Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rant: childhood obesity and weight issues

My mother is a teacher and has reported that she has seen a marked increase in childhood obesity in recent years. Sometimes, she might ask her students something to this effect: "We sure had some nice weather last weekend, did you do anything fun? The answer is typically: "Nah, I just stayed in, played video games, watched TV and surfed the net." I was born in '80 and we did not get the internet until I was in high school. Nintendo came out in '85 and I got one when I was 8 years old. Yes, I played it quite a bit, but it was certainly not all that I did. Even before I got into track, I was no couch potato. I played soccer, baseball and basketball in elementary school. Most afternoons, I would go outside and either ride my bike around the neighborhood, shoot basketballs, throw the football around or find other ways to spend my energy. If you are my age or a little older, that probably describes your early childhood as well. Nowadays, participation in sports seems to have declined, children are spending less time outdoors thanks to internet access and video games and their food choices are likely to be poor as well so it should not be a surprise that childhood obesity is on the rise. If nothing is done about this, their condition is likely to worsen in adulthood when metabolism slows, leading to heart disease, diabetes and overall very poor health and quality of life.
I may take some heat for this but I feel that much of the problem can be solved if parents would provide a better example for their children. Parents may encourage their children to be physically active but if they are overweight themselves, do not exercise and simply pick up fast food loaded with saturated and trans fats, the good advice may not carry too much weight (no pun intended). I was hanging out by the pool one summer day and had to listen to a 6 year old kid repeatedly express his desire to become a cigarette smoker. I must have heard it at least 10 times: "I wanna smoke!" His mother said, "I don't want to hear that from you again." Meanwhile, she was lighting up her third cancer stick in the past half hour. No comments are necessary.
The poor food that parents serve their children may be as much of a problem as the child's lack of exercise. In this case, I can see how this can be a problem. If you work a long and stressful day at work and arrive home at 7:30 PM, working out and cooking are not things that you feel like doing. I work 8-5 and have run 10-12 miles on a weekday many times. When I do, I won't be home until 8 PM and I usually just pick up whatever on my way home. Most adults have a slow oxidation rate and thus have little energy to spend and do not "feel like" exercising. Fortunately, this all important oxidation rate can be improved by proper dietary supplements and appropriate exercise. I am such a believer in my treatment program that I recommend it even to those with no significant health complaints. If you weren't sure why I am such a strong advocate when I was struggling earlier this Fall, look no further than my recent workouts. Three years ago, I was relegated to walk/jogging and the my first timed 3 mile was 26:xx. If you had told me back then that I could run a 10K in 41:xx, there is no way that I would have believed it.

My weight has been pretty steady around 148 for most of the year. I'm 5'11" without shoes, 6'1" with them plus orthotics. According to most tables, the target range is between about 142-168 so I am within the target range albeit at the low end. Ideally, I should be 153-155 but if it's a difference of just 5-7 lbs, I'm not going to worry about it and I doubt that lower than ideal weight by itself will significantly impact my performance. Also, I feel pretty good at this weight. I have dropped below 145 a few times and did not feel as well but I've also been over 150 and did not feel very well. My BP is usually just under 120/80 and my choleterol is 133, very good numbers. When I did gain or lose weight , it was a body chemistry imbalance that was the cause, hence the symptoms. I do expect that when in balance, I will be in the low-mid 150s and feel good at that weight.

I am striving to become what is known as a "healthy fast" oxidizer. I realize that most of you have no idea what that means so let me explain briefly. In short, the thyroid and adrenal gland activity is mildly elevated with no trend toward adrenal burnout and the person is rife with energy, vitality and is very unlikely to have any type of weight problem or high cholesterol. On my last medical report, I was classified as a "moderate fast" oxidizer with no adrenal burnout but it was bordering on "extreme fast." On the positive side, in this state, I probably will never be overweight even if I did not run and I am unlikely to have a cholesterol problem either despite the fact that my diet is not the best. On the negative side, it is hard to gain weight and it doesn't seem to matter whether I run or not. Like I said, I'm not going to worry about being 5 lbs. too light but if became "extreme fast," I would feel very weak and drop to 140 and look anorexic. Also, even with "moderate fast" oxidation, I will experience some degree of energy loss and poor connective tissue healing leaving me undertrained with poorer performances especially at the longer distances. I can do better and if my recent training and race results are any indication, I am on the right track. At one point, I was taking upwards of 10 different pills to manage my chemical imbalances. I am now down to 4. I attribute much of my improvement to solving the chromium issue by reducing zinc consumption but I also completely cut out soda starting because it irritated my digestive system. That may be helping as well. If I can stay healthy enough to train at my current volume and intensity, next year you will see the following times: sub-19 5K, sub-40 10K, sub-1:30 half marathon, sub-3:20 marathon. Mark it down.


Da Weekend Warrior said...

All I had to do was read your title... it disgusts me! I had a patient, girl, 9 years old come in and weighed 190lbs... that's more than me!! Mom said "Her dad is big". I retorted "Her dad was super skinny as a child, he ate himself to obesity" (I knew the family). She goes on on how she eats healthy... bla bla bla... Calories in vs. Calories out!! DISGUSTING!!!

L.A. Runner said...

I can 100% identify w/ the childhood obesity. I see it every day. Another main issue is children living in poverty. Fast/fattening foods are cheaper than the healthy stuff. Also, if children live in unsafe areas, they may NOT be able to play outside. Whatever the reasons, it is a HUGE problem with our youth. Luckily, schools have finally fixed their breakfasts and lunches to meet health guidelines, but it took a bazillion years to do so.