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I’m probably going to upset some people…so if your sensitive, don’t read it. I’ll start this the way I started my rant about ignorance, I don’t regret anything I’m about to say. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and it’s taken me 2 days to compile them all, get some facts, and write it all down.

About five years ago, I wrote a paper for English class, during my one semester of college, entitled Super Sized Happy Meals. In a nutshell it explained the obesity epidemic, with my primary focus, of course being children, mostly as a gene passed from parent to child and through the generations. I was thinking about this yesterday, as I had plenty of time to people watch…since my iPod is gone…and noticed about 50% to 60% of the people I saw were either overweight or obese, and most of them were sucking down 44oz sodas, and stuffing their faces with deep fried fast food. Now I don’t doubt that genes have something to do with it, obesity runs in my family, but I’m POSITIVE that eating at McDonalds and drinking 4 sodas a day doesn’t help.

I don’t quite remember the details of this paper I wrote, but I spoke heavily about the obesity gene and studies that had been done on it. Thinking back on the paper, and all the people I saw yesterday, I don’t believe I was totally wrong. However, at the time of writing the paper, I didn’t think about all the junk food that is so readily available to us as Americans. I didn’t think about the fact that when I was in high school, I made it a point to go to McDonalds every other day after school and get a McChicken and a small fry, that I was drinking three 20oz Mountain Dews everyday, I wasn’t exercising, and I was over eating.

I did a little research, and 64.9% of Americans is overweight or obese. When I was sitting at the airport waiting for my next flight, I watched a very large man struggle to find an empty seat. He ended up sitting near a woman who, like himself, was also overweight. She was sitting there with her extra large meal and extra large drink from Chik-fil-A. He looked at her meal longingly, as he chewed on his thin, turkey sandwich with lettuce, and downed his large bottle of water. I could tell the man would rather be eating the greasy food that she was, but he powered through his sandwich and topped it off with a yogurt. I felt for the man. It’s difficult when we get in the midset of doing something the same all time, in this case, eating unhealthy foods, to switch it up. Working out is hard work. Thats why its called “working out.” But I was also very proud of him. He was in an airport, awaiting his next flight, surrounded by a slew of fast food restaurants, and chose a healthier option. I wanted to sympathize with him and tell him I knew it was tough.

Trying to stay healthy is constantly a challenge. I managed to lose 50 pounds after high school. I looked better and more importantly I felt better. It was difficult though to take that first step. I had a friend recently ask me how I managed to drop the 10 pounds that I had gained over the past year. I told her plain and simple “I quit eating junk. I ate homemade meals, I started eating slower, and the hubby and I threw ourselves into a workout routine.” She looked at me like I had just tried to explain quantum physics to her. The thing is, it might be hard to take that first step towards being healthy, but once you get started, it comes naturally. Exercising releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. You feel better. You start doing it more. It’s a constant struggle though especially when we’re surrounded each day by food we know is bad for us. I’m the shining example of this. I don’t drink as much soda anymore, but I still have a weakness for Full Throttle.

The bulk of this country is in an awful situation right now. We’ve got this attitude of a child when a mother says “Don’t touch that. It’s hot,” and the kid touches it anyway. We’re told “Don’t eat that. It’s not good for you” and we do it out of sheer rebellion. We think we’re immune to health problems, when the fact of the matter is we’re not. When you reach that unhealthy weight, you’re prone to back problems, heart problems, kidney disease, diabetes, and whole long lists of other health issues. The problem is that we deep fry everything, wrap it in bacon and cover it in chocolate. We’ve become so obsessed with being thin because we look at it as being beautiful instead of being healthy. I don’t endorse obesity, but I will say that I know plenty of people who are overweight and still beautiful. HOWEVER, even though we constantly advertise for ways to make yourself thinner, we also have ads and clothing stores and comics that say “it’s okay to be fat.” It’s not. I’m sorry, but it’s not. As I said, I know people who are overweight or obese, that are handsome/beautiful but I would much rather they be healthy. If you’re okay the way you are, you’re okay with being overweight, and you’re not in anyway unhappy or unhealthy, then by all means, be happy the way you are. The thing that makes me nervous is that I would hate for you to get of the mind set that you’re immune to disease.

