Meet my dad.
Meet my dad.
My dad, Shirl Norman Baker, Jr. is a 50-something retired military man currently waiting medical clearance to return to work as a truck driver. He loves fishing and all things country, and unfortunately, his list of vices is long — smoking, bacon, pork chops, Mountain Dew, coffee, imitation mashed potatoes and deer meat cooked in eight million different ways.
If I told you, as a health professional, that I am motivated by a bacon-eating smoker I would expect you to pause and wonder just what kind of health professional I am. But my dad has taught me two critical lessons: to meet clients where they are and never judge them for the condition they’re in.
My dad joined the military right out of high school. He was the youngest of five — quite literally treated as the baby — and raised by an alcoholic, abusive father and a mother who had to work as hard at home as she did at work. My dad’s childhood made him determined. He would abstain from drinking and find a way to support himself. His journey led him to a profession he wore with pride.
As a member of the Air Force, he traveled the world. In service, he played softball and raised three kids while serving in Operation Desert Storm. Later, he retired lean and active. I remember my dad brushing my long black hair with a comb and hiring dozens of babysitters who would quit after two days with us. My father’s greatest lesson in my youth, however, was how to be altruistic.
We’d spend entire Saturdays mowing the yards of soldiers who left their families behind to fight in the war my dad had not yet been sent to. We would rake, mow and weed. One of our yards even won yard of the month. At the time, I hated those Saturdays. I didn’t understand why we needed to do it. Then one day, a man who had just returned from Iraq, brought my dad a beer to thank him for the months of work he had done while he’d been an ocean away. As I watched them laugh and talk I understood. Our work was a small gesture that reached way beyond Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. In addition to being far-from-perfect, there was a lot more to my dad. He would give you the shirt off his back and never think twice.
When he returned to Muddy Creek, my father welcomed the single-lane dirt road with steep drop offs and sharp curves. He was home. His new life would be just as he wanted happily fishing, hunting and living. No stress. None of the complications of raising three kids.
It’s a life his body is paying for. He’s gained more than 100 pounds. He’s experienced diseases and chronic conditions. There are countless aches and pains with common solution of prescriptions or surgeries. I wonder if his doctors have ever considered the benefits of diet and exercise? Have they made any effort to guide him toward a healthier life? An enthusiastic trainer? A physical therapist? A massage therapist? A dietician? Anything!
I train many male clients just as I wish someone would help my dad. Not with chiding and bossiness, but rather respect and courtesy. I develop a plan for restoring their fitness, and hopefully, an improved level of health. Sharing the knowledge that most diseases don’t “happen” to us. Proving that exercise and diet can change your energy levels and lifestyle. To make sure they know — as I tell my own father —that he is every bit the man he was in his twenties and thirties and his grandchildren want that same cool guy to still be hanging around in his sixties and seventies.
Every man carrying the weight of a deconditioned body is vulnerable. He needs a little push to spark the leader and warrior whose quietly waiting inside. With the right encouragement, even the shy, unaware and unfamiliar will inch out from their shell to explore the outside world.
Encouragement doesn’t come from inside a prescription bottle or by surgically removing disease and organs alone. No matter what condition you’re in, there is a healthier body inside you. It’s there, waiting. Let’s wake it up