We’ve lived in it so long it’s normal. We don’t notice it any longer, either on our neighbors or on ourselves. The problem moves so slow that we hardly notice it, and, like a frog boiling in a pot, it’s killing us and we don’t even know it.
Of course i’m talking about the state of our health in America.
I don’t think anyone is foolish enough to think that we aren’t unhealthy in the states, yet i’m willing to say that i’m certain we don’t have a fully accurate picture of the problem. Sure, we know we’re obese. 27.7% of Americans were obese in 2014. But if we look under the surface, the problem is much greater than just a quarter of Americans.
Take a look at Heart attack, diabetes and heart disease rates and you’ll see that they also are trending upwards. What about cancer? Also going up. Somewhere around 589,000 people are expected to die from cancer this year in the United States. The thing that might be scariest is the number of “semi-overweight” people is going up at alarming rate. Take a look around you. How many of those people have love handles? Love handles are a good indicator of insulin resistance, a precursor to many diseases. How many have ‘pot bellies’? Pot bellies without the appearance of fat in other places may be the most dangerous type of fat. This fat is called visceral fat, which means that this fat is covering organs in the body, like the liver. A friend of mine who is seemingly a thin guy just got a very accurate body fat test and it came in at 28%! That is well above normal, meaning that much of that fat is visceral fat, perhaps the most dangerous and deadly fat.
My point in all of this is to say, this isn’t just a trivial problem that we should all respond to by saying, “maybe I should workout more.” This is an epidemic. Our friends and family are dying around us and our response has largely been, ‘we can’t really know why this is happening.’ The evidence is definitive enough to say that we do know what is going on and we can help limit these diseases and deaths that are occurring.
Two sides of the same coin
Many would wrongly equate health and longevity with being ripped with massive biceps and washboard abs. That’s not my argument here. While you certainly can be healthy looking like that, some people are not. Most bodybuilders and crossfitters aren’t eating for health, mental performance and longevity, they are eating for that next competition or show. Some are also flirting with dangerous and untested supplements that are hurting them long term.
On the other side of the coin, there is the people who have decided they don’t care what they look like so as to avoid vanity. This is a great quality to master, no doubt. However many people will give a half-hearted effort towards diet and exercise, all the while slowly accumulating body fat and slipping into poor health. This all leads to things like hypertension, elevated bad cholesterol, GERD and a number of other precursors to serious diseases. I’m not talking about washboard abs here. I’m talking about this “self-forgetful” attitude slowly shortening our lives. We wouldn’t neglect our families or our jobs in the name of self-forgetfulness, we shouldn’t neglect our bodies either. Self-forgetfulness doesn’t mean we neglect, but instead we carefully steward all that God has given, all the while not being mastered by any of it, because we are so focused on God’s greatness.
So we see two sides here. One side has made their bodies their ultimate pursuit. And the other side has not given enough care to their bodies. Both miss the ultimate point: that we are called by God to steward creation well, including our bodies, in response to what God has done for us through Jesus.
Why should Christians care more about their health
1. Believers are supposed to be distinct
It’s one thing if the rest of the world decides they want to eat themselves into sickness. It’s understandable if non-believers are self-obsessed with either looking a certain way or not giving care to their bodies. Non-believers don’t know anything else other than self indulgence so they may be consumed more easily. But a Christian is someone with a different master. They have a different agenda that does not include self actualization of any kind, whether it be neglect or vanity.
If America and it’s government have decided to not give correct focus on how we treat our bodies, should we as believers follow suit? That’s never been a mark of Christianity. We should strive to treat our bodies and minds the way God wanted us to treat them.
This means we should do our research. If we did any research on food quality, cravings and consumption, we would know that 95% of the food in the market today is not presented the way God created it. This includes things like fruits, vegetables and meats. Many foods are cross-bred, GMO’d, and pumped full of either antibiotics or glyphosate (also known as the weed killer, Round Up).
Commerce has trickled into the food market for years and now owns it outright. Scientists we blindly trust to tell us the truth are creating these craving inducing modifications are getting paid off of the sale of their creations. They are not neutral parties in this. Seeing that exercise has gone up considerably since the 1980’s yet obesity and a myriad of related diseases has gone up as well should hint to us that exercising isn’t solely the answer.
So Christians have a decision to make. They can blindly follow mainstream commerce, science and government for answers about food or we can rely on the way God has created his food and search that food out. We as believers should be distinct in this.
We should not seek out distinctness as an end in of itself, but to seek out the ultimate end, to steward all that God has given us, so he may be glorified.
2. The Food we eat isn’t the food Jesus ate
Nearly every time I tell a Christian to avoid gluten, they say to me, “but Jesus ate bread and fed bread to people.” Yes, that’s fair. But just so you do not respond with this answer ever again you have to know that our bread and Jesus’ bread are not the same.
