the history of Sumo wrestlers.
Love and peace Bill xxx