The juncture of sustainability and obesity

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Let's talk about the American diet, for a moment. I don't mean, what Americans eat. I mean, what do most Americans mean when they "go on a diet?"

Almost always, they're saying that they're embarking on a new path for a short period of time, with the intention of going back to how things were as soon as possible.

In this case, sustainability isn't a question, it is part of the definition: I am going to do something that I have no intention of sustaining.

Although, it's fair to say that anyone with any sort of problem would want a sustainable solution, for some people, this will work. If they have a temporary problem — gained 5 pounds on vacation, for example — they don't need a permanent change. 

But if the problem is any larger or more enduring, why would anyone purposely, expressly, seek to solve it with a temporary, short-term change? It's planning to not solve the problem.

Another juncture of the two concepts came to mind last night as we watched a Cowboys-Vikings exhibition football game. (Dunno how that happened; I'm a big Patriots fan and can barely imagine watching a whole exhibition game involving them. But it got put on the TV, and then nobody turned it off.) At one point, the superfluous sideline reporter interviewed a 23-year-old fellow who is 6-foot-8 and 343 pounds.

I remarked how different his daily reality must be from mine, and my father-in-law, Clay, dissented: For one thing, he said, we both probably have to give more than average attention to maintaining our weight. My attention, of course, is focused on following a food plan that will keep me healthy while keeping me from my former food plan, which was to eat anything I wanted, in whatever quantity I wanted, at any time I wanted.

I expect the footballer, while probably having more latitude on choices, also needs a plan to ensure that he fuels his much larger frame and muscle mass, in a manner that supports his profession as a professional athlete. That can't be easy to sustain, just on whim.

Which brings me back to sustainability and obesity: People who are just plain huge, not for professional reasons but because of addiction, sloth, and anything in between, have a lot of sustaining to do: It requires more calories, obviously. But it requires more attention, too: What am I going to eat next? How am I going to get there? Where can I stop en route to my next appointment? How am I going to afford everything I want to eat?

Though very few obese people — as opposed to, say, professional athletes — would ever concede or admit it, you know that obese people have to work at sustaining such large body mass. That's certainly how it was for me.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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