The bust, prevention, and dropping fat

One other thing about the health care situation… When the wife and I returned from Russia a few years ago, we connected through Atlanta Hartsfield International airport. During the layover, we were struck by the juxtaposition of the trim bodies in St. Petersburg with the obese girths of the Americans waddling through the Atlanta airport.

People have long had easy access to doctors in our dollar-fueled economy. They have insurance through their employer that pays for most of their doctor visits (a relic of government laws stretching back to WWII). People can stay fat and know that the doctor is always there to provide low-cost medications to alleviate high cholesterol and other aches and pains that are often caused by carrying around an extra bowling ball or two in their gut or fanny. Given that health care rationing is inevitable even if we are spared Obamacare, I doubt many will feel the same way when it takes a year to get an MRI like it does in Canada. Just as people started saving when they realized that their house wasn’t a source of wealth any longer, they will probably start eating better and exercising when they realize that it will keep them out of an unpleasant health care system. Americans will be forced to do more in the area of prevention. I suggest everyone start doing it right now.

Of course, prevention isn’t 100%-effective. Accidents happen. People get cancer and have heart attacks despite healthy living. However, in general it’s a truism that eating right and exercising is healthier than being sedentary and overweight. A lot of medications would not have to be prescribed. People would get sick less often. They’d have fewer aches and pains. They won’t be tooling around the grocery store in those motorized carts because they’re too out-of-shape to walk the aisles.

Paul says in 1 Tim 4:8 that while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way. This is true and we shouldn’t make idols of our bodies. At the same time, when I see an obese preacher, I wonder how they can have self-control in their spiritual life if they lack self-control in their eating and exercise habits. I say this not as a superior life form: I’ve been 30 pounds overweight and I’m now about 15 points overweight. A box of donuts has often sounded tastier than chicken and fruit. However, one way we can love our neighbors is by staying out of the cluttered health care system once it becomes heavily rationed. We can show that our belly isn’t our god. We can have self-control.

It’s not rocket science to know that eating right and exercising (and I might add, using the means of grace) are part of living a healthy lifestyle. The trick to eating better and exercising is to find things that motivate you to do both.

Programs like Weight Watchers help you understand what you are eating. This motivated me. Weight Watchers has a formula where you count points based on the number of calories, fat, and fiber in a food. You get a certain number of points per day based on your weight, and can use the points in any way you please. You soon find that it’s better to spend 8 points on lean meat and lite bread than 12 points on a sliver of cake if you want to avoid your stomach growling all day. Weight Watchers remains with you after you move on from it. I still use its concepts. It’s second nature to do the math in my head (using the formula) on just about any food.

One of the consequences of our bubble economy was that people were eating out a lot during the boom. It’s surprising to see the extreme unhealthiness of most restaurant food. Check out the calories and fat in the foods at your favorite restaurant. It’s really hard to imagine how a restaurant can squeeze 141 grams of fat into a single burger, or 128 grams of fat into a chicken and broccoli pasta, and yet they manage it (a McDonalds hamburger has a paltry 9 grams of fat by comparison).

Exercise is the same as food: find something that motivates you. The best exercise is the exercise that you can and will do regularly. You may have to change it up every few months. Some people like to run. I don’t. Some like to power-walk or bike. Some like going to a gym with an ipod. Some like classes. There are tons of workout DVDs. My wife and I are doing P90X right now. It is kicking our behinds on a daily basis, but we have grown to like it and the instruction. I like its focus on ensuring that one gets plenty of protein. To survive it though, you have to follow the nutrition plan… French fries and pop tarts just don’t give you the fuel to get through it. The P90X people have other programs too, including a less-strenuous version of P90X called Power 90. It isn’t easy either, but real exercise isn’t. Get a heart monitor so you can ensure that you really are exercising. And get busy.

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