— Laurie Blue Adkins
(b. May 5, 1988)
Since last week’s column that spoke of weighty New Year’s resolutions like America’s favorite — losing weight — I’ve had a couple of nostalgic responses.
To borrow from the movie “Sergeant York,” neither was “fer” nor “agin” dieting. Both were just voices from my past. Each remembered those days of yore, a time when I was filled with a lot more of me.
Sounds awkward, I know. It’s better explained by these other folks.
One offered in his uniquely Southern style, “Yeah, I ’member when you wukked over to the newspaper the fust time ... back when you wuz a pudgy young feller. You wuz the spittin’ image of that Pillsbury Doughboy.”
I kept waiting for him to add, “Now your’n a pudgy old feller,” at which point he would slap his knee in unharnessed laughter and expect me to chime in like a good ol’ boy.
Truth is, I would have. But he didn’t add the old part. I did.
Another spoke to my dilemma of rediscovered girth over the past year with compassion. “Oh, you’re not so bad,” she offered. “I can’t even tell. Whatever you say you’ve put on, I’m sure you’ll get it back off. That running you do every day will nip that problem in the bud.”
Thinking back on the conversation, I’m pretty sure she didn’t say “butt.”
But it did remind me of this. Everything in life is a matter of perspective. No matter how bad our fortunes, somebody else has it worse — weight included. The world is filled with skinny people, overweight people and the minority tilts the scales at just about the right numbers — whatever those are.
Pounds don’t make the person. But for those who want to change, it’s their lot in life to do so. The same goes for those who don’t. It might not be a healthy mindset, but in today’s age health also is a perspective depending on the latest study.
Reminiscing on the first fellow’s comment, I went back a few years ... er, a lot of years ... to a much younger me with a full head of hair when I first came to Cleveland fresh out of college. I was a newlywed who had a promising life ahead of him, but who took life — and health — for granted. Even for one so young, I was never a poster child for fitness. I’m still not.
As a 21-year-old cub reporter, I was already a little ... exaggerated ... at belt level. After about a year of marriage, I was 40 pounds more exaggerated. Because I had no interest in exercise, and little time for outdoor sweat, the “issue” just kept getting more extreme. Not long after that, a chain of events came into play that aided in my decision to get off the couch.
I don’t remember their dates and I’m not even sure this is in the right chronological order, but here’s what happened:
1. On a weekend visit back to my West Tennessee hometown — the little villa of Collierville back when it was still a little villa — I ran into my old algebra teacher. I say “old” with purpose. She was a walking antique who always said what was on her mind. On this day, her mind was on my physical change since last we met. “Ricky!” she stormed. “Get some exercise!”
2. On a routine visit to the doctor to get some antibiotics for a cold, he frowned after taking my blood pressure and frowned again upon reviewing my charts. “We’re putting you on bp medication,” he declared. “These last few visits, your numbers have just kept going up. This is a trend.” Thirty-six years later I’m still trending.
3. On a weekday afternoon after getting home from work I grabbed the crammed garbage can with two fleshy hands and clumsily toted it to the end of the driveway for the next morning’s pickup. That walk seemed like miles and I was breathing like an angry bull. I had to catch my breath before ambling back to the front door.
4. On a weekend when I decided I needed a new sports jacket, my wife and I drove over to JCPenney. I tried on a navy blue ... too small. I went up a size ... too small. I went up another size ... too small. No more larger sizes on the rack. They didn’t have a sports jacket big enough for a 5’8” butterball.
That decided my fate.
I don’t remember the year, but seems like it was the mid-80s. I started watching the food — volume and type — and most importantly I returned to a world of movement. We played racquetball. I played tennis with friends and co-workers. And I ran.
The weight fell off. When you’re young, metabolism is your best friend. When you get older, it’s a distant kin.
In a few months, I had shed more than 80 pounds. To quote one acquaintance, I had become “... a shadow of my former self.”
Of course, this began the ups and downs of a roller-coaster ride with weight control. It was an ongoing battle of the bulge the likes of which many can relate. But I began to truly win this war of beef sometime around 1990 when I increased my jogging regimen from three or four times a week to daily.
Life in the wide lane is still no piece of cake. The frosting spreads itself a little thicker every time the exercise regime gets too lax ... like now. It points to the value of consistency.
That’s why I wrote about it last week. Call it a New Year’s resolution if you’d like. Or just consider it another uphill climb on this undulating ride to better health, smaller clothes and a looser belt.
It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s a pretty simple formula: Less Food Intake + More Exercise = A Healthier You.
Losing last year’s gains won’t come overnight. But it’ll come.
It’s easy to blame the added pounds on conditions outside one’s control like stress, long office hours, less time for exercise, slower metabolism, age and seemingly chronic fatigue.
Each is a factor. But each is just a convenient excuse.
In truth, it’s a matter of the choices we make, the good and the bad.