Patch of the Month: Presidential Champion

Last month I talked about the President’s Challenge and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) as being important incentives to changing my thinking and my lifestyle, to getting me off my ass, off of fast food, and onto a much better life.

After earning the PALA four times, I decided to take on a much tougher challenge, the Presidential Champions Award. I managed to make it to the Bronze Award last year, and was starting work on Silver when the program was terminated on August 10.

I’m incredibly proud of this award, which is the highest recognition that I have received for any physical activity since I was in High School. It took me the better part of a year to complete the requirements, and by the time I had completed it, fitness had become a part of my life, rather than something that intimidated me.

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Patch of the Month: PALA

While I have yet to encounter serious opposition to the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, an argument can be made, perhaps, that a healthy life is its own reward, and that offering recognition – especially presidential recognition – for simply living a healthy life is a great big precious-snowflake-everybody-gets-a-trophy cow pie.

Statistics and my own experience speak volumes against it. Providing any reasonable incentive to entice people out of McDonald’s and off the couch is not only a good investment, it sets people on a positive path. Getting people addicted to achievement instead of instant gratification is a very different kettle of fish than rewarding mediocrity, especially if you build a program that rewards higher and higher levels of participation and achievement.

I weigh 50 pounds less today – and am healthier now than I was in my thirties –  in part due to the President’s Challenge, of which the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, or PALA, is a part. The act of exercising regularly, recording the foods you eat, and gradually replacing less healthy foods with healthier choices is a powerful start, and was my ladder to a place that I always felt was beyond me.

I’ve won the award four times in the past five years, and subsequently used it as a stepping stone to higher achievements. But I can honestly say that this program probably saved my life and my marriage, and I have no doubt I earned this damned patch.

It is one of my proudest achievements, and I will wear it on my BSA Jac-shirt with pride.

Goodbye, Beignets

On the way back from Gaviota we pit-stopped at The Cajun Kitchen in Goleta for a breakfast mercifully devoid of windborne clay dust. We rewarded the scouts with beignets.

I tried one, enjoyed it, and decided that I would not feel deprived if it were my last. 

No aspersions on the Cajun Cafe: I have of late, but wherefore I know not, slid quietly into “eat-to-live” mode. Food has become fuel, not fun, and while I still appreciate good food, I don’t give it anywhere as much thought as I used to beyond ensuring that a) I won’t go hungry, and b) I become increasingly Kosher in my habits.

Boring? Maybe. But I don’t think the world will suffer for the lack of one more foodie, and it makes weight management much easier. In the end, I might even live longer.

Dodging temptation 

Almost went to Stan’s Donuts for a breakfast of blueberry fritters and coffee.

Resisted.

Having the chilled Swiss oats with fruit and an iced tea at Corner Bakery instead.

I’m saving my calories for dinner. I need to try a Chicago dog. It is a moral imperative.

Stunning Chicago 

Downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan share the horizon in this picture taken from the 10th floor of the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Care and Discovery.

The facility is a breathtaking testament to all that is good in America’s health care system, and a poignant reminder that in our effort to ensure care for all, we must take care not to toss out the baby with the bath water.

My buddy James gave me a thought-provoking tour. I’ve visited a host of medical centers, and what is remarkable about UChicago is that it offers all of the advantages of a massive healthcare city like Texas, Mass Gen, or UCLA, but none of the disadvantages that come with hugeness.

I dread the prospect of finding myself hospitalized, but I think I would be less concerned if I was in a place like this.

Especially on a beautiful Autumn day.