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American weight a disease or something else?

July 5, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
Lost amid the past couple of weeks of big stuff was the little tale of the American Medical Association voting to approve its future wealth, possibly at the hands of the government -- you and me and taxpayer dollars.

The AMA voted last month that obesity is a disease.

The reasons for it becoming an epidemic in America, while it isn’t a huge societal problem in, say, sub-Saharan Africa or the streets of Japan or Germany or Great Britain were not addressed.

Cannot be that every strip mall and busy intersection in the nation is dotted with at least one of the three or four major brands of fast food restaurant, or that the nation has become too lazy in general to cook for itself. Cannot be that everyone who is not working out in a gym regularly -- estimates very from 60 to 80 percent of the population -- has a list of excuses a mile long why they don’t have time or energy to do so.

I apologize to anyone I offended a couple weeks ago when the AMA story first broke with a ranting screed on Facebook referring to anyone reading it as “Hey Fat People!” It went downhill from there, but beneath the written yelling, there is something I think lots of folks need to hear. This is something that is a passion to me, largely because the struggle with weight goes back to childhood and only in my late 40s did I gain ground, under threat of death.

I spent about 7 years on antidepressants. I have occasionally succumbed to the trip to the doctor for what medically is a hangnail compared with, say, cancer. I’ve felt sorry for myself, all the way to 310 pounds and a failing liver. And I smoked. I ate a lot of pizza and chicken wings. I blamed the world for my life, not me. And I wasn’t all that bad off. I just hated not being able to do everything I wanted when I wanted. In other words, I was a child in middle age.

But I did not cry to my doctor when he laid out the liver failure numbers that were associated with the 310-pounder I had become circa 2009 or so. Finally I stopped looking for what the world was doing to me, waaah, waaah, and decided that if life was worth living for my family, and my friends and you who read this stuff I write, I had to get going.

This November will mark the fourth year that I decided my disease was in the mirror, staring back at me from two brown eyes in a very big round head. I recognize that everyone cannot do it the way I did. I’m not even sure if I could do it again...I walked out of the doctor’s office, joined the gym despite not having worked out since high school and always having been generally afraid that gyms were for macho men, not fat writers who can’t jack up a lot of weight on the weight bench. I walked out of the doctor’s office, crushed the last pack of smokes that were in my pocket. Ditto the smokless I had been trying to use as a crutch to get off smoking -- a totally stupid idea that only contributed to the liver decline.

I went without chicken wings for a year. Pizza, too. I ordered salads. I pouted while my wife and son ate the stuff I loved, but I learned to fight. I looked into those brown eyes and heard my mother’s voice, she who watched every morsel like a hawk most of the time for the 40-plus years of her life she was diabetic.

Fact is, you have free will. you make choices. They are not easy. But every time you choose correctly, maybe your blood numbers drop a little more toward the good side.

Tomorrow, let’s continue.


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