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Moving on - by agouderia (~BHM, ~~WG, Romance)

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agouderia

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~BHM, ~~WG, Romance - a journalist moves on to a new life he finds in the US


Moving on
by agouderia

[Authors note:] This is the first story I have ever had the nerve to post ... and somehow its characters have "expanded" into more of a small novella. This is European part 1 - I would appreciate some feedback whether the US part 2 could be worthwhile. Thank you for your patience with the long text!


Part 1 – Yo-yo-ing

My name is Ulrich Rheinstein. Born 1972 in a small town in Northern Germany, I work as a journalist for one of my countries most prestigious magazine companies. And I am fat.

Is the latter really important? Absolutely. The way I look, my weight is just as much part of my biography as my name, profession and age. It defines how I am perceived in public, how my colleagues see me, my status among women and – unfortunately – also my sex life. And it makes no sense beating around the bush – that big round protuberance in the middle of my body is no great help.

For instance, I do not like stairs because I get out of breath so quickly and my prematurely aged knees start to ache. I try to avoid eating on the street because I feel like people are looking at me like they would at the addict crouching in the dirty alley ready to set his next shot of heroin. My self esteem decreases proportionally to my increasing BMI and I try to make myself as small as possible in public. Which does not work by the way, my belly doesn’t shrink one inch.

Every day I have to walk a quarter of a mile from the main building of my publishing house to our cafeteria – a quarter of a mile during which many people cross my way. And roughly 80 percent of all people first look at my belly and then at my face. It’s not their fault – after all it is my most prominent feature.

In lucid moments though, I know that there is an alternative – I’ve been there, I know what it is like to be considerably thinner, with only one chin and just the hint of a belly. For roughly twenty years, avidly playing football or soccer as you call it in the US, as well as a number of other ball games along with biking to school and university kept me from gaining weight.

That is how I compensated that I always a) really liked eating, b) really liked eating a lot and c) really liked eating a lot of the “wrong” foods.

I was in good shape, even though I grew up in a family were butter cream cakes, fried potatoes and beef roles with bacon filling were staples. At home, a balanced diet always consisted of homemade apple cake with whipped cream.

Until I reached my mid twenties, my metabolism was fine with this, I was a – by local standards – short 5‘9 and muscular 180 pounds with only the slightest hint of a belly.

Then – literally over night – my life changed: My then girlfriend, now wife got pregnant and I started working night shifts in the harbor to earn enough money for us. The combination of work, study plus parenting left no more time for sports – resulting in a massive weight gain.

It started during Sabine’s pregnancy – our bellies grew in synch. Sabine’s disappeared – mine stayed on and continued growing. It took me about a year to cross the magical 100kg/220 pounds mark and I did not even keep track of where it went from there.

One afternoon when my son was about five years old Sabine and I sat down over a plate of Danish pastries to look at pictures from our last vacation in Southern Italy. Browsing through them I saw a cute little boy playing in the sand, a lovely petite brunette in a stylish bikini and …. Moby Dick stranded on Sicily. No, wrong, that was not a whale. That must have been me. Or at least a guy who shared certain features with me…with the addition of an absurdly large belly, three chins and chipmunk cheeks. Silently I cursed, that couldn’t be me! The next picture showed me in a tent like T-shirt after climbing a steep hill up to a monastery, all sweaty and visibly out of breath.

Looking up at Sabine, I wanted to say something but could not utter a word – all she did was look at me with pity and understanding in her eyes. The Danish between us were never touched.

Instead I went into the bath room and pulled out the scale and stepped on it: 118 kilos/ 262 pounds – and went off to join Weight Watchers the same evening.

I learned to eat healthier, started running and playing soccer again – and half a year later weighed in at 85 kg/187 pounds. It felt good, I was content … and let nature take its course again. A year later I was back up to 245 pounds…… and dieted back down to 200 pounds, a lot of it muscle.

Then came the fateful day 3 years ago when I entered our bathroom to find Sabine clearly primping for a party.

“Hey – didn’t know you were going out?”

“Um … yeah,” she responded without turning her gaze from the mirror.

“And where are you going?”

“Did you forget – it’s Heike’s birthday today. “

Oops, she was right …. Every year we were invited to her elementary school best friend Heike’s birthday, always the same crowd of people, the same delicious Turkish deli food …

“Wait a second …. I’m not invited?”

“Of course you are. But I’m going alone this time. “

“But why?”

“Have you looked into the mirror lately? Let alone gotten on a scale? You’re letting yourself go again. I’m tired of these constant ups-and-downs. To be quite frank: I’m slightly embarrassed by your appearance when we’re out together in public.”

