The greatest danger, that of losing one’s own self, may pass off quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, that of an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc., is sure to be noticed.

~ Soren Kierkegaard

Come with me back in time a decade or two where I am swimming in one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. I’ve had my fill of barbequed meat with all the trimmings. Washed it down with some generic beer from a can. Chatted with all the people I can tolerate. So I’m chilling, way out past the dock, away from the din of myriad related-by-marriage offspring. At over 300 pounds I float effortlessly, my toes tickled by gentle waves. All I have to do is lean back and I’m a pontoon uncapsizeable. I made that word up, according to my spell checker. I don’t care. It’s my blog. I am one with the lake. The water my headphones, a Zen soundtrack playing in my head.

I fall asleep.

Fast forward to this past Saturday. Over seven years since my weight loss surgery. I’m 185 pounds of where-the-hell-did-all-that-weight-go; not lean, yet no longer a whale. I’m with the kids at a pool just south of town. Between sno cones and popcorn, we’re working on floating. For the first time, Zoe gets it. She and the other two have floating contests. Four minutes – give or take, since I got tired of counting around two-hundred-ten-one-thousand – is the new record. “Come on Dad, float with us!” I’m game, so I lean back . . . and damn near drown. I try again, thrusting at the waist, trying to penetrate the surface. Did that sound raunchy? Sorry. No luck. My feet hit rock bottom.

What the hell?

I pose the question to Chris, a scientist, über-smart, a friend and fellow blogger. Here’s the deal:

As I understand it, it is all about cell density. Fat cells are big and loosely spaced, so fat tissue is not so dense. Muscle cells are all wound up on each other – kind of like a rope – so muscle tissue is much denser than fat. The denser something is, the more likely it is to sink in water. Fat tissue is generally less dense than water, so it floats. Muscle tissue is denser than water so it sinks.

How’s that?

How’s that?! You mean if I find myself in water over my head again, I might have to actually move something to stay afloat? Doggy paddle? Or, worse yet, I might have to resort to some hunter-orange-ugly Personal Floatation Device?


The Unsinkable One?!

Shit . . .

[photo credit]


24 thoughts on “Buoyant

  1. Yes, you. Shit.

    When I was in college, my dad occasionally called me to ask if I would do the swim leg of a triathlon for one of his buddies who couldn’t swim. We’d enter as a coed team, I’d swim the mile in the lake, and Dad’s friend would bike, run and finish the event. When I wasn’t training [which was rarely in college] I ALWAYS swam faster when I was… pudgier. I took long, slow strokes [Did that sound raunchy? Sorry.] and my… pudgy… body glided through the water swiftly.

    You’ll have to work to save yourself now. That’s not a bad thing.

  2. Get a raft. (My preferred method of pool movement.) Seems like a small price to pay for shedding an entire person. 🙂

    I guess it’s just proof that everything has its benefits if you look.

  3. This explains a lot. And here I thought I had become an uber swimmer when in reality–it’s all the peanut butter cookies I’ve been eating! Damn!!!

  4. Chris is such a smartie! I swear he must know everything 🙂

    It’s interesting, and I know we talked about this before, how there is somewhat of a longing for your old body, the old you. I think it’s a beautiful thing, to be honest. I mean, I’m glad you’re at a healthier weight now, for sure, and I know you are too. Too many people in this world have so much loathing about their bodies, myself included. It’s refreshing that you found things to love about your body, even when it was large.

  5. Uber-smart is pushing it, my friend. But I like your spirit – It’s my blog and I’ll make up words if I want to! Of course, you’ll lose some of that spirit after a couple of hours of treading water.

  6. We’re going to have to get you water noodles

  7. So, that’s why I float so well! I’m sure you can find a personal floatation device that is not an ugly orange. Seriously, even if you don’t float as well, you have to proud of yourself for getting thinner and healthier. I’m sure everyone who loves you is happy that you did.

  8. HA! Good for you with the surgery first of all! Second of all… see if they make those lifejackets-built-in-speedos… that should work! 🙂 Your.Welcome.

  9. the waternoodle suggestion would work… i sit on one while stringing one behind my back and under my arms. makes an improvised floating chair… or throne if you’re so inclined… congrats on the surgery success! i’ve seen it work magic for two folks at work! life changing to the max!

    1. I’m afraid water noodles would only make me look like one of those things sticking out of a party drink . . .

  10. I have just come from the YMCA pool near me where I go daily to move whatever doesn’t want to move above water. I always go the deep end and pretend I’m a rockette. People just see my head moving, nothing else.

    One woman this morning said, “Are you standing?? It says 6 feet of water! How are you keeping afloat?”

    Um..er….an orange flotation device?? You totally have just ruined my day with this post.

  11. I’m sure the tradeoff is worth it–I’d like to be a little less floatable these days. I could really relate to the ability to escape the in-laws!

  12. This post made me laugh out loud! I loved it.
    Are you saying that when you read that reply, stating that possbily you now have more muscle than fat, you didn’t strike a pose or two in front of the mirror?!
    I totaly would have… for real.

  13. This was a very fun post. It is interesting, my father always brags about the fact that he can float forever, but he isn’t overweight. How does that happen?

    (I always assumed it was because he is full of hot air.)

  14. Great story and it made me laugh, but I’m left wondering what happened to the skin after the fat went away?

  15. hey I added your blog on my site as a “saucey blog” Thought you may want to know. Oh- I can float if I want my head half way under water and I am REAL still…. because I’m air headed… I just don’t like water in my ears.

  16. Dude what about little floaties on your upper arms and ankles? Maybe one of those big black innertubes!

  17. Umm… Water wings? I’m predisposed to thinness and I float fine. I think it just takes some practice to be you there alone in the water without the movement OR the padding as a buffer. Personally, I struggle with the being still.

  18. Hmm, having never seen you in the flesh (did that sound gross? your wife is too amazing for me to mean it in a bad way), I see you as huge, larger than life with your wisdom and gentleness.

    Proud of you.

    And, as ever, cheering you on in your efforts to *be* for as long as you can!

  19. michael.offworld July 1, 2009 — 9:38 pm

    I sink too. Swimming is work! We’ll have to head for the Dead Sea. Is that the salty one? The one that let’s everyone float, chubby and thin?

  20. What do they call a guy who can swim but has no arms of legs? – “Clever Dick”

  21. Yeah, so far that’s the only bonus I’ve discovered about being “fluffy”. 🙂 It’s a pretty awesome perk as they go, I guess!

  22. I float so easily that I imagine if I’m ever on a ship that goes down people will try climbing up on my lap until the rescue boats appear. It will be damned sad to have to beat them off with a piece of ship hull, but that’s what you get for not eating extra cheesecake. 🙂

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