I remember the fad of the record album of my college days that gave potheads- of which I was NOT one (really, ask anyone on my freshman floor) – a mellow thrill: recordings of the humpback whales. Stoned, they’d express youthful ‘wows’ as if the combination of science and THC took them to another level. Maybe it did, but I only heard the science part, so the ‘Wow’ factor wasn’t nearly as remarkable.
Subsequent scientific findings using the measurement of sound included hearing the heartbeats of fetuses, the microwaves of the early post-Big Bang of the universe, and the Rolling Stones. ( I threw that in there to get more Google attention.)
But the noises associated with what may be the medical end of humanity as we knew it have not yet been recorded. We’ve heard them but no one has created that album yet, most likely out of fear for their own existence.
Obesity. A loud noise getting louder. A recent report on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) survey of Americans’ health should be a wake up call for 2/3’s of us yet the ennui and inertia seem the rule rather than the exception in the face of what we’re about to hear. And as much as I’ve written about this topic here, here, here, here and here, recognizing few people read these posts, I keep hoping the headlines in the news will convey how critical it is that we listen.
An article in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) as written up in the NYT the other day highlights the sound of silence we as a people, even as a species, are living by. Not being an alarmist, nor a fanatisist, like my pot-smoking college buddies, I don’t want to go overboard with the news that Americans are getting fattier by the year. One only has to sit at the airport or shop at any department store to see it happening in real time. But that’s like saying all you have to do is take a boat off the coast of California when the whale migrations are going on to watch whales in real time: yes, but one sight wow’s you while the other, well, makes you sad.
What does obesity sound like?
Try huffing and puffing to climb a flight a stairs; snoring loudly watching an old movie; grunting to get up from a chair; wheezing after rushing into the garage as the rainstorm hits; the loud and rapid click-click-click of the systolic blood pressure reading while resting in the doctor’s office; the crackling of knees before the age of 60; the plopping of asses sitting down in an uncontrolled descent; it’s the sound of a little kid struggling to play on the playground with the other kids, gasping for air; the moan of an adolescent female as she views herself in the mirror before going outside in summer clothes; the whine of the wife as she dons last year’s dress that no longer fits.
It’s also the sound of a small-gauge needle puncturing the skin on the belly of a diabetic; the waning heart rate of the prematurely dying adult; the sobs of his or her family members bemoaning the early death.
And the cheerful noises at the buffet tables of the local eatery; the self-assured chomping of excess Halloween candies at the office, that sound of giving in to temptation confident you’ll be on the wagon again tomorrow; the slopping of gravy-laden turkey and stuffing thinking it’s just the holidays.
Someone more creative than me should record these sounds, play them on the radio and at frat parties, maybe even during Super Bowl commercial breaks. Someone should sound the alarm that excess caloric intake combined with processed foods designed to hook you and media and other technological movement savers – who remembers having to stand up to change the channel? – that are contributing to a nation of under fit, over fat people.
It won’t be me, for my job is to keep people moving even if overweight; to reinforce healthful habits even if the client is unwilling to comply; to educate those momentarily interested in making lifestyle changes. I can’t rant and rage at the impending doom we all face, not individually or as a family member or stalwart of the community but as a community at large. All races, all genders, all nationalities, all creeds – we are giving in to the steady creep-creep-creep of fat cells storing lipids, lipids clogging arteries, oxygen dribbling in smaller amounts to our brains and muscles.