“ Embarrassed? You’re ashamed of me?”

She had finished applying lip stick and looked at me for the first time during this bizarre dialogue. “Yes, I’m ashamed. And even worse – I feel cheated.”

“Wait a second. I never even look …. “

“That is not what I mean!” she exclaimed while slapping my belly. “I feel cheated out of the strong but thin Ulrich I fell in love with. The Ulrich you used to be and could be again. Any idea where he is these days? I’d love to take him to the party.”

Ouch – that really hurt. Fair only in so far that she clearly did not keep her opinions her herself. She always favored the very traditional German direct approach – telling me that she found me attractive as long as my body stayed within certain limits. She was fine with powerfully built men, but drew the line with fat men. A few extra kilos were okay, but my current weight was way above that. From her point of view, my burgeoning weight showed a lack of respect for her, she suffered psychologically from my weight gain. How I could have forgotten this element in the framework of our relationship again?

As soon as the door closed behind Sabine, I got on the scale – 240 pounds, a number on the scale I had never wanted to get to again. In a split second, I realized how much in denial I had been over the past months: Trying to hide my belly by hunching my shoulders. Secretly eating bags of chips at night. Not noticing that I mindlessly consumed my colleague’s chocolate that he left on our meeting room table. Reducing exercise to a minimum. Not even being able to remember, when Sabine and I had had sex for the last time. The uncomfortable, sub-conscious feeling that people on the street first stared at my belly. And now worst of all – coming home to a seriously alienated spouse, who had all the good arguments about health and looks on her side. This time I swore I was going to change something for good.

Going public was my solution: I went to my editor with a proposal to write a male dieting blog about ‘Kilo Combat’, my experiences with trying to lose weight and the strongly female targeted weight loss industry.

My diet project was a success: Not only did I, in a painstaking up and down of 16 months, manage to lose the 20 kilos/45 lbs. down to 90 kg/198 lbs. but my weight loss blog was my biggest professional success. I wrote about everything I tried out and worked with to get rid of my belly: Weight Watchers, community college health food cooking classes, yoga fasting, personal nutritionist coaching, ayurveda hiking, psychotherapy, auto-suggestion, low fat, low carb, high protein diets, exercise regimes, etc. ….. holiday set backs with too much too good German Christmas bakery…..

Every week I got hundreds of responses to my blog, most of them supportive, some of them full of ‘Schadenfreude” over my set backs, good advice, absurd advice, useless advice, diet know-it-alls and a lot of understanding from the many brothers and sisters in the endless suffering of yo-yo dieting.

And then, my editor suggested turning the blog into a male diet self-help book, which was not only published, but rather well received and even made it onto the national bestseller list. It looked like I had made it: I was in decent shape again, I was a recognized respected author … my favorite colleague and one of my best friends, Birger, who runs a journalist & author blog platform, even published a column on how he tried not to be too envious of my success.

The only thing I was not really 100% sure of: How did Sabine view my success and its effects on our relationship? Sure, she was supportive enough – but she was neither enthusiastic nor overtly involved.
Shortly after reaching my magic 90 kg mark, we went on a wedding day mini break to lovely Lake Garda in northern Italy: We stayed in a elegant 19th century villa hotel directly on the lake, explored the scenery and sights, ate the delicious local fare – me staying clear of pasta and risotto, trying to stick to salad and grilled fish and chicken, only an occasional sip of the wonderful Bardolino wine grown in the region.

One morning before having breakfast on the sunny terrace overlooking the lake and the nearby southern part of the Alps, I gave myself a good hard in the mirror while shaving: The man I saw was slightly tanned, a bit of the hefty side … but in my eyes could no longer be called fat.

“Sabine? “ I called out, “what do you think – do I still look fat?”

Sabine came in from the terrace and joined me in front of the mirror. She looked at me and shrugged her shoulders: “No, you don’t look fat right now. You look strong, fit and well …. Okay, nice…. “

“See, I told you I could get back in shape,” hiding my disappointment over her lukewarm response. “I hope you would take me along to a party now.”

“Uli - that is not the point,” Sabine retorted with an annoyed wave of her hand. “You get enough gushing and acclaim for your current weight loss – you don’t need mine right now. It’s just …. we’ve been down this road before: You diet, lose weight, get in shape, make a 1000 vows that this time it’s for real …… and then … a few months later all I can do is watch your waistline expand again after you lay off the exercise and your eating habits get back out of control again…. You won’t receive my whole-hearted praise until your weight is still the same in a year’s time.”

