Sunday, May 01, 2011

Hey, Fatso! Yeah, You!

Obesity: No matter where you go in this country, especially in the Deep South, you are going to encounter what is fast becoming the most horrific health crisis in history. Yet, it seemingly marches along, steadily picking up steam; statistical numbers rapaciously skyrocketlng with each passing year. And no one seems to have a clue as to how to mount a counter-attack. If the great Chinese war strategist, Sun-Tzu, were to be summoned from the battlefields he now roams, one look at the enemy and he would turn in flight, screaming in fear as he sped past Saint Peter, escaping back into the safety of his present domain on the other side of the pearly gates. The enemy over there are probably a wee bit skinnier; perhaps even a tad emaciated. But they were slim pickings to begin with when they were alive; nothing drastically changing in the few hundred years their souls have roamed in eternity.

Obesity: Though a cousin to Fat, with more than a few like characteristics (enough to ensure the family connection), it cannot be confused as a fraternal twin, and passed off as easily dismissible. That is because one can be a tad pudgy and still maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle. Look back through history to the time when modestly nude paintings were high art and you find both men and women depicted with a tad more curves than 1960's model Twiggy ever dreamt of having shape her skeleton. Pudgy, yes; grotesque, decidely not.

And once one crosses the point of no return, the line in the sand, or any other designation of pop culture drivel that screams Major Fail, only a miracle of, no pun intended, gargantuan proportions can bring them back to life as most people enjoy. Few can make the turnaround like Jared Fogle of Subway fame.

Obesity: Socially, the person afflicted with the disease suffers a ostracization twice as devastating because obesity transcends gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic stratum or any other quantifier of modern life. Haters across the board can scream singular epithets at folks all day. But add obesity to the mix and you have a double-whammy for the victim of such demagogic slander.

Now those of you who have seen my slight frame might view me as a hater, or at the least, given my build, ignorantly unsympathetic. You need to know that I have first-hand experience on the subject.

The paternal heritage I have been blessed to have, comes from strong Scotch-Irish stock, mostly growing up on farms and having the residual diet of the lifestyle. We are talking hard-working, earthy people, on the go every day with pre-dawn chores being interrupted only for breakfast. Mid-morning chores would resume before taking off a bit of time for dinner, that being the moniker long ago for the mid-day meal. Then the afternoon chores would commence and they were capped off with a weary supper. The work was arduous and the meals were hearty. But the metabolism spikes offset any issues even though the cooking was laden with cholesterol favorites. Still, until this nation matriculated from the Agricultural and Industrial eras through to the Technological explosion, that was okay. People were hefty, maybe a bit pudgy; but not, by definition, obese.

My dad, once standing tall at 6' 2", on a sturdy 250 pound frame, has now been shackled with the illness of obesity. Does he share in any cause to the encroachment of the malady? Yes, he does. And I will not cut him any slack on the faults because he knew better than to allow the affliction to body slam him to the canvas of life and pin him down for the count.

Granted, he had to have the DNA, the uniqueness of cellular combinations, that would predestine him, potentially, for the disease. One day he's working like every other 24-hour period in his seventy-plus years, allowing for some gradual slow-down as the clock winds in an easy progression toward retirement. The next day, metaphorically, he starts picking up health issues quicker; slowing further as the metabolism gears down, he begins to pick up a few more unwanted riders on the journey.

The next thing he knows there is a life filled with taking twenty-eight (28) pills a day to combat high-blood pressure, diabetes, and now renal failure. Added to that are finger pricks to check sugar levels, followed by the requisite insulin injections and a new bestest buddy, the nitro cream patch.

He cannot easily, if at all, gather the strength, or balance, to rise from, or recline to, bed. The same goes for using a chair or couch in which to sit; they are not designed for people encroaching, and literally zooming past, 300 pounds to easily use. He cannot, as well, stand for long periods with his strength just not being there anymore. Let's not forget the recent indignity of hygiene matters.

But this diatribe is not about the giant of a man I grew up adoring, if wondering at times whether I measured up to his standards. This is about the collective body, again no pun intended, of a society scooting along like a train on a track approaching a seemingly eternally deep ravine . . . a chasm now sans a bridge to provide safe crossing.

We are no longer a fat nation . . . we are an obese nation. And it has to be curtailed, one body at a time.

It is not an easy task to undertake. How in the heck do you look at someone, who is on that ride, who is maybe 30-50 years old, and implore them to either lose weight or face consequences no one should be facing in this day and age? How do I, with my gaunt appearance, warn that someone of the impending dangers of obesity?

It is a quandary that I am powerless to answer. It is a conundrum that the masses of high intelligence will not be able to devise a plan to countermand the onslaught.

To paraphrase Galileo,"You cannot teach a man anything, you can only hope to direct him on the wisest course."

This course, folks, needs a helluva number of directors.

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