Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Perspectives: A Big Life

A former newspaper reporter's assignment leads to a lifelong friendship with a man who battled a food addiction.




 

We’ve all probably laughed at physical comedy — the tumbles on “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” the coffee table that breaks under Chris Farley’s weight on “Saturday Night Live,” even the not-meant-to-be-funny “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial.

As I watched “Fat Man Falls into Pizza Shop,” a set of two videos posted on YouTube to elicit chuckles, I only grew angry. I don’t remember the view count. One was too many.

The 550-pound “fat man” was Ed Adams, my friend. As he entered a Penn Hills pizza shop to pick up his order, he tripped and fell. Embarrassed, he struggled to get up, dusted off his bruised ego and body, paid for the pizza and left. Over and done.

Or so Ed thought.

An employee, who found Ed’s fall funny, uploaded the shop’s security videos for public view. A friend told Ed. He was mortified. For two weeks, he refused to share why he was so glum. At my prompting, he called the owner. The videos came down.

I met Ed, who suffered from morbid obesity and depression, in 2001 when, in hopes of helping others who suffered physically and emotionally because of their weight, he reached out to the local weekly newspaper and made the offer for a reporter to follow him through his bariatric surgery recovery. As fate had it, I got that assignment.

During our pre-surgery meeting, I focused my gaze on Ed’s striking blue eyes to avoid staring at the swollen tops of his fluid-filled feet, his misshapen legs and the mattress that caved under his 746 pounds. What I didn’t see that day was his huge heart, which eventually he shared with me.

As the interview concluded, he handed me a handwritten resume on yellow legal paper. My jaw dropped. 

Before his eating addiction took hold, Ed was a standout Penn Hills High School athlete scouted by Major League teams. He was named 1977 WPIAL Baseball Player of the Year and as an All-American High School Baseball member. The talents that earned him headlines in the local newspapers also won him a scholarship to play Division I baseball at the University of South Carolina.

Yet to only acknowledge his accomplishments as a star athlete diminishes his achievements as a morbidly obese man.

After earning a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh, Ed helped countless students at Community College of Allegheny County, where he was an adjunct instructor and student support specialist. 

At the time of his death in August 2016, he also ran an adult softball league, served as a state director for the National Softball Association and chaired the Penn Hills Sports Hall of Fame. He never would have hesitated to give the size-5X shirt off his back to someone in need. 

Ed’s achievements would become the thread of my newspaper series — and in a book we would write together about his struggles.

Nearly 40 percent of adults in the United States are obese, according to 2015-16 statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 5 percent of men and nearly 10 percent of women are considered morbidly obese.

“Blatant Dehumanization of People with Obesity,” a study published in April 2019 on behalf of the Obesity Society, provides the first evidence that people who are obese are considered “less human.” Ed felt that way. Often. The YouTube videos drove that home by bringing to light how society accepts “fat shaming” as laughable.

Mental health expert Johann Hari, in his book “Lost Connections,” cites research that found that the time obese patients began overeating usually correlated with a traumatic event they had no other coping mechanism for — and that obesity was actually a symptom of that problem. His father’s death when Ed was 11 and the loss of his college baseball scholarship because he was shutting down fed his weight gain many times over.

No matter the pounds, Ed retained the drive of an athlete. His competitive nature enabled him to repeatedly battle food addiction and depression from 1979, when his compulsive eating began, until he died.

Ed’s eyes are burned into my memory, not his weight. Intense and kind, they occasionally brimmed with tears. Like the day he finally told me about the YouTube videos. 

The viewers who laughed didn’t know Ed’s story. His struggles to be “normal.” The hundreds of pounds lost and regained.

Sadly, the pizza shop incident had an encore. The former employee reposted the videos a year later. Ed threatened legal action. They came down again.

Though Ed is gone, I still search YouTube for them from time to time. Just in case.  

Zandy Dudiak works in nonprofit communications and as a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. She and Ed Adams co-authored “Dying to Eat: Confessions of a Food Addict,” published in January. She is also the author of “Remembering Monroeville: From Frontier to Boomtown” and maintains a blog about the 1977 kidnap-murder of a Wilkinsburg schoolgirl, “One Day in November: Who Killed Beth Barr?”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Back to School: 20 Famous Pittsburghers' Yearbook Photos

Can you put names to the faces of these notable Pittsburgh graduates?

Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Clint Hurdle’s team was respectable, and in a contending position at the All-Star break. Then the bottom fell out, and the Pirates have looked like Little Leaguers ever since. All that remains now is to see how far they can actually sink.

The 400-Word Review: Ready or Not

Don't mistake this for another half-hearted teen scream. "Ready or Not" is an enjoyable horror satire.

Don't Let Headlines Keep You Away from the South Side

The weekend volcano went off on East Carson on Saturday night. That doesn't mean the neighborhood has a fundamental problem.

