“New Year, New You”

Originally posted May 4, 2017.
Contains: long-term weight gain

It’s good to be back to writing the more substantial stories again. This was the story I put on hold to write Easter Treats, and it’s been a long road to get this story out, a road that included two stories that I started and then abandoned before starting this one. That second story was inspired by the story “Trapped” by a friend of mine who goes by Atamekia on DeviantArt. (If my stories are too light and fluffy for your tastes, definitely check out his story.) Though I ended up abandoning that story of mine, there was one concept from it that I was fascinated with enough to want to keep: that is, the concept of an automated system, which wasn’t meant to make a man gain weight, making him gain weight. In my original story, it happened by accident, and the protagonist wasn’t an active player in his weight gain. In this story, he is. I think that’s a big part of why I was more interested in this premise than the old one.

As for how I came up with the rest: More than once, I’ve drawn inspiration for my stories from what was going on in my life at the time, and this is probably the case where I’ve done that the most. My employer recently moved to a new office to look more modern and try to attract younger talent, which has also come with a noticeable increase in corporate posturing, unfortunately. I also started working out at the gym at work recently, not to lose weight, but rather to build up muscle and not get winded so easily going up stairs. All of those contributed at least in part to inspiring this story.

Synopsis: Ross is an old head at Eclipse, who has watched the once-corporate company rebrand itself as a hip, cool place to work. Unfortunately, that rebranding has resulted in an office fitness culture that Ross, weighing in around 330 pounds, doesn’t fit in with. When the company announces the “New Year, New You” weight loss competition, his coworker Eva suggests Ross sign up for it and intentionally gain weight to sabotage the company’s total weight lost figure. Ross is game, and he games the competition to help him achieve his goal, gaining weight, confidence, and the muscle mass to carry around his heftier self. But his true victory comes at the end, when he inadvertently upset the competition more than even he expected.

Ross was a big guy. Hovering around 330 pounds, he was easily one of the heaviest employees at his office, and the contrast between him and his coworkers was stark. In the decade-and-a-half that Ross had worked at Eclipse, it had rebranded itself from a standard corporate environment to a cool, chic place to work in an attempt to attract more talent. Against all expectations, including Ross’s own, the effort had worked. Having been hired just before the rebranding began, Ross had watched the company evolve before his eyes.

Though Ross had been skeptical at first, he’d grown to appreciate the changes. The new emphasis on work-life balance and flexible work schedules meant that even though he was working on harder projects as he accrued more clout, he felt like his job was getting less stressful. The more casual outfit expectations made for a more comfortable work day. And the increased focus on diversity meant he didn’t have to work with a bunch of stuffy white guys on the verge of middle age like himself.

But one change kept him from embracing the new office culture: the focus on “employee health and wellness,” which was a nice way of saying that the company wanted its employees skinny. At least, that was how it felt to Ross. In that decade-and-a-half, he’d watched his faithful chicken tenders and cheeseburgers get swapped out for “healthy AND delicious!” options in the cafeteria. He’d watched the company gym expand from a few treadmills and weights in the basement to a facility that more resembled a standalone business than an office gym.

Which wouldn’t have been a problem if Ross’s coworkers just used the gym and left it at that. But group gym sessions before lunch or at the beginning or end of the work day became as much of a staple of office social life as the post-lunch walks. Ross didn’t mind the walks at all, but as more of his coworkers were spending time in the gym, he found himself getting left out of more plans and get-togethers. “You weren’t invited? Oh, right, you weren’t at the gym with us when we were talking about it,” became very familiar words.

And as the office focused more on fitness, the workforce was getting thinner around him. More and more of the new hires were fit, spritely young people who filled the gym up every day. Even Ross’s long-time coworkers, the ones whom he’d worked with since day one and were just as dumpy as him, ended up going down in clothing sizes. By the time that decade-and-a-half had passed, Ross was feeling like the only fat man at Eclipse.

And with the start of the new year, it seemed that was only going to get worse. After the Christmas break, Ross came back to an email in his inbox that had him rolling his eyes from the subject alone:

Join us for the New Year, New You weight loss challenge! Monday, January 3rd, 9:35 AM To all employees! A new year is upon us, and we know you’re all trying to make good on your resolutions. We’re here to help! Many of you already utilize our fitness facilities and health-conscious cafeteria, which are great first steps. But we want to help give you the extra boost to see your goals through to the end! To that effect, we’re starting our New Year, New You weight loss challenge! Here’s how it works: by next Friday, January 14, come down to the New Year, New You table in the gym to weigh yourself. Fill out our e-form with your goal weight, and if you’re interested, we’ll make sure you get weight loss supplies tailored to your goals, such as weight-loss shakes or other supplements, free of charge! At the end of the year, we’ll all weigh in again. In addition to celebrating all the weight we lose together, the employee with the greatest percentage change to their body weight will win a $500 gift card! Remember, you have until January 14 to sign up, so don’t delay! Sincerely, Your Social Committee

“Christ, can you believe this?” Ross asked Eva, who sat at the desk next to his. “You kids are already skinny enough, and they want you to lose more weight?”

“Well that’s nice of you,” Eva chuckled before turning away from her computer screen to look at Ross. “But I’m probably going to do it. I could afford to lose 10 pounds.”

“From where?” Ross exclaimed.

Eva let out another laugh before she asked Ross, “Does it really bother you that much?”

“Well, I’m certainly not on board. If nothing else, I resent the implication that we’re all trying to lose weight.”

