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Writing-Arts /essays
Date Posted:6/3

An Autobiographical Perspective

by: Andreas Lan

Today in the United States we are facing a plague worse than SARS; something so dangerous that it claims the lives of 300,000 people very year. A plague that is so serious, there is no cure. Yet this plague is constantly overlooked. Obesity was, is, and forever will be a problem in the United States.

I remember when I was in sixth grade and the film Heavyweights came out. You know the flick that I’m talking about: the film about life at fat camp. If there is one lesson to be learned from the film, it is that fat people always get picked on. They are the easiest targets. Trust me, I know.

As a child I was a toothpick. I wasn’t a picky eater; I just had a quick metabolism. When kids are young they tend to eat less and be more active. By the time I reached the fifth grade, I was getting fat without paying much attention to the accumulating pounds. After all, at twelve years old who thinks about their weight? By the time I was in eighth grade, despite the constant admonishment of my parents to watch what I was eating, I was obese.
What do you think about when you hear the word “obese”? Maybe the pictures you have seen while waiting in line at the Supermarket on the cover of the Weekly World News of, “1106lb woman with 1100 lb children”. That is beyond obesity. Obesity is defined as “an increase in body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirement, as the result of an excessive accumulation of fat in the body.” Ultimately what this means is that your weight prevents you for carrying out some sort of action you should be able to perform. A 15-year- old should be able to run a mile. I couldn’t.

I knew that I was fat. However, I could not reprimand myself for being fat all the time. As a result, I learned to live with being fat. To most fat people, the constant admonishment of others to watch their diets doesn’t matter. “Andreas, do you really need that piece of cake?” my mother would say. “I don’t care, I am hungry,” was my usual reply.
No self-control. That was what my mother would say was my “faiblesse” (French for “weakness”). I was not able to control my urges. I would relent to any desire. Whenever I went outside, I would have to buy candy. It was a sickness. I really wasn’t concerned with my appearance, as is the case with most fat people. There were times when I would contemplate weight loss but after a week I would give up. I had no perseverance.

Time passed and by the time I was sixteen, my waist 40-inches around. What this meant was that if I had gained any more weight, I would have to shop at Big and Tall. I needed to do something, but I had no willpower. After my sixteenth birthday, I promised myself that I would attempt to lose weight by myself. Accomplishing a goal with external help is not the same as doing it yourself, especially if it is something that you are capable of doing. In my case, I had such a bad eating pattern that cutting certain food groups out would psychologically kill me. I had to attempt portion control, the most difficult kind of diet. It was hard for me to leave half of my sandwich on the plate. My excuse for finishing my plate was, “What about all the starving children in Ethiopia?”

However, after the first two months of summer I had developed a steady eating pattern. When I returned from a summer in France my parents had noticed a change in my appearance and were content to see my attempt to lose weight. I continued on the same diet accompanied by heavy exercise through August. When I returned for yet another year of school in September, I learned that my friend, Assaf, had begun the Atkins diet. So with a couple of tips from him on how to get started I began my new diet. In December, I had dropped to a 34-inch, and as of May 16, I wore a 30. This was by far the biggest accomplishment of my life.

Reflecting back on that sinuous path I had to follow to reach my goal, I realize that it can be done. After following a strict diet for several months, I developed a thorough understanding of the food pyramid. In my attempt to read whatever I could find about weight maintenance, I learned why America was the most overweight country in the world. In fact, obesity rose six percent nationally between 1998 and 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, recent CDC reports indicate that diabetes increased by 33 percent among American adults during the 1990s, reflecting a surge in obesity during the same period. Most Americans have a poor diet. They eat carbohydrates all day long but then don’t exercise to burn it off. These carbohydrates then develop into fat and accumulate. The reason for America’s poor diet is the abundance of junk food on the market. M and M’s, Snickers, Lays, Doritos, etc, all dump millions of dollars into advertising. These companies then market these products cheaply and effectively to a large consumer body.
Ultimately, the reason for these companies success is the large division between the rich and the poor. Whereas, many New Yorkers have the luxury of shopping at quality supermarkets and the money to support a decent diet, the rest of United States cannot. Chips, candies, and sodas are cheap snacks that everyone can afford and thus play a large role in many lives. Another reason that Americans are overweight is their lack of will power. They do not know when to stop eating. I was in a taxi a couple months ago, and I heard on the radio some lawsuit regarding an obese man trying to sue McDonalds. What has the world come to? Did anyone force you to eat at McDonalds? If the man had any idea how bad that food was for him, he would have eaten lunch at Subway’s with Jared.
Now that I have achieved my goal, I have received a lot of attention. “It feels good doesn’t it? “ my guidance counselor asked me in school. “How did you do it?” For those of you who want the simplest plan to lose weight here it is: First and foremost, buy a scale. This will be your best friend for the next several months. A scale will allow you to monitor your weight during your diet. Do not switch scales. If you remain using the same scale your weight will not fluctuate as much.

Second, be realistic. “Yes, I want to lose 60 pounds.” This is a very ambitious statement. Lose ten pounds and work with that. Once you lose the first ten pounds and develop that mental state the rest is easy. Next, choose a particular diet: Atkins, Zone, or a low fat diet. Then research the diet. Compose a list of what you can eat and cannot. For example, the Atkins diet calls for you to monitor your carbohydrate intake. This means no bread, no pasta, and no chips. No, that is not the end of the world. Instead, the diet calls for a high protein intake: meat, fish, and vegetables. On a diet you must count your fats, carbs, protein, and calories. By doing this, you can slowly reduce your intake and begin rapid weight loss. Do not starve yourself, but rather make sure your portions are not too large.
Lastly and most importantly, exercise!! I cannot emphasize this statement more than anything I have said so far. Burn those calories!!!


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