Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Real Threat of Obesity

Obesity. Defined in Merriam-Webster as a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body. Synonyms in that same entry include adiposity, corpulency, and the good old standby, fat. From the simple word of fat you can scale down the severity of the condition, in a sense.

The word obesity, when used to describe someone, generally paints an unflattering and disdainful picture of the person at whom it is directed. Modern Westernized society especially wants to slam doors in the faces of "fat" people as being undesirable in all walks of life.

You don't see fat women selling cars and lingerie. You don't see fat men in Viagara commercials being adored by their attractive women when that "right moment arrives." In fact, you don't see fat men or women selling any lifestyle that shouts success.

You may see either in commercials that depict a former lifestyle. Jared Fogel, for example, chowed down on Subway sandwiches every day for God only knows how long and melted off the pounds. Check out the infomercial scene at any time of the day and on some network you will see curvaceous models in bikinis and guys with six-pack abs all touting the latest and greatest fitness "system." But even those guys and gals, with picture-in-picture images showing their supposedly former blubbery selves, were never really obese.

As for antonyms, there are such words as skinniness, gauntness, and scrawniness. I fit closer to the antonyms, as anyone who has ever seen me can attest. But I also see first-hand the ravages of obesity every day, in the person of my Dad.

Dad has always been a big guy as his musculoskeletal structure would indicate. As well, being born and raised on a farm, where diets were laden with dairy, meat, and produce, meant the development of heftiness was a guarantee. Still, thanks to an on-the-go lifestyle, Dad avoided transitioning from fat to obese for many years. Contracting Lyme Disease in 2004, coupled with the natural tendency to slow down in later years, changed that status drastically. Until recently, when the ills associated with age and overweightiness, like Hypertension and Diabetes, began to gather steam he was doing okay.

Now, at 83, with obesity being an issue, other problems arise. Try being weakened by pulmonary and renal issues AND carrying a heavy-duty tire around your waist. You need to raise your legs to the heart level and help coax fluid from it's natural gravitional pull southward. But you cannot do that and also alleviate beathing issues caused by the excessive body weight in your mid-section. Add to those issues the extra stresses placed on the heart. Not only does the person affected feel the strain, those around them feel it as well.

Being in the hospital for a protracted stay found him in need of assistance to not only get up out of bed, but to be repositioned in bed. I could not do it alone, and my lone sibling, a brother, although he leans to the paternal side in stature, has dealt with a balky knee for awhile. Combined, we slightly weigh more than Dad. But that also means that two-thirds of our assistance is on one side. If we are helping him up to stand and he teeters my way . . . uh, that is not going to be pleasant. Nurses were available. But almost all of those bodies on his floor were petite females. They may be strong, petite females, but unable to provide good leverage.

Now, if futher assisted-living is necessary, guess what is found. Few facilities, even if they accept overweight patients, extend that to folks over 300 pounds. Dad, being 319 (and that with a recent eight (8) liter reduction in fluids by Dialysis), sees further discrimination.

So here is a great man, and perhaps I'm being a tad biased, seeing his sacrifices to be a respectable man, husband, father, and citizen reduced to inconsequential levels by society, literally being thrown on the scrap heap.

Could things have been different? Yes, they could have been altered, if not totally reversed. Perhaps he could have started a workout routine. But that was probably not an option because his active lifestyle revolved around work, not exercise. So there was no impetus from interests in that area. Let's face it, cardiovascular exercise is more than simple work, even of a physical nature, especially when you hit the age of retirement. You can't garden, mow the lawn, do simple home repairs, or move for any other reason, enough to make a difference.

So this is not about my Dad anymore. It's about whoever reads this and faces the dangers of obesity in any form. No matter if it is you, or a loved one; a neighbor or co-worker. Get the facts and address the situation. Do it for you or do it for someone else.

But, to borrow the Nike slogan: Just Do It!

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