More meat, less vegetables – that’s the Southern way. More obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, that is also the Southern way. It is as if we make it a cultural thing to be fat. It is as if we are proud of how out of shape we are.
We are proud of our fried food and our fatback and our meat-centric meals. We have made our stunningly unhealthy food an essential part of our culture. To drop the food is to deny our Southernness. It is time to redefine what it means to be Southern, because right now it means that we are killing ourselves.
There is a certain amount of shaming that occurs for those who take care of themselves. I’ve been told “you suck” for my efforts to get in shape – like this is a game of musical chairs and I got the last one. Just because I’ve decided to get healthy doesn’t mean that others can’t. There is room for us all.
This isn’t the only time I’ve gotten attitude for getting healthy. I wonder how many people decide to quit because of this social shaming. The weird part is when people say “Oh, you’re still skinny.” Of course I am. I’m still exercising and eating well. I want to say “Oh, you’re still fat.” But that isn’t nice.
It isn’t easy to get healthy. There are a lot of adjustments. There is a lot I’ve given up. I don’t have anywhere near the time I used to have to read. I don’t like exercising, but I like how I feel afterwards. I’m not a fan of having to think before everything I eat as to whether it is healthy or not, but I like how my clothes fit and how clear headed I am.
This isn’t a whim. This is a lifestyle change. I decided I wanted to live a long healthy life. I decided to be intentional about my health. I quit a lot of bad things and started doing a lot of good things. Plus, I don’t have any children, so nobody is going to be around to take care of me when I get older. So I have to do it myself.
In the South, we don’t have any idea what “normal” looks like. We see someone who weighs 200 pounds and we think he is just fat. No – that is obese. Then we see someone who is 300 pounds, but because she is larger than us, we think we are fine.
Nope. We are all out of shape.
We’ve come to think of “exercise” as a dirty word. We see it as a punishment. We see it like physical therapy – it is something you do for a little while, under doctor’s orders, and then you can quit.
How have we gotten so far off the path?
We act like eating whatever we want is our cultural right. We’ve clawed our way to the top of the food chain and we are going to prove it by taking ourselves to our graves.
We act like being lazy is a good thing. We act like we’ve proven we are number one by the fact that we can sit around all day. We don’t have to work all day long, finding or harvesting our food. We don’t have to walk three miles with a bucket on our heads to bring water back. We don’t have to walk four miles one way with no shoes to go to school.
Maybe it would be a good idea if we did these things.
Then maybe we wouldn’t take them for granted.
I’ve noticed that parents from foreign countries consistently get educational books for their children. They work really hard with them to get them to work hard on their education. Meanwhile, American parents let their kids get whatever they want. They get comic books and cartoons.
Consequently, the ESL kids consistently do better than the American kids. Children who were born into an English-speaking family consistently read and think at a lower level than children who are born into other families. It is because of the parents. The foreign parents don’t let the kids pick what they are going to read. These parents expect their kids to work hard and they don’t take “I don’t want to” for an answer.
I wonder how much of our Southern Fried Pride comes from habit? I knew a guy who was at least 500 pounds. His skin was grey, he was so unhealthy. He said that everybody in his family was as large as he was. I have a strong suspicion it has more to do with what is in their recipe books than what is in their genes.
Our pride is killing us.