Nodding in agreement with an amused smirk, Eva turned back to her computer. “Don’t let them dull your fire, big guy.”

Eva was just about the only one in the office who would even acknowledge Ross’s weight. Even when he joked about it, many of his coworkers danced around the topic, if they didn’t change the subject entirely. A few had asked Ross if he’d tried visiting the gym, before a snarky comment from him taught them better. But Eva, having become quick friends with Ross due to all the projects they worked on together and a shared cynicism about the office culture, was as willing to joke about his size as he was.

But even given that comfort level, Ross did not expect what she suggested next: “Why don’t you sign up for the competition and intentionally gain weight to sabotage the collective weight change total?”

With his eyebrows raised, Ross looked her way and asked, “You’re joking, right?”

“Mostly,” she answered without looking away from her computer screen. “I think it would be hilarious if someone did it. And who else is going to?”

After his eyes lingered pensively in Eva’s direction a while longer, Ross turned back to his computer screens and the six windows he had open. He tried to read through the code to track down the cause of a stubborn bug he’d been assigned, but all he could think about was Eva’s suggestion. Though he had no qualms with being a big guy, the idea of getting bigger intentionally had never crossed his mind. But if he could do it to spite the office fitness culture, he reasoned, that might be all the motivation he needed.

Ross waited until Eva left to refill her tea before he went down to the gym. He’d never been inside the gym before, and seeing all the thinner folks in their athletic gear panting, grunting, and sweating didn’t make for a very appealing sight. The smell was exactly as pleasant as Ross expected in a room full of people sweating profusely, in spite of the ventilation system’s best efforts. At the very least, he was thankful there were only about ten people working out, which made him look slightly less out-of-place than he knew he would have if the gym were full.

It took Ross a bit longer before he spotted the table with a banner hanging from it bearing the words, “New Year, New You”. Behind the table sat a man who looked like he could be one of the fitness instructors who taught the weekly classes in the gym. But Ross knew it was just Jerome from HR.

“Hello, Jerome.”

“Ross!” he exclaimed, with an uncharacteristic amount of excitement carried by his low baritone. “Are you here to sign up for NY-squared?”

“NY… Oh, New Year, New Yo–gotcha. Yes, actually, I am.”

“Excellent! You picked a good time. This is the first lull we’ve had since we sent out the email, and I’m sure it’ll pick up again before lunch. Now,” he said as he stood up, “The first step is to get your starting weight.” He pointed to a scale on the ground before continuing, “Make sure you empty your pockets and take off your shoes.”

Ross put his phone, wallet, and keys on the table and stepped on the back of his shoes in turn, allowing his to step out of them and onto the sale. Curious, Ross looked down, only to see that his round midsection was blocking his view.

“332.4,” Jerome said softly, loud enough only for him and Ross to hear, before typing on the tablet in front of him. “Plenty of room to lose.”

“Mmhm,” Ross begrudgingly concurred, not wanting to give away his true intentions. He stared down a little longer to look at his belly before he stepped off the scale. It stuck out just far enough that if he leaned forward, he could see the display creep over the edge of his billowed shirt. It was a nice, solid protrusion sticking off of his waist, supported by hefty legs and flanked by burly arms, with his rounded face matching the torso it rested upon. He didn’t understand what was supposedly so wrong with it.

“Now, if you could just fill this out, please,” Jerome said as he handed the tablet to Ross. At the top, he saw his name and the number 332.4, along with the Eclipse logo and a logo for a company called New You Transformations. Below that were several boxes, including one labeled, “Target weight.” There was also a question that asked, “Would you like to receive delivery of shakes and other supplements to help you with your weight loss?” along with bubbles labeled “Yes” and “No”. Below that was a greyed out section with questions about his preferences of flavors and products, including protein powder and meal replacement shakes. At the bottom was a waver for Ross to sign with his finger.

“This seems a bit excessive, don’t you think?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. This allows us to tailor the program to meet your needs and preferences, all while respecting your privacy.”


“Oh yeah! Your answers to these questions are between you and New You Transformations. We get your supplies delivered in a package with your name on it, without anyone but you knowing what’s inside. That way, you can either share your weight loss journey, or keep it a personal one, whichever you prefer.”

“Personal, for sure,” Ross replied before he looked down at the tablet. He had to give Eclipse credit: that was the first good idea he’d heard so far. The signature box was greyed out, and there was an asterisk next to the “Target weight” field, so it seemed he had to give an answer to that question. After furrowing his brow, he tapped the box and typed in “500”, curious to see what would happen.

Once the target weight was entered, a little green check mark appeared next to the box. The text of the next question changed to ask Ross if he would like supplies to help him with his weight gain. All the questions in the greyed out section also changed to reflect Ross’s change in intended direction. With raised eyebrows, Ross answered “Yes” to the first question and entered his preferences in the rest. He wanted his shakes to be chocolate flavored. He chose powder rather than pre-mixed shakes, so he could get his supplies in smaller deliveries and avoid arousing suspicions. And he opted for both meal replacement shakes and protein supplement shakes, while declining metabolism boost supplements and energy drinks.

After Ross signed the waiver and submitted the form, his answers disappeared from the screen. With a satisfied smile, he handed the tablet back to Jerome. “All set, I suppose.”

“Great! We’ll get the first round of deliveries in two weeks, once the signup deadline has passed. I suppose I’ll be seeing you in the gym more often?”