Steelers Challenge: Making the Most of Big Ben’s Final Years

The Steelers couldn’t find a franchise quarterback between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. Now, with Roethlisberger as the sole remaining link to the team’s Super Bowl success, the time for another championship run is now — or it might not be for a while.

Restaurant Review: Alta Via

With its first new restaurant in 15 years, the big Burrito Restaurant Group proves it still has it.

The Amazing and Important Things Being Taught Off Campus

For Pittsburgh’s universities, some of the most dynamic research and learning take place beyond campus borders.

A Helping Hand: School Supplies as Easy as ABC

The Education Partnership helps teachers get what they need without breaking the bank.

Coworking Gets Down to Business in Pittsburgh

Sharing a workspace becomes more than just a place to plug in a laptop for entrepreneurs seeking an environment where they interact and help others.

Find Out How to Play Hockey at the Bottom of a Pool

Penguins skate on the ice; stingrays swim below it. See what happens when they toss the puck in the pool.

A Unique Honor for the King of Dukes

Duquesne basketball legend Chuck Cooper broke the NBA’s color line in 1950; next year, he’s getting a posthumous, one-of-a-kind honor at his former campus.

Our 50 Years: Myron Cope on Sports

In the earliest years of Pittsburgh Magazine, we didn’t quite know how to cover sports — so we just let Myron Cope say whatever he wanted.

Pigeon Bagels Opens In Squirrel Hill

Gab Taube opened a standalone location for her popular bagel business in July and we're very happy about it.

Power Bites Offer a Healthy Snack Alternative For People of All Ages

Sharif Rasheed created the tasty treat for his son, Malcolm.

The Latest Restaurant and Cafe Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to casual riverfront dining, beloved bagels and new coffee spots, while bidding a fond farewell to a popular tap room.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Back to School: 20 Famous Pittsburghers' Yearbook Photos

Back to School: 20 Famous Pittsburghers' Yearbook Photos

Can you put names to the faces of these notable Pittsburgh graduates?

Comments

Watch: Rare and in Color Footage of Pittsburgh in 1928

Watch: Rare and in Color Footage of Pittsburgh in 1928

Film from the 1920s is most always in black and white. We stumbled onto this short reel from 1928 after it had gone through an early hand-coloring process. It gives you an idea how things really looked in Pittsburgh 91 years ago.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Latest Restaurant and Cafe Openings in Pittsburgh

The Latest Restaurant and Cafe Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to casual riverfront dining, beloved bagels and new coffee spots, while bidding a fond farewell to a popular tap room.

Comments

Big Changes Are Coming to Fish Nor Fowl

Big Changes Are Coming to Fish Nor Fowl

We have details on the launch of the restaurant's second chapter, plus updates on other Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group projects.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

For those who can’t stand the idea of leaving their dogs home alone on a beautiful day, these dog-friendly stores, restaurants and bars in the Pittsburgh area welcome humans and canines alike.

Comments

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

Even novice runners can work their way up to these fun and (mildly) challenging races.

Comments


Don't Let Headlines Keep You Away from the South Side

Don't Let Headlines Keep You Away from the South Side

The weekend volcano went off on East Carson on Saturday night. That doesn't mean the neighborhood has a fundamental problem.

Comments

What's Your Favorite Happy Hour?

What's Your Favorite Happy Hour?

After Dark wants to know about your preferred spot for after-work drinks and deals.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Clint Hurdle’s team was respectable, and in a contending position at the All-Star break. Then the bottom fell out, and the Pirates have looked like Little Leaguers ever since. All that remains now is to see how far they can actually sink.

Comments

Coach Mike Tomlin Confronts Sorrow from the Heart

Coach Mike Tomlin Confronts Sorrow from the Heart

The Steelers’ head coach dug deep while leading his team through its grief over the loss of beloved assistant coach Darryl Drake. The words were hard to find but Tomlin found them while revealing a side of himself the fans and media don’t always see.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Ready or Not

The 400-Word Review: Ready or Not

Don't mistake this for another half-hearted teen scream. "Ready or Not" is an enjoyable horror satire.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Good Boys

The 400-Word Review: Good Boys

This raunchy comedy isn't just funny — it's surprisingly sweet.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Love on the Farm: The Beauty of a Barn Wedding

Love on the Farm: The Beauty of a Barn Wedding

Even in the city, the barn wedding trend is on the rise.

Comments

Cookie Table Contest Winners and Runners Up: A Taste of Pittsburgh

Cookie Table Contest Winners and Runners Up: A Taste of Pittsburgh

Cookie tables are wonderful things in and of themselves, but more and more couples choose to go above and beyond.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
After Controversy, Luxury Condos Underway in Sewickley

After Controversy, Luxury Condos Underway in Sewickley

After being delayed two years by court challenges, 400/420 Centennial broke ground in August.

Comments

Get a Sneak Peek at Homes About to Hit the Market

Get a Sneak Peek at Homes About to Hit the Market

Launched by North Hills resident Wendy Gilch, Selling Later is a new online community that allows future home sellers and prospective home buyers to connect — before the house is listed.

Comments