I suppose that the prospect of a healthy life should be adequate incentive for the obese to get off their butts and change their lifestyles. As a former member of that crowd, I can attest that experience and statistics suggest otherwise. Sometimes you need a big incentive to get you off of a couch. And sometimes you just need a 4″ x 4″ strip of embroidered cloth.
Offering any reasonable incentive to entice people out of McDonald’s and off the couch is not only a good investment in public health, it also begins a virtuous cycle. Getting people addicted to earned 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.
When I first started to work toward this patch, I weighed somewhere north of 360 lbs., which even on my 2m high frame made me obese. Given that for a long time I refused to step on a scale, I may well have been “morbidly obese.” Today I weigh 216 lbs., have a BMI of 24, and am healthier at 57 than I was at 35 in good part due to the President’s Challenge, of which the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, or PALA, was 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 – and, indeed, was often told by professionals who should have known better – was beyond me.
I earned the award four times in the 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.
It is one of my proudest achievements, and I will wear this patch on my BSA Jac-shirt with pride.