“Oh yeah,” Ross assured him. That much wasn’t a lie. If Ross was going to carry around all that new weight, he knew he’d need the muscle to do it. Though he’d be keeping plenty of space between himself and the cardio equipment, he had every intention of putting the company’s weightlifting machines through their paces.

On the morning of Monday the 17th, Ross received a box labeled with only his name. As the faculties assistant put it down on his desk, he leaned in and whispered, “It’ll only be a box for this first week because of the supplies that are in there. After that, since you opted for powders, they’ll come in envelopes.”

“How do you know I went with powders?” Ross asked suspiciously as he turned toward the assistant.

“The size of the box, kiddo,” the older man replied in hushed tones. “It’s really easy to tell who opted for liquid shakes, who chose powders, and who’s getting no shakes at all.”

After nodding in acknowledgement, Ross asked, “Why are you whispering?”

“Jerome told me you preferred discretion. That’s why the box only has your name on it, no logos or anything.” With a smile, the assistant leaned back and returned to his cart. “Good luck,” he said quietly before he walked away to make his other deliveries.

Ross stood up and retrieved his key from his pocket to cut the tape off the box. Inside, he found two large, resealable pouches, one labeled “protein supplement” that looked about the size of a large bag of chips, and one labeled “meal replacement” that was twice as big. There was also an opaque bottle that rattled as Ross picked it up, like there was something metal inside. In a clear plastic pouch, he found a rubbery-looking wrist band with a bulge on one of the long sides. Finally, there was a letter sitting up against the side of the box:

Hello! If you’re receiving this box, that means you’ve chosen to enroll in the New You Transformations program. Congratulations! Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, gain muscle, or just get fit, our goal is to help you achieve your goals. In this box, you’ll find the supplies you need to get you started with your specified goals. This includes your first two weeks’ worth of any shakes and supplies you might have chosen to receive. If you’ve opted to receive shakes in a powder form, these should include a shaker bottle that you can use to mix them. But most importantly, you will also find our patented NYT wristband and a charging dock for it. Use this while working out in your company’s gym to monitor your workout intensity and get more detailed feedback on how on-track you are to reach your goal. If you wear the wristband when you weigh yourself on the NYT scale that will be delivered to your facility, your progress will be updated automatically. The information gathered by the wristband will also be used to update the quantity of supplies you receive, and can be accessed at the website at the bottom of this letter. You can also compare your progress to that of others in your office. Note that you may opt to make your progress public for your coworkers to see, or keep it to yourself. We hope you find our services helpful, and we wish you a successful year!

Ross put the letter aside and pulled out the supplies to examine them. He plugged in the charging station for his wristband first, leaving it on a far corner of his desk. He put the wristband on it to charge fully and turned his attention to the bags of powder. After opening the meal replacement one, he was surprised to find it smelled quite good, like hot chocolate mix. He was also surprised by how much powder there was, in comparison with the size of the scoop resting on top. He’d have to drink quite a few of those shakes every day to finish it all within two weeks. In the meantime, he put a scoop of the powder in the bottle, deciding to save the protein powder until he started working out. After he closed the meal replacement powder, the bags went into the bottom drawer of his desk.

Ross took the bottle to the break room to fill it with water. He was thankful it was opaque, as that meant he could fill it up like he was just getting a drink of water like anyone else. He shook it on the way back to his desk and sipped on the shake as he worked. It tasted better than he was expecting, like a thick chocolate milk. It was also surprisingly filling. But Ross knew that wouldn’t stop him from eating a real lunch, or downing plenty more of the shake as the day went on.

And indeed, Ross managed to eat a filling lunch with Eva and his other coworkers as he often did. He had a salad doused in dressing, as well as the entrée of the day: a lean chicken dinner with veggies on the side. It wasn’t as hearty as he would have liked, but he knew the meal replacement shakes would pick up the slack there.

After Ross and his team returned from their post-lunch walk, Ross snuck another scoop of meal replacement shake into his bottle and filled it up in the break room. With most of his coworkers still out on their walks, he gave it a quick shake and started drinking it on the way back to his desk. Between his previous meal replacement shake and his respectably-sized lunch, Ross was feeling quite comfortably full before he went on his walk. The stroll had helped his food settle and freed up a bit of digestive space, so he figured drinking another shake would be no issue.

But as he downed the shake on his way back to his desk, he could tell it was struggling for space as soon as it hit his stomach. He tried to fight the full feeling and chug it down as fast as possible. But as he swallowed the shake in giant gulps, he could feel a wave of pressure in his stomach once each mouthful hit. His stomach stretched to try to accommodate the filling drink, only to be pushed out even more.

Ross finished the shake before he got back to his desk, at which point he let his hand down with a sigh. His breathing had grown heavy, and he could feel his sodden belly billow and withdraw from each breath. Giving it a gentle rub, he could feel that it was stretched tight to hold in all that shake, as well as the meal it was meant to replace. Ross let out a lengthy sigh as he leaned back from the feeling of fullness, grunting as he sat back down.

Ross put the bottle aside and tried to focus on his work, endeavouring to put his stuffed stomach out of his mind. Though it was still sore as he started typing again, his code soon took his mind off of the full feeling. By the time 2:00 rolled around, Ross remembered the feeling of fullness and noticed that it had dissipated. With a mischievous grin, he scooped another helping of the powder into his bottle and went to fill it up with water.

