At the beginning of each new year (and I do mean each – Rosh Hashana, January 1st, Tu B’Shevat, the season premier of American Idol) I make a resolution to get in shape. Sometimes the focus is on my stomach, in the metaphorical sense, and I make drastic changes to my diet plan. South Beach, Long Beach, Fast Beach… My favorite was the “Beaches” diet, where you hang out with a childhood friend and alternate between gossiping about other people and catfights for so long that you forget to eat.
When the diet plans fail, as they inevitably do, typically sometime around mid-afternoon on day two, I switch to focusing on my stomach, literally. I’ve researched weight loss surgery numerous times, attending clinics and getting lists of prerequisites. In my last attempt, I was told that the Israeli medical system wouldn’t pay for gastric bypass surgery if I were depressed.
“But what if I’m depressed because I’m fat?” I mused.
“Then that’d be a real “Caught 22 Kilos”, wouldn’t it?” quipped Ms. Ratchett, my internist’s office manager.
So, in between bites of a donut carefully chosen to boost my spirits, I decided to explore exercise as a weight loss method. I’m not into exercise so much, as I get winded easily, and my balance is essentially nil. I have sprained ankles by falling over while standing still. But as a student of my own motivations, I decided to appeal to my sense of thrift. The walk from my train station to work takes about 30 minutes, and if I went on foot instead of by bus, I could save about $20 a month. That doesn’t seem like much, until you remember the magic of compound interest!
So, I began to walk to work each day, even forgoing some of my projected profit by paying $5 for access to the showers at my office. But as winter approached, my motivation waned, and one week, I found I had not walked to work even once. This was now costing me more than planning to take the bus, because I was no longer buying a discounted pass, and instead I was paying for each individual bus trip. Something, I decided, MUST BE DONE!
I enrolled in a program called “Couch to 5K” abbreviated encouragingly as Couch25K, which makes it seem like you are about to embark on a half marathon, instead of circumnavigating a space the size of your average children’s playground. The program aims to have you running comfortably for 30 minutes at a time within the span of 9 weeks. And they do it by gradually ramping up from brief periods of jogging interspaced with longer recovery walks, and increasing the amount of time you spend running by a few minutes each week. Much like the frog who is willing to stay in boiling water if the heat is turned up gradually, the proponents of Couch25K believe that people who get accustomed to exercise slowly are more likely to stick with it.
That got me thinking. As I see it, one of the major problems within the African-American community (and truth be told, within the Ethiopian community here in Israel) is the failure to become part of the white-collar middle class. And this is due in part to the relatively low college graduation rate. What if there was an initiative that helped young Black kids realize that they can make it through college, by providing increasing challenges starting from elementary school and working through junior high and high school. Perhaps the program would even include prepping kids for AP classes or CLEP exams so that they enter college having already earned a few credits.
With internet technology and programs like Khan’s Code Academy, motivated students can pull from the best teachers in the world, without barriers of location or schedule. Our job as successful (in whatever capacity you choose to define that term) adults is to help our youth find that motivation. I’d love to hear if anyone finds the idea of a graduated path towards grade level proficiency and college degrees feasible, and in the interim, I plan to do some additional investigation on methods shown to encourage children to learn in alternative environments.
Malynnda Littky moved to Israel from the Detroit area in 2007, and lives with her family in Hadera, halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. She currently works as a Content Manager for a software company.
Header image courtesy of Pixabay.