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Weighty thoughts

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The other day, I was sitting on the bank of the Kenai River, patiently waiting for a salmon to contemplate my bait, when I got to thinking about weighty matters.

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Having been overweight, I know that carrying a lot of extra weight can make you lose your sense of balance. A good sense of balance is important to me, and to anyone who enjoys being active, whether indoors or out. When I was younger and more fit, I hiked, danced, roller skated and water skied. However, when my 6-foot, 2-inch frame exceeded 250 pounds, I began lurching and losing my balance. Doing most anything outdoors became hazardous.

Carrying all that excess poundage, I often fell while walking on slippery or uneven ground. When I fell, I fell hard. Getting in and out of boats was risky. Falling overboard advanced from a possibility to a probability. When I had to get on my knees to do something, it was all I could do to get up. I would run out of breath while tying my shoes, let alone while carrying five gallons of gas to a boat.

Like most overweight people, I’d been gaining about a pound per year. At age 70, I weighed almost 270 pounds — at least 70 pounds overweight. Wearing that much fat, I was a prime candidate for cancer, diabetes and heart disease. I finally acknowledged that I had to do something about it.

Over the course of about 18 months, I lost 60 pounds. I’ve managed to keep it off, and am holding at 210 pounds. What worked for me wasn’t some fad diet or quick fix, but simply eating less and exercising more. Having been a food addict all my life, it wasn’t easy, but the results have been worth the effort.

Several things motivated me to start “eating healthy” and to change my lifestyle to a less sedentary one. The reality that I’d been living a risky lifestyle and neglecting my health really hit me when my wife, Janet, died of cancer in 2008. It made me realize how vulnerable I was in my obese condition. One serious fall or illness could’ve put me in the hospital and wiped out our savings.

I’ve never enjoyed the ambiance of emergency rooms, the pain, the misery, the crying babies, but I could see those in my future. I watched my father become a slave to prescription drugs, at one time taking 19 different drugs per day. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life depending on drugs to control my cholesterol and blood pressure.

I wanted a woman in my life, another good reason to be trim, healthy and good-looking, or at least as good-looking as possible.

I didn’t want to be a burden to others, or to be cared for by strangers. Having witnessed what goes on in nursing homes first-hand, I wanted to spend the rest of my life in my own home, if at all possible.

Even with all that motivation, it took me 70 years to see the light. I hope others see it sooner. Keeping fit is the mature, responsible thing to do for those you love and for those who love you. What’s more, it helps you to live longer and to enjoy life while it lasts.

Les Palmer can be reached at lpalmer@alaska.net.

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