Obesity in Toledo: Tackling the issueWritten by Casey Harper | | email@example.com
The words stung my fragile 10-year-old heart:
It was the fifth grade, a time for the last hurrah of recess and the beginnings of puberty. Mainly it was a time when the social order was quickly being defined and one slip-up could send you hurtling down the food chain. Unfortunately, I chose this delicate time to be the first kid to pass the ominous 100-pound mark, which is what drew the insult.
Thankfully, the label didn’t stick. The words, however, nagged at me for weeks. I remember hesitantly stepping on the school nurse’s scale. I just knew it would shatter. The nurse would be furious. She’d throw me to the curb. Expelled, I’d be forced to waddle the streets a homeless, obese fifth-grader. I’d live in a box. But it’d have to be one of those big-screen TV boxes since I was fat, right?
It’s obvious my imagination ran wild, especially since, looking back, I was hardly chubby. That was just a scare and now I’m a lean 6 foot and 180 pounds, which puts me in a peculiar position to head up a project on obesity. But that’s just what I’ve done for this Toledo Free Press special report.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22.9 percent of Americans 20 and older were obese in 1988-94. By 2010, that number had risen to 35.7 percent. Even worse, in a country with a ballooning obesity problem, Toledo was voted the 7th fattest city in America.
Following a year in which Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller has chronicled losing nearly 200 pounds after bariatric sleeve surgery, Toledo Free Press is doing its part to tackle the issue.
The cover story for this issue explains the problem and how it looks out in the Toledo area. Staff Writer Evan Brune’s story covers what private businesses are doing to help their employees lose weight. The free market runs off incentives. Climbing health care costs have given employers an incentive to increase healthy programs and options for their employees. Plus it builds employee loyalty, morale, and just makes everybody feel warm and fuzzy.
Staff Writer Paige Shermis’ piece covers local government initiatives that are fighting obesity. Everything from community gardens to food pantries to breast-feeding can make a difference.
Next week, Staff Writer Sura Khuder will examine weight-loss surgery options, laying out the pros and cons of different routes you can take. Ultimately, though, you’ll see that even with weight-loss surgery a lot of hard work and discipline is required to make the change last. Countless people have gotten weight-loss surgery only to gain the weight back again, which brings up my biggest point.
The battle is for your mind. Not your stomach or your cholesterol or your blood sugar. I have studied this problem as an outsider looking in. I am not obese. But when I look in, I see people trapped by wrong thinking, people who want to stop and desperately want to change, but cannot win the daily battles. Consequently, they’ve given up and sadly believe they are doomed to suffer the health problems and social stigma of being overweight.
The solution is as liberating as it is simple: You have to love something more than your current lifestyle. For many people that is their kids. For others, it is God. Often, it is a love of self, the desire to look and feel better. You won’t win this battle by hating yourself. You’ll win it by loving the future you and focusing on the positive. That is what will drive you.
Do not mistake simple for easy. It is not easy. Do not expect it to be. But focusing on how hard it is will only make it harder. What you focus on has an immeasurably large effect on your life. Focus on your goal, what you love, and take it one day at a time.
Be encouraged that it is possible, that it has been done, and that you could be the next to do it. Change your mentality and you’ll change your life.
But that’s just a 20-year-old skinny kid’s opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
Err, hold the salt.
Casey Harper is a student at Hillsdale College and Toledo Free Press staff writer who served as project manager for the Toledo Free Press Special Report, “Obesity in Toledo.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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