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Jack Zaleski, Published September 22 2012

Zaleski: Try a little discipline, focus, sacrifice

The report last week that the nation is on the way to a fatter future (Sept. 19 Forum, Page 1) did not surprise me. At a recent stroll around Fargo’s West Acres shopping center, the nation’s waddle to fatdom was on display from the food court to the Sears hardware department and every place in between. If North Dakota’s obesity rate among adults is 27.8 percent (Mississippi fatties lead the nation; Colorado has fewest obese residents), they all were at the mall that day, and they had their chubbo kids in tow.

OK, you out there who are so easily offended by truth: I understand it’s unkind to criticize people for being overweight. Heaven (and the weight loss industry) knows how difficult it is to lose weight once the pounds are hanging off thighs, butts and bellies. Factors that underlie the struggle with weight gain range from diet and exercise to genetics and body chemistry. Some factors are more easily managed than others. Anyone who has fought the weight war knows how hard and frustrating it can be.

But it’s not like we people of an advanced Western nation are unaware of factors that feed weight gain. It’s not as if strategies to lose weight – or at least keep from putting on pounds – are among the mysteries of the cosmos. And last week’s report was not talking about people who are “pleasingly plump” or “plus size” or “full-figured.” Lots of people carry a few extra pounds and are quite healthy, thank you.

The focus was on obesity, which is a medical measurement of fat relative to body mass. It’s a health concern because obesity is the root cause of many diseases and chronic debilitating conditions. The consensus among physicians, nutritionists and others who study obesity is that a slimmer nation is a healthier nation. Anyone disagree with that?

I’m lucky. I have been able, thus far, to overcome a family history written by relatives who tended toward the porky. My father got heavy early in life. My mother, whose Italian heritage guaranteed a diet that would give a modern-day nutritionist the vapors, got heavy late in life. Uncles and aunts, hearty eaters all, ate from the same weight-gain menu. All had weight-related health problems.

I paid attention. I realized that by heritage and probably by genetic proclivity I was at risk of stumbling down the road to fat city. That it was the road not taken was a deliberative choice. I learned to eat what I want, including my mother’s Italian fare, but not too much; to exercise, if not routinely at a gym, in the outdoors on skis, sailboats and hiking trails or in the garden and woodlot; to cut back on food, and move more when the scale registered an unwelcome pound or two. So far, so good.

The lesson? Vital elements of long-term weight management are discipline, focus and sacrifice. Without them, no weight-loss program will succeed.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.