When I accidentally stumbled upon a job as a fitness instructor almost 30 years ago, I really thought it was an opportunity to work at a fun yet mindless job. Jumping up and down, counting to 8, wearing some cute little “uniform” –it all seemed like such a refreshing (yet rather shallow) choice after working in mid-town Manhattan as a writer and being told I could advance my career more rapidly if I dressed more professionally (skirts and high heels). Over the first decade as a fitness instructor, something clicked in my brain as my once toxin filled, underweight and weak body began transforming into something stronger and definitely healthier.
Along with the physical and mental transformation, came a bit of obsession over “diet and exercise.” I started to read and watch everything I could get my hands on and for some years still questioned if this was a shallow service I was providing. Couldn’t there be more important things I could be doing with my time and my life? Was helping someone learn to do a grapevine or even a jumping jack really of any great importance? Somewhere in my heart I knew I was on to something but I sometimes wondered if it were Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons and I against the world.
Then in 1990 the Surgeon General would come out with the message that would validate my work.
“Warning: Inactivity May be Hazardous to Your Health.”
Ah-ha! I was helping to save lives! Now I had the ammunition I needed to forge more deeply into my career. Research would reveal the importance of strength training and I was all over that! After the tragic events of September 11th, I had a day of question, but then realized the importance of sharing what I knew about stress reduction through stretching/Pilates/yoga and breath work.
Last night I went to bed reading this week’s edition of Newsweek Magazine. A picture of the first lady, Michelle Obama with the title FEED YOUR CHILDREN WELL–My Fight Against Childhood Obesity appears on the cover. Several well written articles all address the importance of moving and making healthy food choices. While I have spent the past 3 decades learning, step by step, the CRITICAL importance of “diet and exercise,” the world around us has been threatening to supersize all of us! How incredibly frustrating!!!!
Did you know that in 1950 a soda at McDonalds weighed just 7 ounces, yet in 2002 that same “size” soda weighed 21 ounces? And who in the world really NEEDS a 44 ounce Super Big Gulp like the one sold at 7-Eleven? While science and medicine have been unravelling the secret to good health, technology has been sabotaging it! While exercise used to be built into the day (walking to school, riding a bike, playing outdoors with friends) kids now spend up to 50 hours a week in front of the TV, computer or playing video games!
Even as the now multibillion-dollar diet industry tries to get the message out, obesity actually endangers our health-care budget! While the first lady takes on her Let’s Move Mission to fight childhood obesity, we must take control of our own and our families health. THIS is the health care reform we really need!
So I admit it, I am a little overly obsessed with “diet and exercise.” Perhaps this is why I am such a great big fan of the Biggest Loser. Here, on national TV, we can witness near death individuals get a second chance at life! What could be LESS shallow than that!
Whatever you do today, think about moving more and making healthier food choices. Remember, you can b*tch and moan all you want about what is going on in Washington, but in reality reform begins with YOU.