Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Obesity Virus

Recently on a cable news network – either CNN or Fox News – some medical “expert” explained why some scientists now believe obesity might be attributed to a virus.

If that’s true, I propose the name of the virus should be something like “Calorius Toomuchus,” or “Couchus Potatis.”

It’s not that I’m insensitive to people struggling with obesity. Several members of my extended family have struggled with this life-altering problem, and I have lost 30-35 unwanted pounds since my heart surgery two years ago. But it seems we are always desperately looking for either quick fixes, or handy excuses, for difficult problems – including being overweight. We demand magic pills, or instant-results fad diets. Anything not requiring hard work, determination and commitment.

True, some people rightfully trace weight issues to physiological maladies, but for most of us, the problem is simple: We eat too much, eat the wrong things, and don’t exercise enough.

A positive follow-up to my surgery was cardiac rehabilitation, which included training in proper exercise and healthy eating. Not only did I learn a balanced fitness regimen including cardio machines and weight training, but also discovered what I should – and shouldn’t – be eating. I’m learned about fats – saturated, unsaturated and trans – even how to read labels on packaged foods.

Those donuts I used to reward myself with after a power-walking session? No more. McDonald’s sausage biscuits, which contain 5 grams of cholesterol-producing transfat, became a dietary taboo. Instead, fruits, vegetables and nuts became a priority, and I learned to enjoy grilled foods, rather than fried. Thankfully, my cholesterol numbers improved dramatically as a result.

More than thirty pounds lighter, I no longer fear my first heart attack. We weight-challenged individuals need proactive, preventive action plans, not excuses.

I could write more, but it’s time for my next cardiac rehab class!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

Watching Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States reminded me of how we feel when a new coach is hired to lead a beleaguered sports team, or when a difficult boss is replaced by a new one. Waves of hope and optimism wash over us, exploding with great expectations.

Levels of hope and optimism for the new President may be predicated by political leanings – higher for those leaning liberally, lower for those conservatively constrained – but without question, given recent national and global events, change was overdue.

But is Barack Obama the right change agent? He passes the look test: Impressive appearance, powerful orator, persuasive personality. Only time will reveal whether those outward traits rightly reflect inward leadership capabilities.

In the face of myriad economic, social, security and international challenges, will President Obama muster the integrity, courage, wisdom, compassion, boldness and humility required to prove being a leader worth following?

All Americans should desire to see him succeed – for the sake of the United States and the world it influences so greatly. How can we help?

There are many options –action committees, volunteer work, writing letters, calling legislators, etc. But first, according to the Bible, we should pray: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made foe everyone – for kings and all those in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:2).

The Scriptures also say, whether we voted for Obama or not, we should offer our support: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…. For he is God’s servant to do you good…” (Romans 13:1-5). So let’s not only hope, but also pray, that President Obama will prove to be the kind of leader our nation – and the world – need.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Smile, You’re on Candid Traffic-Cam

Recently I watched a news story about traffic cameras installed at key intersections to capture images of people speeding or failing to stop at red lights. The police chief noted, “The law is the same as it always has been. But because people see the cameras, they are more aware of it.”

You could make a similar observation about commandments we find in the Bible. Many people regard the laws and commands in the Scriptures as merely a collection of do’s and don’ts, established by a cosmic killjoy intent on restricting our freedom. But if God is indeed our Creator, as the Bible declares, He knows how we function most effectively.

Take the everyday example of a heavily traveled street in a medium-sized town. If there were no posted speed limits, one could assume it’s permissible to drive down the street at any speed. Intuitively, however, we understand that’s foolishness.

With other vehicles also on the road, not to mention pedestrians and intersections where oncoming vehicles might suddenly appear, we recognize even without a speed limit sign that we should drive carefully and wisely. However, once a speed limit is posted, we know authorities have determined what speed is safe for that street – assuming other conditions, such as rain, snow or ice, are not added to the equation.

In the same way, the Bible says that the law was given for our instruction. Proverbs 4:13 says, “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”

We don’t resent the manufacturer of a car, an appliance, even a video game, for providing a manual that tells us how to properly operate the equipment. In the same way, the Bible simply teaches us how we can best conduct our lives as our Maker intended.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Don’t Quit Shopping!

Reports about the just-ended Christmas shopping season have ranged from poor to downright dismal. Seems Americans failed to perform their patriotic duty.

What does shopping have to do with patriotism? You may recall during the last Presidential debate Barack Obama hearkened to the day after 9/11 attacks, when President Bush promised to avenge the heinous acts. Then the President issued a curious exhortation, admonishing all Americans not to stop shopping.

What a revelatory statement! While on one hand offering assurance that it was safe to go out in public, he also was acknowledging our economy’s hopeless entanglement with consumerism and materialism. Essentially he was admitting if most Americans – for whatever reason – suddenly decided they didn't have to buy the latest and the greatest, the economy would suffer greatly. (So I was a bit surprised that as the Christmas season began, the President didn’t go on national TV to remind us again about the importance of shopping; especially given current economic woes.)

The Bible warns against greed and covetousness, even citing them in the Ten Commandments. I believe these admonitions are there for good reason. It’s hard to put others first when we are busy “looking out for No. 1.” Unfortunately, these vices have undergirded our so-called "Christian nation," especially since World War II. Greed and the lust for "stuff" have become essential to the fabric of our national lifestyle.

Years ago, I asked an old friend how he and his family were doing. I will never forget his reply. He said, "We have a lot of wants - but we don't have any needs." Consumerism, unfortunately, blurs the lines between wants and needs. The materialism treadmill apparently never stops turning. Maybe the slowed economy will enable (if not force) many of us to get off and take a much-needed rest