I’m not going to ostracize you for being overweight or obese, because I’ve been there, but I know the other side of it. I know how it feels to have confidence because you’ve worked out. To be able to fit in that dress you’ve been eyeing for months. I’m going to be blatantly honest, I did NOT start losing weight for someone else. I did NOT do it so the world would look at me and see beauty. I did it so that I was healthy. I did it because I had seen the health problems both my parents had (before they took initiative to lose weight) and I didn’t want to end up that way. Both my parents, and my sister has taken it upon themselves to lose weight and get healthy. Granted, and sorry mom, I’m not in favor of surgery to make yourself thinner unless it’s absolutely necessary. I feel like it’s a cop out. You’re taking the easy way out. You can have the surgery all you want, you can have as much fat sucked out as you want, tighten the band all you want, but you won’t be completely healthy until you start eating right and exercising. It won’t happen overnight, and I think that’s why people often get discouraged. The older you get the harder it will be because of age AND because your metabolism isn’t as high as it was when you were younger, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to put forth as much effort as it takes to make yourself feel better. I think after you reach a certain weight and you can’t move, that’s when any type of surgery is necessary. HOWEVER up until that point, when you still have the ability to get your ass on the treadmill or outside, you should, need to, and deserve to do it.

We like to think that we encourage our kids to play outside, when really it’s just so much easier to turn on the TV and video game console, and give them 4 slices of pizza. We take them to McDonald’s every other day and allow them to order a normal sized meal instead of a Happy Meal. I understand that McDonald’s is (well at least thinks they are) trying to do a better job with their kids meals by offering a miniature container of fries AND their normal helping of apples, but that doesn’t discount the fact that one of their cheeseburgers alone is 300+ calories, and their chicken nuggets are made from pink foam (poultry paste as they call it).

There are quite a few things that we don’t take into account. There’s a lot of pressure from media to be thin. Sizes have changed over the years. My mom told me that a size 3/4 or a 5/6 back in the 60s and 70s would be considered a size 10. Today’s size 10 was their plus size. We’ve grown larger, we’ve accepted this instead of changed our ways, and changed our clothing to accommodate this. I feel the need to state again, that I’m not telling you you’re a menace to society if you’re overweight. Marilyn Monroe is a shining example of this. Back in the day, she was considered beautiful, but fat. She was about a size 10; today’s 3/4 or 5/6. The society that we live in, tells me that I personally, not that I aspire to be, can’t be a model because I’m either 20 pounds too heavy, (which would put me in a size 1 or 0) or 20 pounds too light (which would put me in a size 8). That’s not right. I’m happy the way I am. I would like to lose another 10 pounds to get down to where I was before I turned 21, but I’m aware that may not happen because my metabolism has slowed and I’m not AS active. I’m working on it, but I’ve come to the realization that it may not happen. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m ready to roll over, play dead, and quit trying. I will fight for my health until the day I die.

The hubby always remarks that I’m a slow eater. He eats twice as fast as I do and gets seconds. By the time I finish eating, he’s finished with his second helping and miserable because he’s so full. I take smaller portions than he does and he finds this “cute”, but when I’m done eating, I’m not miserably stuffed. I’m content. We’ll go out to eat, I eat slow then, too. I cut my meal in half, and take home food. He enjoys this because he usually gets to eat my left overs, but I’ve been trying to get through to him that if he eats too quickly, his brain won’t catch up properly and be able to tell him he’s full. He’s healthy, he works out on a regular basis, but he’s constantly over stuffed when we eat. This is something that I’m guilty of when it comes to holidays, but I generally try to take it slow. It’s a fact, it’s not something I’m just saying for the sake of saying it. If you eat too quickly your body won’t be able to communicate to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat, so you take second helpings thinking you’re still hungry. We do things like this on holidays because we’re enjoying ourselves. We start eating and can’t stop because the food is so delicious. It’s control. It’s not that we “can’t help it” it’s that we don’t want to help it. It’s so much easier to be lazy and not do anything than it is to put forth the effort to make ourselves healthy and lead long lives.

There was a lady that used to live across the street from my parents. She died at 103 shortly after she went to a nursing home. She may have been blind as a bat, almost entirely deaf, but you can bet that come fall she was raking her yard and picking apples. In the winter she shoveled her own sidewalk. In the spring, she took care of her beautiful garden. She cleaned her house on her own. She called my parents frequently because she was aware that she couldn’t do it ALL on her own anymore, but she did a lot of things without help from anyone. She told my parents that she believed the reason she was able to live so long was because she danced with her husband all the time, led a happy life, and remained so active. I think we all need to take notes from this lady. So, here’s challenge #2 for the week.

For one hour a day, turn off your TV, computer, and iPod, and go outside. Go for a walk. Take your dogs for a walk. Take your kids to the park and actively play with them. Grab a friend and go to the gym. It’s only $5 for a day pass in most places. Skip fast food and make a home made meal. If you absolutely HAVE to go out to eat, make a healthier choice, or pack up half your meal for lunch the next day. The key to this is to request a box at the start of your meal so you can set it aside and it’s not in your sight. Take your time to enjoy the meals you just made for yourself. Substitute your 44 oz soda for tea or water. I’m participating in this and going to make a solid effort with it. Next week, let me know how you did 🙂