Brian Hamilton: Prepared to be inspired
Hear the words “Nevada County Meltdown” and two more likely come to mind: the name “Carole Carson.”
And, of course, vise versa.
For many of us who lived here in the early 2000s, the two became forever intertwined when the feisty, funny, informative and awfully inspiring woman who publicly pledged to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle later challenged the whole darn community to follow suit.
And she proved herself to be quite the Pied Piper, as more than a thousand area residents joined her in the “Meltdown” collectively dropping four tons of weight over the course of eight weeks.
“When, at 182 pounds, I wrote my first column and publicly challenged myself to get fit, I didn’t know the outcome. Six months later and 62 pounds lighter, I realized a lifelong dream,” Carson wrote in a 2004 health column for The Union. “In November, when I challenged our community to a public Meltdown, I didn’t know the outcome. Again, I was thrilled when more than 1,000 people joined together to get fit.”
Word of the widespread weight loss spread far and wide, long before going “viral” became a thing. Carole made numerous appearances on state and national media — she and Dixie Redfearn, The Union’s readership editor at the time, were interviewed live for the “Today” show — and the Meltdown was chronicled in “Body Intelligence” by obesity expert Dr. Edward Abramson as an example of how people could tackle this important health issue by working together. (She learned about the book reference, and how widely the movement had become known, when she asked an Israeli resident who’d emailed her, “How in the world — literally — did she know about the Nevada County Meltdown?”)
“What we do know is every segment of our community is contributing, creating a partnership that cuts across all lines,” Carole wrote as the Meltdown began. “Private business owners of gyms and fitness centers allow registered Meltdowners to work out in their clubs — an enormous contribution! Mike Carville, general manager of South Yuba Club, coordinates the event.
“Experts in health, nutrition and exercise give presentations. The county Board of Supervisors and the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City declared January and February official Meltdown months. The Community Wellness Coalition — made up of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, The Union, United Way, the Superintendent of Schools, and prominent health educators — lend their support. Prizes are donated — from make-overs to massages.”
“Dare we dream again? Could we, ordinary residents in a small county in Northern California, be a catalyst for the nation? Will we take leadership in becoming “The Fittest Little County in the Nation”? If not us, who? If not now, when?”
Even after the Meltdown ended, Carole continued to inspire larger audiences when she eventually created an online community for AARP that involved about 40,000 participants. In that capacity, she also wrote more than 700 articles on fitness for AARP, continuing to inspire others to live a healthier life.
And, now, starting next with Tuesday’s edition of The Union, she’s back for more.
That means all of us should be prepared to once again be inspired.
With her “Adventures in Aging” monthly column, Carole looks to challenge our thinking about growing older while probing topics like “What about aging scares us?” and “Finding the treasures in aging,” as well as dispelling myths about growing older and sharing personal stories of local people along the way.
“At 78, I know I’m not young anymore, but I don’t feel old,” Carole writes in the first installment of “Adventures in Aging” Tuesday. “Instead, I see myself as an elder-in-training. Going forward, my goal is to celebrate passage into the next stage of life as much as I celebrated those of my youth. Will you join me?”
Rest assured, I’m confident that those who do will no doubt be glad they did.
Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at email@example.com or 530-477-4249.
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