The eternal battle against excess pounds

So with the full knowledge that carrying around extra weight is not a good health choice, I soldier on.

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I don’t want this column to upset anyone. But I’m going to be talking about one of North America’s most serious health problems: obesity.

A friend recently shared a picture on Facebook of a crowded beach somewhere in this hemisphere. The picture was taken in the 1970s and looked like southern California, but it could have been anywhere. The astounding thing about this photo was that no one in the picture looked the least bit overweight. I daresay that if that picture were taken today, many of the bodies would have been … well … fatter.

Please believe me when I say that I’m not about body-shaming anybody! Full-figured men and women today are increasingly proud of their bodies, regardless of its shape. So they are no longer defined as svelte! So big deal! They have come to terms with reality, are comfortable in their own skin and no longer are slaves to the fashion industry’s idea of the ideal body (size zero!) I call this progress and I honestly salute this achievement in self-image.

And before you condemn me for even raising this topic, let me share with you a recent experience I had.

I was at a mall a few weeks ago, just walking around, people-watching. I passed a gentleman who looked just a bit familiar. He looked a lot like my father as a matter of fact … but he was shall we say … plus-sized.

“My lord,” I thought for a split second. “My father sure has loaded up on carbs!” And then I realized something that was like a splash of cold water in my face. I had actually passed a mirror in one of the department stores … and my “fat father” was non-other than me!

Yes … full disclosure. I am overweight. I put my height and weight in one of those Internet body-mass calculators and the term “obese” popped up. Obese! Me! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’ll readily admit to putting on “a few extra pounds,” but OBESE? C’mon man!

The health risks of being overweight are well known. There’s an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes going on in North America, due mainly (we’re told) to the fact that two out of every three North Americans are overweight. And the fact that more and more young people are overweight is an especially alarming situation.

Obesity can also lead to high blood pressure, some cases of cancer, heart issues, sleep apnea and a host of other health problems.

Maybe in that beach picture from the 1970s, nobody looked overweight because the non-beach bodies were shamed and chose to stay home. Maybe the photographer didn’t want any fatties in his picture that was meant to promote California’s “healthy” lifestyle, so those overweight bathers were chased away.

That beach picture is what sociologists call “anecdotal” … a random sample that doesn’t necessarily reflect the true numbers.

But let’s face it Houston, we’ve got a problem. Instant food gratification seems to be everywhere! Starbucks or other bistros with tasty treats now inhabit almost every street corner. Free (and delicious) food samples are a regular feature in most grocery stores and food trucks galore with every kind of unhealthy treat are coming to a city street near you.

Plus, our crazy lifestyles and frantic 21st-century schedules promote poor eating choices far removed from a truly balance diet.  If it’s fast and cheap, chances are it’s not the best food choice for our bodies.

Back in the day, farmers had their main meal at noon (I guess some still do) and then went out into the fields to work off some of those calories.

Today, many of us return home from work in the evening, totally exhausted. We call up Skip the Dishes or some other food-delivery firm and have them deliver a huge meal, which we consume before falling asleep in front of the television. Not exactly a paradigm for healthy eating!

And many TV channels are now devoted to food in its many incarnations. The numbers are frightening! There’s Good Eats, Master Chef, Junior Master Chef, Iron Chef, Carnival Eats, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Hell’s Kitchen, The Great British Bake-Off, America’s Test Kitchen, Cutthroat Kitchen, Everyday Italian and 30-Minute Meals. (There are a lot more … but my fingers are getting tired typing the names!)

Several years ago, I lost around 15 pounds, but my weight still qualifies me as “obese.” (Is there a club, I’m wondering! Do they have monthly meetings? Is lunch served?)

So with the full knowledge that carrying around extra weight is not a good health choice, I soldier on, cutting out sugar-loaded soft drinks, engaging in exercise (mostly when I feel like it) and staying away from beaches where fashion photographers are present!