A Letter to a Fat Kid
A young Facebook friend, a high
school student, complained about being overweight. It was easy to put
myself in his shoes because I was a fat kid too. So I wrote this for
him. I hope it helped.
I'm an old fatty. I porked
out at about age nine and I've been fighting it ever since. Inside this
gorgeous slender bod is a big fat guy waiting to come back out if I
give him a chance. A few years ago I got the problem under control when
I decided that the fat thermostat is between my ears, and I'm the only
one who can control it. It's simple arithmetic. Taking in more calories
than you burn = more fat. Taking in fewer calories than you burn = less
fat. Unfortunately I like all kinds of food, so I can really stow away
the groceries. Fortunately, I like all kinds of food, which includes
vegetables, so a meal with a main course of spinach or cabbage is fine
with me. In a year I dropped forty pounds.
What I've done is cut
down the calories going in, and increased the calories burned. I
haven't given up going to La Fiesta and having enchiladas supremas and
frijoles refritos, or the Chinese Chef for all that good stuff at the
buffet, just like all the fat folks. I just limit all that to once a
week. One night a week doesn't cancel out six days of eating the right
stuff. The rest of the week it's mostly veggies and fruit, almost never
any meat, some tuna, some fruit, some nuts, a little cereal, etc. Pop?
Diet only, but mostly water. Example: tonight I had a few ounces of
kimchi, a couple of celery stalks with peanut butter, half a large
cucumber, a big tomato, three slices of jalapeņo cheese, half a dill
pickle, three handfuls of mixed nuts, a banana, and three fig bars.
That was plenty to fill me up. Breakfast will be a little cereal and an
apple, none of the fried crap people eat every day that builds heart
attacks, diabetes, and cancer. The folks who make packaged foods are
not your friends. The more you can avoid anything that has a list of
ingredients, the better off you are.
Exercise? A lot
of studies have found that walking makes a difference, but I run
because it takes only half as much time as walking. This morning I did
three miles in 31:18. Not bad for age seventy plus. A few years ago I
couldn't run three miles at all. I couldn't even run a quarter mile. I
started by walking three miles. After a few weeks of that I ran a
quarter mile or so and walked the rest. That made me sore the next day,
so I went back to walking. After the soreness went away I ran some
more, and wasn't as sore this time. Little by little, I ran more and
more. It wasn't long before I was able to jog the whole three miles.
For me it's a three-mile run, but anything that works up a good sweat
for half an hour will do. A small benefit is the calories burned up,
but that's a minor help. Much more important is that regular exercise
reduces your appetite. I discovered that in basic training at Fort
Polk. It also helps circulation of blood to the brain, to keep you
I probably don't have
to say too much about a lot of teenage kids today having diabetes,
strokes, heart attacks, etc., because of weight. I suspect you're aware
of all that. The good news is that you're in charge of the fat
thermostat and you can turn it down. I've done it, and lots of other
people have too. When my friend Mark got up around 400 pounds he got
scared. I once heard his doctor tell him guys who weigh 300 pounds
don't live long, so 400 pounds really had him worried. He's taken off
hundreds of pounds, not by starving, but just by changing what he eats
and getting some exercise.
So what's my message?
It's that we all have the power to adjust our fat thermostats. That
includes you. It's not always easy to do. Sometimes you wander off the
path to health and into a bag of chips or a box of cookies. You don't
beat yourself up over that, or give up. You get back on the path. You
can do it.