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Still shooting for 205 pounds

Jun 3, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

These days, however, I'm trying to get down to it, not up.

It has become one of my standard lines when people start talking about dieting, losing weight or just getting in shape:

"When I was a kid I always wanted to weigh 205," I would say.

"And I still do."

The inference is that as a teenager 205 was a magical weight for a high school lineman, but as an adult who "grew" right past that weight nearly 30 years ago it remains an ethereal goal. Being on opposite sides of that arbitrary number sums up the overall view many people have when thinking about their weight.

I read an article this week that claimed there are now 400,000 Americans who weigh more than 400 pounds. Imagine, nearly the entire population of Wyoming weighing in at more than twice the national average. An estimated 3.5 million top 300 pounds, a statistical increase of more 1,400 percent since 1976.

The thought of a number of people representing of 80 percent of Wyoming carrying a combined weight of 80,000 tons is staggering.

The very thought of people who have grown that immense creates myriad health, infrastructural, transportation and simply living issues.

How bad would you feel at that weight? Would you get tired of buying two airline seats? Of being aware that you might overload the elevator in a high rise?

The average American man is now a bit over 5-foot-9 and weighs in at 191 pounds. That's a pretty hefty weight for that height.

Two generations ago American men were the tallest on the planet at 5-10 but now rank much further down the list. The same can't be said of our collective weight. Americans are now the heaviest people on the Earth, with no other country even close.

When my nephew Adam and wife Dana, traveled to Switzerland a few years ago, they were amazed at how slim the French, German and Swiss people were.

Adam sent an e-mail out to many of us when he arrived back in the U.S. To paraphrase it he said, "I've just seen more people over 300 pounds in the last two minutes than I saw in the last two weeks in Europe."

It is a sobering fact that Americans are slowly killing themselves, one bite at a time.

Weight gain is an insidious thing that can often go unnoticed or simply be ignored as you rationalize the tight clothes, heavy breathing and painful joints that it can bring.

I had my own epiphany a few years ago when getting up and down at work grew more difficult. I hadn't stepped on a scale for a couple of years and was shocked to find the needle hovering at 254 pounds. That's a lot of weight for a guy who graduated from college at 195 pounds.

I've since dropped 30 pounds and the difference in my energy level, joint pain, ability to get up and down a ladder, walk for hours and simply to get off the floor is profound. Maybe another 15 or 20 to get back to the magical "205" would continue to produce results. The overwhelming question is how people can ignore the warnings and just continue eating to 300, 400 or even 500 pounds. It makes you wonder, but it doesn't take long to see why this happens.

Watch television, and count how many food commercials magically pop up during the prime-time hours. Food surrounds us. It permeates our society and it is incredibly cheap like nowhere else on Earth.

At the same time, statistics reveal one-third of American adults are considered obese, along with 15-20 percent of children.

We blame carbohydrates, fats, processed food and lifestyles devoid of activity, but the underlying problem rests in our daily habits.

It is just too easy in the modern world to get something to eat. Generations ago it took time and effort to prepare a meal. Butchering their own food, harvesting and then grinding their own grain into flour, canning locally grown produce and cooking it all on a stove that required cutting and chopping wood to fuel it is a far cry from opening some preservative-laced, foil-wrapped tidbit, tossing it into the microwave for 30 seconds, and munching away.

Yet, incredibly, 20 million of us go to bed hungry every night. The dichotomy is a nutritional paradox.

Food is now less expensive than any time in the history of mankind and there are still hungry people among us? It boggles the mind.

Dean Wormer, a character in one of my all-time favorite films, "Animal House," had harsh advice for freshman Kent Dorfman: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son," the dean said.

Perhaps that should become our national mantra.

Once calories were the fuel that powered the man behind the plow, the woman running the washboard, and the children running to school. Now, buttons do that.

The advent of the mechanized world put a few pounds on people initially, but the innovation of the digital age, with machines replacing physical strength and circuit boards replacing cognitive function, literally expanded the population.

Our grandparents never thought of working out to lose weight. Their lifestyles took care of the problem.

Diligence and moderation are the only weapons that effectively hold off the pounds. Without them it will soon be a population equivalent to California's topping the scales at 400-plus.

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