Once the shake was mixed up, Ross reverted back to his usual habits and started to chug it. But before he could swallow more than a few gulps, he got a stern reminder of just how full he still was as a shot of pain cracked across his stomach. He let out a groan and rubbed the firm top of his belly, trying to placate its pained sensation. Once he was back at his desk, he decided he’d be better off sipping the shake as the afternoon wore on.

Ross liked to use the gym around 10:00 in the morning. By then, it had been emptied of all the people who started their days with their daily workouts, and only a few other oddballs like him would be found inside. Between his casual peeks inside and all the times he’d used it, he knew that after that lull, it only got busier. So he’d start his day by replying to emails and maybe banging out a quick fix here or there when the opportunity presented itself. But once 10:00 came, he hit the gym as diligently as he hit the cafeteria at noon.

That early in the day, there weren’t often many other guys in the locker room. Though the gym itself was still decently populated, Ross never ran into more than one or two people while changing or showering. Still, that was enough to make him self-conscious during his first couple of weeks in the gym. At first, he was worried about what the etiquette was around changing between his work clothes and his workout clothes with people he worked with. He spent his first week using a shower stall to change. That was, until he saw Jerome walk from a shower stall to his locker with nothing on and a towel only covering his nether regions.

“Ross! Fancy seeing you here,” he greeted in his usual confident baritone. He didn’t seem at all embarrassed about walking out naked in front of his fully-clothed coworker. Then again, Ross supposed, with muscles like that, why should he be?

“Yeah, uh… I’ve been, uh… working out, you know?” Ross stammered, keeping his eyes on the floor to the side of the room to avoid looking at his undressed coworker.

“Well that’s great to hear,” Jerome enthused as he approached the lockers, allowing Ross to see his absurdly well-toned ass. After opening his locker, he let his towel fall, before slipping on some underwear. “Sounds like you’re on your way to sticking with your resolution.”

“Uh, yeah, yes,” Ross answered as he regained his composure.

“Well that’s great! Keep it up.”

After that, Ross no longer felt embarrassed about changing in the locker room’s main area.

With modesty no longer a concern for Ross, his worry instead centered on the contrast between his plump body and the svelte, sculpted bodies of those he worked with. Even the older heads who were in his age bracket were dwarfed by his expansive frame, a fact that only became more apparent when he took off his baggy shirts. For the first few weeks, it took sheer spite for the office fitness culture to keep Ross on his gaining regimen. Like him, the gulf between his and his coworkers’ sizes was only getting wider.

But after a few weeks, something shifted in Ross’s mind. He became less self-conscious about his coworkers seeing him shirtless or pantsless, with his pudgy body hanging out for all to see. As he grew, he felt less embarrassment about his heft. He stopped crouching over and shrinking away when he took his clothes off, taking up as much space in the locker room as he needed. As April rolled in, he started standing with something resembling the pride shown by the more muscular gym-goers. By the end of the month, that something resembling pride had become pride outright.

During those first few weeks, Ross felt like his body was a mistake to be hidden from his coworkers out of shame. Given that he hadn’t gotten that heavy intentionally, he reasoned it wasn’t far away from the truth. But once he took control of his growth, he knew it would be ludicrous to try to hide his expanding size. And once he stopped trying to hide his heft, it felt less like something that needed to be hidden. After all, his heft was no longer an accident, no longer the unintended byproduct of a sedentary lifestyle. Now it was his creation as much as the muscular guys’ bodies were their own. It was his own. It was a product of intentional action, and given the magnitude of his results, he had plenty to be proud of.

Though Ross steered clear of the cardio machines, he still worked up quite a sweat pumping iron to make his muscles stronger to carry that new weight. For the sake of consistency, he always weighed himself before he started working out, lest the fluctuations of how much weight he lost in sweat affect his readings. With his NYT wristband on, Ross stepped on the scale to see what he weighed.

378.7. Not bad for the first four months of the year, Ross thought before he stepped off to put in his work for the day.

Ross’s gains were becoming more noticeable, in both his office clothes and his gym clothes, and that was only more true that day. As he looked at himself in the mirror in the locker room that day, he saw no one else in there with him. With a smirk on his face, he lifted his arms and took off his shirt to give his expanded body a better look.

Ross looked much like he did before he started the New Year, New You challenge, only with a few dozen additional pounds. This didn’t discourage him, since he wasn’t expecting any major changes after only four months. But as he rotated his torso, swaying his belly from side to side, he could see just how much bigger it had gotten. What he had once thought of as a nice, solid protrusion now jutted out in a way that was impossible to downplay, even if his coworkers hadn’t been so skinny by comparison.

As Ross swayed his girth from side to side, he could feel the added inertia all of his added weight provided. Though his workouts ensured his muscles kept up with his increased heft, that only helped for practical motions. He could walk around and maneuver his heftier body just fine, which was exactly what he wanted. But all the abdominal and back workouts in the world couldn’t mask just how much heavier his gut was. With each swing, he could feel the added effort it took to move his belly, as it traveled around him like a planet revolving around its sun.

Unfortunately for Ross, his self-examination was interrupted when he heard the locker room door open. After coming back to his senses, he dropped his workout shirt in his gym bag and resumed his usual post-workout routine, stripping down, showering, and changing back into his work clothes to resume his work day.

Once Ross got back to his desk, he opened his bag of protein shake mix and poured a scoop and half into his mixing bottle. Though he couldn’t be sure, he suspected NYT was sending him bigger portions of the powders every two weeks, as there seemed to be more in his bag every time. But with his weight going up steadily, his appetite was increasing as well, so the bigger portions were appreciated.

