Sunday, July 20, 2008

Always be kind. For everyone is fighting a great, great battle. 
I was struck by the photograph in this sad story...

The collection agencies call at least 20 times a day. For a little quiet, Diane McLeod stashes her phone in the dishwasher.

But right up until she hit the wall financially, Ms. McLeod was a dream customer for lenders. She juggled not one but two mortgages, both with interest rates that rose over time, and a car loan and high-cost credit card debt. Separated and living with her 20-year-old son, she worked two jobs so she could afford her small, two-bedroom ranch house in suburban Philadelphia, the Kia she drove to work, and the handbags and knickknacks she liked.

Then last year, back-to-back medical emergencies helped push her over the edge. She could no longer afford either her home payments or her credit card bills. Then she lost her job. Now her home is in foreclosure and her credit profile in ruins.

This woman is in her 40s and struggling under a mountain of debt, with her home in foreclosure. She has to live with her 20 year old son to make ends meet (though a lot of 20 year olds still live with their parents, anyway. But not because the PARENT has to, but because the child has to.)

On top of that, she's overweight, and look at the table! A can of fully-sugared Coca Cola, a bottle of what looks to be Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink, and an ash tray.

There's just so much wrong with that picture. It's the picture of resignation, defeat, and surrender.

I wish I could buy her a cup of coffee and tell her that she doesn't have to surrender. She can still go on the attack. Pick a front and take ownership of it. It might be smoking, it might be the sugar, it might be exercising more. But small successes lead to big ones.

I should take this opportunity to highlight one of my favorite blogs: Escape From Obesity.

Some weeks back, when I quit my long-hours-at-a-desk marketing gig and had several weeks off, I decided to change a lot of bad habits. I decided I was going to make my health priority one every day. Cleaning up my diet, not overeating (I mentioned on this blog at some point, my biggest vice is stress eating.)

I started lifting weights, working out, signed up to study martial arts (krav maga), and overall kicked myself in the ass.

As a result, I've dropped about 15 pounds, taken about 2 minutes off my two-mile run time (if the treadmill calculates distance accurately), and my khakhi shorts are falling down when I walk, unless I have the presence of mind to wear a belt.)

Now, I've made some of the same resolutions before. But this time, I actually had TIME to build these good habits with a minimum of distractions. But that wasn't the only difference. The real difference was that I also had time to look to others who had overcome challenges far greater than mine - and who were successful. I read their blogs, got their tips, watched their time-lapse photos on YouTube, taken over weeks, months, and years, and cheered them on, and let their success rub off on me.

I went out and found every personal weight loss accountability blog I could find. Ok, most of them are pretty lame, to be honest. But what's NOT lame is reading the initial entry! What got them started? What was the emotional spark that got the fitness engine running? What motivated them to turn that ship around?

Anyway, Lyn, the author of Escape from Obesity, is just an amazing, human blogger. Just riveting. Most of us would regard a weight loss blog as something trivial. But that's nonsense. For some people, it's a matter of life and death. It's a life of playing with their kids or having to watch your children's childhood go by without you.

Since beginning her blog, in August of last year, Lyn, a mother of young children, has lost 62 pounds...and changed her life. But I keep coming back and reading and rereading her very first post, Why I Am Fat:

Well, here I am at 5'7 and 278 pounds, a walking, living, breathing mound of fat layered on top of a thin person. Well, not walking so much these days, as my knees are shot from the excess poundage for 10 years. Yes, I have ruined my knees, my health, my chance to move freely and enjoy this one life I have been given. Why? For a brownie. Yes, for one brownie I traded my soul and my happiness. If you are thin you might think that is ridiculous. If you are fat you know the sense of sheer desperation and loss of all sensibility when you smell a warm, freshly baked, rich, chewy, fudgy brownie. Ahhhhhh, yes, a hot brownie with a glass of skim milk. Did that one brownie make me fat? Well, technically no. But it is that one moment, that split second when one decides that a brownie is worth whatever consequences it brings... it is the hundreds of times in ten years when one brownie does not seem all that harmful... it is the accumulation of 500 brownies, 300 Big Macs, 700 Cokes, 800 chocolate chip cookies, 150 slices of cheesecake... over a ten year span, that got me to where I am. Each instance is small. Just one brownie. Just for today. Add them up and you get to be 130 pounds overweight. In each and every instance, I chose a bite of this or a taste of that for my health and happiness.

