Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

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Location: Georgia, United States

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Middle Age Spread

The middle age spread is something we all joke about. It has been the fodder for a multitude of television programs, talk show topics, and general water cooler chats for decades. The funny part, or perhaps I should say the ironic part, about this long running gag is that it is so very true. For millions of us, the middle age spread is something we find it difficult to joke about to the nth degree.

I’ve had a weight problem for some time. When I was a kid, I was always the chubby boy in school. I wasn’t fat, per se, but I was well larger than I should have been. My metabolism was probably the same as any other child but I was always one to enjoy food. My mother and my grandmother both produced delicious, excellent culinary treats that I could never refuse. Back then it wasn’t a really big deal. Yes, I was chubby but I could carry it off because of my youth and the fact that I was growing up.

When I was a teenager I was still chubby. I had a “spare tire,” you might say. Spending a lot of time with my Granny, I ate like a southern king regularly. She could fry the best chicken and cube steak and pork chops, and her homemade biscuits and gravy were to die for. Biscuits filled with butter and she always had her own homemade jellies and preserves to fill them with too. My favorite was her apple butter. I remember when she died, as sad as I was over losing her, I kept thinking that I’d never have that wonderful apple butter again. It still gives me instances of sadness, that knowledge.

In high school I joined the tennis team and lost my spare tire quite nicely. I kept a youthful figure well into my early twenties when I again began to balloon out. By the age of twenty-five or six, I knew I had to do something about it. Obesity is a shared trait in my family, from both sides. My mother has always been very slender, and Granny wasn’t as big as a minute, but I have cousins, aunts, and uncles who are big people. I shared this with them. So I worked out and dieted and again got myself into fine shape. I was proud of my size and body. I kept the weight off for a long time too. Well into my thirties I stayed at a good size. Then it happened again.

A spate of ill health, and that ever encroaching middle age curse, put all the weight back on me, and more to boot! By the time I reached age forty I was a fat man all over again. With the slowing metabolism of my age group, my eating habits only added to the problem. I rarely ate a vegetable. I had hamburgers three or four times a week. Pizza was a weekly digestive delight for me. I love chocolate and I love soda. And all this together spelled disaster.


So I had to start all over again. At age 41 I was faced with the reality that I was a fat man who needed help. Badly. It all started when I saw myself on television, having been interviewed for my first published book, and I could have died when I got a look at myself in that vernacular. I was so unhealthy that this has become a way of life of which I was unaware how bad it was making me feel. Oh yes, I needed help.

I considered bariatric surgery. Lap banding and gastric bypass came to mind. The problem with these ideas was that they are very expensive and I wasn’t, thank heavens, big enough to be considered so morbidly obese that health problems might have prompted my insurance carrier to pay for either one of them. I had developed high blood pressure and my blood sugar had been acting out as well. Plus I had been dealing with a degree of depression since my grandmother’s death that caused me to seek solace in food from time to time. These were undeniably against me in my mission to once more become healthy.

I didn’t want to die young either. I have two cousins who passed away in middle age from heart disease. One had been morbidly obese all his life and he had been born with a congenital heart defect that required medications which caused him to become as large as he was too. He died at age 47 from a massive heart attack that no doubt took him away before he even knew it. The other cousin who died from heart disease did so just two months later. He was just 52 and he was a long haul trucker who was only mildly overweight, but he had diabetes and high blood pressure too. He had a heart attack out in El Paso, Texas and died on the cardiac cath table when they accidentally punctured a coronary artery inserting what should have been a life saving stent. Such a tragedy.

At age 41 I knew I didn’t want to go like that. My grandparents all had heart disease as well, so that was a genetic predisposition also working against me. I had no choice. If I wanted to be healthy and live into old age, I had to dig in with both heels and fight.

Fortunately for me, I’m a fighter by nature. I get it from my parents and grandparents. I took on my weight problem as a personal affront, and also as personal challenge that I was determined to win. I began by doing yoga every day. I bought a DVD set and I got down to business. With this limbering out my body and giving me small progress almost from the outset, I was encouraged and heartened to go the next step and begin working out much harder in a more aerobic way. I went to a local gym where I receive a discount through my employer and I started walking, running, bicycling, and using the elliptical machine. Once I changed my diet to a lower calorie, low fat regimen consisting of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, I began to see my weight decline at a rapid pace. The middle age spread was mercifully receding.

It’s now a year and a half since I began my new lifestyle and I have lost an incredible eighty-two pounds! I still have a ways to go to get where I want to be but I now know that I can do this. My metabolism has increased and I am feeling better than I have felt in years. And I did it all without weight loss surgery, drugs, or any other fad slimming - down products on the market today. In truth, these aids, including gastric bypass and lap banding, are but adjuncts to weight loss that the patient still has to adopt a healthy lifestyle to enjoy the benefits anyway. Knowing I didn’t need to go that route gives me a feeling of accomplishment that I am very proud of indeed.

I fully realize that I am going to have to make my lifestyle a lifelong thing. At my age, I have to get myself into whatever shape I want to be in for the rest of my life and keep myself in that condition. With obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease present as hereditary conditions from both sides of my genetic family tree, and as a sufferer of three of them already, I cannot take the chance of putting that weight back on again. I have to keep my heels dug in from now on and fight every day to be healthy.

But I can do it. I know I can. I’m living proof it is possible. Now I just need to set a new goal for myself; to keep it up and to keep it off. And I can do that too. It’s within my reach. I’m just tenacious enough and just stubborn enough to do it too.

Now… if I could just figure out a way to grow back some of the hair middle age is making off with.

And that is my sole focus for now…