Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Being fat is (not) your fault

Check out the series of maps starting from 1985
I love having a fit body and feeling good about how I look.  I really want other people to experience this for themselves because I know they will be happier for it.  Happiness begets happiness and I want to help inspire such a positive feedback loop in others.  Unfortunately the trend, in this case, is not our friend.  We are getting fatter not fitter.  It is my challenge to help remedy this situation.

I was a fleshy kid in my youth but I was never really all that fat.  At the time, I felt fat though because I was thicker than my friends and my family told me that I was fat. I remember being encouraged to jog with my mom before class during middle school. This was in addition to gym class during school and outside play after school.  I don't feel like I ever made a personal decision to be active and lean; that decision was made for me by my social group and societal pressures during my formative years.
Circus "Fat Man" circa 1900.  You don't have to pay money to see people this size anymore.
I write this because I am conflicted about why it is that we have so many overweight people today.  Food and activity level definitely matter, but I am fortunate to have had a good body mass set point established for/by me as a youth.  I learned good habits early and to some degree my body continues to benefit from that.  Today I'm not fat, but I am aware of my weight and body shape.  I workout, eat, and sleep with maintenance of both of these in mind.  While I may have started at a good place, I now make a conscious effort to stay on path.

While personal observations may not translate well to other people or society as a whole, the fact is that individuals in the US are fatter today than ever before.  Obesity is undesirable on a personal level because it makes you feel bad about yourself and has negative impacts on your health and mobility.  Obesity is undesirable for society because it leads to higher health care costs and requires expensive modifications to public places and transportation among other impacts. Passive acceptance of obesity is a bad idea, and we should be encouraging ourselves to get and stay in shape.

It's hard to lose weight as an adult just as it is difficult to learn a second language as an adult (I continue to struggle with Spanish).  We learn patterns that become habits which are difficult to break.  While external forces might be working against us, internal forces are what really do us in.  You have to acknowledge that personal effort is essential to achieving the body that you desire or you will never get anywhere.  Here's how I suggest that you get started:

  1. Admit that you are fat and not at your ideal body shape.
  2. Commit to a lifelong lifestyle change; you aren't going to go back to the old way ever again.
  3. Set a specific goal (clothing size, ideal weight, visible arm muscles, etc).
  4. Tell other people your goal.
  5. Take a picture of everything you eat to document it as a food journal.
  6. Drink more water.
  7. Pick a low intensity physical activity and do it everyday.
  8. Try a new activity every few weeks and strive to accomplish something physically that you've never done before.
  9. Check in periodically by weighing yourself, looking at yourself naked in the mirror, and feeling how your clothing fits.
  10. Enjoy your progress or repeat #1
We may not have chosen to get fat, but we chose to stay fat everyday that we don't make an effort to change.

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