Steve Vaught's Journey as the Fat Man Walking

Walking Across the USA to Lose Weight

Steve Vaught the Fat Man Walking

Chris Hondros / Getty Images News

Steve Vaught, known as the "Fat Man Walking," began a walk across the United States on April 10, 2005, and ended in Manhattan on May 9, 2006, as he crossed the George Washington Bridge. His goal was to lose weight and regain his life. While most cross-country walkers complete the journey in a few months, he took over a year.

Vaught says he lost over 100 pounds during the walk. At the beginning of his walk, Steve Vaught was married with two children. During the course of the walk, he and his wife decided to divorce, which he reported as being an amicable decision.

Steve Vaught's Weight Journey

Steve Vaught estimates he weighed 410 pounds when he began his walk. He was not always obese. He says he was a "lanky" teenager and a physically fit and muscular Marine. His weight gain began 15 years before the start of his walk, following an accident in which he struck and killed two elderly pedestrians. When he was turning 40, he decided a good intervention was to walk across the country to lose weight from Oceanside, California to New York City in five to six months. It took him over a year.

Problems With Long Distance Walking When Obese

Obesity can cause many problems for walking and other cardio exercises. Extra weight means more stress on the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Footwear also breaks down faster when you have extra weight, and a pair of athletic shoes may lose its cushioning and support before the end of its usual 500-mile lifespan. At any weight, it is wise to get a full medical check-up before considering a long-distance trek.

Vaught didn't do any specific training before starting his long distance walk. It is always wise to train gradually, with 30 minutes to one-hour workouts throughout the week and one longer walk. Increase the mileage of the longer walk by 1 mile per week or 2 miles every two weeks. This schedule allows you to build your endurance and also allows you to test your gear and clothing to see how it will perform for you. Otherwise, you may increase your risk of injuries such as Steve Vaught faced, which included blisters and stress fractures.

Route Walked Across the U.S.

Steve Vaught began his "Fat Man Walking" route in Oceanside, California with a goal of reaching New York City. The route went from California through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

Support on Steve Vaught's Walk

Steve Vaught began the journey camping in a tent each night. He carried food and water with him in a backpack. He started the journey without any support vehicle assistance. He began the walk with a few sponsors, but in general, this was a journey for his own health and not a charity publicity walk. He stayed in a hotel at times. Film crews joined him from time to time as his story became known.

His Journey

Steve Vaught posted updates on his website (now inactive). By early November 2005, he had reached the halfway mark across the USA, over 1400 miles. After taking a break over the holidays, he was back walking in January 2006 and had reached the 2000 mile mark.

By March 2006, he had reached Ohio and took another break to work with a physical trainer on diet and toning. Back on the road, he had 600 miles to go to NYC. He finished May 9, 2006, and appeared on the "Today Show" May 10.

Did The Fat Man Walking Lose Weight?

Steve Vaught succeeded in his goal to lose weight and improve his health. Before his journey, Vaught says he could hardly walk through a store. His physical condition improved steadily, and when he had a check-up en route had a good health ticket with a strong EKG. By March 2006 he had lost 114 pounds and was under 300 pounds. By January 2006 he was averaging 15 miles per day in all kinds of weather and carrying a pack. He was diagnosed with stress fractures in his feet in March but continued to walk.

Quotes from "The Today Show" May 10, 2006

"I think everybody needs to take a long walk sometimes." "It was a brutal walk." He was impressed with the kindness of people along the way and said he learned to live in the present and learn what you have to enjoy right now.

What Happened Next for Steve Vaught?

In August 2006, Steve Vaught announced his next adventure. He would begin wandering east from San Diego "relying on the kindness of strangers." His goal would be to circle the earth, with a combination of accepting rides and walking. He planned to journal his journeys. As of 2018, this has not been realized.

The documentary and book planned about the walk failed to come to fruition. Harper Collins imprint Regan Books had given him a contract to write a book, but Vaught disagreed with the publisher over the content of the book. He has said in interviews that he didn't plan on becoming a folk hero and his goal was to lose weight. Vaught's website, where he had continued writing journal entries, went inactive and he last communicated via a Twitter account in 2013. No further word has been heard from Vaught as of 2018.

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