If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.
Is this easy? No it’s not. It’s hard. It takes a special kind of kid to succeed. And to succeed even with these tools is much harder for a black kid from West Philadelphia than a white kid from the suburbs. But it’s not impossible. The tools are there. The technology is there. And the opportunities there.
–Gene Marks “If I Were a Poor Black Kid”
One of the difficult things about being a middle-aged white guy is that you tend to put on the pounds. Somewhere along the way the effortlessly slender twenty-two year old who subsisted on pizza and beer is replaced by a stranger with a doughy face and an expanding waistline. You don’t want to be this guy, but don’t despair. You don’t have to be. It just takes a little hard work and discipline.
The first step is to get into a daily exercise program. A good pattern is to alternate weight training three days a week with cardio two days a week and maybe a yoga class on the weekend. There are plenty of books and web pages out there with advice on how to craft a program to suit you. If you can afford it, you might want to pay for a trainer at a fancy gym. But if you can’t, no worries, the local YMCA is all you need. Or just do fifty pushups in your bedroom every night. What matters is that you have the discipline and tenacity to keep pushing when you think you can’t go any farther.
The next step is a reasonable diet. Again, there’s a wealth of information out there about how to eat right, but the basics is mostly common sense. Cut out the junk food. Eat simple, home-cooked, well-balanced meals. Take your alcohol intake down to no more than a glass of wine every other day. And, realistically, cut your portion size down by half. You may feel like you’re starving at first, but trust me, this is what your body really needs.
Now maybe you’re saying, this is hard! This takes discipline! I say, you’re right. Anything worthwhile in life does. Maybe you’re saying, I don’t have time for this! I’m too busy with my career, or raising my family. But what good is a rewarding career if you’re too sick and exhausted to enjoy the benefits? And don’t you owe it to your family to not die of a heart attack before your grandchildren are born? Life isn’t fair, and at some point you have to abandon the excuses. You know that your health is literally a matter of life and death, so why wouldn’t you treat it like one?
Right now, as we speak, there is some poor black teenager growing up in a ghetto who is working hard to get himself the education he needs to become a success in life. If he can prevail against the odds to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an executive, you can certainly stick to an exercise program diligently enough to lose, say, fifteen pounds. His ability to pull himself up by his bootstraps can serve as a reminder to us all that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. So take heart, middle-aged white guys, then get out there and work harder!