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When I see an especially large person I feel for them. I can’t help but think there’s a thin person inside wanting to get out.

I know this admission opens me to charges that I’m prejudiced or biased or immature or discriminatory or worse. But I honestly don’t look upon large people in a negative way. As I said, I feel for them. I wonder sometimes what they’d do differently or how they’d act differently if they could regain their thinner person of yesteryear. This is one reason I like NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” This program doesn’t make fun of people like other reality shows. It helps people.

Obesity is now rivaling tobacco, we’re told, as the number one preventable health problem facing Americans. Obesity, not just the clinical definition thereof, but people whose weight problem goes way past that the percentage of body fat considered mismatched with ones age and height. Americans have a problem, a big one. No pun intended.

Some 64% of Americans adults are considered overweight, 33% of those in the obese category. If that’s not enough, about 15% of kids 6-19 years are overweight. This puts us at much higher risk of cancer. Yet health professionals tell us we could cut our cancer risks in half simply be avoiding smoking, eating plenty of fruits and veggies with a lower fat diet, and—wait for it—exercising regularly. Not rocket science but equally powerful.

I know not everyone who is large or even obese is in this condition because of poor lifestyle choices. Some people indeed have medical problems that result in weight gain.

But for most of us, this is not the case. For most of us our weight is what we choose it to be. Or at least it’s a result of our choices—what we eat too much and how we exercise or otherwise remain active too little.

It’s also a product of our values, which for many people seem absorbed uncritically from surrounding culture. I travel a great deal, so I see substantial differences in people and restaurant portions by region or country. Travel in my home area of the American Midwest and you’ll see greater numbers of large or obese people than anywhere else in the country.

Go to most American restaurants and you’ll be served platters and drinks so large that by comparison what you purchase in Europe or the Middle East seem dinky rip-offs. But they’re really not. Portion size elsewhere matches what ours used to be. We’re into Super Sizing and Big Gulps about anywhere we go—portion distortion. Even “nicer” restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory are noted for their large servings. It’s great. I like it too, but that’s the point, it’s all too easy to like and like often.

Regular exercise is probably more difficult for some of us than eating right. I don’t know, depends upon the personality involved. I frankly catch it in binges, which isn’t good. I’ll exercise regularly, eat right, drop weight, then a few weeks or months later, especially in winter, put the weight back on.

I’ve dieted and lost 30 pounds or more about 5 maybe 6 times in the last 15 years back into my 40s. I’m glad I’ve been able to do this, in part to set an example for three sons who one day will face the same challenge, but this yoyo isn’t the best way to go.

Some of this exercise thing gets back to how the economy and professions have changed. We’re no longer a nation of farmers, woodsmen, and trappers. We’re not what we used to be as a nation of factory workers laboring daily and vigorously in manufacturing plants. We’re mostly office workers, desk jockeys. More of us use minds rather than muscles to earn a living and we’re sedentary while we do it. So work isn’t as calorie-eating as it once was.

Not to get too philosophical about it, but I do think American obesity is tied in with the current cultural zeitgeist, i.e. “spirit of the times.” Americans are into “excess.” We eat more than is healthy, pursue habits that are not good for us, and spend way more than our means. The budgets of every level of American government are also obese. We want more so we spend more. We want to eat so we eat. We try to eat and buy our way to happiness. But it doesn’t work.

So, I’m back on a diet. Don’t like it, but I’m working so it’s working. Pounds are disappearing. This is good, but here’s to committing to sustaining a proper weight and leaving the yoyo behind.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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