Does “Fat Dad” Have to Mean “Fat Kid”?
I LOVE BEING A DAD. It’s the second most important title I have. Husband is number one, and I’ll say more about my amazing wife, Colette, later—I could write a romance novel about that gorgeous woman. But being a good father is an achievement that I’m immensely proud of.
I love my kids so much that it makes me cry. Sitting here right now, thinking about each one of them individually brings tears to my eyes. Colette and I have five amazing children. There’s Gavin, who’s writing this book with me; my girls, Avia and Emmi; and another two little guys, Brock and Daxton.
The whole reason I started on YouTube was so I could spend more time with my kids. That’s another story I’ll tell you more about later on, but long story short, I worked all kinds of jobs before I discovered that YouTube could provide for my family and allow me to actually see them on a regular basis. In one of my first ever YouTube videos, I put on one of Colette’s unitards and did a pretty damn sexy dance, if I do say so myself. (That dance pretty much sums up why we have five kids—and explains where the Shaytards tag came from.) I didn’t know then it would lead me to where I am today.
What happens next is one of the things I love the very most about children: they don’t ask questions about what I’m doing or look at me like I’m ridiculous. They see me and they know I’m a dinosaur, and what do you do when you see a friggin’ dinosaur in your room? You scream and run!
My kids are my medicine. There are times during my day when I feel overwhelmed or stressed out about a project, or this book deadline, or a comment that I just read on one of our Shaytards vlogs, or any number of things that us humans get stressed out about during a typical day. The only thing that makes me feel better is a good wrestling session with one of my kids. It works without fail every single time. It’s like a secret drug that nobody knows about. I’ll be sitting at my desk, trying to answer the dump truck’s worth of messages that pour into my Gmail every twenty minutes, feeling like crap and on the verge of friggin’ out. But then I’ll get up from what I’m doing and go hang out with my kids. Now, instead of being a thirty-four-year old man who has to answer important emails about production budgets, I’m a Velociraptor. As I enter their room with my head bobbing back and forth in a lizardlike motion and my hands clutched in front of my body, mimicking dinosaur claws, I let out a screech that lets my children know a Velociraptor is about to attack them.
What happens next is one of the things I love the very most about children: they don’t ask questions about what I’m doing or look at me like I’m ridiculous. They see me and they know I’m a dinosaur, and what do you do when you see a friggin’ dinosaur in your room? You scream and run! Then I chase and tickle and bite their necks like any dinosaur would, pretending to rip their spinal cords out through their skins—you know, like any good daddy would. And as they squeal with laughter and giggle uncontrollably, the stress of the world raging inside my head melts away into a puddle of it-doesn’t-matter juice.
I love my kids more than I can even explain, and I would never set out to do anything that would harm those who are so precious to me. I want to be a good role model for them and pass on all the lessons I’ve learned in my life. But there is one thing I’m not proud of, something that I definitely don’t want them to follow: I used to be dangerously obese. Back when I started my ShayLoss channel on YouTube, I weighed in at 281 pounds—and was rapidly closing in on three hundred pounds. I’m five foot nine, so I was almost a square. How did it happen?
I was working long hours and then coming home and pulling all-nighters, watching movies from midnight till dawn and fueling those marathon sessions with corn chips and salsa and leftover pizza I scrounged from the fridge. Most days the only exercise I got was hitting buttons on my computer keyboard.
One day I’d had enough — not just of being fat, but of feeling bad. Of not being able to play with my kids without running out of breath. I used to be a vibrant young man who could jump and flip and punch and swim and do all kinds of stuff. But by the age of twenty-nine, I had become a guy who could only upload videos to YouTube. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be able to ride on a surfboard, glide across a skateboard ramp or ski slope, and do all the exciting, crazy stuff I’d once done. At the time, it didn’t seem that long ago that I could do all the things that had given me such a buzz.
I picked up a copy of a book called Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. This is a book that was first published when I was in kindergarten, so it’s been around awhile. My parents had it on their bookshelf for my entire life. When I was a nineteen-year-old Morman missionary in Trinidad, I recognized it right away and decided to finally read it. It’s all about eating mostly “living” food that has high water content that acts as a kind of natural cleansing agent in your body, especially raw fruits and vegetables. That made a lot of sense to me, so I decided to give it a go to jump-start the process.
Over the next three years, I worked hard, lost over one hundred pounds — documenting the whole process on my ShayLoss channel — and achieved my goal of running a marathon, completing the Los Angeles marathon in March 2012.
