‘You don’t sweat much for a fat boy’
Willis Webb

I t’s all my mother’s fault. For my being overweight and all. That’s my story but maybe I shouldn’t stick to it.

Actually, a story in a metropolitan daily newspaper reminded me of my own journey out of being so overweight. It said, among other things, that global obesity had doubled in the last 30 years.

When I graduated from high school lo those many decades ago, I was so skinny at 150 pounds that when I stood sideways and stuck out my tongue, people thought I was a zipper. Actually, with a flat-top haircut, I resembled some sort of paint brush.

Mother and her mother before her grew up on a farm and both thought that if someone was “ heav y” they were healthy or at least had stockpiled enough weight and energy to stave off a lengthy illness. Plus, Mother said, if you “ate good” (also meaning a lot) you would just naturally be healthy. She and my grandmother were skin and bones. Hmmm.

Her idea of eating good included a lot of healthy, good-for-you foods but there was also a lot of fat, cholesterol and sugar. A typical home-cooked meal in my adolescent, teen and college years offered at least two meats, three or four vegetables, a salad or two (one of which might be congealed), bread — homemade, yeasty rolls if we were real lucky — and several desserts. “Several” might consist of a cake and a couple of pies and there were always cookie jars filled with her famous “tea cakes” or other made-from-scratch cookies.

Now, understand, the cooking sessions at our house consisted of a solid but not elaborate breakfast. Then, the work began in earnest for “dinner,” the mid-day meal, not “ lunch.” Lunch was something you packed to take to school, to work or hunting or fishing.

Enough was cooked for dinner/ lunch that normally plenty was left for a full meal at “supper,” which folks now call dinner. There was enough variety that you could have two entirely different meals at “dinner” and “supper” without cooking additional food.

Such cooking and eating routines stemmed from an era where most livelihoods were based on agriculture or other heavy labor jobs. “Eating good” was essential to being able to do a long, hard day’s work.

It was fairly easy then for a youngster to stay trim. In addition to school, my brothers and I had paper routes (delivered by bicycle) in the morning and after-school-and-sports jobs that included full work-days on Saturday as well.

“Eating good” then and now are a little different.

However, I grew from a railthin high school graduate into an older man nearing retirement weighing more than 270 pounds. Of course, sitting at a desk 12-16 hours a day, eating fast food, then watching the tube at home until bedtime didn’t help the waistline. And, marrying a great cook added to my woeful lack of nutritional discipline.

One day not long before retiring, I was doing my one-acre yard and a neighbor noted: “You don’t sweat much for a fat boy.” That was the beginning of seeing my obesity and its relationship to my health.

Retirement for many means less activity. That didn’t translate for me. Yes, as you can tell, I’m still sitting at a keyboard fairly often while writing this and other missives, but it also means a significant amount of time outdoors keeping 2.5 acres of river bank retirement property in order. That, and my great cook/ wife, has contributed to a much healthier lifestyle and regimen with nutritional and, generally, non-fattening dishes. I’m down to 205-210 and I’m happy to say that recent physical checkups show the best numbers for me in 25 years. My goal is “under 200” permanently.

Obesity is a problem in America, more so than elsewhere though there is a worldwide “epidemic.” Here’s hoping you don’t have a weight problem and, if you do, that it doesn’t take someone saying, “you don’t sweat much for a fat boy” to break the pattern.

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2011-03-31 digital edition

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