I never understood the saying, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." Of course it does!!! How could being thin compare to the deep dark chocolate taste in a slice of Triple Chocolate Cheesecake?? Or a plate of bacon/cheese smothered french fries drenched in salt and dunked in ranch dressing???? Being thin could not POSSIBLY compare to the ecstacy of eating those foods. But suddenly, recently, I had a revelation. It is not that 5 minutes of standing around hungry being thin feels better than shoving fantastic, greasy, near-orgasmic foods into my ever-waiting mouth. It is that 5 minutes of ecstacy in eating WHATEVER delights I can imagine, is no comparison to an hour, a day, a year, a lifetime of being healthy and alive, being able to run and play with my kids, being able to ride a horse or roller blade or fit in a normal size lawn chair without collapsing it. No brownie, no PLATE of brownies, no chest full of chocolate cheesecakes can compare with the opportunity to walk down the beach with my family and to live long enough to see and know my grandchildren. No cookie or Big Mac is worth being stuck in the house, immobile with bad knees, and knowing that my kids are embarrassed of me when I come around their friends. It is not worth it. Feeling miserable and being immobile is too high a price to pay for that brownie. I am not going to live this way anymore.

I think it was St. Bartholomew who admonishes us to be kind. For everyone is fighting a great, great battle.

Splash, out


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As a bigger gall myself, I understand where you're coming from. But sugar-coating it wouldn't help that woman. Everyone beat around the bush with me. Everyone made sugar-coated platitudes about my weight. It wasn't until the very real effect of seeing my beloved husband not interested in me as he used to be, regardless of his excuses and logical reasons, that anything changed. I've started actually putting effort into losing weight and partaking of life with my family in meaningful ways. I watch what I eat (typically meaning eating less of everything), and putting some time on the treadmill. I have a long hard battle ahead, but it's the least I can do for my family and myself.

The same can be said for all these people that have dug themselves so deeply into debt. I don't have a lot of pity for most of them. I absolutely detest that I'm going to in all liklihood have more of my hard-earned dollar taken in order to bail them out of their own stupidity. No one held a gun to their head to sign that mortgage contract or credit card app. Why do I have to help bail them out just because I didn't make those same stupid choices? I'm aware that I don't have a very popular or pc viewpoint, but it doesn't change the facts.

People put themselves in these messes and they can deal with the consequences. Just as no one can lose the weight for me, we shouldn't have to do for these fools either.
Many congratulations on the paradigm change!

But who's sugar-coating anything to this woman?

I wrote this because there's a difference between financial problems and clinical depression, and because of the combination of the financial problems and what appears to be a poor diet (the Coke, the Yoohoo and the cigarettes, coupled with this woman being overweight), that my gut tells me that theres' more than the financial problems going on here.

(I also know that Macaroni and Cheese is cheap; healthy produce is expensive. I know...at one point in my life I lived on Ramen, generic Mac and Cheese at 30 cents a box, and Magic Mondays at McDonald's where I could splurge on hamburgers at 29 cents apiece!

Now, in this case, she's made some financial decisions that were obviously subpar. But that's true of most people. But look deeper; there's also the combination of a job loss (apparently there's no spousal income to absorb the income shock) and substantial medical bills.

Now, if your husband's a tanker, and in the military, you've got a threefold advantage over this woman: 1. A spouse, 2. Who has a job in which he's unlikely to be laid off, and 3. Paid for health care, courtesy of Tricare.

It's ok to have a very un-PC viewpoint. But it's also a bit of a luxury, isn't it? After all, isn't it the government who's protecting you from the economic shocks that have buffeted this woman?

Put another way - if you're a military dependent: Isn't she paying for YOUR health care?
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