Once Ross had chugged his protein, he filled the bottle with a scoop of the meal replacement powder to sip on until lunch arrived. As he sipped his heavy drink, he logged into NYT’s Eclipse page. On the homepage, he saw his own progress and history, with a steadily rising line marking the dates of his weigh-ins and the weight he’d put on. On the right side, he saw various statistics, including his favorite: “Recommended cardio time remaining for the week”. He’d heard his coworkers talking about that statistic, and how they had to spend more time on the treadmill to bring it down. Perhaps because he’d entered a goal weight that indicated weight gain, it was always zero for him.

Before Ross could check on how his coworkers were doing with their resolutions, he heard Eva’s voice behind him say, “You really did it, didn’t you?” Ross turned around to see Eva standing behind him with her eyebrows raised. “You really joined NY-squared to mess with the total weight loss count, didn’t you?”

“What makes you say that?” Ross teased, turning away from his computer screen and rolling his chair so he blocked her view.

“Well, the fact that you’ve gotten wider, for one,” Eva said matter-of-factly. “And that steadily increasing line on your NYT page. How come I haven’t seen your progress on the company-wide page?”

“I’m keeping that private,” Ross told her with a coy grin and eyes half-closed. “My New Year’s resolutions are personal, you know?”

“If you say so, big guy. Or should I call you bigger guy?” Eva chuckled as she sat back down at her desk.

“What can I say?” Ross asked. “You have good ideas.”

Eva pointed at Ross and gave him a wink before she got back to her work. He did the same, sipping on his meal replacement shake as he typed.

[start proofreading here]

It was the last Friday of August. After weighing in at 434.5 pounds, Ross was seeing out the week with a particularly intense workout. He was lifting a good deal more on every machine than he could in January, but he liked to push himself extra hard on Fridays, when his muscles would have two days to recover. Those days, he worked up an especially thick sweat as he moved those weights, so much so that he’d taken to wearing a headband during workouts. Thankfully for him, the headbands were one-size-fits-all.

The same could not be said for the rest of Ross’s outfit, which he’d been steadily outgrowing since he began the New Year, New You challenge. Finding shirts he liked was especially challenging, and not just because he kept outgrowing them. His belly had become so protuberant that most shirts couldn’t cover him in the front without hanging comically low in the back. The sides of the bottom hem fell at an increasingly steep angle from front to back as he grew, emphasizing just how much his gut jutted out.

It wasn’t just his body’s shape that was changing. That far into his weight gain regimen, Ross could feel that the way he walked was changing too. Gone was the modest hobble he once used to get around the office as he shrunk away from his coworkers to give them more room than they needed. Instead, he walked with a stately stride as he propelled his new heft forward. The coworkers he once shrunk away from now gave him extra space as they passed him.

Most of Ross’s apparent stateliness was in fact the result of the effort it took to move his new heft. It required more deliberate movement, more careful consideration of how he navigated the halls of Eclipse. But his slow, steady growth meant that those considerations had become second nature to him. He walked around as if he’d always weighed over 400 pounds, and moving all that weight came as naturally as walking itself..

Ross also walked as if he’d always been unashamed of his size. That deep into the year, he often took it for granted that he was so comfortable taking up as much space as his bigger body required. When he remembered his pre-workout days, he felt like he was thinking about a different person, even though he’d been that person for most of his life.

Those thoughts were on Ross’s mind as he walked back into the locker room at the end of his workout that Friday. He remembered not just his lack of confidence in his size, but also in his resolve to get bigger. In those early days, motivated only by spite for the office’s fitness culture, he often had his doubts as to whether that would be enough to keep him going until December. But as he strode confidently through the gym that day, Ross supposed the real payoff for his weight gain regimen was that confidence. He was now proud of the body he had, striding assuredly through the world rather than shrinking meekly away from anyone else.

Once he was in the locker room, Ross discarded his shirt, which lifted off of his plump body like a tarp draped over him. With no one else in the locker room, he took his time to look himself over in the mirror and take in his gains. He was finally starting to see some muscle definition, his once flabby arms now showing some tightness when he flexed. His chest had shaped up too, shedding any droopiness to become as taut and firm as the belly beneath it. That belly, which already jutted out before Ross started working out, had grown even more globular with the addition of muscle mass. And his legs, thanks to both Ross’s workout and the constant work of carrying his girth around, were thick and sturdy like tree trunks.

As Ross was examining himself, he heard the locker room door open. Looking in the mirror as he flexed his new features, he saw Jerome round the corner, his gym bag in hand. “Morning, Ross,” he greeted in an even tone.

“Morning, Jerome,” Ross returned just as coolly. The two running into each other in the locker room was no longer a novel experience that called for enthusiasm. Ross looked himself over a bit longer, basking in the genuine pride he felt at his progress.

“Say, Ross…” Jerome interjected. “How are, uh, how are your New Year’s resolutions going?”

“Oh, fantastic! And the New Year, New You program has really been a big help on that front,” Ross beamed, knowing that his answer technically wasn’t a lie.

“Well that’s good,” Jerome remarked, sounding like he’d gotten more questions than answers out of the exchange. “I mean, I know you wanted to keep your weight loss journey a personal one, but… I just wanted to make sure you were getting the support you needed,” he said with a shaky smile.

