The Union Recorder

Columns

February 22, 2012

We’re the Fat in America

MILLEDGEVILLE — Most days I struggle to pack myself into my size 14 jeans (or 12 depending on the designer) and try to conceal my muffin top or, as my mother puts it, my unmentionables. On the rare occasions that I go to the department store I gasp at the number of small and medium clothing on display. Seriously, they expect me to fit into that? When so many of us are, by medical terms, overweight, why is this the case? Indeed, our eating habits and lack of doing the necessary exercise has super-sized us. After hearing more about the controversial Georgia initiative to stop childhood obesity, I thought more about how obesity affects me.

There are projections stating that by 2019, obesity will overtake smoking as the number one cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. This is attributed to the long line of ailments that are often caused by being overweight. The list includes but is not limited to type II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and disability. Let that just sink in a little.

Each year, more than 400,000 people die of smoking-related health issues.

Therefore, about every one in five deaths per year are caused by smoking. Obesity is not too far behind as per the data. According to the Center for Disease Control “about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8 percent) are obese.” And, “approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese.” In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent. Georgia ranked 14th alongside Indiana on the state obesity chart. This is certainly not like being in a sports’ sweet 16!

I remember in my youth how frequently I was outside playing and just being more active in general. I suppose I was among that last generation that wasn’t attached at the hip to a gaming system (although I did love my Atari and Nintendo). As an island child, we were always encouraged to go outside. What else were we to do considering Jamaica only had one television station and little air-conditioning?

Being outdoors was a suitable alternative to boredom and heat. I remember being more social and fulfilled simply being outside. When I moved back to the U.S., physical activity was still an important part of my life. My parents didn’t condone sitting around and watching television for hours, so often times my brother and I would play with our neighbors, ride our bicycles or play flag football. We were also far more creative and used our imaginations a great deal more.

I vividly remember in elementary school exercising (and taking school pictures) in our carpeted gym. In middle school we often took breaks outside, and teachers had us walk around and take in a little sun and fresh air (well, fresher than it is now). We also had field days, and of course, we were conditioned to pass the President’s Physical Fitness Test (which I always did).

By the time high school rolls around, everything that occurs in those growing years usually made physical activity and sports less appealing to most. We were all more aware of the other sex and had other interests. There was little in the way of required physical activity in my school; PE was only required to be taken once in the entire four years of high school. I took walking (I also did so in junior college).

Most people who weren’t involved in extracurricular activities or sports would simply go home or hang out with friends. Well, that and other very sedentary and relatively stationary non-activities. I was actually still quite active in high school. I did cheerleading for a season and was very active in MCJROTC and drama (which I both lettered in). How I miss my high school body. However, even then I saw how my willingness and desire to be more physically active was starting to decline all the while relishing my ability to eat anything I wanted and not think about it too much.

It was, for me, a gradual change. Exercising or being physically active started to take a backseat to other things. My overall interest waned. If it weren’t for attending GMC for college and being a part of the cadet corps, I likely would’ve started really packing on the pounds then. Now, and for the last eight of the more than 10 years I’ve worked in libraries, I am typically glued to my chair in front of my computer. I sometimes make excuses to walk about, use the stairs or do something in the day.

At the end of last year I “treated” myself by buying an expensive treadmill. As is often the case, I used it for a few weeks, and now I just woefully look at it when, exhausted, I return home from work. Just the thought of changing into workout clothes and then getting on the treadmill is exhausting. Pathetic, I know.

It’s truly sad that we as a society are growing fatter. Yes, for all the plus-sized women who love their bodies, great. However, there is also a limit to being plus-sized. In most cases, it’s fat, not being “big boned.” What I have been told by most of my doctors is that I need to lose weight. It’s pretty hard to do so when all the convenience items and things to do make it challenging (though not impossible) to accomplish.

‘m even less inclined since I’m not “seeking a man.” Thus, I’ve become complacent. Many of the health issues that come with being obese runs in my family, and so I am certainly at a higher risk. So, I’m among that one-third of U.S. adults who are obese. While I’m not morbidly so, I can certainly feel the difference from when I was at a healthier weight. Not being able to see my feet seems to be a realistic future unless I change things now.

For the good and the bad, times, they are changing. However, I don’t want to be a part of the hundreds of thousands who die as a result of obesity-related health issues; I ate myself to death. I certainly don’t want to be a thin wafer, but neither am I heralding being a plus-sized person.

We often convince ourselves of being fine just the way we are, but the thing is, fat or skinny, we should be working to achieve that happy median and being healthy. I now look down with my double chin at my mushroom top and contemplate, to be or not to be obese? Obesity is literally killing us, and I don’t want to be one of its victims.

LaToya M. Davidson can be contacted at latoyadavidson

@me.com.

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