Getting fit in Nevada County: Ahead of our time? |

Getting fit in Nevada County: Ahead of our time?

A year ago, when residents of Nevada County began shaping up collectively in the Meltdown program, were we ahead of our time?

Seems so. The December/January issue of Time magazine declares 2004 the “Year of Obesity” while forecasting 2005 as the “Year of Getting Fit.”

If you’re a fan of Dr. Phil, you know he just introduced a program patterned after the Meltdown. Participants work out free at Gold Gyms and report weekly results by e-mail.

Random indications of widespread change:

• Americans flocked to see “Super Size Me,” a documentary about what happens when you eat nothing but fast food.

• More than 44 states have banned or are phasing out soda and junk food in schools.

• General Mills switched from processed white to whole-grain flour in all (29) cereal brands

• The food pyramid is being rewritten by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Even if we’re ahead in the fitness game, skeptics may argue that local efforts, while laudable, are of little consequence. But when we contemplate the impact we have on others, our actions become significant.

Like casting a pebble in a pond, the circle of influence spreads. That’s why setting an example is so powerful.You may never know all the people you positively influence, or all the people who, in turn, they influence.

Beyond personal example, though, is integrating fitness into everyday life. Pioneering practical, on-site programs is everyone’s responsibility – each of us has a job.

Educators can create running clubs for students, like Principal Carol Judd’s program at Bell Hill School. Churches can add exercise and eating programs to enhance spiritual life.

Restaurant owners can feature attractive, calorie-conscious choices and post nutrition information.

Doctors can discuss the impact of surplus weight and the value of exercise. Nurses can use “teachable” moments with patients to encourage healthier behavior.

Employers can offer incentives – like memberships in gyms-to reach their fitness goals.

Parents can turn off the computer and TV, while nurturing healthy eating. Teenagers can encourage parents to become more active. Grandparents can get up and play with grandchildren. Retirees can call a neighbor and go for a walk.

Media can publicize fitness efforts. Appearing on NCTV, under the auspices of the County Superintendent of Schools, I host a weekly show, “The Tipping Point,” where residents share inspirational stories about their quest for fitness.

Thanks to innovations introduced this week, “The Tipping Point” can be viewed on NCTV’s Web site:

Imagine! Anyone in the world with computer access can learn about fitness from residents here in Nevada County.

Profiles of community role models are also featured monthly on this page (see photograph and article) and will also be included in a book I’m assembling.

To help local people who are ready to make lifestyle changes, several of us are working on a project to open a comprehensive, medically-supervised weight management and healthy living center.

We are also helping other communities. Using e-mail, Sara J. Richey, M.D., formerly of Grass Valley, is getting help for a Meltdown program in Chowchilla using Nevada County as its role model.

In all of these efforts, progress – not perfection – is the goal. We made mistakes on the Meltdown, yet even so, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

When I started my fitness journey, like the “Little Engine Who Could,” my mantra was “I think I can, I think I can.” During the Meltdown, our community mantra was “We think we can, we think we can.”

In 2005, we have a unique opportunity – one which did not exist before and which we may never see again. Will we use the moment to step into a leadership role? Will we continue to be ahead of our time?


Carole Carson is a fitness and nutrition advocate from Nevada City. E-mail her at or write her at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.

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