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With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

The First Lady shares my passion for...you'll see. Image via Wikipedia

If you have any idea what I’m talking about, good for you! It’s not everyday that I interact with such enlightened people (yes, it counts if you had to google or wikipedia it–I’m feeling generous). Why am I mentioning it, though? Because it’s Thoughtful Thursday and I wanted to talk about it.

In case you have no idea what the phrase “bread & circuses” is meant to signify, I will give you a brief definition. It is said that the decline of the Roman culture can be attributed to their growing indifference to politics and civic duty. They only had to real cares in the world: to be fed and to be entertained. People often speak of American culture as the contemporary Roman culture. There’s a guy (I can’t remember his name) who did an investigation of all the famous empires of history and their demise, and he warned that America was soon going to decline for the very reason that Americans were less concerned with politics and the larger world than they were with popular culture entertainment and eating.

If you look around America, you will notice that people are heavier and lazier (me too; I’m not singling anyone else out). We have become a couch culture. The only surfing we do is channel surfing or surfing the net. We are constantly looking for ways to entertain ourselves that require minimal effort on our part, which has contributed to the rise of On Demand, Netflix, downloading music, delivery, and online shopping. It’s entirely possible to get most of our needs met without leaving our couch.

Due to the decline of the American housing market, stock market, and job market, people began to realize that politics were important. All of those people we haphazardly elect, through lazy impulse voting or not voting at all, actually have an impact on whether or not we can make enough money to be able to afford being lazy. Now, everyone is in touch with the politics of the day. President Obama is arguably the most “paid attention to” president we’ve ever had: whether we agree or disagree with what he’s doing, we are watching and judging. That’s good. But we’re largely still sitting.

One of the shows I really like watching is Too Fat for 15. On the opening sequence, there is a quote that chills me. To paraphrase, it says this is the first generation of children who may not outlive their parents because of the obesity epidemic. This isn’t the only show featuring teens and adults struggling with their weight. These shows used to be an anomaly, watched because it was so rare to see a 500 pound person. Now I see it several times a week.

There’s been a movement towards rehabbing our diets, and that’s great. I’m in no mood to be a vegetarian or a vegan, but if it makes you healthier, go for it. Organic food is expensive, but if it’s important to you, eat all organic. Same thing for gluten free. The main thing that I take from this movement, as a cheap omnivore who isn’t willing to pass up a good steak or the occasional (OK, frequent) pasta dish, is the need to make healthy choices. I shop more of the perimeter of the super market for fresh meat and produce. I substitute leaner turkey for beef on occasion. I don’t shovel food into my mouth, but give my body time enough to tell me it’s full. I do OK.

We still haven’t addressed working out. Not nearly enough of us do it, especially those of us with a little more melanin. I’m tired of being the only Black woman on the trail running, biking, or blading, but I digress. Making a personal commitment to your fitness is important, though. Don’t just sit down; get moving. Find fun ways to get a good workout. It doesn’t always have to be going to the gym and getting on a treadmill or elliptical, you know. You can take a class, go dancing, shoot some hoops, play soccer, turn cartwheels and jump rope.

I love food and entertainment as much as anyone else (maybe more than), but I can’t afford to be unplugged from what’s going on in the larger society, or in my body. I love the fact that as Americans, we are moving towards less self-indulgence and more discipline and involvement in the community. It’s time to use technology to help us do that. How?

  • Follow the Pres and new sources on twitter
  • Utilize your DVR so you can get out and be active during the day
  • Cook a little more at home. You can even involve the rest of the family.
  • Use your phone to count calories, do an exercise program like Couch to 5K, follow weight watchers, or share your workouts to keep you accountable.
  • Look up great workouts and recipes on the internet.
  • Get active with interactive Xbox or Wii games geared towards fitness.

If you’re looking to exercise some civic duty, you can: volunteer at a nursing home or hospital, participate in a walk or run for a cause you’re passionate about, join a civic club, donate to charity, volunteer to be a mentor, or get involved in activities at your church or place of worship.

What do you think about the bread & circuses issue? How do you stay fit/healthy? Do you follow politics? Why or why not? How do you use technology to keep you in the know and live a healthy, fit life?