98 Pounds Down, 71 Columns Up: A Year of "Making Weight" with Daniel Finney

May 3, 2016

Just over a year ago, Daniel Finney, metro columnist for the Des Moines Register, made a big decision--to try to lose 300 pounds. Shortly after that decision, he made an even braver choice--to share the journey publicly in the state capital's paper of record. 

He's lost nearly 100 pounds and has gained hundreds of readers to his "Making Weight" column. While the vast majority of those readers are fans and supporters, documenting his journey to get healthy hasn't been a fully positive experience. 

"I may get 99 positive comments, but then there will be someone who, for some reason, wants to be angry or is angry that day and has decided that I am the thing that has made them angry, and maybe I have. And they will either bring up my weight or attack the series as pointless fluff."

In an attempt to get to the bottom of his relationship with food, Finney has frankly discussed both childhood trauma and depression. He finds parallels between obesity and mental health: both have a language problem and a shaming problem.

"We use words like 'demons' and other kind of scary, mythological monster talk when we're talking about people who have addictions or mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. I don't think we do that when we have say heart disease or other kinds of health problems. We don't say to someone who has high blood pressure, 'Oh, he's got the demon of high blood pressure.'"

Similarly, when it comes to obesity, Finney says, people blame the individual.

"People look at obesity in the same way, as 'Well, that person has heart problems and they're fat. They deserve it.' But obesity is a lot more complicated than that, and appetite is more complicated than that. And it's tied to our mental health and why we eat and what we eat and what quantities. They often have emotional components. They do for me. So writing about the mental health part of it is very important to me because many people look at those of us who are obese and say 'Well, just eat less and move more and you'll be fine and put the fork down.' And it's really, really not that simple."

Still, he keeps trucking towards his goal. 

"If there's any surprise, I'm still surprised and humbled that there are so many people who have followed along and for the most part sent very positive, upbeat and encouraging letters, emails and phone calls."

Finney, along with his medical team, will be presenting on May 12nd at the Downtown Des Moines YMCA. In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with him about the journey.