Beginnings: Making the Choice for Change This week, Farai Chideya vowed to turn over a new leaf and take more responsibility for her own health. According to the FDA, 60 percent of Americans are overweight -- and Chideya doesn't want to be one of them anymore. She begins a six-month journey to get in shape and stay there.
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Beginnings: Making the Choice for Change

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Beginnings: Making the Choice for Change

Beginnings: Making the Choice for Change

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Today News and Notes begin our fitness series. For the next few months, I'll be taking you through my quest to get healthy. That means eating better, finding ways to exercise that I actually enjoy, and getting medical advice on how to live healthy. According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight, and well, I'm one of them. So as I work to get in shape and stay there, I'm going to take you with me.

First stop, the LA Acura bike tour, which follows the course of the Los Angeles marathon before the runners get started.

CHIDEYA: It's 5 a.m., and thousands of people are lined up with their bikes along Los Angeles's Exposition Boulevard. Some people are here to test themselves. Some are here to bond with loved ones. I am here to make a promise to myself that in the next year I will transform myself physically and mentally, and really take care of my body.

I'm not the only one on a mission. Janet Cormier of Englewood, California is motivated.

Ms. JANET CORMIER (Participant, Englewood, California): Well, the excitement of the race, this is my first time doing it, and I'm very excited about it.

CHIDEYA: What convinced you that you could do this? Are you a long time bike rider?

Ms. CORMIER: No. I actually just set a goal for myself and I wanted to do discipline myself to actually do it. So I'm very excited that I made it out here today and I'm actually meeting my goal.

CHIDEYA: And Raj Batra of Beverly Hills made this ride a family affair, complete with matching T-shirts.

Mr. RAJ BATRA (Participant, Beverly Hills): I'm with my friend Sherman Sharma(ph) and his boys, and my son.

CHIDEYA: So what made you think this would be a great thing to do together as a group?

Mr. BATRA: It was his idea.

CHIDEYA: Is that blame or a compliment?

Mr. BATRA: No, it's a compliment. I'm so glad he got us out here. We hope that hopefully, in a couple of years from now, they're the ones who are going to be, hey, come on dad, we got to go ride the marathon.

CHIDEYA: Can you introduce us to your son?

Mr. BATRA: Sure. This is Chanan(ph) Batra.

CHIDEYA: Hi, Chanan. Why is this a good idea for you?

Mr. CHANAN BATRA (Participant, Beverly Hills): Well, yesterday he let me eat a lot of sweets.

CHIDEYA: Carbo-loading, huh?


CHIDEYA: And how old are you?


CHIDEYA: Everyone is getting into place. So we're actually lining up out here at the Acura LA Bike Tour 2006. It's a chilly little morning in Los Angeles. Let me just tell you, I got up this morning and weighed myself and I was 108. That sounds kind of good, but that was in kilograms. So we're just going to stay on that positive tip, even if we have to use a little scientific fudgery to get there. People are rolling, so I've got to go.

I turned the corner at Crenshaw and 30th in the Central Los Angeles neighborhood of Jefferson Park. To my surprise, I hear loud, old school Hip Hop.

(Soundbite of music)

CHRIS (Deejay): I'm Chris, the deejay, a.k.a. Poppy Chulo(ph), and I'm out here playing music for the marathon cyclists and the runners that go by. I've done this, this is my fourth year actually. I rode the marathon bike ride one year, and then about 10 years ago I actually ran it.

CHIDEYA: It seems like this whole ride the marathon, run the marathon thing gives people a chance to see a lot more of LA than they might on a normal basis.

CHRIS: Oh, yeah. You're in your car driving by and like you pass by the neighborhoods and you really don't interact with some of the people in the community. And here at least you give them a high five or hey, what's up. They love the music. So it's a great day for me.

CHIDEYA: In addition to the deejay, there are people banging pots and pans to cheer us on and volunteers handing out water and Gator-Aid. By the halfway mark, it's much needed.

Well, we are 13 miles into this, standing right now by La Brea tar pits where you can see mockups of early mastodons from thousands of years ago sinking into the tar pits under Los Angeles. And I guess for some people who are getting tired, this may be a little bit too much of a metaphor for them. But I'm feeling great. The great thing about bike riding is that you can conserve so much more energy than you do when you are running. Everybody passing us seems to be smiling. There are parents with kids in those little baby buggies on their bikes, kids peddling their own bikes. A lot of love out here at the midway point.

I reached the end of my 22 mile ride and it feels great. After wading through the crowd, I get my congratulatory medal and head out into a festival for all the riders, complete with a live band.

(Soundbite of music)

Takeo Kuno(ph) managed to ride the distance, even though he's only five years old. Of course, he's been bike riding for over a year, and it's one of his favorite things.

TAKEO KURNO (Child Participant): I go so fast it's fun too.

CHIDEYA: His father, Sage Kuno rode alongside him.

Mr. SAGE KUNO (Participant): It's awesome. So many people. I heard somebody say there were twice as many people this year as last year and the turnout was just great.

CHIDEYA: So was the sense of accomplishment for all the riders, including the Doby's(ph) a local family with some very international names.

CAIRO (Child Participant): Cairo.

LONDON (Participant): London

PARIS (Participant): Paris

DESIREE (Participant): Desiree

LONDON, JR. (Participant): London, Jr.

FABULOUS(ph) (Participant): Fabulous.

CHIDEYA: How does it feel to make this happen as a family?

Unidentified Woman: Wonderful. Wonderful. Out, enjoying the weather, having a good time, and just enjoying the scenery of LA.

CHIDEYA: So, Cairo, what did you think?

CAIRO: It was great going down the hill.

CHIDEYA: What about coming up the hill?

CAIRO: I don't like that.

CHIDEYA: So, London, Jr., what about coming out here with your family, what was the best part of this whole thing for you?

LONDON, JR.: Oh, it's fun coming out with the family and seeing like who can get there fastest.

CHIDEYA: Uh-oh, internal competition. Who was racing who?

LONDON, JR: Me and Paris.

CHIDEYA: Paris, how did you do against London?

PARIS: Okay, but I lost.

CHIDEYA: A lot of families out here. Yours is a big one, but there's a lot of people out here just enjoying the day. How do you feel about that?

Unidentified Woman: Oh, it's really nice to see the other people's families and everyone getting out and getting along.

CHIDEYA: Standing here on the campus of USC, the University of Southern California, it is nothing but a fitness festival, all these families, these kids, parents riding the course of the LA marathon on their bikes. And now they're here to celebrate the fact that they've done something good for their bodies. And part of the reason that I did this was that I need to do something good for my body. I have been very athletic at some points, but I've really let myself get overweight.

And so over the course of the next few months, I and the people here at NPR, are going to take you through my personal fitness journey as I try to change how I live. And this really not about losing weight, because I've lost weight and I've gained it and I've lost it, and I've gained it, and I know a lot of people feel the same way.

Really what I'm trying to do is find a fundamental way to live where fitness, and exercise, and eating well are part of my life. And so this is just the beginning and I feel that truly.

You can see photos of my two-wheel tour of Los Angeles at our website, Next week I continue my journey to healthy living, with my first visit to a nutritionist for some helpful eating tips.

That's our program for today. To listen to the show, visit NEWS AND NOTES was created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.

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