So.. this is the title of the book my character Jerry is (ostensibly) writing in my play HOW TO STOP THE EMPIRE WHILE KEEPING YOUR DAY JOB. I’ve sort of been playing with this idea for several years now. As usual, it started with the personal: my weight had ballooned in the years after 9/11, and I was looking at a whole slew of medical problems. I had already joined a gym and I wasn’t getting much in the way of weight reduction. So I started riding a bike. My first big bike ride in 2005 was the New York Century, a ride put on by Transportation Alternatives, a pedestrian and bicycle advocacy group. I rode my new Gary Fisher Zebrano some 35 miles that day, and made it back to mid-town in time to meet friends for brunch. And I was hooked.
I’ve ridden some 12 ‘centuries’ (100 mile rides) since 2005, and numerous smaller rides. I dropped a lot of weight, stabilized blood sugar and blood pressure, and now have relatively reasonable appointments with my GP. But I should point out that I’m not exactly svelte: yes, I dropped nearly 60 pounds. But I plateaued at about 30 pounds more than I’d like, even though my ‘real’ BMI is somewhere around 22%. By the way, not to make you feel better about your ‘book value’ BMI, but it’s based on a sedentary individual’s body weight. So many professional athletes test ‘obese’, even though the extra weight they’re carrying is muscle, not fat.
Morbid obesity is a huge medical problem in this country, one that I’ve been confronting in the weeks since my father passed away. I’ve been out in the Suburbs and the malls and the other places where people gather, and we’ve got a problem. There are some really large people out there–and I sympathize a great deal, but this is not just a personal problem. Thanks to new meds for diabetes and other obesity related problems, the medical industrial complex has gotten really good at keeping obese people alive. What it hasn’t been able to do is control the costs of doing so. And there’s now a national security component. The Military Readiness command admitted that even in a time of difficulty in recruiting, one in four potential military recruits are too obese to go through training. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m no big fan of military service (or military utilization in foreign policy). But between educational problems, medical issues (especially obesity), lack of educational qualification and criminal records, the Readiness Command suspects that nearly three-quarters of the ‘draft pool’ of young men between 18 and 26 (who would be the first call-ups in a real national emergency) can’t serve. This tells me that a significant number of those same young people might not be eligible to work a day job. And employers now forced to provide healthcare for their employees (as a result of the Affordable Care Act) are going to be reluctant to hire people who look like they’ll need lots of medical intervention.
Then there’s my generation. We’re a mess. In a time when employers don’t want greybeards on the job, lots of medical intervention is one more strike against fiftysomethings going back to work. We all need to get healthy–and soon.
In coming weeks, I’ll be mentioning this from time to time. But step one–get a bike. Put an odometer on it. Goal is 10-20 miles per week at the start. Cycling is a low-impact exercise that won’t tax knees and other joints the way jogging will. BTW, people in societies where everybody runs a lot usually have a median adult male weight of around 130-140 pounds or 60 KG. I have many pounds and kilos to go.