Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton: Overeating takes a toll on lives

Published: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

What better day than the Sunday after Thanksgiving to reflect on how much we ate and drank and how much we'll dread stepping on a scale or looking in the mirror?

For the people in my house, introspection came while innocently cracking open long-closed family photo albums and being struck by grainy Polaroids of once radiant relatives now struggling with health issues triggered by overeating.

More than once, a single snapshot from 20 to 40 years ago inspired a progression of emotions starting with joy and leading toward sadness and a single question: What happened?

How did a vibrant young person become so heavy and so prematurely old?

It wasn't just the weight that hastened premature aging. It was the stress on the joints, the gastrointestinal issues, back problems, hypertension, surgeries and reliance on medications.

Cast the net beyond my family and the health toll of obesity is stark: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol.

The medical toll of obesity is indisputable: Google "obesity" and "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" and read for yourself.

Some of you won't look it up to save yourselves because you don't want face it – the food has a hold of you and it won't let go. Or you won't let it go.

Ever since I began writing about health and weight loss – I have dropped more than 50 pounds – I get stopped all the time by people asking the same question: How do you do it?

It's a tricky question, especially when posed by someone with a shopping cart filled with stuff causing his or her weight issues.

Offending people doesn't work. When I was overweight, well-meaning friends insulted me with cracks meant to inspire change through derision. All they did was make me mad.

One of the worst byproducts of being overweight is the condescension that comes your way. One time, a guy who worked with me at The Bee – a guy I barely knew – grabbed my stomach in what I'm sure he thought was a playful way. I'll never forget the little smirk he gave me or how lucky he was that he didn't get a mouthful of my fist. I thought about it.

Add up enough of those moments – multiply them by years of overeating – and you get a person whose old pictures inspire sadness in loved ones today.

It becomes the ultimate self-defeating mind game.

When I was obese, I would pretend that I didn't know the way out when I knew all along. All of us know.

There are only so many calories you should be consuming in a day. You go over that limit, and rarely or never exercise and you become overweight. Period.

A good place to start losing weight is to determine how much you weigh now, how much you want to weigh and how many calories you can consume daily to get there.

There are many different methods, but I use an iPhone app called My Fitness Pal. It sets a daily calorie goal and provides an advanced database that allows you to track the foods you eat with remarkable precision.

Yes, you're counting your calories. No, it's not tedious or neurotic.

It's easy and it gives you indispensable information.

The World Health Organization reports that Americans on average consume 3,700 calories a day, when the recommended daily amount is roughly 1,800 to 2,800.

At nearly 6-foot-5, I'm consuming between 1,900 and 2,400 calories a day. But it's so easy to go over that amount because of the hidden calories within foods placed in front of us every day.

"The fundamental question, when you look at food, is this: Is it real food, or is it food that is layered and loaded?" said David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, in a 2009 interview with the Wall Street Journal.

"Much of what we eat in restaurants is fat on fat on sugar on fat with salt. … At the core, it's (about) fat, sugar and salt."

Those holiday snacks – the mixed nuts and dried fruits – can pack on hundreds of calories without even filling you up. The ones at my house are 900 calories per can. The porters and other dark beers that taste so good at this time of year are like liquid cake. Glazed doughnuts and bear claws at the coffee shop are 500 calories or more. And if you go to any of the big chain restaurants, you'll easily find entrees that go up to 2,000 calories. That's almost my entire daily allotment.

That's how it happens – to my beloved relatives, to me, to all of us.

We start eating so much that it stops being about satisfying hunger and starts being a kind of fetish.

Binges become the norm instead of the holiday exception.

And then, before you know it, you bear no resemblance to the picture of you in youth – before you became so overweight.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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