Start living, not just surviving
My brother and I were blessed to be by my father's side as he took his last breath this past week. Given that, I have really struggled with finding much motivation to write this week's column. We have lost both of our parents in the past 10 months. My mom died of a stroke last July; my dad died of complications from obesity and his years of smoking.
My dad grew up in Winslow, Ariz., ran track at Baylor University, was a pilot in WWII and owned his own business. He loved to tell jokes and really connected with people. He would oftentimes give a total stranger the last dollar in his pocket rather than keep it for himself.
As he got older, he did not care much for material possessions. Throughout his life, it was more important to him to connect with people than things. He was always willing to tell a fun story from his childhood and loved sharing that one of his best friends was Elvis Presley's dentist.
When my dad turned 50, he decided to stop smoking. It was the best thing in the world for me as I no longer had to sit in the backseat of the car searching for air to breathe. I was no longer asking him to roll the window down more than an inch so that the smoke would leave the car.
Unfortunately, when he stopped smoking, he started eating processed food, candy and drinking soda. The only foods to be found at my dad's house, no exaggeration, were the following: Mountain Dew, Peanut M&M's, Velveta cheese, Cheez-Its, bologna and triple pepperoni pizza. This is what he survived on.
I say survived because he really was not living a healthy life since having his first heart attack several years ago. My dad was arguably at least 200 pounds overweight. He suffered from Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease and congestive heart failure.
My dad drank no water — soda was his only source of fluid. Nothing green or with color went into his mouth. In fact, at one of his last meals, he was served a tuna melt that had a speck of celery in it. He zeroed in on it and refused to eat.
Recently, USA Today reported on a study performed by the Centers for Disease Control about the rise in obesity rates in the U.S. In 1980, 15 percent of the population was considered obese. In 2010, the nation was 36 percent obese, and at the current trend, 42 percent of Americans will be considered obese by 2030.
Sadly, my dad was a statistic in the war on diet-related obesity. My dad abused his body, and yet it keeping fighting to stay alive as long as it could.
I am lovingly critical of my father, and I am at peace with his passing. My hope by writing this is that it may be a wake-up call for others to help guide them in making healthier eating choices while there is still time — time to start living and not just surviving.
Kevin Cotter is managing general partner at New Earth Market in Yuba City.