Calorie Burning, Aging, and ‘the Battle of the Bulge’
Every day I see evidence of the impact of the obesity crisis. It IS real and its effects will be felt for many years to come. The choices we are making when it comes to our nutrition are amazingly “unconscious”. When I say that healthy aging is a “consciousness issue” this is part of the reason I believe it to be so. Even with calorie counts staring at them from a wall of choices – say at McDonalds for example – people are still ordering the large fries and combo meals without ever “connecting the dots” to the impact those calories will have on their bodies over time. We are literally losing this battle and no matter what any of us says, it is clearly the challenge of our lifetimes – and our children’s lifetimes. Here are some of my thoughts on this most important issue.
When I see 1500 calories next to a menu choice I immediately think of how many miles I will have to run to burn them off. On my typical training days I burn approximately 1020 calories for a seven mile run – at relatively high intensity considering the results I have been achieving. Yesterday for example I completed my run in 40:20 and burned 1015 calories (I know the calorie counters on the machines are estimates only but at least I know the amount of work it takes to burn 1000 calories). So when I see 1500 calories I’m thinking I better REALLY want this food or I am running 10 miles to burn it off! People don’t realize that even MODEST caloric intake above our body’s daily needs adds up significantly over time and will eventually cause major problems – not only with our metabolic rates at rest but our overall health as well.
There is research emerging that is now telling us that abdominal fat is not just resting stored energy – it is active tissue and is engaged in creating problems for our various systems. It could even be contributing to cancer and heart disease – and even stroke potential. This is the visceral fat surrounding the organs, not the subcutaneous fat we see in the typical male midsection. The health risks associated with being overweight or obese are becoming real contributors to our nation’s overall decline in health. I see more and more fat people today than ‘normal weight’ people – even at the gym. The 6 out of 10 number looks to be relatively true from my perspective and I am more than a little concerned about what we are to do about this “consciousness issue”.
Part of the answer lies in educating and informing people of these issues related to lifestyle and food choices at the “grassroots” level – meaning the family. If the parents don’t know “what they don’t know” then they need to know that an obese or overweight child is at risk not only for diabetes but early death as well. It is being said that the generations coming up behind me (my daughter’s and her son) may NOT outlive the parents. That has not happened before in my lifetime. Growing up on Maui in the 40’s and 50’s I was ALWAYS outside playing with my friends and swimming in age group swim meets. That foundation of fitness has stayed with me throughout my adult life and has probably saved my life when I was most at risk for a heart attack or stroke during my “dark years”. This reality we live today IS VERY UNHEALTHY and if positive change does NOT come in the next decade, we will ALL be staring down the barrel of a really terrible situation.
The “consciousness divide” I see now will be a long time in “fixing” but it is well worth the effort that each of us MUST expend if we are to really make a difference in people’s everyday lives. Exercise of course is critical as a part of the solution – burning calories counts! My body looks forward to burning those 1000 plus calories everyday now and unless I am sick or injured – which is almost never now – I am training mentally, physically and spiritually in order to move myself onto a “higher plane of consciousness” for myself. Getting older with GOOD habits makes a difference in HOW we age and I want ALL of us to be the models through which others can take comfort that it is indeed possible for them as well. This is how I felt when I trained my clients. They could trust whatever I said to them because I was either DOING what I asked them to do or HAD DONE what I was encouraging them to try.
The answer to the obesity crisis lies within each of us and I can’t think of a more important role for the fitness professional today or in the future to fulfill. I want to see the world that I came from on Maui so many years ago come back in the years ahead – happy, healthy & FIT! Nick Prukop – firstname.lastname@example.org