Monthly Archives: July 2009

An Obese Woman Responds

My recent comments about obesity as both a health issue and an overall economic issue generated quite a number of responses.  Some people wrote, detailing medical histories that made it impossible for them to get down to a normal weight.  While there are always exceptions, I wanted to share with you a seemingly “impossible” situation faced by a woman who weighed over 400 pounds.  She knew that losing weight was going to be very difficult, but she made the changes in her life that kept her on the path to good health, and she’s a real inspiration to us all (I’ve not included her name, for reasons of privacy):

Dear Dr. Laura:

I am an obese person.  Two years ago, my sister asked me to have surgery.  I did not want to have it, because I was afraid of the risk.  I did not know how heavy I was, because my doctor’s scale limit is 400 pounds.  I promised my sister I would change my behavior, but not go on a diet.

I went to the doctor and got some information and a health exam.  Then I began to make plans on changing my behavior.  [In the past], I was not eating breakfast or lunch.  I was so hungry when I got home, I would eat easy fast food instead of taking the time to prepare food.  I would also binge late at night.  The doctor suggested I no longer skip meals.

First change:  I eat breakfast and lunch.

Second change:  Drink before eating.  I drink water, and, for flavor, sometimes Crystal Light.  I learned that when the body needs something, it is not specific.  It just says “I need,” and “stomach feels empty.”

Third change:  Choose better foods.  If heart tells brain “I need nutrients,” and stomach tells brain “I am full of garbage,” the brain sends the message “empty stomach.”

Fourth change: Thinking of food in a different way.  It’s neither my entertainment nor my entitlement.  Better food will get me up the stairs at work.  At 200+ pounds overweight, life becomes stationary.  Nutrition can replace that.

Fifth change:  Reduce the amount of food.  The doctor suggested that I keep a log of my food and drink.  I wrote down everything for two weeks.  I was eating more than I thought.  Over time, I reduced my starch in half and then in half again.  Today…I do not plan food or write it down.  For me, I would be thinking of food too much.  I eat set breakfast and lunch meals.  Dinner is now something that can be made in 30 minutes.

Sixth change:  Move more.  Your nagging worked.  The doctor suggested low impact exercise over a long period of time.  No jack rabbit starts and stops.  I can’t sustain walking out of water, so I walk 1 hour in water and backstroke 1 hour, six times a week.  I get stares.  I stare back.  I am not ashamed.  I have changed.

There is no diet for me to break from.  The only thing left is to feel the frustration.  It renews my dedication to my life change.  The first two years, I lost 70 pounds.  It’s the first time in 15 years I have not gained weight.  I have been exercising for a month.

Thank you, Dr. Laura, for all your nagging.  I wish I would have started earlier.  The last two years made it possible.  It gave me a foundation of nutrition that sustains me while I move.  I now move more and eat less.  I can hardly wait until next year.

Thanks again for the kick in the butt.

Common Sense Isn’t Common Any More

People have accused me of everything from being rigid, to simply spouting common sense.  Well, for the folks who think I’m rigid, I have this to say:  I have convictions – convictions that I took a lifetime to forge, convictions I stand by, because they make good sense, and ultimately help people to have better lives.

Fifty years ago, most of what I have to say was common sense.   Not so now.  Today, many values are no longer held in common, and what values are left happen to be undermined daily by forces in government, religion, professional organizations, media, communities, families, friends, neighbors, and even your own impulses.

Honestly, I fear for the growing lack of cohesion in our country with respect to values, morals, ideals, goals, and general insight.  When half the country accepts a candidate for the Supreme Court of one gender and ethnic group who says she is superior in wisdom and intent to another individual of another gender and ethnic group simply because of her gender and ethnic group, and the country doesn’t fall to the ground either laughing or outraged, I worry.

That example is one on a huge scale, but no less important is how the evaluation of family, marriage, and child care has been constantly undermined by something as simple as TV commercials. 

