OK, I'll admit I am not slim and don't have a carefully sculpted, chiseled six-pack body. To the contrary, I've been "sturdily built" ever since I graduated from college and spent that summer with my friend Larry McGehee cruising around the Old South drumming up admissions recruits for our college (and spending our daily food allowance testing and savoring every conceivable permutation of Southern fried cooking [read that Crisco or bacon fat] ).
By the time my post graduation summer travels were over, I was tipping the scales at just under 200 lbs. Hmmm. This was interesting, given the fact that during my Freshman year, my mother was so alarmed by my dainty weight of 145 lbs., that she threatened to "pull me out of Transy" and bring me home where she could feed me right. That was a joke, of course, because she rarely cooked anything at all, never mind fattening foods. Since then, I have ranged between 200 and 250 (once) and now, after several illnesses, cutting out added sodium and bourbon, and adopting a stringent approach to eating healthy, I hover around the 215 mark--still more than I "should" weigh (according to my string-thin internist), but not near my maximum poundage either.
So why tell you all of this? Well, on our just completed three week trip East and South, Liz and I spotted an unusually large number of people--men, women, and children--who were living proof of our medical system's concern that morbid obesity is a major health problem and is virtually an epidemic in America today.We were shocked-surprised-overcome, not only by the gargantuan size of people of all ages and both sexes, but by their sheer numbers as a percentage of all the people we saw.
A vignette. One morning after spending the night in a motel next door to a Shoney's, we ventured inside to sample their renown breakfast buffet. We were seated in a booth which afforded me a 180 degree view of the length of the buffet table. To my left were steaming stainless pans brimming over with bacon strips, link sausage, and sausage patties, and something yellow that I took to be scrambled eggs--in two versions, one plain and one larded (pardon the expression) with sausage bits. There was the usual deep pan of grits and another piled high with biscuits next to which was a deep urn of gelatinous white gravy filled with gray chunks of sausage intended to smother the biscuits. Of course, I must mention the nearby pan of bubbling, sweet apple cubes hanging in their own greenish syrupy sauce.
Looking down the buffet to my right, I saw whole pieces of French toast and, new to my experience, 1x4 inch bite size strips cut from French toast and already seasoned with cinnamon and sugar and ready to be wolfed down. In addition, also to my surprise, were several pans filled with fried chicken conveniently placed next to pans of waffles, pats of butter, and little pitchers of syrup. Close by was a shallow pan filled with creamed chipped beef and, next to it, toast, ready to be made into a hearty cholesterol laden "S-O-S. The bar also included a pot of skimmed-over oatmeal and, at the far end of the buffet, some mixed "fresh fruit (mostly out-of-season melon pieces)," juice, racks of little individual plastic containers of butter and various jellies, and the mandatory thermoses (thermi?) of coffee accompanied by paper packs of sweetener, and little cartons of half and half swimming in a bowl of melting ice.
(I had hoped to find my old breakfast favorite which I used to eat at the University Club in New York to fortify myself before hitting the pavement to solicit funds for one of my various schools: the specialty of their house was creamed fried chicken livers on toast points. I guess the Shoney's chefs had not frequented the main dining room of the University Club at 54th and Fifth Avenue [or vice versa] so there were no livers in sight.)
My Shoney's booth was located so that my view of the patrons filling their plates was obstructed by the buffet table on the bottom and the steamed up glass sneeze guards on the top. Thus, I could only see people's torso from about thigh to shoulder. Basically I witnessed one giant belly after another pass by as their owners piled more and more food on one or two plates as they labored along the line. Children of course, were more visible so I could see the pleasure writ large on their fat little faces as they moved past the feeding trough. Folks apparently had little-to-no concept of "portion control." In fact, most people, old and young, tried to see how much they could load on their plates without spilling loose material over the sides or creating a colorful, but tasteless melange.
While the Shoney's experience provided me with prime examples of the "obesity crisis," the highlight of our gastronomic tour took place in the breakfast room of our motel a day or two later where we witnessed a gigantic woman, overflowing both her garments and her chair, "early morning hair"scraggly and unkempt, bra straps showing, eating a couple of waffles (almost every self-respecting breakfast room has a cleverly designed waffle iron or two) on which she had liberally spread butter, then strawberry compote, and finally topped with whipped cream spewed from an aerosol can that she had brought from home for just such an occasion. [I won't dignify this description by commenting on the size of her upper arm or the way its loose hanging pouches of fat swayed as she sprayed the whipped cream on her creation.]
The whole experience of seeing so many obese people was transformative for me. Back in Denver, I have already had two appointments with a new personal trainer, worked out on my apartment's three piece gym apparatus (Google for disagreement about the plural), and enjoyed a daily breakfast of coffee, granola, fresh fruit, and yoghurt. Talk about motivated! I'm shooting now to be under 200 by my birthday in September. Your support and encouragement are very much welcome and appreciated.
A welcome to readers
As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime: