healthnutshell: Being Healthy Vs. Being Attractive

Beauty and self-worth aren’t the real issues. Lack of will power is.

As a kid I couldn’t understand why people have to experience physical pain. It seemed cruel that we were designed that way. Until it was explained to me like this: Pain is the body’s way of warning a person that something is wrong. Otherwise, a person could bite their own tongue off or continue walking on a broken foot, unaware they are even hurt.

In a less obvious sense, the human body was designed to give different warning signs other than just pain. As I teenager, I had the typical expected diet: Anything I wanted. Soda, snack cakes, pizza, burgers and fries, ice cream, there were no limits. Being overweight was not an issue for me, knowing that no matter what I ate I would still be noticeably skinny. I actually dreamed of a day when I could just have a normal body and not have to hear people say, “Man, you’re skinny.” By the time I was 20, that day came.

I realized that what I ate began to have an effect my stomach, which was no longer perfectly flat. Though I’ve always been in or under the right weight range for my age and height, the fact that my body finally started showing a poor diet spoke something clearly to me: Being overweight is a warning sign from the body. A warning for early onset diabetes, heart attack, cancer… the list goes on.

As we age, the body progressively displays its inability to naturally burn off fat like it did when we were younger. It’s not about looking good, it’s about being healthy. There is something that bothers me about the fact it is becoming taboo to talk about the need for people to be at a healthy body weight, as it is potentially easily offensive in our society- we are now living in a country where the majority is overweight. The rules of our culture teach us to see beauty in all sizes, to counter the rising number of unhealthy people.

Missing the point. Beauty is not at stake here. The quality and length of life are.


Noticeably this year, our country has lost several well known 50 year-old men, all for different health reasons. And not that it was their fault. But the truth is, to live as a modern day American, the only way to be healthy is to be weird. What our country calls a “health nut” is actually a person who is simply being healthy, not overly strict about their food and exercise. “Health nut” shouldn’t be a derogatory term. It should be the norm. But our culture ensures it stays that way. It sells more diet pills and programs because of it.

It’s not okay to drink soda. It’s not okay to eat fried food. It’s not okay to eat white bread instead of whole wheat. It’s not okay to eat to snacks that come in a big bag. I have to remind myself of those rules every day, living in the middle of a cleverly named Fast Food Nation.

It’s normal, but it’s not okay.

And though my teachings on pork and shellfish fascinate people, they ultimately fade into the categories of impracticality and irrelevance. It’s still not okay to eat pork and shellfish. I’m with the Jews, Muslims, and Rastafarians on their literal belief that when God told people not to eat pork and shellfish through Moses in the Old Testament, he meant it. And while Jesus changed so many laws when he came to earth, he did not change the science of how these animals function in the ecosystem. They were designed to clean up the earth by eating other dead animals, feces, and waste matter as their bodies have a high poison intake. And Peter’s dream of the animals coming down from the sky on a blanket in Acts was God’s way of getting Peter’s attention to convince him to preach to the non-Jews for the first time, not to literally start eating the unclean animals.

We are not supposed to eat the clean-up crew. Shrimp and shellfish may be low fat foods, but they’re extremely high in the bad kind of cholesterol. That means they’re full of low doses of poisons and heavy metals which weren’t designed for human consumption. Yesterday on the MSN home page there was an article listing the top 5 foods containing parasites. Unsurprisingly, pork was #1:
http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/Features/Lists/?article=MenuParasitesPork

My diet definitely has shown some offense and confusion in my office. We have had BBQ Pork Day, Pizza Day, and Hot Dog Day. The idea is that everyone in the office pitches in $6, then shares in the community meal. It’s not fun trying to explain why I won’t participate unless there is an alternative to pork available for me. I earned the title of “Picky Eater”, but ultimately know that I stood firm on my belief at the cost of looking like a whiny weirdo.

There are annoying “health nuts” out there. They go around judging the cuisine choices of others around them. That’s not my job. It’s a personal decision that people must decide for themselves. But it is my job to relay the message in a non-obnoxious, informative way, and then let the listener to decide from there.

America lives a double-standard: We put way too much emphasis on being thin and muscular and equating beauty with those things, yet our lifestyles and budgets are built for consuming unhealthy foods. So much focus on weight loss, such easy access of fast food to help keep America unhealthy. While on one extreme there are bulimia and anorexia which are credited to being mental diseases, on the other side there is the lack of willpower that allows people to feed themselves too much of the wrong things, consistently. Food is psychologically addictive.

I wonder which is easier: To quit smoking, or to convert from a fast food diet to one that is consistent in vegetables, lean meats, and fiber plus regular exercise. It seems when people stop smoking, it’s more permanent since a person has to make a conscience effort to go buy cigarettes. But the temptation of unhealthy food and not making an effort to exercise is all around. In other words, it’s not a black and white issue like smoking.

The intriguing documentary Super Size Me mentions the fact that in our society it is near acceptable to confront a smoker about the damage they are doing to their own body, while it extremely offensive to say the same about a person’s poor diet and exercise habits. What’s the difference? The quick answer is that cigarette smoking produces harmful second-hand smoke.

However, a person’s eating habits are learned by those around them. Food and family tradition go hand in hand. The danger to others resulting from a person’s poor diet and exercise? Second hand poor dietary habits. It’s not as obvious and instant as second hand smoke, but it’s just as dangerous in the long run.

On Sunday night’s episode of Shark Tank, the only 2 products the millionaires invested in out of all that were shown to them were both health enhancing products. The investors repeatedly explained that products that fall into the category of Health and Diet are a given success. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on diet programs and physical fitness. The products work, but we don’t.

I could save thousands of people from wasting millions of dollars every year by saying, “Don’t do a diet program. It’s a temporary fix. Don’t try a pill. It’s an illusion. There is no quick fix or substitute for the right sized portions of healthy food, and exercising almost every day.” It’s that simple and it’s that hard. No exceptions.

The 2nd leading preventable cause of death in America is inactivity and lack of exercise. (Tobacco use is #1.) It can be a struggle to make time for daily exercise and it makes it worse that most of us sit in a chair all day to make a living. Despite the millions of dollars spent on gym memberships and diet programs, the sad simple truth is that these memberships often go unused and that diet programs are only as effective as the person. There is no substitute for an actual healthy lifestyle.

Beauty and self-worth are associated with being fit in our culture. That’s why diet pills and programs continue to make millions. No one can put a price tag on will power, nor could it ever be bought. It’s all in the mind.

Leading causes of death in America http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/30

Super Size Me clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V168xofxgu0

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