My idea for the Valley Challenge Obese Police was left on the cutting-room floor. Maybe it was for the best.
Recruiting a team of hot badge-wearing, washboard-stomached, yoga-pantsed do-gooders patrolling food courts, fast-food restaurants and taco stands, literally smacking unhealthy morsels from the hands of unsuspecting locals, enforcing healthy living through public shaming, seemed like it could work.
After all, we’ve set the bar pretty high in challenging Imperial Valley residents — and ourselves — to lose a collective 100,000 pounds through March, and to reach that lofty goal, extreme measures would need to be taken, or so I pitched at a department head meeting.
Instead, the publisher of this newspaper and our management team opted for a less-violent, more-inclusive means of rallying the community against a public health crisis the magnitude of obesity, which affects one out of every three Americans. (Yes, I raised my hand.)
Through challenges and social media interaction, partnering with community organizations at healthy and active events, as well as helping be the central repository for lots of health content and nutritional information across all platforms — print and online — from many professionals and recreational enthusiasts in many fields, Valley Challenge is equipped to succeed. Like any good commitment to changing lives, you can’t just expect people to do it without guidance and encouragement; you have to give them the tools and the information to achieve.
That said, I stand by my initial idea: A good slap in the back of the head by some buff chick with one of those sexy cop hats and furry handcuffs just as I’m about to shovel in that fifth slice of some awesomely greasy pepperoni pizza might be what some of us require to change our eating habits.
That’s what I need, even if I’m kidding. That’s part of my story; avoidance through self-deprecation, the need to be held accountable when I fail to do so myself. We all have different reasons why we pack on the pounds, fail to make the smart choice, repeatedly lose weight and gain weight, upsetting our internal metabolic clocks by dunking it in and out of bacon grease every few days for years on end.
Once Valley Challenge hits its stride, we hope to hear from some of you, to share your stories and tell us how you’ve made positive changes, developed lifelong habits and succeeded. Conversely, we want to hear about the struggles, too. If you’ve spent any time reading this column, you know that I’m an open book, and part of that is meant to connect with others in similar situations or with similar experiences.
Obesity, and my tortuous personal history with weight gain and weight loss, is no different. I’m taking the Valley Challenge just like many of you, and I have my own difficulties with the causes of my weight that might be different — or the same — as some of yours.
I weighed in at 333.7 pounds Thursday morning; the third weight I’ve recorded on our social/fitness tracking site site, www.thevalleychallenge.com
I cringe in admitting to that number, because just a few years ago I had hit the healthiest, leanest, most muscled weight I’d ever been, dipping down to 265 pounds or so. It’s been a gradual ascent since, with moments of effort and minor successes.
There have been medical factors for some of the gain, but most of it has been me. And when it comes to me against me, the winner isn’t always the guy in the white hat.
My addictions cross all levels, healthy and unhealthy, trading one for the other every few years. Consistently, binge-eating has been there, a faithful companion to other addictions and obsessions like alcoholism.
The roots of my unhealthy relationship with food run deep. And while that might give the person who has no concept of the internal struggle I’m writing about a chuckle and an eye roll, it’s real and a really big component to the obesity epidemic in this country.
Very early in my life food was a reward, a show of love and the salve to soothe the guilt and pain of a very problematic childhood where I was in the middle of a lot of substance abuse. My grandparents were my saviors and my enablers, especially my grandfather, who loved to feed all of us, but me especially, since I believe he felt some guilt and responsibility for my situation.
My addictions to alcohol and food continued with equal gusto for many years, with one gastric bypass that ultimately bypassed the real issues, and an addiction to exercise after rehab that also didn’t hold (sobriety has, thankfully).
It’s been an up-and-down journey, and I imagine I’m not alone. I know I’m not. If anything, the tools in the Valley Challenge might not be what makes it stick for some of us, but it can be useful to break the patterns with our own children that have plagued us.