CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A great deal has been reported in the last 20 years about the obesity problem in the United States. Reports have shown that the average weight of both males and females have risen since 1991 to record levels.
There are many factors that could have and are leading to this: stress, poor diet, work, lack of motivation, family responsibilities. Whatever the cause, it has aided in what is already a broken health-care system. Health-care costs have been on the rise for the past five decades, and obesity is a major factor.
As some may recall, I am a former West Virginia legislator and a veteran of the West Virginia Army National Guard. During my tenure, and before entering both the military and public service through the political system, I made it a habit to stay fit. I played sports, exercised, jogged at least five days a week, tried to eat healthy and stayed away from things that were bad for my body.
Due to an unfortunate illness in 2007, I had to resign from the Legislature and the military. Afterward I lacked the motivation to stay in shape. I ballooned to an unhealthy 270 pounds. I am 6 feet tall.
I was slowly killing myself with self-pity and depression through eating and lack of exercise. My mother passed away in August 2010, deepening my mood. Arthritis in my knees had set in and I had determined that this was my lifestyle for the rest of my life.
But one day, after waking up and looking at myself in the mirror, I determined that it was time to get back out there and try to get back in shape. After seeing a doctor about my knees and going off prescription medicine because of side effects, I decided to go it alone. After spending 21 years in the military, it was time to put my training to use again.
I started slowly because of the pain in my joints. I ate healthier. As time went by, I started to block out the pain in my knees and, with the help of over-the-counter supplements for the arthritis, I was back to a brisk walk every three days. I began weight training for my upper and lower body. Before long, in addition to walking, I was back to jogging about a mile. But that was not good enough. I wanted more.
Now I am jogging 20 to 25 miles a week, eating healthier and my weight stands at 175 pounds. When I was in the military and the Legislature, I weighted 195, which by Army standards was overweight for a male 6 feet tall. I passed every physical fitness test, which allowed me to stay in.
I just turned 46 and I am in the best shape of my life. My advice to everyone who may read this is, if you struggle with obesity, for whatever reason, don't lose hope. Never fear. You can shed the excess pounds if you choose. It will take determination and willpower, but you can do it. For the sake of your family, the cost of health care in America, but, more important, for yourself, you can do it.
Time is precious, I understand, but finding a few minutes three or four days a week to stop and do some type of exercise, in addition to eating a healthy diet, will do wonders for yourself and your family. Consult your doctor, talk to experts, go online and study up. Get out there, and let's all bring down this alarming trend that has taken over our beloved country. There are many problems this country faces, but with a little grit and motivation, this is one that we can all tackle together.
It's the holiday season. What better time to start than now, because if you have the willpower now, you will have it for the new year.
Thompson, of Hurricane, is a former member of the state Legislature and the West Virginia Army National Guard.