It seems like every day I hear something about obesity. The newspapers are full of interviews with alarmed statisticians and staggering numbers. I've heard interviews (in the past week alone) with fat people, former fat people, doctors, nurses, urban planners and health advocates, all pontificating on how we got here and how we are going to fix it. Naturally it is something I think about a lot and something that really concerns me.
When I was pregnant with Paisley I gained a lot of weight. This was the first time in my life where I had ever really struggled with my weight. After she was born I was left with an entirely different body - an unfamiliar visitor that left me feeling awful. I felt like the inside no longer matched the outside and that people looked at me differently. There were all kinds of reasons why I put on the weight and although the diabetes didn't help, it was ultimately because I had consumed more calories than I expended. I realize the relationship isn't always so linear, and that the more we learn about our fat metabolism and obesity, the more complicated it gets, but still, you can't escape the fact that if you take in less calories than you burn, you won't continue to gain weight.
I started getting fit. I watched the pounds drop off and made friends at the local YMCA. I gained muscle tone and energy and enthusiasm for life. I looked better, I felt better and I was discovering a whole new me. At some point I passed over to evangelism. This happens to people. You discover running, or fitness, and you can't believe how it changes your life. You start to feel like if everyone could discover what you have discovered, they would feel this way too. It becomes a solution to everything you see around you - depression, obesity, heart disease, fad diets and low self-esteem. You start to see it as a cure-all and the people around you start to feel annoyed. :)
Here's the thing though. Exercise is a cure-all. That's not saying everyone likes it. I've come to realize that maybe some people will never feel the rush I feel after a good run (although part of me still insists with consistent effort over a long period of time it will happen) but nobody can argue that the run won't do them any good. The human body is designed to move. Our metabolisms are based on certain energy outputs and evolved under conditions with way less food and far more movement than we have today.
This pregnancy has been so incredibly different from my first, and it is all because of fitness. Losing the baby weight, getting healthy and then maintaining my routine throughout the pregnancy has left me feeling strong, energized and free. The baby of course is better off as well. I haven't gained nearly the weight I gained last time and I have no doubt the recovery will be easier, faster and more enjoyable as well. The only thing worse than being overweight was being pregnant and overweight.
Recognize that I am not talking about being skinny. I have a good friend who is super-fit and does Ironmans - she is incredibly strong and healthy. And she will never be skinny. It's not who she is or how she is built, but she (and her body) derives the benefits of fitness the same as anyone. I firmly believe that if I could snap my fingers and have everyone in the world experience feeling truly fit for one week, nobody would ever go back. It's the getting there that is so tough.
Across the world (or at least across the Western hemisphere) people are looking for an answer to obesity. If I could find that one motivator that would work for people, to push them over the edge into changing their lifestyle I would be a billionaire. Several times over. I often wonder what makes some people get off the couch and 350 lbs and start running, while others (the majority to be fair) just stay there. Is it personality, environment, chemicals? Have they just not found their motivation yet or is it so much more complicated?
I understand that genetics, social groups, past hitory, urban planning, social economic status, culture, race and education all play into this. I get that it's not simple - but what makes some people hit that wall and make a change while others watch from the sidelines?