Admittedly that left me at a loss for words. “I promise, this time it is different…. People will watch me; I have to stay fit to promote my book…. I’ve learned so much about a healthy lifestyle…” I responded in a rather lame self-defense.

“Oh sure,” Sabine said, turned and walked out to the terrace. “Let’s have breakfast, I’m hungry and need a coffee. And we have time until next year before really talking about your commitment to staying in shape.”

Slightly mollified, I joined her, pushing a gnawing self-doubt to the back of my mind, concentrating on cappuccino in the sunshine and my newly acquired self-confidence that this time was indeed going to be different.

Needless to say Sabine was right. My first appearances on TV and radio shows to promote my book went well. I was the convincing image of a man who had learned his lesson on how to lead a healthy life and was not thin, but in good shape. Things started to go back downhill – or uphill, whichever way you want to see it - when I went on the 2 month promotion tour through regional book stores: It meant having to go out of my way to exercise instead of browsing through book stores, museums and coffee shops and even worse… fighting off the culinary temptations of the various regions: Bavarian Knödel, in autumn with delicious wild mushroom sauces, red wine and home-made Spätzle noodles with cheese in the Swabian south-west, fine white Rhine wine with hearty meat dishes …. Let alone my weakness for sampling the variety of local beers or preparing evening presentations in well assorted pastry shops ….

The following holiday season finished off the job: One cold grey morning in early January Sabine caught me in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, munching down the final piece of her fantastic poppy seed Christmas bread with my coffee. She didn’t say anything, just looked straight at my middle. And there it was again, sticking out proud and round, already pushing down the waistband of my pants – my belly. Embarrassment flooded in me, I quickly stood straight and sucked in my stomach – to no avail, the big round curve would not go away. I swallowed hard and went into the bath room. Sure enough, there in the mirror, belly’s little friend, the slight double chin was back too. Bracing myself for the worst, I pulled out the scale: 100,2 kg/220 lbs. it blinked.

Naturally Sabine was not the only one who noticed. Just a few days later, my colleague Silke after a birthday “Kaffee & Kuchen” session in the office gave my then well-filled belly an affectionate pat and coo-ed: “Look who’s back! We almost missed the cuddly growing fellow!” I blushed furiously, but the others in the office just laughed good naturedly or shrugged their shoulders. The readers of my blog also noticed the difference in the most recent video installments and gave me some shit, but most of it was sympathetic and understanding, since many people could relate to the depressing reality of yo-yo dieting.

Birger, my tall, naturally reed thin, colleague and best friend, said a few weeks later when I was venting my frustration after a few too many beers and a lost soccer match. “Stop it, Uli, don’t be so hard on yourself. There are more important things in your life than your weight. As adults, we all have to face the fact that there just are some things we are never going to be good at, no matter how hard we try. Look at me; I have resigned to the fact that I am never going to pass the driver’s license test here in Germany. My brain-body coordination just doesn’t work in sync with their requirements. And by the way, that is about 1000 times more embarrassing for me as a German male than your handsome beer belly, which is the standard accessory of 65% of all German men according to recent statistics.”

“Yeah, but Sabine wants me to be one of the 35 % minority….” I tried to interject, but Birger was not done yet.

“Uli, you know I’m your friend. I’ve been around all these past 10 yo-yo years. Stop wasting your energy on dieting – that just is the one thing you are not good at, basta. Use your energy and creativity for something productive, for one of the many things you are great at. So now to the important stuff … What about this new project you mentioned, writing your first novel?”

Birger made that point – and I told him about the project of a novel that had formed in my head after the success of my diet book and which my publisher was strongly encouraging me to pursue. So far, I had only written fiction for fun, as an outlet for my imagination, but now I saw a chance of taking a serious go at it with a story which had developed around my 2 favorite subjects in life: women and soccer.

But all this positive reinforcement and the fact that I was psychically feeling fine could not make me overlook Sabine’s pointed glances and – so I increasingly felt – almost hostile silence. It had always taken her a while to start commenting on my weight, but from a certain point onward she would start to nag, clear the fridge and cupboards of none diet-conform foods, leave the scale out in the middle of the bedroom. This time, she did not say or do anything. Both being talkers, we still talked – about everyday and menial things. But we no longer spoke to each other, about ourselves, our relationship, my weight.

Lacking the strength and motivation to start a serious diet again, I alternated between a few days of crash dieting and binging, my weight fluctuating 2-3 kgs/4-6 lbs around the 100kg/220lbs mark. Knowing the argument was against me, I subconsciously steered clear of the discussion of my weight gain with Sabine, unsure whether this was a way of improving or worsening the situation. But I could not help feeling that we were constantly drifting further apart.

