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Thoughts & Views: Death of ‘Sopranos’ star a harsh lesson

James Gandolfini, the man we came to know as the strangely endearing and intriguing Tony Soprano from David Chase’s breakthrough TV series about a fictional mob family from New Jersey, is dead at the age of 51.

That’s a real tragedy, not just because we’ve been deprived of the talents of a wonderful actor but, more importantly, because the New Jersey native apparently gave more attention to learning his lines than to learning how to take care of himself.

Weighing 275 pounds, and given to binge eating and drinking, according to published reports, Gandolfini – much like his character in “The Sopranos” – wouldn’t – or couldn’t – restrain himself.

And, for that unwillingness – or inability – to adjust, he paid the ultimate price, suffering a fatal heart attack while on a trip with his 13-year-old son in Italy.

Am I setting myself up as Gandolfini’s judge? Heck no, I don’t presume to hold myself above anyone, particularly since I myself am no slim Jim (pardon the pun) for someone my size.

And I am a victim of my own self-neglect, having become a Type 2 diabetic some years ago, undoubtedly from downing too many beers and sugar drinks. I control my blood sugar with meds.

But Gandolfini’s – and his family’s – misfortune, given his extraordinary popularity, can serve as a valuable lifesaving lesson for all of us.

The common sense approach to living life in a productive, healthy manner is a virtue we can – and should – all strive to achieve. The ancient Greeks had it right – moderation in all things.

The nation’s First Lady, Michele Obama, has taken the lead in raising awareness about the dangers of obesity in our population, particularly among our youth, and she is right on the money there.

Too many of us are content to sit on our couches and watch the boob tube or fiddle with our electronic games when we could be in the gym or biking or taking a brisk walk, exercising the mind and the body.

Me? During the summer, I’m a weekend warrior, playing softball doubleheaders on Sundays in New York’s Central Park with the Appalachian Mountain Club. But that’s about it. I have a bike sitting, collecting dust, in a basement storage room and I hardly bother to ride it. There’s a health club in the building where I live and I don’t use it. So shame on me for failing to exploit the resources easily available to me.

There is one area, however, where I am, I think, improving: watching what I eat and when I eat it. I’ve been trying to incorporate more salads and veggies into my diet. Even fresh fruit, now and again. I’m avoiding heavy stuff like pasta, bread and potatoes. And I’ve been getting better about not packing away my dinner meal late at night.

It’s still a work in progress.

But unlike the mysterious scene that ended the last episode of “The Sopranos,” I’m striving for clarity as I move through my twilight years.

I hope I can pull it off. I hope we all can.

– Ron Leir

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