If, in an instant, you could magically shed the unwanted pounds, literally freeing yourself of that which weighs you down, wouldn’t you do it? I think we all would, but yet the waistband of America continues to grow…
So what’s the solution?
I could bore you with statistics regarding the sky-rocketing obesity rates in the US or the dangers that visceral (belly) fat present to your health, or the alarming rates in which children are being diagnosed with Diabetes. However, statistics often disassociate and/or exempt us from the real problem, which exists solely under our own roof. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never had to struggle with my weight. My mom was a trendsetter in regard to a healthy whole food lifestyle. Eating healthy has always come natural to me. In other words, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – I love fresh, raw vegetables and I eat tuna fish right out of the package. For most, maintaining a healthy weight isn’t so simple. Recently, I experienced, first hand, how it must feel to walk in the shoes of one carrying an extra 30 pounds. A burden that is unintentional but chosen – fixable, but not easily remedied.
How I Suddenly Gained 30 Pounds
My lovely niece
Recently I had the luxury of escorting my lovely, nearly 3-year-old niece to a small music and art festival downtown. She’s a petite little thing, weighing exactly 30 pounds. I live less than a mile from the riverfront, which is where the festival was held, so naturally, on a beautiful April night, we decided to walk. We took our time getting there, smelling the flowers, picking dandelions, and chatting about the typical concerns of women, such as her friends and her hair. Many of the local merchants along the route featured a different artist and had their doors open offering snacks and cold drinks to lure in potential shoppers. At an early age, my sister has always exposed my niece (Caraline) to a healthy whole food diet of fruits, vegetables, organic meats and farm fresh eggs from the local farmers market. If it’s green, Caraline will eat it – avocado, broccoli, there are no exceptions. In fact, if you’ve read my book, Caraline is the subject of an anecdote in which I described her dressed in her Care Bear Halloween costume toting a large bag of candy, yet she was more interested in stealing broccoli from my dinner plate than the sweets in her bag (I have a terrific photo of it).
Caraline is a lucky little girl. Like me, she’s developed a taste for healthy foods and it’s likely, that as she grows, she’ll continue to prefer these over the less nutritious, high-calorie alternatives. However, like any child, she loves her sweets, and being the doting uncle, who was I to deny her. Needless to say, I may have over-doted because following the cookies, candy, juice and a Hawaiian Shave Ice that in turn fueled 2 hours of splashing in the fountain, dancing to the music and climbing up and down the church steps; a crash ensued that only mommy and her nigh-night could remedy. As she began to rub her tired eyes, I considered calling my sister to pick us up, but after all, it’s less than a mile walk and with her head comfortably resting on my shoulder, her limp little hands embracing my neck, her beautiful blue eyes drifting into sleep – I wasn’t about to cut our date short.
The Effects of Weight Gain on the Musculo-Skeletal System
Not more than 100 yards into the trip, I found it necessary to readjust, as I was carrying most of her cozy self with my arms and shoulders. I lifted and clutched her as close to me as I could, arching my lower back to take the weight off my arms as much as possible. The relief was short lived as now I began to feel the stress in my spine and lower back, an area called the T/L junction. As a chiropractor, it occurred to me that this is a frequent source of pain for many of my patients. Especially those that are bit heavier, particularly men with the typical “beer gut” displacement of weight – in addition to pregnant women nearing their due date . The T/L junction is the transitional segment between the thoracic spine (T-spine) and your lumbar spine (L-spine). The T-spine is designed for bending and rotation, while your L-spine is designed more for weight bearing. It’s this “transitional” aspect that makes this area more susceptible to pain and inflammation, so it’s no coincidence that this is exactly where the stress produced by my little bundle of joy was being focused – although it was soon to become more widespread.
At this point, I’m not even a third of the way home. It wouldn’t have been remotely out of the question to call in the extraction team via my sister’s VW wagon, but I’m a trooper and the systemic pain I’ve described was, after all, masked by the comforting analgesic of my lovely niece asleep in my arms. And so, I pressed on.
I soon began to get a bit winded. With each step, my breathing became more and more strained. It wasn’t overly hot, in fact it was quite cool, but I noticed the perspiration beginning to bead up on my forehead. This is a walk I’ve made hundreds of times in much warmer weather and I’ve never broken a sweat, nor been so much as slightly strained. The 30 additional pounds I carried was certainly taking it’s toll.
The pain in my back was soon replaced by tightening in my gluts and calves. The good thing about pain, perhaps the only good thing, is that the brain has difficulty isolating multiple sources of it. In that regard, pain is like multi-tasking – we may assume that we’re juggling several tasks at once, but in fact, we’re solely focused on that which is precedent, and only distracted by others. At the moment, my legs were first on the priority list, although, with a bit more adjusting, my arms reminded me that they were back into the rotation. So again, I hoisted her sleepy body up closer, like before, to complete the cycle as the pain returned solely to my low-back.
Keep in mind that I was walking at a very conservative pace. There was no bending, reaching, hurrying or obscure movements that are so typical of activities of daily living. This is about the time when I realized the burden that many of my patients carry and all I could think of was… why?
Dropping the Weight
Going for walk
By no fault of my own and as a result of some very fortunate upbringing, I’ve always been a believer that you have to walk a mile in one’s shoes before you can place judgment. I’ve always been very empathetic with my weight loss patients. We all have something in our lives that we’re not proud of, or something we let get away from us – something we can’t control. I’m certainly no exception. Most of us are able to keep our little secret under wraps, hidden away in a closet, saving us the embarrassment of exposure. Maybe your issue IS your messy closet? My point here; is that the obese and over-weight don’t have the luxury of hiding their flaws. They wear it on their sleeve for the world to see and determine prejudice against them of which I’ll never know. But, for a brief little while, on a cool April night, I felt the physical demands of their burden. And, to the contrary, I was also able to experience the tremendous relief of shedding the excess weight, relieving and bittersweet as it was.
If you could magically hand over your excess weight – literally freeing yourself from that which holds you down, and, as a by-product, robs you and your loved ones of your health and longevity, you would do it! We all would! Here’s the thing, you can… Albeit not as simply as I, but it’s entirely possible and I see it on a daily basis. It requires dedication and work, but most of all, it requires something unique that makes all goals attainable, a word that acts as both noun and verb alike – Start!!! For without it, no goals are attained.
Tune in tomorrow for three simple steps to help you “get the ball rolling.” This phrase is a simple metaphor for momentum, which is all it takes to right the ship and get you on the road to good health. With some early success, you’ll find the positive momentum to be, for lack of a more health-positive word and in support of irony, infectious; Not only within YOU, but in the lives of those around you.
To be continued… Check tomorrow blog for Three Steps to Weight Loss.