Reclaim your health! Texas activists rise to challenge

BY:Keifus Domo Deus| May 31, 2012

I turned 30 years old May 15, and I am grateful to say that I am probably in the best shape that I have been in, in the past 10 years. I was in the best shape of my life when I was in the Army, but once I knew that it was time for me to go home, I let my health go straight down the tube.

When I began work on my MA in History at the University of Texas at Arlington two years ago, I weighed 225 pounds. This was up from my basic training exit physical weight of 116. I was in medical terms, obese.

Also, around this time, I went to the doctor’s office for my annual physical.  The doctor’s final words to me that day were piercing. He told me, “All the problems that you are facing right now are directly related to your obesity. If you do not change your lifestyle immediately, you will die young.” 

He said this partly because I had been complaining of multiple problems, like difficulty breathing, joint pain, chest cramps, and the like for years, but mainly I think he sought to shame me. His words angered me, and at first, led me into three-day binge on as much crappy food as I could get my hands on. This was on a weekend.

That Sunday night, I was looking through old photos and saw the picture of myself in my Class A dress uniform, right out of basic training. It was at this point that I realized the doctor’s words had had their intended effect. I was ashamed that I had allowed myself to get so out of shape.  I made a vow that day to change my situation. I altered my mental attitude, greatly changed my diet, and began exercising daily. I have since that day, some two years ago, lost ninety pounds.  I now weigh in at 135 pounds.

Having achieved this success, I have sought, over the past year, for a way to get others involved in the process of “Reclaiming Their Health,” as I have come to call it. In October of last year, I brought the topic up in a meeting of my local club, the Texas YCL’s Red River Club. Out of this meeting came the idea for the Texas YCL Red River Club’s Fitness Program. We discussed the issue again in November, and we decided that we would begin the process, for the entire club, on January 1, 2012.  The program has been a great success.

Club members first started by altering their diets.  Pork is no longer a part of any of our diets. We eat nothing but kosher meats. We have even reduced our intake of meat considerably and replaced it with high protein vegetables and fruits. We also removed sweets from our diets, got rid of “regular sodas,” stopped cooking with butter, and refrained from consuming alcohol. We instead now cook with olive oil.

Second, we began exercising daily. This was the hard part. Jason, a former Marine, has a unique issue.  He was injured in a car accident a number of years ago and now has a titanium rod in his leg that is attached to his foot and knee with bolts. I also damaged my knees in the Army. We solved the pain issue by simply developing a walking schedule. Four times a week, we walk at least two to three miles. Then one to two times a month we go on long distance walks to develop endurance. The distance in these walks has gradually increased, from four miles to 16 miles. We also carry weighted bags with us. This works just as well as running.

Our final thing to do was to change our mental attitudes. We did this by facing ourselves, looking into ourselves and remembering who we once were. We decided that we want to be there again. We will never be the same people as we were then, mentally, but we knew we could, at least, get our bodies back to that point. The biggest part was that we committed ourselves to holding each other accountable to the cause of  “reclaiming our health.”

Since the program began in January 1, 2012, the group has lost a collective sixty-five pounds, and we are all feeling great. We are not perfect. Each of us has had moments where we lapsed and ate or drank something that we should not have, but the overall process has been a positive success.

To conclude, Jason and I were talking the other day about getting more veterans involved in this process. Veterans in the United States, among those treated in VA facilities, especially males, have one of the highest obesity rates in the country. Seventy-three percent of the males receiving care at VA clinics are overweight, 33 percent of which are classified as obese.  Female veterans are in much the same boat.  Their numbers are 68 percent, 37 percent, and six percent, respectively. These numbers are based on a study done at the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2005.

This is a problem that we should all make a great effort to address.  Veterans are very important part of our society. They are men and women of all stripes that have chosen, voluntarily, to commit their lives to the defense of our country. They have been involved in multiple affairs that show why this country is in need of some dramatic changes. We need them to be healthy and able to contribute to the struggle in whichever way they would wish to do so.



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