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Saturday, January 31, 2015

On Weight and "Fat Shaming"

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't read the newspaper article about the allegedly offensive e-mail at Bryn Mawr College (which has, on the scale of sensitivity, an extremely high sensitivity threshold for these things lest not to offend anyone except, perhaps, those supporting cause where it is okay to pile on -- such as, perhaps, anyone they disagree with), and of course I do not want to see anyone bullied or picked on or shamed.   And weight is a potentially explosive issue -- there can be many medical reasons for people to be both overweight and underweight, and we should be sympathetic to people with problems (all of my chiding of the students and alums at this historic and excellent college, aside).

That said, there is one issue that Americans need to focus on, regardless of what this e-mail said, and that's calorie intake and, yes, weight.  Obesity, for whatever reason, is an epidemic in this country, and people generally overeat and are out of shape.  They drive instead of walk, they eat a lot of grease, fat, carbohydrates and processed sugar, they are happy to watch TV on their 60-inch screens and aisles, vast aisles, at your supermarkets are full of things like ice cream that taste great but that contribute to the problem.  That's hard to refute, even if that brushes up against the sensitivity around young women, weight, and body image.  I get that both present serious challenges when addressing them.

So, I'll try to adopt a different approach.  People should watch not only the quantity of their calories, but also what constitutes their daily calorie intake.  They should watch the bread, the wheat, the dairy products (save egg whites), the processed sugar, the fried foods, the potatoes, etc.  They should make sure that they get a good balance of foods, drink plenty of water to stay properly hydrated, watch the caffeine, watch the alcohol, watch the snacking and the stress eating.  Like sweets?  Try a small block of 72% or 85% chocolate, which offers much less sugar content.  Like yogurt?  The probiotics are great, but most flavored ones have a lot of sugar.  Try plain yogurt, and sprinkle cinnamon on it (cinnamon has the effect of helping reduce blood sugar).  Like wine?  Great, but limit yourself to how much.  Sure, it's a "free country" and you can do whatever the heck you want, but as we move toward national health insurance, let's try to minimize the burden by taking better care of ourselves.

Diet is critical, as I know too many folks who exercise only to pop two beers in the evening and eat wings with ranch dressing and french fries.  You need to do both.  And when you exercise, you don't need two hours a day.  Try to get 30 minutes a day of good cardiovascular exercise and then say do ten minutes of stretching -- neck, back, hamstrings -- so that you can feel better.  You don't have to spend two hours at the gym trying to look like Charles Atlas or the flavor of the month from the professional wrestling circuit.  You just need to budget your time and be smart about it.

I adopted this approach last May and lost about 25 pounds over the course of 7 months.  I've regressed a bit -- travel, an injury and the holidays have seen me regain several of them, but I'm rededicated to resuming what I started to do last May to keep my weight down.  And I have felt better in the process.  I'm still tinkering with the exercise and the diet, but the basics are down.

Look, it's all up to the individual as to his/her approach to weight.  Some are better able than others to stay in shape.  For some, it's a battle of their will versus temptation; for others, there are genetic predispositions that could prove to be problematic.  I get all that.  But if you do try to take the situation into your own hands, you could feel a lot better.  All that said, if you're not sure or before you embark upon this journey, talk to your doctor about it.  Get her input, work on a plan, and get started.  It will be hard at first, but then you'll be proud of what you're walking away from and looking forward to your daily routine.


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