What’s the big deal?

People ask me all the time why I make such a fuss over fitness and nutrition.  Two reasons, one very personal, the other a matter of record.

Personally, meat & three used to be my mantra every day.  My whole world revolved around what and where the next meal would take place.  I ate for taste and ate to fill full (code word: full=gorged).  One of my favorite words in the English language was buffet.  Man, you can go to one of those things, act like a hog in fresh slop (I grew up on a farm), and fit right in with just about everyone else who is waiting on the next slab of whatever.

Then, it happened.  Severe chest pain–ever had it?  Shooting pains down the arms, tightness in the chest like a load of bricks laying on me.  General sluggishness became my friend.  I’d just tell everyone how overworked I was and being tired was the result.  No, the result was thousands of dollars in hospital visits, 17 medications a day, and a warning from a cardiologist that I was going to die soon and very soon if I didn’t change my lifestyle.

It’s kind of weird that people don’t want to talk about lifestyle changes.  They’ll be happy to talk about going on a diet.  Just about everyone I know has been on one–and off–and on another–and off–and on another–and so on.  They all work for a week to ten days and then, boing, it’s back to the way things were except worse.  Did you know that almost everyone who yoyo diets ends up gaining weight?

That’s why I can’t stand by and not say something–to anyone who’ll listen–for personal reasons.  Back to the personal in a paragraph or two.

Now, for the record.  The following article by Annie Hauser, published on May 23, 2014, appeared all over the web.  I found it while checking the local weather on weather.com.  Read it and weep.

“The South might have more warm days than the Mountain West, but that hasn’t helped its residents’ health. Southerners and Midwesterners are the most-obese Americans, according to data, while those in the Northeast and West are more likely to be trim.

Nationwide, average obesity rates do not paint a sunny picture. The obesity rate among American adults is 27.7 percent, according to the latest data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the highest annual rate the organization has measured since it began to track obesity in 2008.

In 2013, American adults had an average obesity rate of 27.1 percent.

Pollsters use the self-reported height and weight of more than 64,000 American adults to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores. Individual BMI values of 30 or above are classified as obese; 25 to 29.9 are overweight; 18.5 to 24.9 are normal weight, with anything below that number considered underweight.

In the six years since Gallup began collecting BMI data, two-thirds of Americans have had BMIs rendering them overweight or obese, a figure consistent with government data, which uses height and weight measurements from clinical exams. More than one-third of these individuals (35 percent) are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, it’s important to note that BMI is an imperfect measure, as it does not take into account body composition (muscle vs. fat), so muscular athletes, for example, can be classified as obese.

Blacks are the most likely to be obese of any demographic group, a trend consistent with previous data, Gallup said in a press release. But older Americans (over age 65) experienced the largest percentage increase of obese individuals, from 26.3 percent to 27. 9 percent.

There might be some good news about obesity rates, however. In the past decade, children ages 2 to 5 have experienced a six-percent drop in obesity, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in JAMA in March. Still, the study noted: Across all youth age groups, “there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence … between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.””

That same article had a lot of flashy graphics indicating the least obese and most obese states in America. For the upteenth time, my home state, Mississippi, had the highest rate of obesity, 35.4 percent.  How sad.

For the record, I’m trying to clean up my act and help everyone I can.  I slipped some, myself, in 2013.  My weight climbed back up near 200 pounds, where it was when I started having heart problems.  The warning signs were back–sluggishness, heavy chest, stupidity.  During the Thanksgiving holiday, while I was in South America trying to help some folks in Peru, I decided I better get back on track or I might not live to come back and share the love of Christ again.   I made a conscious decision to not let the holiday season become my fatter than ever season–I actually lost weight right through Christmas by simply controlling my intake (skipping some mighty tasty desserts and only having small helpings of Turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole).

On January 1, 2014, I weighed 186 pounds which is totally acceptable according to my doctors for a 60 year old man of my height.  Yay!  However, what the doctors have on their charts can be misleading.  Those numbers are over-generalized and allow way too much leeway for continued unhealthy lifestyles.

So, I went to work knowing what to do.  I read and study a lot so I can do a good job teaching the Bible.  I want to look like someone who is in reasonably good physical condition when I stand up to preach.  My body is, after all, the abiding place of the Spirit of God.  Tweaking my nutrition and upping my physical activity did the job.  Now, I’m at 160 pounds–haven’t been there in about 30 years.  My heart is strong, my cholesterol is low, my blood pressure is that of a teenager (again), and I’m still writing and talking about how important it is to take care of your self so that you can help take care of others.

Please listen to what I’m saying. . .and take care of yourself.

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