We are the fattest group of Americans who have ever lived.

We are, in a word, lardaceous.

Therefore, we are a beefy target. Jay Leno ribs Fat America almost nightly. Earlier this month he reported that "a company has now come out with a bathroom scale that goes to 1,000 pounds. This is probably the worst Mother's Day gift in history."

Our weight crisis is just killing fitness expert Ogie Shaw, who was in Orem this week for a lecture.

The poor guy has been battling corpulence for 31 years and feels like a failure. About the time he entered the fitness field, the President's Council on Fitness and Sports introduced a test most of us remember taking in school.

The first year, 57 percent of U.S. kids failed the fitness test, Shaw says. Today, 57 percent of U.S. kids still fail, even though we know more and seem to be trying harder, from banning junk foods in some schools to companies paying cash for employees to join gyms or complete corporate wellness programs.

Two months ago, President Bush introduced an adult fitness test. That spurred a number of stories about how all those children who failed the test years ago now had a second chance as adults.

Another chance to do what, Leno should have asked, fail again?

Excuse the cynicism. Shaw's frustration rubs off easily.

But Shaw is all about solutions. Here's what he says really works.

1. Forget dieting: "Dieting will make you fat," he says.

First, find out what your ideal weight should be and multiply that by 10 if you're a woman and by 15 if you're a man. That's how many calories you should eat each day. Eat much less and your metabolism will shut down and you'll gain the weight back and more.

2. Cut sugar. Drink water. Stop eating three hours before you go to bed.

But you knew that.

I can't give you No. 3 until you promise to read what comes after. Some great ideas will follow, so don't take it too hard, but 3 is ... work out.

Easy, hold on. Stay with me now. He knows that's a toughie. He knows you don't feel you have time, that you have trouble staying motivated and you want exercise to be fun.

So how does he help unmotivated, fun-loving Americans with no time?

He asks you to create two habits.

First, exercise every day, not three times a week. Make it a part of your daily life. It's easier to schedule it every day, preferably mornings, than to decide which three days you'll exercise. "If you start giving yourself choices, you're dead," Shaw says.

Second — and more important, actually — measure yourself each week.

That doesn't mean clamber onto Leno's 1,000-pound scale, or even your own. It does mean that if you don't measure what you're doing, setting a goal is worthless.

"We don't do what we expect, we do what we inspect," Shaw says.

So the real key is to commit yourself to a simple weekly test. People who test weekly suddenly start doing little things to improve their fitness, like taking the stairs or adding a little less sugar to their food, Shaw says.

He suggests doing three things. Sit on the floor and see if you can reach your toes or beyond (five inches beyond is ideal). Do a three-minute step test, 24 steps per minute for men and 22 for women, and check your heart rate. Finally, measure your waist each week and, if you're a woman, your chest and hips.

Or check out the test at www.fitness.gov.

Test weekly and you'll want to improve. Your life might just get better and quite possibly longer.

"Simple daily exercise," Shaw says, "is the best medicine in America today."


Utah County Bureau Chief Tad Walch lives with his wife and five children in Provo, their home for the past 21 years. Please e-mail twalch@desnews.com.