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Lake Placid News editor Andy Flynn has begun chronicling his efforts to lose weight and change his lifestyle.  It's a very public account of a uniquely American health challenge.  (Photo: provided by Andy Flynn and used with permission)
Lake Placid News editor Andy Flynn has begun chronicling his efforts to lose weight and change his lifestyle. It's a very public account of a uniquely American health challenge. (Photo: provided by Andy Flynn and used with permission)

For Adk journalist, a public struggle with obesity

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One of the major challenges facing the North Country is the growing number of people who are overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 60% of the people in our region are too heavy.

The problem is compounded in many rural towns by the difficulty of finding healthy, unprocessed food and adequate healthcare. For many people that means a constant battle with hypertension, diabetes and other ailments.

Now one of the North Country's most prominent writers and journalists has decided to tell that story in the most personal way possible.

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You grow up eating all this crud because it's out there. It's top heavy with the bad stuff, when it should be top heavy with the good stuff. --Andy Flynn
In a column for the Lake Placid News, editor Andy Flynn is chronicling his own efforts to eat healthier food, lose weight, and develop a more active lifestyle.

It's a struggle that began when he was a teenager growing up in Tupper Lake.  Andy Flynn agreed to talk about the project and share his story with our listeners.

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I've been batting this idea around in my head for about a year, to hold myself accountible.  The struggle in my head was, this is really personal, so I've resisted.

I don't always see myself as a fat person.  Or a large person.  Or a 'husky' person, which is the name I grew up with.  Until I look in the mirror, when it becomes very real.  Or see myself in photos.

I was trying to pick photos to use for the column and as I'm growing through the photos I'm automatically picking the ones that look the best.  And then I thought to myself, this sort of defeats the purpose. 

The reality is that I'm not skinny.  I weighed myself and it was 463.  I've weighted as much as 493.  I got that down to about 430 and slowly gained it back.

I lived with it for years and those hardships that come with it.  There are a lot of challenges, some too personal to say.  But just walking down the street kids shouting out of vehicles, hey fatty, that sort of thing.

Dawn and Andy Flynn (NCPR file photo)
Dawn and Andy Flynn (NCPR file photo)
I can't put my socks on any more.  I haven't been able to do that for years. If I can get through this year and be able to do that, this will be successful.  People ask me, why don't you wear socks?  Well, that's why.

Why doesn't your wife put your socks on for you?  I'm embarrassed to do that.  It's my own damn fault.

If I can't get my weight down, no one should be putting my socks on for me.

There's a lot of baggage, a lot of emotion wrapped up in it.  I try to hide it with humor a lot.

People say, Are you a stress eater?  Yes, check that one.  Are you a recreational eater?  Yes, check that one.

I can't live without Guiness beer.  Life without Guiness is not worth living. Ben and Jerry's ice cream is great.  I don't eat that a lot.  But when I do?  I enjoy it.

I realize that our time on this earth is limited and I want to do a lot before I'm gone. 

You'd think you'd think about that, that death sentence, that threat, that reality as you're reaching for a cheeseburger.  But for some weird reason it doesn't help.

And I'm hoping this will.  Being out in the open and accountible.  I can't even reach for a cheeseburger without everyone being with  me at the same time.

When I'm shopping, everybody is with me while I'm shopping.  If I buy junk food, in my mind, they're going to know. 

There are readers that will be there and say, Why are you buying this junk food?

I don't think the government should be involved in restricting soda intake, for example, in New York City.  I think that's a bunch of bull.  That is personal responbility.

It's a societal thing, really.  You grow up eating all this crud because it's out there.  And because it's accepted.  

A lot of people think it's them against the world when it comes time to get healthier and lose weight. 

What I'm trying to prove is that there's a community out there waiting to help that one person and hold their hand.

Just by putting this out there, I got dozens of comments on Facebook. 

I'm hopeful that I'll lose weight.  How much, I don't know.  I've already gained a support network.  And that's one of the keys to success.

Now I have friends in town who say Want to go for a walk?  I've got multiple people who want to walk with me.  I'm slow, but if you don't mind going that slow, you can walk with me.

Preaching doesn't help.  Being there for people does. 

—Andy Flynn, editor Lake Placid News

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Our conversation with Andy was produced by NCPR Adirondack bureau chief Brian Mann.

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