"Health, learning and virtue will ensure your happiness; they will give you a quiet conscience, private esteem and public honour."— Thomas Jefferson
In the middle of producing this, our health issue, I packed my bags and got on a plane headed for Denver, Colorado. While I would normally find myself bound to my desk, writing and editing at a furious pace to meet deadlines, I was instead bound for the City and Regional Magazine Association's annual conference. While the timing couldn't have been worse (I spent much of the conference worrying about the mental health of our managing editor, Frank Murtaugh, whose job it is to make sure that the magazine gets to the printer on time), it was time well spent away from my desk. (I think so, anyway. Frank might have a different view.) But here's why.
Each day of the conference, writers, art directors, circulation directors, sales reps, and marketing gurus attend seminars on how we can better serve the readers of our magazines. I came away with a lot of valuable how-to info, but I also came away with a very different perspective on the very issue I'd left behind for a few days here in Memphis.
While on a brief break for lunch mid-conference, I sat outside one of Denver's many restaurants along a promenade much like our own Main Street, nibbling my entree and doing something I love: people watching.
I was amazed at how different the experience was from, say, sitting outside Stella and watching passersby at that intersection.
Everyone looked healthy. No one was smoking. People jogged past, biked by, roller-bladed along (yeah, I thought those things disappeared in the late '90s too, but I guess not), and made their way across the downtown plaza at brisk paces.
Watching the same scene here in Memphis was a real eye-opener. Forget about the panhandlers and the trash blowing by. I saw one out of every three people — at least — overweight and lumbering by on the flat street as though they were climbing Everest. And the entire time I watched, my mouth watered at the seductive scent of barbecue wafting through the air from many a nearby grill cooking it up.
So I reread our cover story, "Livin' Large" by Preston Lauterbach, with fresh eyes, and have never been happier at the way this magazine tackled a subject. There is no finger pointing or blaming. There is no judgment. There is nothing on our cover promising 30 DAYS TO FLATTER ABS — GUARANTEED! That's not what most overweight Memphians need. What they need is knowledge, and practical advice. But more than that, they need to know that it is indeed possible, and Rosie Murrell, the subject of our cover story, is an ideal role model for anyone looking not just to lose weight, but to change their life.
I defy anyone who wants to lose weight, but has myriad excuses as to why they can't, to read Murrell's story and still sing that same sad song.
We're no Denver (but that's okay, as the air is thinner than its population; it's not called the Mile-High City for nothing). But we don't have to be. We only have to be a healthier version of who we are now. And we can start today. Just ask Rosie.