Obesity is the No. 1 problem with our youth today. It outnumbers alcohol and drugs by far. One key realization is that fitness and health start with our youth at home. We usually raise our kids as we were brought up, with the same sort of meal planning as when we were young. Maybe it wasn't the healthiest way to go -- rich foods, lots of carbs, deserts, etc. But as children we didn't question it; we just ate what was on the plate. It's really no different today. But as a former pro wrestler and bodybuilder, I can tell you that changes can always be made for the better.
I see young kids out eating nothing but garbage, and most of them are overweight and out of shape. There are not enough good exercise programs in schools. Candy and soda machines are found on campus, and hot lunches most often lack proper nutritional value. Those who bring lunch from home eat whatever is given to them, and if the parents don't know the right foods, then the children suffer. People say you are what you eat, and never have truer words been spoken.
These children eventually bring their eating habits with them into adulthood. Unless they really understand it and take charge, their habits will end up eating them. Once they become seniors everything starts to fall apart.
Maybe we can't go back and start over, but we can certainly start today to at least prevent anything further from going wrong. The key is changing our eating habits and taking on some form of exercise.
Here's my story: I wasn't raised in a super-healthy family that believed in exercise. I was raised as a nice Jewish boy who was told to use my brain and not my muscles. But in reality, the two go hand in hand. A healthy mind has to have a healthy body. It's mind over matter, and if you have no mind, then it doesn't really matter. But I had the mind to change things in my life. I wanted to be healthy and the best I could be at any age.
My mother was a great Jewish cook. Brisket, farfel, latkes, kugle, you name it. All the stuff I liked. I felt like a cement truck when I walked away from the table. It wasn't a good feeling, but it felt good while I was eating it. Here comes eater's remorse! These foods are rich and full of fats, which cause high cholesterol and blood pressure and even gout, which my dad had.
At 16, while I was growing into a young man, I took it upon myself to read some bodybuilding magazines and change my life a bit. Looking through diets, I found that a high-protein, low-carb diet seemed to work for most people. I dropped the latkes and carbs and began to shed some body fat. There weren't many gyms around in the '60s, but I did stumble into the YMCA.
I got a few workouts out of the muscle magazines and began to incorporate them into my routine. Eventually I entered some bodybuilding contests and won the title of Mr. America. Now, that's a nice title for a nice Jewish boy!
Along with bodybuilding I ventured into pro wrestling. All my dieting and training had paid off. I became a world champion and furthered my career, and I did it for many years.
Now, at 66 years old, I am a senior citizen! I'm still training six days a week and even doing ring workouts. Since changing my diet way back when, my eating habits have been a way of life, and they have carried me through highs and lows. I've suffered numerous injuries -- some very serious -- and I feel that diet and exercise helped me to recover in half the time with little to no pain in most areas.
I remember my classmates in high school telling me that I'd quit training and most likely get fat by the time I was 30. Those are the very same people who started working out with me, and at my 45-year school reunion I hardly recognized them through the weight gains and poor health. They all finally admitted that they should have listened to me but lacked the discipline.
It's not too late for most people to make lasting changes to your health, as long as they have the desire and drive to push through a little pain. There are plenty of gyms around, and all of them have trainers. If you join one, just be sure to let the trainers know of any health problems you may have. And find a friend or spouse to go with you. Teamwork always does wonders for keeping you motivated.
Go through your refrigerator and cabinets and get rid of the foods that you know are bad for you. Write out a nice high-protein diet, and stick with it. You'll be amazed at the difference, you'll see and feel in your body. Not only will you feel better but mentally you will have a better attitude and be able to think much clearer. And if you stay committed, you'll be able to maintain the results longer. After all the years of doing this, I've come to the point that occasionally on Sunday nights, I can have those desserts again, and not have a trace of fat on me the next morning.
It takes some self- discipline to start, but if you reach down inside and pull it out, you're ahead of the game.
The reward is in the mirror and your mind. Old is just a state of mind, and The Ric don't play that game. Just remember that, and go for it.