What a wild ride this is! | TheUnion.com

What a wild ride this is!

When I finished phase one of my fitness program (losing weight) and moved into phase two (maintaining fitness), my physiological age was 47, compared to a chronological age of 60. Maybe that’s why I find myself unexpected “un-retired.” Evidently, 47 is too young to kick back!

As you can imagine, the Meltdown program has become a full-time job – and then some. Moreover, as my husband wisely said at the beginning of the project, “Once you’re riding the tiger, you can’t get off.” For sure, if I gained weight, we’d have to sell our home and move some place where I could sink back into anonymity and buy a hamburger, milk shake and fries without looking over my shoulder.

As it turns out, I’ve enjoyed – for the most part – an exhilarating ride on the tiger. Now in our fourth week, my colleague, Mike Carville, event coordinator, and I, ride a little easier, although the work involved in staging a community event for 800-1,000 people each week is daunting. Were it not for all the volunteers who’ve stepped forward to help, this event could not happen.

Who would have thought that so many of us would make losing weight together an adventure? Consider the imagination and daring of our common goal – 140 or so teams losing 8,000 pounds, or 4 tons, in eight weeks.

If we succeed, we qualify for the Guinness World Book of Records, although they will have to create a new category, called “Group Weight Loss.”

Given our example, will this program be replicated? Nick Bodley, owner of the Ridge Racquet Club, sent Meltdown information to his relatives in Australia.

Yuba County is considering a challenge. Television stations in Sacramento (Channels 3, 10, and 13) have done initial stories and will return to report our results. Tuesday, if all goes as planned, I’ll appear with some participants on the “Today” show to talk about Nevada County being “the fittest little county in the nation.” In anticipation of the response, we have a new e-mail address to receive inquiries.

An international news service will come to the fourth session at the fairgrounds Tuesday night to talk to participants and take photographs. The resulting article may be picked up by British and English-speaking newspapers in Europe.

We’ve sent a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger asking him to attend a session and also e-mailed Dr. Phil and Oprah to let them know we are up to big things.

With a new Web site (www.theunion.com/meltdown), our successes can be widely publicized. As word of our achievement spreads, other communities may follow.

But by far and away, the best part of the Meltdown program is talking with the participants on Tuesday nights, or through the steady stream of e-mails. Carol Williams, working out at Fast and Fit, says she’s discovered she’s pain-free as long as she exercises. Wendy-Lee Ollikkala, working out at Jazzercise, says she didn’t realize exercise could be so much fun.

Dee Dawson, 68, who’s dealing with hypertension, a former stroke, Type II diabetes and atrial fibrillation, says her doctor is pleased she lost five pounds in two weeks. She’s eating less food, cut out sweets, and is seeing a nutritionist to learn new eating strategies. She’s also spending 30 minutes a day on an exercise bike. She’s hoping she can reduce the six medications she must take daily.

Kerry Arnett, mayor of Nevada City, committed before an entire community that he’ll reach an appropriate weight by his 50th birthday, two years from now, thereby reducing his risk of family-related diabetes. The Sacramento Bee is doing an in-depth feature on him – just to keep him honest! And focused!

The Meltdown program, though, isn’t just about exercising and eating more appropriately. We can measure the pounds or inches lost. But we can’t measure the sense of community we feel when we work together in partnership toward a common goal. Nor can we measure the heart attacks prevented, the diabetes postponed, or the increased energy of participants.

And the hardest to measure of all is our increased pride in our own ability to take charge of our own lives. Maybe it’s my imagination, but the participants in the Meltdown program seem to walk a little straighter, stand a little taller, and laugh a lot more.

Improving one’s own fitness is a reasonable goal. Serving as a catalyst for the people in one’s circle – family, friends, work colleagues – so that they become more fit is an even loftier goal. Serving collectively as a catalyst for the nation in reversing the trend toward obesity is the highest goal of all.

Perhaps, because the need is so urgent, this dream has to eventually materialize someplace – as a nation, we can’t keep going the way we are.

Somehow, though, I find it especially appropriate that Nevada County’s unique declaration to make ourselves “the fittest little county in the nation” should originate in our unique community.

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

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