Good news! I found a very cheap gym option in the city and have now gone to work out three times. On my first visit, a nice young woman in a monochromatic sweat-uniform led me around and asked me questions about my fitness goals and good stuff like that and then she measured my body mass index or BMI, which leads me to the bad news: I am obese.
I pretty well knew this and wasn’t shocked – I’ve been here before. But it’s still a bummer and a wake up call.
What is the official definition of obesity? According to WebMD: Obesity is an excess proportion of total body fat. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight. The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI. A person is considered overweight if his or her BMI is between 25 and 29.9; a person is considered obese if his or her BMI is over 30.
Mine is at 33%, so I have some work to do, but I’m feeling the ‘scared straight’ impetus to work hard and pay attention to some bad habits that I should have eradicated long ago and didn’t. My daughter is about to turn ten, and I still haven’t shaken a bad habit that began when she was born – compulsive snacking that evolved into scarfing items from her plate before scraping the remains into the compost. Not pretty, I know. When I had the mandate to eat, eat, eat, and drink, drink, drink, because I was breastfeeding her, it was like someone had removed the restraining bolt it had taken all my previous years to secure.
A couple of things that the most basic of articles on weight loss and nutrition tell you, and that are fairly ironclad, are eat less and exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. We have a solid grasp on these concepts even when we can’t always do them. Then the magazine nutritionist will trot out the old saw that you always have carrot sticks and celery sticks handy and reach for those rather than chips or chocolate when you are peckish. And this, for me, is where it all falls down. Carrot sticks and celery sticks. So uninspiring, and more than a little depressing. Rabbit food. Think of the sad look on Claudette Colbert’s face in It Happened One Night when she is so hungry that she resorts to eating the raw carrots.
Though no offense to them, I admire the carrot and celery’s work in the creation of stocks and roasts, etc., I am realizing that I need to address my tendency to nosh as I cook dinner. Chefs uniformly advise home cooks to taste everything, right? The other night, to combat ingesting a couple hundred unconscious calories before I even sat down to dinner, I made a low cal but satisfying amouse bouche for myself to snack on while I prepped:
It’s marinated fennel. I bought a bulb of fennel at the produce market, diced up the usual parts and marinated it in olive oil, the juice of one lemon, a dash of salt and celery seed. It can sit in a ziploc bag marinating in the fridge and be ready when you are. It’s nice to add onto a dinner salad too. It has the same crunch as celery and carrots, and the same low calorie count (except it’s coated in olive oil of course).
Marinating veggies so that they are tasty residents in my fridge is a *good* habit that I am conscientiously trying to adapt. The other one that I think is key, is to build in plans to get to a produce market or farmer’s market at least once a week so that you will have a good supply of low calorie, nutrient-filled food at arm’s length.
One of the bigger news stories around high rates of obesity and its health risks is the sharp rise in the rate of obesity in children and the consequent rise in type-2 diabetes. According to the CDC, the obesity rate in U.S. children has tripled since 1980, with approximately 17% or 12.5 million of children between the ages of 2 – 19 considered to be obese. The adult rate, however, is closer to 35.7%, or over a third of us. Here is a link from the CDC if you’re interested in more stats: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/facts.html
Obviously, children are a captive audience when it comes to what groceries are around or what food is placed in front of them. No matter how much they might beg for the lucky charms variety of cereal or to eat only chicken nuggets and fries for a week, it’s our job to be the bad cop most of the time. You know that saying ‘failure is not an option’? Well neither is not eating any vegetables ever. (And this goes for some spouses too who have this attitude!) But to keep up my end, it’s important to make vegetables palatable. It’s also up to us adults to encourage the youngsters in our lives to get out and about.
I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I also sympathize and agree that putting theory into practice can be quite a challenge. Part of that challenge is also modeling good behavior, as far as incorporating fitness into our lives – and based on the statistics above, we obesity-tending adults who also have kids at home could benefit quite a lot by taking the challenge and the responsibility seriously.
Just a few resources that I turn to when I focus on fighting the flab:
- Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. In his book are well explained habits for a lifetime of better eating and better health. I’m happy to say that I have moved in the direction in many of them. I at one time typed up a summary of all 25 rules, for example, ‘Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food’ but figure I can’t post them here as that might be a copyright no-no. I’ve seen on Amazon that ‘the rules’ themselves have been published as a sort of pamphlet.
- Body Clutter, by Marla Cilley, a.k.a. The Fly Lady, and Leanne Ely. I find her metaphor that excess pounds are the equivalent of household clutter on your body. There are some good motivational rants in there, especially the formula or mantra to stop impulse overeating they term as H.A.L.T. Are you picking up that fatty snack because you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? Pausing to ask yourself these questions may be enough to get you to put down the cookie.
- And of course there are also the prime resources of the gym, my fruit and veggie supplier and the internet, where you can visit a world full of blogs to learn to cook almost anything in a new, exciting and calorie reducing way.