Our sex life seemed to vanish into oblivion … Sabine excelled in artfully avoiding my overtures at intimacy without being too blandly rejecting.

Then Sabine’s birthday was in sight – and I came up with a plan to revive our relationship and love life. In preparation, I took dieting more seriously and actually got down to 96 kg, fitting back into one of my better suits, just 7 kg/15 lbs above my wedding weight. To celebrate the evening, I organized for our son to stay over with a friend from school, booked a table in a great restaurant and even a small suite in one of the loveliest, freshly refurbished historic hotels in town, right on the waterfront.

Despite a terrible rain storm, the evening went well from my point of view. We had the small private alcove above the water to ourselves. Dinner was very tasty and service discreet. We were laughing and giggling together more than I remembered of late.

In retrospect, though, the champagne as an aperitif had not only loosened our tongues but also my inhibitions about eating heartily. Not until later did I realize that – somehow making up for having strongly restricted my appetite and intake beforehand – not only did we get two refills of the bread basket, but also that I finished the leftovers of Sabine’s main course as well as insisting on getting two desserts, of which I probably ate three-quarters.

When we got up to leave I became fully aware of how stuffed I was, stifling a belch, with all buttons straining over my taught belly and the waistband cutting into me very uncomfortably. Trying to cover up the evidence of my gluttony with my coat, I pulled Sabine into a tight embrace while we got into the taxi to go to the hotel, gently playing with her hair and kissing her neck during the ride.

Since I had picked up the key earlier, we could go to our suite directly, where I had made all the necessary reservations: Jacuzzi, candle-light, champagne, flowers and – swimming in a small play Gondola in the Jacuzzi – my birthday present: An extended spa and fashion weekend in Venetia over the May holidays.

Sabine did seem very pleased, she gave me a deep tender kiss and then turned to play with the Gondola and read all the details of the trip. From behind, I pulled her close, cupping her small breasts, nuzzling her neck and rubbing her firm buttocks against me, while slowly unbuttoning her blouse. By this time, I had a major erection and my too tight pants were killing me.

To avoid all embarrassments, I had made sure the lights were dim so Sabine would not get an all too clear view of my body … and while carefully undressing her and steering her back into the bedroom, I made sure to undress myself, so she wouldn’t notice how snug my clothes were. Yet I had underestimated how extremely tight my pants were – at least way too tight to open them with only one free hand. So I had to break the contact with Sabine, take both hands and struggle to unhook my straining waistband under my full belly. Naturally Sabine noticed, raised her eyebrows and sighed – not exactly erotic.

“Why don’t you open the bottle of champagne?” I murmured to distract her while frantically trying to pull down my pants.

“No thank you, I’ve had enough to drink for one evening,” Sabine denied and with a pointed glace added, “Are you sure you need anymore? Too much is normally not very helpful, you know.”

This unkind remark couldn’t faze me out, though; I was wild about melting into every part of her, so I sat on the bed, kicked off my pants and pulled her down hard on my lap, just so she could feel how badly I wanted her. I licked her nipples until they were hard, and then looked up into her face, kissing her deeply, longingly. Sabine pushed me back onto my back, raising herself to straddle me. In that moment it happened – my full belly, no longer painfully sucked in, pushed far out, revealing deep red marks were my pants had cut into my flesh and I had to belch heavily.

“God, Uli – can’t you even control your eating on my birthday!” Sabine exclaimed, getting off of me.

“Sorry,” I murmured thoroughly humiliated. “Come back to me, I’ll make it up to you,” trying to draw her back down to me.

But Sabine had already shifted away and sat on the edge of the bed, shaking her head. “Ulrich, this is not going to work – you know full well that your overstuffed belly turns me off completely! If you clearly planned a romantic evening like this, don’t you at least have the good sense to limit yourself to a normal portion? Just thinking of the amount you ate at the restaurant makes me sick!”

By this time Sabine had gotten up and was pulling her clothes back on.

“But it was a special birthday dinner….” I tried to protest. “Please give me another chance; I know how to make you feel good….”

“Sorry Ulrich, I’m too exhausted for this. I think it’s better for both of us if I sleep in my own bed. Thank you for the lovely present, that is a great idea and I’m really looking forward to going. Good night!”

After the door closed behind Sabine, I fell back on the bed – and it took me a few minutes to realize that all there was was the deep, dull pain of rejection. My classic male reaction of dealing with it was to watch soccer on the sports channel while drinking as much as I could handle – the whole bottle of birthday champagne, all the liquor plus all snacks in the mini-bar – before more or less passing out sometime in the middle of the night.
 

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