Ross’s own smile had flattened out when Jerome mentioned weight loss, but he put on another grin and gave him a thumbs up before he continued with his post-workout routine, stripping down for a shower. For once, he was grateful that his coworkers were too embarrassed to mention his weight directly. If Jerome kept interrogating him about weight loss, he didn’t imagine he could keep the conversation polite much longer.

The end of the New Year, New You weight loss challenge Thursday, December 1, 10:02 AM To all employees! As the year comes to an end, so too does the New Year, New You weight loss challenge. Of course, we hope that the healthy habits you’ve formed this year stay with you into the years to come, but our competition has to end soon. We know many of you will be starting your winter vacations early, so here’s how the end of this competition will work: -The last day of the competition is Wednesday, December 14th. Deliveries of supplies, if you’ve opted for them, will also cease that week. If you would like to continue to purchase NYT’s supplies yourself, details can be found in the attached document. -There will be no official weigh-in like there was during sign-up period. Rather, your total weight loss will be calculated using your most recent weigh-in on the NYT scale with your NYT wristband on, as long as that weigh-in is timestamped no later than 11:59 PM on December 14th. If you’ve never used the NYT scale or wristband, please talk to Jerome so we can be sure your results are recorded and recognized! -On Friday, December 16th, at the company holiday party, we’ll recognize the biggest losers and celebrate all the pounds we lost together! Note that your results will only be shared if you’ve opted to share them publicly on the Eclipse NYT site. However, all employees, even those who have kept their progress private, will be eligible for the $500 gift card giveaway. We’re eager to see who made the biggest percentage change in body weight this year! We would like to applaud everyone for the healthy changes you’ve made this year, and wish you the best of luck on the home stretch! Sincerely, Your Social Committee

It was December 14th, and Ross stepped on the NYT scale for his final weigh-in. With the competition ending that day, he’d made sure to finish all of his meal replacement shake the day before. It wouldn’t do him any good after that. With a deep inhalation, he stepped in the scale and awaited his final reading.

501.3. Ross smirked and stepped off the scale, knowing that when the total weight lost figure was announced, he’d undo about 170 pounds of total weight loss across the company.

Though Ross had no plans to keep drinking the meal replacement shakes after the competition ended, he was considering procuring some of the protein powder on his own. He was quite happy with the results he was seeing from it, as his muscles kept bulking up and carrying him around as if he hadn’t gained 170 pounds in the past year. His arms, legs, and chest all had even more definition than they did when the muscles first started showing through, and the increase in strength was just as appreciable..

Even his gut seemed to have been similarly sculpted by his workouts. Most of the time, it looked like a round ball of fat like one would expect for a man as heavy as Ross. But thanks to all his workouts, Ross could flex his globular stomach too. As he stood looking at himself in the locker room mirror, he flexed his abdominals, pulling the top inward and pushing the bottom out. While the sides bulged out farther, the center revealed a vertical crease running from the top of his stomach all the way to his belly button. With a satisfied smile, he flexed his massive ball more tightly, deepening the groove and making the sides swell out farther. The burn he felt rivaled that of his actual workouts.

With a sigh, Ross let his muscles relax. Though his belly shrunk a bit, much of the added mass remained as the muscles held onto their tension. Even the groove was still visible. With a smirk, Ross gave his belly a few firm thumps, feeling the solid mass stubbornly refuse to give under the force of his fist, which bounced back from the impact.

Once he was done admiring his transformation, he resumed stripping down for his shower, packing his clothes in his locker and pulling out an extra long towel he’d bought when his previous one no longer wrapped around his waist. In the empty locker room, however, he merely carried it in his arm as he strode across the tile. His bare belly lead the way like a drum major, though it had more in common with the bass drum a band’s drummer might lug in front of himself.

The shower stalls at Eclipse were all fairly sizeable. Even Ross didn’t have any trouble fitting inside when the year started. But with 170 new pounds on his frame, using the shower stalls wasn’t quite so simple. Reaching all over his gargantuan body to wash himself was fairly straightforward, until he got to his legs. With such a gargantuan belly bulging out as he tried to bend down, some days he just let the water and liquid soap run down his body and hope they cleaned his legs on the way. Also causing difficulties was the fact that his belly had grown big enough that he couldn’t reach its entire surface to wash it, forcing him to take the same approach he took with his legs.

But even though he couldn’t reach around the whole thing, washing his gut still took up much of Ross’s time. After pumping several squirts of liquid soap into his hands, he dropped them on his chest, where his rotund belly would keep them from falling on the floor, and worked them into a lather. Once he had enough suds for his liking, he turned away from the water, having to step around his belly to rotate himself in the confined space he had available to him. He rubbed his hands down his chest and spread the foam over the spherical expanse of his gut. It was a lengthy trip just to run his hands from the top of his belly to as close to the bottom as he could reach. Though the change had been gradual, it took Ross a lot longer to soap up his entire belly than it did when he’d started his weight gain regimen.

It was in that moment, when Ross was rubbing both of his hands over his bulbous gut, that he most appreciated just how wide he’d gotten. When he had to use both hands to reach far enough to soap up most of his belly, whereas he could previously use just one to wash the whole thing. When he reached over it to try to soap up the bottom, finding that it bulged out too much to reach all the way around. When he’d lather up the bottom and feel just how much girth he was pushing up against, and how impossible it was to lift. It was those moments that made the acclimation melt away long enough for Ross to appreciate his progress.

