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The Byrd's Nest: Fighting America's growing trend at home

Klark Byrd

In the age of "The Biggest Loser," smartphone health care apps and diet pills guaranteed to burn the belly flab away, how is it possible that our once lean, mean nation has fallen prey to an obesity epidemic?

For starters, our federal government subsidizes junk food to the point that you can buy a glazed Honey Bun for less than you can buy an apple. But if you're willing to buy the right foods and eat them in the right combination, weight loss can be yours.

Through the process of eating the right foods -- and eating a lot of them -- I lost 10 pounds this past week. You may want to hold your applause, however, because as it turns out, I'm still fat.

In health care terms, I'm obese, which is a step down from morbid obesity, where I found myself in 2009 at 340 pounds. I remember watching the scale either sweating or weeping under the enormity of my weight as I realized that I had climbed America's obesity tree, only to fall and strike every chocolate-coated branch on the way down. The result: A hefty man unhappy with his physical appearance and ability.

The weight gain began in earnest after I suffered a broken back in a warehouse accident in 2006. I sat on my bum quite a bit, downing liters of soda and eating candy as though I were Willy Wonka himself. I had become the epitome of an obesity epidemic.

Recognizing the time for change, my wife set food standards for our home -- more vegetables, less candy, more fruit, less beef, more water, no regular soda -- and by 2011, we had both lost 70 pounds.

Then we moved from Nebraska to North Dakota. Due to new work schedules and her erratic cravings during pregnancy, the good eating was off and the fast food run was on. I gained 12 pounds during her pregnancy and the weight stayed on, leaving me stuck at 274 pounds.

Thanks to a return to eating low-sodium, no-sugar whole foods prepared in the home, I'm happy to see the 270s go and I'm hopeful I'll see the 250s soon. I'll still be obese then too, but as North Dakota was ranked the 12th-most obese state in the nation in 2012, I should have lots of company.

I've been told that a heftier North Dakotan has greater protection against winter's frigid temperatures. I question that hypothesis for the sole reason that -- from personal experience -- fat people get cold too. And our layers of inner insulation add insult to injury under the blistering triple-digit summer temperatures.

Speaking of warmer days, I was hoping to do some upkeep around the outside of my home now that spring has sprung but my weight may still be my biggest obstacle, at least when it comes to cleaning my gutters. While perusing a local department store's home improvement aisles Sunday, I discovered that all of the ladders for sale had a weight limit: 200 pounds.

I was left wondering, if America is besieged by an obesity epidemic as suggested by the mainstream TV media in its frequent barrage of news on how the nation's waistline is blowing out the seams, spreading Type II diabetes, heart attack risk and high blood pressure like a pummeled piñata, then why can't we make a sturdier ladder? Surely there are strong enough metals capable of supporting a 250-pound man.

Suffice it to say I'm hopeful in my search of a good ladder because I do plan to clean my gutters despite my lack of ability to fly.

In the meantime, I'll continue to eat healthy foods while graciously rejecting the doughnuts in the office break room. As summer approaches, I'll hit the streets with baby stroller in hand in an effort to keep my waistline shrinking so that one day I won't have to seek out a plus-sized ladder.

Klark Byrd is the news editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at and follow him on Twitter: klarkbyrd