This past Saturday morning, Holly and I set up our folding camp chairs at our little town’s beautiful city park to watch our 7-year-old’s soccer game. We arrived a little late, so we had to situate ourselves a couple rows back from the sideline. This afforded us a view of all of the spectators, mostly parents and grandparents.
During the periods when Pete was out of the game, I found myself looking around at the people, and noticed something disturbing: Nearly every single woman in view was either overweight, on her way to obesity, or already there. I mean, literally everywhere I looked. In particular, there was a group of friends and family members directly in front of me. Every last woman was heavy, and it came as no surprise to me that nearly all of them was drinking a soda of some kind.
(Let me mention here that I’m not using “obesity” as a descriptive term. In Western countries, “obese” refers to a person whose body weight index is greater than 30.)
This is nothing unusual. I’ve written about this sort of thing before. But what I noticed this day was that the ladies seem to almost embrace the condition of their bodies. Several of them stood — not sat — in a circle with diet sodas in hand, the way people do at a party, on full display to the entire soccer audience. They chatted loudly, as if trying to draw attention to themselves, and the topic was more often than not their health. They complained in exaggerated voices about one malady or another, as they guzzled soda.
Now, it isn’t that they had total disregard for their appearance. Quite the contrary, actually. They wore jean shorts and shimmery blouses, and several of them had flowery tattoos on their ankles and legs. To a person, each had a fancy hairdo with some type of perm or highlights, and each was heavily made up. Their feet, each toenail carefully painted with a variety of designs, were shoved into sandals or flip-flops the straps of which were adorned with shiny, sparkly things.
It struck me that these women had spent an enormous amount of time, money, and effort on every aspect of their outward appearance with absolutely no regard for what was contained within all the bling: their bodies. Worse still was the fact that several young children were with this group and without exception, each was carrying some type of candy or soda and each was overweight. At a preschool age, their destinies are set.
It made me angry, sad, and sick. Let me say something about the South. I’m from North Carolina, I’ve lived in Tennessee for two decades, and I love my Southern heritage. I think it’s the best place in the world to live and raise children, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
But it’s an indisputable fact that my Southern culture so thoroughly encourages obesity that it has become a badge of honor to both men and women. Guys with enormous pot guts hold cold beer at barbecues and brag about how much they ate at the Sunday buffet. Women chatter about biscuits and bundt cakes and Diet Coke while wearing clothes that can barely contain their girth. More often than not, group conversations settle into impassioned discourse regarding this restaurant or that, which famous covered dish Aunt Lucy brought to the Easter luncheon, or for how long a rack of ribs should be properly smoked.
What must happen before we wake up? Our love affair with food is easily the single most destructive and negative element in Southern culture today, in my opinion, and at the same time, it is center of our lives. If you honestly examine this, you will know it to be true.
I fear for these people, many of whom are in my own family. I fear for what is in store for them. I’m afraid that their later years will be filled with sickness, pain, and regret. These are loving, honest, hard-working, God-fearing human beings whose lives will be cut short because they couldn’t accept the reality that what they were shoving in their mouths would ultimately kill them, and do so long before their numbers should be called.
It’s not genetics, people. Don’t come at me with that lame-ass argument. Human beings are made to come in all shapes and sizes, but none of us were designed to become morbidly obese. For that, we must blame ourselves. It’s about inactivity and what we shove down our pie holes, period.
It’s no big mystery how people get fat. They eat more calories than they burn. That’s obviously a simplification, but essentially all there is to it.
This isn’t about “fat-shaming,” either, and frankly, that’s nothing more than a bullshit, cop-out phrase coined by a world of PC excuse-makers. This is reality. It’s the world we live in. At some point, our nation must realize that it’s eating itself into a miserable, painful, and premature grave. And at some point, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to be politically correct or do I want to help my loved one live a long, healthy life?
Let me ask you this: If your son, daughter, mother, husband, or best friend were openly and actively doing heroin in front of you, would you say something? I would sure hope so. Here’s another example: Would you encourage your teenager to play Russian roulette with a loaded .44 magnum before your very eyes?
The answer, of course, is no. Then why, for God’s sake, is it perfectly acceptable for you to allow your loved ones to kill themselves just as dead with food? Dead is dead, no matter how you get there. The only difference between junk food and drugs is that the former is legal and usually drags out the misery over a much longer period of time. That’s it, and it’s not just my opinion. The U.S. Center for Disease Control says that obesity brings with it a much higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and a host of other nightmares.
I know we can’t start running around grabbing Twinkies out of people’s mouths and throwing them to the ground like Jesus and the money-changers. But here’s what you can do. You can start with yourself. You can spend a little time reading about nutrition, you can start changing your eating habits, you can start walking around the block in the evenings, and you can begin setting the example for your children and grandchildren. You CAN do this. Don’t wait a day longer.
Stop this madness.
In case I haven’t offended you enough, let me go ahead and seal the deal. Read this blog I wrote last year about sugar and children: “I know you’re just trying to be nice. Don’t.”