Of course, Ross had work to get back to, so he couldn’t bask in his growth for long. Once he’d cleaned himself off, he turned off the water and grabbed his towel from the hook outside. Though the towel’s extra length helped for drying off his bigger body, it didn’t do much good when there was little space between Ross and the shower’s walls. His towel seemed to dry the stall off just as much as himself as he ran it over his body. He could at least dry off the underside of his belly, grabbing the towel from either end and using it like a sling to run it under the globular mass. But when it came time to dry his legs, he gave in and pulled the curtain aside, allowing him the space he needed to reach them.

As Ross pulled the curtain aside that day, he was greeted by a familiar face. “Ross.”


There was an usual amount of unfriendliness in Jerome’s voice as he looked at Ross out of the corner of his eyes. Even that amount of friendliness was short-lived, for Jerome avoided eye contact with Ross as he unpacked his bag and changed for his gym session. Ross, meanwhile, kept up the casual atmosphere the two had cultivated between themselves after running into each other so often. He walked out with his towel only covering his nether regions, leaving the rest of himself exposed, including his plush butt, which had rounded and firmed up just like his chest.

“Ross… we can be honest with each other, right?”

“I… suppose?” Ross replied, his pitch rising with uncertainty as to where Jerome was going with this.

“When you signed up for NY-squared, weight loss was never your goal, was it?”

Jerome asked it with all the solemnness of asking whether Ross’s mother had survived a life-threatening surgery, forcing Ross to hold in his laughter at Jerome not realizing that earlier. Ross tried to not sound too obviously sarcastic as he retorted, “What gave you that idea?”

“Well, you’re the only person signed up for NY-squared whose suppliments packages have gotten bigger as the year’s gone on. You keep you weight progression private on the Eclipse NYT website. And, well…” Jerome stalled, motioning toward Ross in the vague direction of his gut but seeming too embarrassed to point directly at it.

As Jerome struggled to find the words, Ross put on a serious, deliberate tone and asserted, “My journey is a personal one, Jerome. I told you that the day I signed up for New Year, New You. As such, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from offering unsolicited advice. If I want your input, I’ll ask for it.”

Seeing Jerome’s eyes shoot wide open and his nostrils flare forced Ross to walk up to his locker as quickly as he could so he could smirk without Jerome seeing him. As he looked inside his locker, his smirk turned into a grin as he tried to hide his amusement, without much luck. It took him a moment to put on a serious expression again, before he and Jerome both changed in icy silence.

Ross had worked at Eclipse long enough that some of his favorite coworkers had transferred into other departments. As such, company-wide get-togethers like the holiday party were among the few chances he had to catch up with those coworkers whom he liked working with, but didn’t like enough to connect with on any social media other than LinkedIn. That was one of the things that made those parties still worth going to, now that even the party food had been replaced with “healthy AND delicious!” finger food. Eva had heard Ross complain, “Can’t they let us indulge when it’s only once a year?” enough times that he’d stopped asking.

Even the prospect of seeing former teammates almost wasn’t enough to make Ross go that year. He fully expected everyone would be talking about the New Year, New You challenge, about their diets and their weight loss and trying to avoid “temptation” over the holidays. Even though Ross had also been a participant in the New Year, New You challenge, he was a participant in writing only. The spirit of the competition was repugnant to him, and after having to put up with it from Jerome all year, he wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of being in a room full of it.

But the party turned out to not be so bad. People talked more about their holiday plans than their diets, as it seemed even the fitness freaks in the company agreed that was a more interesting topic of conversation. And Ross found there were some unexpected benefits to his new size. When he walked to the snack tables, the crowd moved out of his way like a parting sea, a luxury he’d never experienced at a holiday party before. And he found himself going to the snack tables a lot, as the food was better than expected. The organic cookies were almost as good as the real thing, and the finger sandwiches were made a lot better with the addition of some cheese from the meat and cheese platters.

About a half hour into the festivities, though, came the part Ross was least looking forward to. As the projector revved up to show a slideshow on the wall, he heard a microphone tap on the far side of the room. “Excuse me, everyone, can I have your attention please?” he heard a familiar voice ask. It was Jerome.

Once the hubbub of the crowd died down, Jerome continued jubilantly. “Thank you, everyone. I know you’re all enjoying the holiday festivities, so I won’t ask for your attention for too long. It’s the end of another year, and as you know, this year, Eclipse put on the New Year, New You program to help our employees stick to their resolutions. And I have to say, we made some amazing progress together.” Most of the partygoers started clapping, while Ross crossed his arms and rested them on top of his bulbous belly. He rolled his eyes such that they ended with his glance on Eva, who only chuckled.

“Let’s get the big number up there first,” Jerome continued as he raised his clicker. “All together, Eclipse employees enrolled in the New Year, New You program lost…” he stalled until the next slide faded in. “Three thousand, six hundred, and thirty eight pounds,” Jerome said, emphasizing every digit. Applause erupted across the room, while Ross stood stone faced, almost disappointed. He supposed he couldn’t reasonably expect to make a noticeable dent in the total pounds lost figure of a company as big as Eclipse. “That’s an average of 8.6 pounds lost across the 423 employees who participated,” Jerome pointed out, prompting more cheering.

“Now, here are the folks who lost the most, by percentage of body weight,” he continued before going onto the next slide. He read through the names, starting weights, ending weights, and percentages changes as Ross’s eyes glazed over. The constant clapping made it easy to drown out Jerome’s speech, as Ross wondered whether the party would become intolerable after his presentation.

