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Meanwhile in Oz: The weight of obesity takes ultimate toll
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I learned that my mother had passed away on the Friday night before New Year's Eve a couple of months ago.

My mom didn't wake up from her afternoon nap. She passed very peacefully of natural causes at age 70.

Mom had A-Fib and had long had high blood pressure. But she died from the most common negative physical element in our family - obesity.

My mom had her first child in 1966 and I followed in 1968. Mom's weight steadily began to climb in her early 20s.

My goodness, she fought it with everything she had.

She followed more diets than one can imagine. She spent years at Weight Watchers. She bought into gimmick weight-loss equipment.

And she endured the suffering that only someone with long-time obesity knows.

My mother and I were both obese, thanks to a combination of higher-carbohydrate foods, which were big in our middle-class diet, and to her addiction to a couple of candy bars a day - one on each work break.

She was a merchandiser in a pharmacy. Her breaks were spent reading, drinking a diet soda and eating a candy bar.

I could never hold anything like a couple of candy bars against her. There can be love in the life of a working mother - an enormous amount of love. The job of a working mother comes with amplified anxiety for not being able to care for your family as much as you would like. It's a lifestyle we lost in the early 1960s when most employers stopped paying a living wage to the head of household.

Going into 1965 only 47 percent of both spouses in a married relationship worked outside the household. The Bureau of Labor statistics reported at the beginning of this decade, 66 percent of both spouses in a married relationship are working. You can add another 5 percent to the workforce in that time when you consider the number of households where females have become the only wage-earner.

I never looked at this as a battle of the sexes. I've seen hard-working partners in a relationship have to work. I've seen sacrifices couples have made when they make a choice and scrape by on one income. I don't know of any couple who has done it unless a college degree was involved.

My mom started working when I was 5 and in kindergarten. She then became a second-wage-earner. Her income was incredibly important to our family.

As my mom suffered from obesity, so did I. She continued to make a good fight of it, having Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery in the early 2000s. She lost a lot of weight. Although the surgery gave her a brief reprieve, she started gaining the weight back and that put a strain on her physically.

My Roux-en-Y surgery followed in 2010. I've been lucky to keep off a significant amount of the weight I lost. I continue to lose weight at about one pound a month. My weight loss and changes are a reminder of how hard my mom fought the struggle.

I will always be so proud of my mom for fighting such an awful affliction as obesity. I do not understand why it is so commonplace to make fun of this disabling health condition. It is the last bastion of a visible health problem that can be openly discriminated against.

Usually the first place a person gets support for being different is in Hollywood. Those with obesity are few and far between in the industry and someone's physical image is the most attacked subject rolling in the plot of a comedy. The truth is although more than half of us are overweight, none of us want to admit it. This is because being "beautiful" has usurped being truly healthy. So few people can fit into the mainstream media's idea of a healthy weight.

I gave my mom's eulogy and I was clear of what led to her early death - obesity. More money is spent on quick remedies than into treatment and research for addressing this affliction. It hits all segments of the population. It has us so fooled we can't even honestly address it in public. For people struggling with clinical obesity, it truly is like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.

- Matt Johnson is publisher of the Monroe Times. His column is published Wednesdays.