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Walter Hudson: How he became the fattest man in the world

June 30, 2010
By Mary Lou Williams, M. Ed.

The most dramatic example of the effect of lack of exercise on weight gain is the story of Walter Hudson.

Walter Hudson was the fattest man in the world when he got stuck in his bathroom door in 1987 and had to be extricated by the local fire department. This happened on Hempstead, Long Island in New York, but it became a national story and captured the attention of the country.

When Walter Hudson got stuck in his bathroom door, it is estimated that the weighed 1,400 pounds. This is an estimate because the industrial scale used to weigh him broke at 1,000 pounds. The doctors who examined him at the time estimated that he weighed about 1,400 pounds. When he died in 1991 at the age of 46, a forklift had to be used to lower his coffin into the ground.

The Turning Point

Walter Hudson had been a fat child. A picture of him at 7 years old shows a fat little boy. At the age of 12, he weighed 200 pounds; certainly obese, but nowhere near the behemoth he became when he got stuck in his bathroom door.

How did he go from 200 pounds to 1,400 pounds? How did such a thing happen? How was it possible?

The turning point in Walter Hudson's life occurred when he was 12 years old. When he was 12, he fell and broke a leg. This injury left him bedridden. By the time he was 15, he weighed 300 pounds, and he never left his home again. He spent his time talking on the telephone, reading the Bible, listening to gospel music, watching television and eating, especially eating.

He spent most of his waking hours eating. His typical breakfast was composed of 32 link sausages, a pound of bacon, a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread with grape jelly and a pot of coffee.

A typical lunch was two large sandwiches, a pile of fried potatoes and a large bottle of soda.

An average dinner was four or five ham steaks, a half-dozen potatoes, a half-dozen cobs of corn, a bottle of soda and an apple pie.

Between-meal-snacks consisted of a handful of candy bars, to keep up his energy, you know. All this was paid for mainly with a disability check he received because of his childhood injury.

Lack of Exercise

Not only did Walter Hudson never leave his home again, he hardly left his bed again, except to go to the bathroom. This was his only exercise. And it was a relatively rare occurrence since he could go weeks without moving his bowels. When he did, it took him an hour to navigate the 20 feet from his bed to the bathroom.

It was on one of these excursions that he fell and got stuck in his bathroom door and had to be extricated by local fire, police and ambulance crews, who worked for four hours to set him free.

What finally happened to Walter Hudson?

On Christmas Eve 1991, he died of congestive heart failure at the age of 46. On Christmas Day, just after midnight, police broke down a door, removed a wall and brought in a forklift to take his body out of the house. For the first time in a quarter of a century, Walter Hudson finally left his home.

I believe it was the immobilization precipitated by his broken leg and perpetuated by his fear that enabled Walter Hudson to reach the gargantuan weight of 1,400 pounds. His leg eventually must have healed, but what kept him housebound was his fear - fear of the ridicule, humiliation and rejection he felt sure he would face if he ventured out into the world.

The combination of the mountainous amounts of food he ate and his almost total immobility made it possible for Walter Hudson to achieve his status as the fattest man in the world.

The topic of next week's article will be the essentiality of exercise for permanent weight loss.

Mary Lou Williams, M. Ed., is a lecturer and writer in the field of nutrition and a Whiskey Creek resident. She welcomes inquires. She can be reached at 267-6480.



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