“And finally,” Jerome shouted, bringing Ross back to reality, “The biggest loser, you could say, was Martha Sheridan, who went from 325 pounds to 268, for a 17.5% decrease in body weight! Congratulations Martha!” As the audience kept screeching, Jerome asked, “Can we get all ten of our top losers up here with me?” Sure enough, all ten joined Jerome on stage, smiling at the crowd in spite of their haggard faces and tired eyes. Ross thought they all looked like they could use a hearty meal.

“Congratulations to all of you. You have so much to be proud of, and I hope your weight loss has been its own reward. Now, I say that,” Jerome said with a heightened tone, “because I have the $500 gift card here from New You Transformations, and the envelope says that the winner is not someone on our list!” Murmurs spread across the audience, and Ross wished he were close enough to see Martha’s face.

“That’s right. You might remember, this list only includes people who chose to share their progress publicly on the Eclipse NYT page, but even those who kept their progress private are eligible for the grand prIze. Which means, someone’s been secretly losing weight so effectively, they lost even more weight by percentage than Martha!” After more murmurs, Jerome said, “Sorry, Martha. You’re still number one in our hearts,” prompting polite chuckles from the crowd.

“Now, I haven’t opened this envelope yet, so even I don’t know who the big winner is. But no reason to delay any longer, right? The winner!, of the New Year, New You challenge!, and of this is $500 gift card!, is… drum roll please!”

The sound of hundreds of hands slapping thighs reverberated across the cafeteria. With a sigh, Ross started slapping the sides of his belly in rhythm, making Eva laugh. He stopped slapping when it started hurting, though the rest of the crowd kept going, even as Jerome seemed to be milking it. So much for “no reason to delay any longer,” Ross thought to himself.

But he seemed to not be the only one, as the claps on thighs started dissipating around the room. With fewer people making noise, Jerome whispering, “I don’t believe this,” into the microphone was clearly audible to everyone, causing murmurs around the room. After lowering the mic, he pleaded to one of the other social committee members, “Valerie, tell me I’m seeing things.”

Valerie took the letter from Jerome’s hand and meekly said, “Nope. You’re reading that correctly.”

“What does it say?” shouted a voice from the crowd.

“Yeah, get on with it!” a woman concurred, drawing a few chuckles from the crowd.

Jerome seemed much less amused, and after a loud sigh, he brought the microphone to his mouth. “It says, The winner of Eclipse’s New Year, New You challenge… is… Ross Morris… for achieving the greatest… percentage change in body weight,’” Jerome stammered, emphasizing the word “change” like even he was surprised. “…of 50.8%.”

No murmurs that time. The room was dead silent, as everyone stood in shock, even Ross. With eyes open wide and mouth agape, he stood still, unsure what to do, until Eva patted him on the shoulder and said, “Go claim your prize, big guy.”

After a delay, Ross’s shocked face settled into a modest smile, which grew into a proud one as he bounded through the crowd. Though his coworkers still parted for him as he walked, there was a delay, as if they were too shocked to move until he was about to run into them.

Once Ross made it to where Jerome was standing, he saw his old “buddy” looking at him flabbergasted. He didn’t even seem angry like did was in the locker room before, just confused. Since Jerome didn’t seem to know what to do, Ross waltzed up, emphasizing the bounce of his gargantuan gut as he walked, and took the envelope out of Jerome’s hand. He could feel the weight of the gift card inside, but he felt for its outline just to be sure. “Thanks, Jerome,” Ross said nonchalantly before returning into the crowd.

By the time Ross made it back to Eva, she was covering her mouth and shaking from trying not to laugh out loud. Ross only smiled back, before folding the envelope and pocketing it.

“Ah… well, uh… that–that’s the end of the presentation everyone,” Jerome relented. “Enjoy the party, and, um, happy holidays.”

Things were slow to get going again after Jerome’s presentation, as all the party-goers seemed too shocked to jump right back into the festivities. So Ross and Eva made conversation between themselves, being among the few people doing so.

“So what are you going to spend it on?”

“Oh, we’ll see. Maybe a new professional wardrobe, since I haven’t worn my suit since 170 pounds ago. Maybe some more protein powder. Maybe a bodyguard to protect me from Jerome’s vengeful anger.”

As the party picked up again, Ross saw Jerome approach him out of the corner of his eye. Turning toward him, he cautiously greeted, “Jerome.”

“Ross,” Jerome said formally, though not sounding as frustrated as Ross expected. “You know, being that I work in HR, I should know to check the fine print. Congratulations, buddy,” he said as he lifted his arm toward Ross’s shoulder, only to have to step around him to reach, as Ross’s mammoth gut stood between the two. Once he was closer, Jerome gave Ross a few pats on the shoulder. “You won fair and square.”

“Thank you, Jerome. It’s been a life-changing experience,” Ross said, putting on airs of seriousness again, before hastily adding, “For the better.”

“Well, I’m not sure how that can be, but as long as you’re happy,” Jerome said with an exaggerated smile before walking back into the crowd.

Eva watched Jerome leave with a smirk, before she turned back to Ross. “Are you happy?”

Ross felt a smile spread across his face before he answered, “Never been happier.”

“You know they’re going to ask you to be the office Santa for all the family Christmas parties now, right?”

With a chuckle, Ross said, “Then make that, ‘Never been jollier.’”

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