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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 smart.
  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.