While I was at the YMCA yesterday, a woman and her son walked into the room where I was visiting with a friend supervising the area. The woman and her child, a boy in sixth grade, were obese. She dropped him off and asked how long he had. My friend told her she had an hour and a half.
The room, designed for children between the ages of eight to thirteen, is outfitted with a vast array of equipment to make exercise fun. There are high tech pieces of equipment like Espresso Bikes that have screens to allow for virtual racing against the computer and a video game that lets you chase dragons for points up to a half hour, awarding incentives along the way for distance and speed. There is also a DDR (Dance Dance Revolution): a dance game that combines balance, coordination and endurance by trying to sync your feet to corresponding arrows displayed on a large video screen. The music helps serve—for those with rhythm—as a tool to help you place your feet on the beat. There are eight floor pads, so you can compete against seven of your friends. There is also a game that puts a belt with a sensor on kids to play games that work on coordination, agility and speed. Lastly, the crown jewel of the room are the fifteen pieces of Hammer Strength equipment that use weight resistance bands to allow children to learn weight training safely at an early age. The equipment all have pictures attached to them to show the various muscle groups that are being worked.
The boy, who could have benefitted from the use of any of this equipment, instead went straight to the most popular item in the room: a Wii video game counsel. The mother gave a half-hearted "Okay, don't play that the whole time...." on her way out the door. Discouraged that the boy was using the Wii, my friend asked if he wanted to try something different. The boy gave a "Nah, that's okay." It was so discouraging. Worse, the mother came back after only fifteen minutes and announced that she could not get motivated to work out upstairs, so she started working out—barely— in the room on the Hammer Strength equipment. She is not really being a great example. I don't want to change the world. Okay, yes I do! I wish I could have said something to this woman, but that would have been very inappropriate. I wish I also could have said something to the morbidly obese woman I saw at Wegmans last night (a local grocery store) with her already obese young daughter who had a shopping cart filled with large chocolate chip cookies from the bakery, another bag of cookies, soda and she was standing in front of the take-out counter watching her daughter pick out a calzone for dinner. Sure, I admit it, I was eavesdropping. All I could think is "What the hell is this woman thinking?!" This surely constitutes child abuse. No one is reporting this woman instilling a lifetime of bad habits and health problems for her daughter. Am I out of line? Am I way too judgmental? Do people really enjoy being fat? Do they think, "..hey, I'll eat these last boxes of cookies, then I'll start getting into shape? Do they just think it's pointless?
My secret wish—perhaps in another life—is to start a camp, like on the show The Biggest Loser, where I could work with unhealthy people turning them on to diet and exercise. Of course, it would have to be a residential treatment program. You would have to teach people how to cook healthier food. Like I said before, working with my cousin and my once out-of-shape, couch potato, rock star-lifestyle training partner and watching them become fit, fast, healthy eating athletes has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I don't have a degree in exercise science, or nutrition. I am not a certified personal trainer or a former professional athlete, but I do have a real passion for helping people and exercise.
Okay, I will try not to get on the soap box much more. Who am I kidding?