Later, after I discovered the Internet, I reached out to Harvey Diamond on MySpace and had a good back-and-forth with him. I told him that his book changed the way I looked at fat, which is totally true—I still rely on its principles to this day. Love it!
Over the next three years, I worked hard, lost over one hundred pounds—documenting the whole process on my ShayLoss channel— and achieved my goal of running a marathon, completing the Los Angeles marathon in March 2012. I’m still dedicated to an active life, and I’ve kept most of that weight off, but from time to time I slip back into some bad habits and lose my grip on that healthy way of life I know I should be following.
My elder son, Gavin, is eleven now. He and I are molded from the same clay; I think he will have the edge on me height-wise once he’s fully grown, but we’re both solidly built. We’re strong people—if I grab Gavin’s leg, I can feel good, solid bone and muscle in there—but it’s way too easy for someone with our body type to tip over into being fat. What I want most of all is to pass on to my son the things I’ve learned about healthy living: the importance of exercising every day and choosing real foods to eat, like delicious, life-filled fruit and vegetables rather than dead-on-the-plate fries and empty-calorie desserts.
But what I fear is that every day, I’m showing Gavin my worst habits: the late-night snacks, the big indulgences, eating until I’m full and then some, the super-size candy at the movies, and getting comfortable on my butt rather than being active and doing the things I love. And I worry that when he sees me falling into those tendencies, he’s learning them for himself.
My biggest question is: Does “fat dad” have to lead to “fat kid”? (I know some of you will hate me using the “F-word” about myself or Gavin. We’ll talk about that some more in a little while.) That’s why we’re here. Gavin and I have decided to do a father-son healthy living challenge, not only so we can lose weight, but so we can feel our best. We’re doing a thirty-day challenge to “go clean,” which means no cookies, no candy, no pop, and no ice cream, choosing fresh, nutrient-rich food as often as possible. We’re going to drink a gallon of water every day, and we’re going to do at least thirty minutes a day of something active, whether it’s swimming, or beach soccer, or running, or working out at the gym. Right now, as I write this, it’s the beginning of what I hope will be the best summer ever.
Being healthy and finding your most fit body—no matter what the numbers on the scale say—isn’t just something you duct-tape onto your life like a makeshift cup holder on the dashboard of your car. No, it has to be a part of your deepest inner life, and the qualities you use to succeed in any area of your life—whether it’s your career, or your relationships with your kids, or friendships, or a hobby—are going to be important in reaching your health goals, too. So we’re going to be talking a lot about honor, integrity, honesty, and hard work here.
Did I mention the fun though? No one wants to do boring stuff, right? We don’t ever want this to feel like work, so it has to be fun.
Gavin and I will be shooting hoops, playing soccer on the beach, going for bike rides, and hiking.
Having a buddy to do a challenge with is huge. When I struggle with my weight, it’s such a big thing to have my brother Casey, or my good friend Rawn, or my gorgeous wife, Colette, come along to do a workout, or even just eat watermelon with me. Gavin and I figure that if we can do this challenge together, we can motivate each other. This is going to be tough, but we have to talk to each other, we have to take this seriously, and we have to do it. We’re a team, so if he’s having a hard time, he can come talk to me. And if I’m struggling and don’t want to exercise, he has to push me.
Gavin and I are keeping a record of our days to show you how things are going, how we feel, which parts are easy, and which ones really suck. We’ll also share any ideas we have for making the process easier. Along the way, I’ll share parts of my bigger journey, from my midwestern upbringing to some of the bigger health challenges I’ve faced as an adult.
You’ll be hearing from both of us in this book: there are extracts from Gavin’s journal here, as well as some actual conversations between Gavin and me as we go through this month of healthy living together. We’re not diet, fitness, or health experts. We just want to show you how we, as regular people, are taking action in our own lives— and taking responsibility for our health and wellness. My greatest hope is that you’ll be inspired to take action, too, whether you’re a parent who wants to set a good example for your kid, or someone who just wants to make a positive change and feel better.
What would be really cool is if you come along for the ride with us. Do the clean challenge with us so we can all be in this together. I speak from experience when I say: you won’t regret it. Gavin is already looking forward to it . . .
I’m excited about this challenge because I want to be healthier so I can play sports better, like soccer and football. But I’m also kind of nervous going into this because I’m lazy and I don’t want to do the work. I don’t want to exercise and I want to eat junk food.
I’ve been wanting to lose weight for a while, but I didn’t have the urge to get my butt off the couch and work out. But now I’m finally sick and tired of sitting around and not being able to climb a rope or do a handstand. This summer I’m going to be in the best shape of my life. Let’s do this.