It also seemed like we (society) were smarter in 1976 than we are today. What changed?
I weigh more today than I would have thought possible in 1976. And I’m a fairly active person — someone who takes near-daily long walks and spends considerable time on bicycles (indoor and out) and lifting weights. Still, the weight has accumulated and most of it hasn’t been muscle. So what’s the problem? Not only my problem, but also our problem (since many people have followed a similar or worse trajectory)?
It seems obvious to me that it can be one thing and one thing only: what and how much we eat and drink.
Sugar-laden soda beverages that come in ever larger sizes at fast-food restaurants and line the aisles of convenience and grocery stores are part of the problem to be sure, although they’re not tempting to me. I seldom indulge. However, in recent years, I haven’t been as disciplined when it comes to wine and spirits. And it shows. Recently, I scaled back the spirits consumption dramatically. Frankly, I had expected more immediate and substantial results, and I’m not sure why the benefits haven’t accrued. This is the kind of thing that challenges one’s commitment. Yet I know that staying the course is essential and, over time, will pay off. (The only thing I can figure is that other sugars must have snuck in via other means.)
Grazing is a big part of the problem, too, especially for people like me, who work at home, in an office just down the hall from the kitchen. Discipline has proved an inadequate defense. The only thing that works is to not have it in the house. By it, I mean sweets, processed foods (much of that middle-of-the-store junk, which accounts for a larger percentage of our intake today than in 1976), and bread and other starches.
The reasons for staying trim and fit are indisputable:
- feel and look better, with more energy and less chance of making a fool of yourself if you go to the beach
- less strain on joints and reduced odds of needing artificial knees
- less risk of diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer
So you’d think it would be a no-brainer. Yet it’s not so easy. Which makes me question the whole discipline and self-control thing.
You’d think we’d have little trouble doing that which is clearly in our best interest and avoiding those things that aren’t. But the weight figures prove we don’t have the control we think we do. And I find that to be disturbing. I like to feel in control, even though my intellect tells me it’s largely an illusion. When reality makes it hard to believe in the illusion, it’s disconcerting to say the least.
Of course, I’m generalizing. The fact of the matter is, some people demonstrate amazing self control. At least when it comes to caloric intake. And the avoidance of sugars and starches. But, of course, some of these people lack control in other areas of their lives. Perhaps gambling. Drugs. Work addictions. Or insecurities that result in mindless materialism or violent behaviors.
I think it would be wonderful to be someone who had total control over all his actions and thoughts. Someone who never did anything harmful. And who had control over his thoughts, too. What would that be like? Pretty cool, I surmise.
To that end, by now it seems obvious to me that much rides on what we allow to be taken in. Through our mouths to be sure. But also through our ears and eyes.
I’ve been working on being more mindful of what I allow to come in through my eyes and ears. I’m trying to be more discerning in what I read and hear and whose reports and opinions I read or listen to. For instance, I don’t listen to Fox, MSNBC, cable TV or radio talk shows, or television or radio commercials. There’s simply too much garbage, vitriol, and outright stupidity there. I also try to limit my reading of opinions and commentary to only those authors who are intellectually curious and stimulating. And who are smart enough to know what they don’t know. I find the universe of such people isn’t as large as I had earlier thought.
As for the mouth, the battle continues. I’ve been waging a war of sugar, with mixed results. I find I need to recommit myself to the cause frequently — indeed, daily. The addiction is harder to defeat than I could have imagined. But I have a clear goal now that I didn’t have last year at this time: a clear medical reason to get the waist line closer to what it was in 1976. I’m hoping the goal provides added incentive.
Meanwhile, we grow fatter and dumber. I’m shocked by the number of overweight kids and young people I see today. That’s a stark difference with the world in which I grew up in. But I’m also struck by the widespread idiocy that has spread throughout my country. Overall, people seem dumber. Not everyone of course. But many. An unbelievably large number of people believe stupid things and choose to close off their minds to anything that could represent a challenge to those beliefs. It didn’t seem this bad in 1976.
I suspect it’s because we haven’t been more discerning in what we take in. Into our brains, that is. Fox is a large part of the problem. It lead the way, but it’s not the only promoter of idiocy today. There are others. And the internet has made it easier for idiocy to spread. Like a virus. And it has.
In my ideal world, we’d all be trim and fit and smart and wise. It’s a fantasy of course. But one I’m clinging to, even though I know it’s ridiculous. For me, it’s important not to let go of the dream, for if I do, then I too may fall down the rabbit hole. If I’m not too fat to fit.
The key, of course, is to control the intake and, in doing so, to live the life we want to live and that is best for ourselves and our communities. It sounds easier than it is, Vera. But the payoff is immense.