Man Crosses U.S. to Walk Off Pounds, Past
By MATTHEW VERRINDER (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
May 08, 2006 10:12 PM EDT
FAIRFIELD, N.J. - Steve Vaught has lost more than 100 pounds on his walk across the country, but he's regaining his sanity. At 410 pounds a year ago, the 40-year-old father of two from San Diego was battling a severe eating disorder and deep depression, caused by the guilt over accidentally killing two elderly pedestrians 15 years ago.
"It threw me into a tailspin. In the three years after the accident I gained 150 pounds," Vaught said. "When something like that happens, you lose the ability to care about anything. You don't put value on anything, because you know it can end at any second."
Vaught's tipping point came last year when he was so obese that he couldn't walk across a department store. So he decided a walk from Oceanside, Calif., to New York City would be just the cure.
He set out on his journey on April 10, 2005, hoping to complete the trip in six months. By early November, he had reached the halfway point after walking 1,400 miles. After taking a break for the holidays, he resumed walking in January.
He has kept a running log of his trek on his Web site, TheFatManWalking.com, which has gotten hundreds of thousands of hits, while others have watched him on Oprah Winfrey's TV show.
"People try to make this about calories and scales, but this is about living your life," he said Monday, walking briskly along Route 46 - about 25 miles from his goal - as cars hummed past and beeped, a large paunch still part of his 305 pounds. "I spent 15 years either regretting the past or fearing the future. Now I'm living in the present."
He says he's gone through 15 pair of shoes, 12 pairs of pants, three shirts, 30 pairs of socks and his own sanity - twice.
His first bout of deep depression was in New Mexico, where he stopped at a truck stop and didn't want to continue through the desert. The next time was in an Amarillo, Texas, hotel when he went off his antidepressants and stayed there for seven days.
Vaught's other problem on the trail has been a lack of healthy food to eat. Most of his options have been fast food. He says he eats what's available when he stops, trying to stock up on carbohydrates in the morning and eat protein about 70 percent of the time.
Early in the journey, he slept mostly in a tent, but also sleeps in motels along the route. The bearded hiker has no formal support team, but is often accompanied by a documentary filmmaker.
"This trip has been horrible and it's been wonderful," he said. "But the best thing about all of this is the people I've met."
Just then, as Vaught rested on a railroad tie just off the highway, 49-year-old Eddie Day of Montville pulled up, beeping the horn of his white sport utility vehicle. Day quickly jumped out, ran up to Vaught and told him what an inspiration he was.
"He tells America to get off its butt," Day said. "There are people who don't get off their butts to go to the gym in their own hometown, and he's out here walking across the country, you know?"
Vaught said he expects to conclude the journey Tuesday night, crossing the George Washington Bridge to New York City.