The news has been filled for several years of reports that Americans are getting bigger.
It’s being called an epidemic, a problem our society will need to address in short order to keep from destroying any chance of America having a healthy future. But for many – like me – maintaining a healthy weight is a constant struggle. What I fight – in my opinion – is actually an addiction to food, which is also an addiction to the very thing that is also supposed to sustain my life. How does one battle that? It’s not like a person can just not eat. We all must eat to live, but somehow my body seems to be greedy. I’ve grown to tolerate – because my body can’t accept – the ties between portion size and feelings of hunger; if I eat regular size meals I’m constantly hungry.
Maybe there’s something wrong, or maybe I’m weak.
Ten years ago a doctor told me she couldn’t help with the hunger I felt. Three months ago – in the hopes that medical science had advanced since my last request – I asked a doctor again to help me, after losing 35 pounds and enduring comments from the nurse that I should lose weight. Doctor Two couldn’t help me either, stating there was “no magic pill” which would take that feeling away. Oh, and I needed to retrain myself while waiting for my stomach to shrink.
So that means medical science can create drugs like Viagra and Cialis, yet they can’t produce something to keep mankind from eating themselves to death.
I feel my body telling me to eat twice as much as I need to live. As I write this my hunger is nagging at my middle, but also down by 45 pounds from the summer of 2011; it has been the toughest struggle to get there. But I will say this: The hunger I endure – even right now – gives me compassion for the multitudes around the world who feel this inner emptiness every day / all day – and not by choice.
With doctors and the media telling us that our belt lines continue to increase, it makes me wonder how we Americans ever stayed thin in the first place.
Pictures from our historic past show well-proportioned landscapes of slender people working the magnificent jobs of an industrial America, void of any body fat and simply beaming with weight-healthy bliss. The Library of Congress archives on Flickr are teaming with these images, presented in vivid Kodachrome to further push our ancestors’ color-filled birthright of thin living on the rest of us. It’s a memorable image, ripe with sentimentality and patriotism.
“Honor our forefathers, who forged this landscape with the muscles in their backs and the remaining fingers of their bare hands.”
The can-do spirit of this majestic endeavor, creating a free land for all at the cost of a few, can be felt in Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy. But my question remains: How is that 1940s Man could go to work a 12-hour day on the budding infrastructure of America, while holding a paper sack holding only a simple sandwich and an small apple? I have a theory; a crude and untested one, but mine alone.
They all smoked.
Yes, the industrious worker of the 1940s was also a two-pack per day burner, enjoying with billowing freedom the toasted flavor of a filterless Lucky Strike while completely forgetting that his body needed more than nicotine. The ashtrays gracing the armrests and bathrooms of older theaters and 737s will attest to the breadth of the practice of replacing food with a good smoke. And why not? Doctors standing next to big Chryslers – while citing junk science like nicotine satisfying the N-Zone of the brain with little or no medical after effect – were telling readers from the ad pages of the 1950s to relax, and grab a light for that smooth rich tobacco flavor.
But now we’ve traded one epidemic for another.
From where I sit, food has replaced cigarettes as America’s guilty pleasure. State laws doom smoker-friendly restaurants like The Pine Cone, while giving permits to build another fast food restaurant that is rumored to use Pink Meat Paste. As I look at the calorie counts at restaurants – any restaurant to be honest – I’m amazed at how may can serve meals which contain an entire day’s allotment of energy. I use to eat like that. Three times daily. Okay, four or five. Now I only wish for it, looking sadly upon the menus while ordering something light that is sided with steamed broccoli. I’m thinking maybe the doctors couldn’t help me because the only weapon they had against hunger was a pack of Pall Malls. It’s the secret to staying skinny they can no longer let us in on, and the secret to staying skinny we can no longer use.
Think I’ll go grab another burger…I mean apple.
Originally published Feb 29, 2012