Eat Right Around Chicago

Be Like Bob: Family, Food & Fitness for Life

Bob baseball.jpg

Bob at Red Sox Game

How do you stay healthy and fit for life?  This may be the million dollar question and has resulted in a billion dollar business for diet and exercise programs.  So many of us are searching for the right balance between work and play, along with ways to manage our food and fitness in pursuit of a happy, healthy life.  I was inspired to contemplate these lifelong endeavors today, October 29, 2009, as it marks the last day of work for my Dad, a man who continues to achieve these remarkable goals.  I thought it was only fair to share the wisdom of his choices on the eve of his life as a "retiree" so that you may also benefit and be inspired to be like Bob.  

As any good Massachusetts native and New Hampshire resident, my Dad's name is Bob.  (And so is my Grandfather, my uncle, my sister's boyfriend and likely most of the men in the Bell lineage.)  He grew up in what used to be a more rural area 25 miles outside of Boston and by all accounts seemed to be quite the Richie Cunningham - a nice guy.  He signed up for Vietnam, spent a few years on an aircraft carrier and entered the business of printing upon return.  He married, made babies and was a loyal employee for over 35 years.  Although Bob may appear to be in the center of the normal curve as a baby boomer in the US, he has made simple choices that have secured him a position as an outlier.

Here is what Bob's age group is facing: 

  • 39% of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 are obese
  • Half of 55 to 64 year olds have high blood pressure - a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke
  • Many have arthritis due to obesity - arthritis cases attributed to obesity are at an all time high of 18%
  • 107 million Americans have high or borderline high cholesterol levels
  • Only 14% of male baby boomers engage in sustained exercise; about 33% do absolutely nothing - not a thing - not even leisure activity
Without breaking privacy rules, let's just say that Bob only fits in one of these groups (hint, it's the 14%). 

So how does a simple guy from New England break records without breaking any record?  How can we be more like him?  Here is your simple guide to achieve the same greatness, and be like Bob:

  1. Dad JB walking2.jpg

    I can barely keep up.

    Make activity commonplace.  My Dad thinks my sister and I are nuts - we do Ironman distance triathlons.  In his Massachusetts accent he has said, "I don't understand why you two exercise so're crazy."  So I sat down one day and asked him how many hours he exercised this week.  He said, "not much".  How many, I pushed.  "Well, I guess I walked for 2 hours on Monday because it was a beautiful day, I biked to your Grandpa's on Tuesday (um, that's 33 miles), my wife (that's my Mom - but he always calls her "my wife") and I took a bike ride on Wednesday, Thursday I ran on the treadmill for over an hour while I watched my show..."  You see where this is going.  The man doesn't even consider his activities of daily living exercise.  
  2. If you can lift it, you can do it.  Along with the activities I mentioned that Bob doesn't see as "exercise", my Dad has always felt that if you can lift it, you can do it yourself.  He has a tall, narrow house, with awnings on the windows.  He puts a ladder against the wall and spends the day doing shoulder and core exercises.  We spend upwards of $50-100 a month at a gym to get the same workout that Bob does on the side of a house!  He built a garden for his wife and when I say built, I mean built - he dug a 15' by 15' square, 3' deep, put in posts, a support wall, moved dirt - all that.  As you can see, I don't know the first thing about this garden business.  He changes the oil in the cars, mows the lawn, puts out a pier at their lake house annually, built a stone wall, moves furniture, you name it.  If he can lift it, he does it himself.
  3. JB grandpa 2.jpg

    Bob Senior.

    Learn from your elders.  My Grandfather is 90 years old.  He went to the doctor and when asked if anything was getting heavier (a way to assess his physical well-being) my Grandfather said yes, the bags of feed for his mini-farm were getting heavier.  The doc said, how heavy are these bags, Mr. Bell.  He replied, 50 lbs.  The doctor shook his head.  My Grandfather walks every day, builds bird houses, shovels his mini-farm area and tends to absolutely everything without complaint.  Both Bobs are strong as oxes because they simply do it themselves. 
  4. Make meals an occasion, eat with your family.  My Mom loves to cook and has stocked their kitchen with a variety of fruits, vegetables, ice cream, lean name it.  It's sort of like a bomb shelter, but this baker/chef/registered nurse delights in creating new dishes and trying interesting recipes.  And my Dad has savored and appreciated every bite over the past 36 years.  Along the same lines, we always ate as a family.  You  may read about the benefits of eating meals as a family, and my sisters and I are living proof that it provides a food-friendly, healthy foundation.  It is definitely a way to connect with your kids and it also teaches them that food should be enjoyed and eliminates a lot of "diet" confusion.  The three of us are food-lovers and normal body weight - we eat because it tastes good, we don't overeat and we enjoy enjoying each meal.  
  5. Have a hobby that makes you sweat.  Next to his wife and daughters (maybe even before the latter), Bob loves snow.  He takes trips with friends north to the bitter, snowy Canadian border.  He then rides hundreds of miles on snowmobile trails.  It's physically demanding and exhilarating and this hobby makes him sweat, and keeps him young. 
  6. Bob, LB, Fran, Court.JPG
    Be grateful.  Bob is from Massachusetts, as I've mentioned, and for those of you with relatives settled in the Northeast, you may know that we're not a "mushy" group of people.  There is a "get tough" sort of attitude among the New Englanders, maybe it's the cold weather?  That said, my Dad may not be a touchy-feely guy, but he's undoubtedly grateful.  He calls my Mom, "my wife" because he cherishes every minute with her.  I can't count the number of times I've heard him say, "girls, isn't my wife the most beautiful woman in the world?" or "wow, that was the most amazing meal my wife has ever cooked," or simply, "we are so lucky."  Bob has worked 12 hour shifts for most of his career, some over night and yet, at the end of the day, he is nothing but grateful.  It keeps his spirit young and his stress level low - sounds good for your health. 
Bob horse.JPG
I think we can all learn a lesson or two from Bob.  He is the whole package - supportive Dad, lovely husband, proud father, loyal worker and leads a healthy lifestyle with a substantial amount of humor and deep New England sarcasm.  He may appear simple with his modest lifestyle and "Bob-isms" (oh, he has an opinion about everything).  But the truth is that his uncluttered, straight forward way of living makes him one of most complex, interesting Bobs out there, not to mention an outlier in the national health statistics.  So in honor of his retirement, I encourage you all to take a little time to reflect and see where you could be more like Bob.  I know I will.
CB Dad jb up close.JPG



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kelly said:

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So beautifully written and so honestly true! Congratulations to your dad!

EatRightAroundChicago said:


Thanks Kelly! I'm definitely impressed by him and his life lessons are good for us all.


toothpeckman said:

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I do miss hanging out with Bob. Now he's got plenty
of time to snowmobile up north! Wish him the best for me and tell him he can come out to Colorado anytime.

Rothgebd said:

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I very much miss hanging out with Bob. Maybe with this rerirement we can hang out in Texas some....I still have a fgew yesrs to go!!

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