Obesity in America

Obesity is back in the news and, as a former fat person, I thought I’d share some observations.

Personally, I doubt this is a problem that the Federal government can effectively address. Working with motivated populations, my success rate for creating sustainable change is low. Obesity is a distraction from the real issues:

  • inactivity;
  • high stress lifestyle choices;
  • safe activity environments for kids; and
  • a collective focus on consumption, rather than quality of experience.  

Even if government could “fix” us, there are other issus that I’d like them to sort first.  #1 being sustainable finances.

The way we look is a result of habit, social pressure and personal choice. By choosing to live in Colorado; creating a habit of daily exercise; and living with (extreme!) social pressure to maintain an athletic body… I am insulated from the impact of obesity. So if you think obesity is a major issue for America then consider saving yourself, first. I’ve achieved this by living in communities that embrace an active lifestyle (Christchurch and Boulder). An active life didn’t come naturally to me — it feels natural now, but that’s because I made choices to create the habits to sustain it.

Much of the online discussion reminds me of two intellectual traps: (a) thinking our lives will be better from legislating improvement in others; and (b) over-estimating our ability to impact others. My buddy, Bevan, wrote an interesting blog on proposals for a Soda Tax.

A process that works to create change: 

  • improve myself;
  • share good information; and
  • help the stars in my circle repeat the process.  

If your goal is a positive impact then focus on your friends that “get it.” Those are the individuals with potential to become stars in their local communities and the personal charisma to inspire others. As a team leader, it takes a lot of discipline to shed the chaotic and the head cases. The paradox is that we can most impact the world by helping those that don’t necessarily need us. The chronically needy remain needy. Their neediness reflecting a desire for attention and love – rather than their stated goals. Interestingly, the strategy to treat “problems” with love and acceptance works surprisingly well. Inner self-acceptance being a catalyst for external change.

There’s a moral certainty amongst the fit that is an illusion. We’re not better, we’re merely fit. I have friends that have been overweight their entire lives. Daily, they have lived exactly the way they wanted. Like me, they’ve had 25+ years of doing what they wanted.  Like me, they will live and they will die. Getting wrapped up about their weight doesn’t do any of us much good. We might as well enjoy the time that we have left together.

The real issue for society is inertia. My quality of life links strongly to activity level, not my body fat percentage.

To change the world, help one person get moving.