We’ve seen on TV a commercial for a chewing gum that seems to be an aphrodisiac (because young girls seemingly will jump their boyfriends in front of their parents).  And now, we have T-Mobile commercials that have a pretty spokeswoman who has a minor boy attempting to seduce her, as well as a husband who goes all “gaga” in front of his wife, who, when she reminds him she’s right there, says “We’re married….technically.”

This is supposed to be very funny?

We have male penile enhancement supplements being advertised all day and evening (when children are watching), and some lubricant that makes a woman explode with orgasmic pleasure.  And on and on it goes.

Back in the day, common sense would have precluded these commercials from airing, because they were tasteless and they undermined the common understanding that some things are personal and private.  But now, all the barriers are down.  Heroes today are people who sing, dance, play music, act in movies, and run with a ball.  People who sacrifice in battle, however, are ignored or impugned. 

Car commercials talk about how sturdy and safe a car is, but they do so while showing a situation in which ex-spouses are doing a “child exchange.”  Everyone is smiling and appears happy because the car is so nice.  There’s nothing “nice” about a broken family for a child.

After years and years of the TV show Friends winning so many Emmy awards, and the stars going on to other lucrative media adventures, young people think “shacking up” and out-of-wedlock pregnancies ARE common sense. 

I don’t mind being the lead salmon…I just hope that you will all consider swimming upstream with me and finally stand up privately (and publicly) for common sense.

Quote of the Week

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
               – Helen Keller
                  American blind deaf author, political activist and lecturer
                  1880-1968

Txting Is Dangerous 4 U

I have a friend who is temporarily without a computer, so I’ve been texting him.  I’ve found myself using the letter “u” for “you,” and “r” for “are,” but other than that, I try to use the English language the way it was meant to be spoken and written.

I’ve complained quite often about how this text messaging thing is completely out of hand, and how your children should not be able to use such technology as it occupies way too much of their time without depth and without development of language skills.  Quite the contrary – spelling and syntax and content are out the window when it comes to these mindless exchanges.  Additionally, people of all ages are so focused on that little gadget that they ignore their responsibilities as well as their environment.

Numerous states have had to implement bans on texting while driving – that’s how utterly stupid people can get.  Text-related injuries and deaths are not limited to the vehicular variety.  In 2008, the state of Illinois proposed legislation that would make texting and walking (with or without gum) illegal!  Pedestrians who ridiculed the idea might now need to reconsider their stance.

A 15 year old girl on Staten Island was obliviously thumbing away when she disappeared into an open manhole, falling five feet, scraping her back and arms, and landing in a pile of mush.  The workers were off getting cones and markers to barricade the opening, so it was a potential hazard.  However, if this teen were actually looking where she was going, not a thing would have happened to her.  Of course, her parents are going to sue.  Well, why not?  Your daughter behaves stupidly, so naturally you’re going to look around for someone to sue.  Money versus common sense.  Oh well.

If I were a purse snatcher or predator, I’d keep my eyes open for texting women who are moving through life without any awareness of their surroundings:  whether people, entities, or holes in the ground.  They make easy prey.

I keep wondering…what if we looked at everyone’s text messages over a 24 hour period of their life?  Would we find anything important being discussed?  I doubt it.  More likely, we’d just find them attempting to create a mini-universe to live in, where meaningless discourse makes them feel important or connected – or provides an activity where they avoid dealing with real life issues.

What if this teen had stepped on a baby?  What if she had tripped over an elderly person who had then fallen?  What if she walked right into the hands of a kidnapper?  What if she didn’t see a person doing harm to another (so she couldn’t provide witness testimony to help the police)?  I could go on and on….but you get the idea.

Yes, the manhole should not have been left unattended – those guys should all be fired.  Yes, she should have been looking where she was going.  That’s just plain common sense.  This would have been a preventable accident if the men had done their jobs properly, and if this girl had shown better judgment.

Resisting Irresistible Impulses

I always look for patterns in callers’ questions, because I’m interested in what that pattern means in terms of what folks have come to believe…and why.  A persistent thought seems to be that impulse is irresistible.  That means, if you feel like a burger or a cigarette or a roll in the hay with someone you know you shouldn’t be with, then you have some kind of addiction, which means a disease, which means out of your control.

