Shrinking Me

     I knew I was killing myself, but I didn’t care.
     Being a journalist is not a 9-to-5 job. Too many meals eaten with one hand in a greasy bag and the other on the steering wheel.
     I ignored my ballooning shirt sizes. Those 2XL shirts must have shrunk in the dryer, right? Mega-normous fountain sodas from gas stations were a daily – or twice daily – rite of passage.
     Thankfully, I was able to break the cycle before I did any serious damage to my body. I’ve lost 55 pounds in the past year, mostly by cutting soda from my diet.
     That’s why I’ve been watching Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to ban the sale of extra-large sodas in New York City, to fight obesity.
     I agree with his reasoning. And I agree with the judge who tossed the law out this week.
     No one held a gun to my head and forced me to go to McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell … It was my decision.
     It also was my decision to turn my health around. I want to be around for my wife and kids. I want to be around for my grandkids.
     Our government’s job is to protect us from outside threats, not from ourselves.
     Even if New York’s “Don’t Supersize Me” law is not an abuse of power, as the judge ruled, dictating what we can eat or drink is ineffective.
     I know what I’m doing when I pull into a McDonald’s drive-through lane. Posting the calories of the Double Quarter Pounder I’m about to inhale won’t stop me. I’m still getting that heart-attack on a bun with the large fries and soda.
     I had a doctor give me a “come to Jesus” talk. Didn’t stop me.
     I saw my shirt size go from XL to 2XL to 3XL. Didn’t stop me.
     I started getting winded just walking up my stairs. Didn’t stop me.
     The only thing that stopped me was me. A picture a friend took finally opened my eyes to how big I actually was. I promised myself to change.
     I already owned the “Insanity” workout on DVD. It’s a 63-day program and I dropped my first 30 pounds doing it. Then I started working out at a church. To fight obesity, the church opened a full gym, free to the public as long as you take an hour-long safety course. Most importantly, I had emotional support from family and friends.
     I didn’t change what I ate so much as how I ate it. No more huge meals and late-night gorging. I drink one or two sodas a week – a far cry from the 12 a day I used to gulp.
     I’ve gone from 263 pounds to 207. I’m back in XL shirts. My BMI and body fat percentage are within the healthy range. I feel like a new person.
     Obesity needs to be handled in the same way that drug addiction is treated. Outlaw all the drugs in the world, but addicts will still get their hands on them. The only thing that changes the drug or food addict is a personal decision to change for the better, and access to resources to facilitate that change.
     For the alcoholic, that resource is Alcoholics Anonymous. For the food addict, it’s a gym.
     Regular gyms cost real money and can be intimidating. Then there’s the lack of proper training and eating habits. Most gyms are interested only in collecting your membership dues, then you are on your own.
     Bloomberg says obesity is especially prevalent in poor neighborhoods. But simply banning soft drink sales is just a Band-Aid. It doesn’t address any other dietary issues or exercise options the poor don’t have.
     It’s good as a sound bite on the evening news. It may buy him some votes in the next election. But it does no good.
     How about free or low-cost gyms in poor neighborhoods? How about incentives for buying healthy foods with food stamps or other forms of government assistance?
     Those options will be more expensive. They will be harder to obtain in today’s economy. The sound bites on the evening news are likely to be that we can’t afford them. But they are actual solutions instead of sound-bite Band-Aids that politicians on both sides of the aisle favor to make themselves look good.
     America does have a super-size problem, but banning super-size sodas won’t fix it.

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