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Commentary: Burn Calories, Not Gas

By Tom Dodge, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX –

I've been slowly losing some pounds lately by walking to pick up grandson A.J. at school. It's a mile to the school and he loves the walk home, especially since I always bring the dogs. Most of the kids board the buses for the short ride home. The rest climb aboard the long line of SUV's their parents use to shuttle them the mile or so to and from school.

Midlothian now has five neighborhood schools, not including the high school. I'll bet there are very few kids who live more than a mile away from any one of these. All these vehicles line up every day, their engines running, just to go a mile or less. Lots of gas is burned but no calories.

Experts tell us ways to lose weight, always being careful to avoid the simplest way. Cut calories in half and double up on exercise. When I was A.J.'s age, I saw very few fat people, and no fat kids. Look at old photographs from the 1940's and '50s. Except for an occasional businessman, everybody was slender. I never saw a McDonald's until 1963 but it now sells forty percent of the fast food in America, I have heard, and is the leading cause of obesity.

Other than having no junk food, people of that era worked hard. They even pushed a mower without a motor. They got out of their car and lifted their garage door. They got up and manually changed the TV channel. They even had to roll up their car windows. And they walked more because not all families had a car.

We're all softies in comparison and so must turn to retailers for weight loss aids. There are stationary bikes for sale, treadmills, rowing machines, and the like. Even if they result in better health and weight loss, they are boring and a colossal waste of time. I've seen people use them. To combat boredom they watch television. The ads for fried chicken soon overwhelm them, I think, and they waddle to their SUV's for a foraging trip to Colonel Sanders.

I'm opposed to self-enforced suffering. I like only outside exercise and it has to be fun - and it's even better if it's practical.

Walking that mile back home, two miles for me, I not only fight the fat wars, but we have fun and accomplish things we might not have accomplished otherwise. We go over his math and spelling words. We talk about things that are interesting to him, usually the latest exploitative movie from Disney and accompanying gear. One such movie from Time Past that we watched together is "The Goonies," a movie involving kids and storm drains. As a result we know where every storm drain is between our house and the school. The goonies live down there and, of course, the storm-drain biters. Sometimes, Tipper, the Golden Retriever, goes in them and then has to back out. We hold our breath that a goonie won't get him.

Sometimes we walk as much as a mile down the railroad tracks, looking for hoboes or maybe just snakes that live in the little creek running alongside. One day we walked all the way to the swamp that lies in the woods where the wolves and coyotes live, or what's left of them after the developers came with their ground gobblers. Developers have cut a swath through there, so we crossed the little creek on a timber we laid down and walked through the opening in the woods, holding our loaded slingshots at the ready in case we had to defend ourselves against hoboes, snakes, wolves, or coyotes.

We were in no danger, though, except for the heavy and fast-moving traffic once we made it back to the road. And we did our part to win the war against fat and ozone levels.


Tom Dodge is a writer from Midlothian. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.