That’s a darn good rationalization…but it ain’t true.  The only irresistible impulse is one which hasn’t been resisted, and that is most definitely (but not simply) a choice.

I say “not simply,” because resisting impulses is difficult and sometimes painful.  Generally, such inappropriate behaviors have the purpose of 1) immediate gratification of feelings, and 2) hiding you from other emotionally distressing thoughts and feelings.  That means that, if you resist the impulse to drink, eat, or have a sexual fling in the office stationery closet, you will be left with the anxiety or sadness that resides within.

It is clear, therefore, that the emphasis should be on dealing with the not-so-well submerged anxieties and sadness.  For example, a man called recently to say that he is mean to his wife, criticizing anything he sees around the house.  I immediately suggested that he saw the cluttered kitchen counter as a sign his wife didn’t love him.  Now, you’d think that was a ridiculous leap, but it was “spot on.”  He (after some nagging from me) offered that his mother had not been, well, “motherly” and loving.  To this day, he has his wife do things to prove/make up for the lack of affection and attention he missed as a child.  Did he know he was doing this and why?  Yes for the “doing;” no for the “why.”

I suggested he go home with a flower in hand and tell his wife that he needed her to hold him.  I told him that’s what “his woman” was for.  You can always hire a maid, but you can’t hire someone to really love and care about you.  He was treating his wife like his mom, when he really needed her to be a wife with loving kindness.

You get love by being open to it, and by being loving in return.  You do not get love by eating that cake, smoking that joint, drinking that beer or overpowering those who care about you. 

Resist those impulses.  Yes, it’s painful and difficult, both physically and emotionally, but the ultimate reward is the very thing you’ve been trying to get (just all in the wrong way), and that thing is LOVE.

The Sad Tale of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi

I get calls all the time from young, emotionally hungry young women (girls, actually), who think that an older, often married, man really loves them.  It makes me so sad in my heart to hear these young women denying reality and setting themselves up for hurt.

20 year old Sahel Kazemi thought she had it made in the shade, because a celebrity, a former NFL football star, Steve McNair, took her partying in VIP rooms and on vacations for eight months.  She believed him when he got her on his condo bed for sex that he was going to leave his wife of twelve years for her.  He didn’t.

And then, one day, she saw some other young thing – probably another girl believing she was the one who was special to McNair.  So, one night, when McNair was sitting on his sofa, likely asleep, she shot him twice in the head and twice in the chest.  Then she sat down next to him, positioning herself so that she would fall into his lap, and shot herself (according to FoxNews). 

Here was an attractive young girl (she had just turned twenty), a teenager, a high school dropout who had moved with a boyfriend at age 17 to Nashville from Florida.  When she was 9, her mother was murdered, and, born in Iran, she and her family were persecuted for their religious faith.

This is a lot of turmoil and chaos and hurt for a young girl, and it is sad that so many family members and family friends tell this upbeat story about her, surprised that she would do such a thing.  She was clearly emotionally tortured and vulnerable, needy, and naive.  Her life began and ended in violence.

Men like McNair make me sick.  I am sicker still, reading sycophants talk about his actions on the football field, as though the admiration he earned for running a ball around a field should count for more than the human lives he betrayed.  He had a wife, with whom he had two sons, and two more sons from I don’t know where and I don’t know by whom.  He was a 36 year old man who had been given great opportunities and huzzahs for his accomplishments. His response was to cater to his childish needs to “do” young women who (without question) would simply adore him. 

It is sad that this ended in death for him and a naive and needy girl who believed that without him, there was no purpose in life. 

It is sad that, as I speak, older accomplished men in business, politics, clergy, academe, and medicine are doing the exact same thing, in order to fulfill their needs to receive a naive reverence, to feel youthful and important in the reflection of a young woman, or because they feel entitled to spoils because of their celebrity or wealth or power.

I warn young girls every day to live a life of integrity and modesty with morals, so they won’t be used in such a way.  Sometimes, though, a girl is so damaged that shortcuts seem the only way.

This time, it resulted in death seeming the only way.