First, you should know that 2-3 major companies control the majority of all grain sales in the US. This even includes the sale of seeds to local farmers, who then grow wheat on their farms
Secondly, these companies have manipulated this grain for a variety of reasons, like taste, texture, softness etc. The main way they do this is through cross-breeding different bread types to create others. Many believe that this cross breeding has led to a rise in Celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Thirdly, the result of this is a rise in said celiac disease, gluten allergies and increased exposure to bodily inflammation, the number 1 precursor to nearly all of our western diseases.
And this is only gluten! This isn’t some hipster fad that will go away. The science backs this, but the companies will of course keep funding private studies that say otherwise. Sound familiar? Think cigarette companies in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Many other foods (including regular vegetables and fruits from the grocery store) have been GMO’d, or God Move Over as many call it. There is something about humanity that seems to think that what God made isn’t good enough and that science can surpass it. What we’re dealing with now is a series of failed science experiments that is creating a slow and steady backlash of poor health in people.
As believers, I believe we should seek out foods that are produced the way God intended them to be produced. I can trust that those foods were made with my well being in mind and are safe for me to eat. God is the good shepherd. Monsanto is not.
3. Physical and mental performance is wrecked by poor health.
Think about it, you roll out of bed and you grab some microwavable oatmeal and some toast. The glucose begins to pump through your body and you feel pretty good. Around 10:30-11am you are already hungry and so you raid the office fridge for a snack. If there is a snack, you get another hit of glucose. If not, you get cranky as blood glucose goes down. Now, all you can think about is food, or how cranky you are.
There is no time for mission in there. There is only time to plan your next meal.
Running off of poor foods causes you to think about food all day and eat almost every three-four hours. Eating things like gluten or processed foods induces brain fog and makes us tired, limiting performance as well. What if you could run all day with great energy and eat only a few times a day? What if there was no “2:30 feeling”? God did not create us to eat and feel this way. Jesus did not walk around with brain fog, thinking about bread because it’s 2:30. America is on this glucose treadmill. It’s on complete pilot mode and it doesn’t know it’s eating itself toward fatigue and disease.
I’m convinced many of us have never felt optimal, ever. Some food changes could change this and unlock incredible energy and focus.
4. Longevity is hindered
Not only is quality of life effected by poor health, but so is quantity of life.
We think things like heart burn, brain fog and high blood pressure are things that happen to us as we age, but this is an absolutely false notion. The reason older people are getting these diseases is because they have a higher wear and tear on their minds and bodies that eventually breaks them. Repeated mold exposure, gluten intake, processed food intake etc. bends you to the point when your body finally creates some sort of disease or disorder.
Our bodies want to function properly. They want to find a point of synchrony where it operates at an optimal level. The trouble is we are pushing our bodies out of alignment, which causes a chain reaction of effects that eventually becomes destructive.
A prime example is something like heart burn. Many think heart burn is just something happens when you eat spicy or fatty foods. Heart burn actually happens when your stomach produces either too much or not enough stomach acid. This causes your stomach’s valve to not close and allows acid or food up into your esophagus. If we continue to eat foods like this every so often, you can eventually develop chronic GERD. Chronic GERD can lead to irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut syndrome. These disorders cause inflammation and affect your gut biome and can lead to things like cancer. So if we think heart burn is just one of those things that happen to us, you might be mistaken. Heart burn is a cause of foods you eat that can directly affect your longevity.
The sad thing is that your western medicine doctor will give you Prilosec or Nexium and make you take that every day until your symptoms subside. These pills reduce stomach acid so you can eat these acid inducing foods. You’ll notice that if you forget a pill your symptoms will immediately return. That’s because these pills don’t help solve the core problems.
Getting out of pilot mode is essential for longevity. This means we should be intentional with our food selections and most of all, listen to our bodies. If you are eating something and you get a headache, stomach ache or just feel bad afterwards, avoid it next time. God has given us our bodies to flow in synchrony, and he didn’t build them to malfunction as often as they do here in America. This means humanity has intervened and is interjecting problems.
5. God cares about your body
I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t care about your body so why should you? This is often said in response to bodybuilders or health enthusiasts that are obsessed with appearance.
I have a very hard time saying God doesn’t care about anything let alone our bodies. The bible says our bodies are temples to God that should be honored. God has given us this life to live with our bodies. He has entrusted them to us and we should steward them well as we steward our families or our finances.
Now there is a caveat here. This is not to say that God cares that you have 6 pack abs or that you wear spanx. He doesn’t like superficial behavior because it means we are too focused on our bodies and not enough on Him. You shouldn’t care deeply about what others are thinking about your body either. This means we have lost the point of glorifying Him and have started to live for glorifying ourselves or others. If you have six pack abs or wear spanx, then fine, but it should not become ultimate to you.
Self-Forgetfulness is not neglect
We shouldn’t confuse neglect with self-forgetfulness. The whole idea of self forgetfulness is to get our identity, purpose and meaning from God. If we begin to find any of those other things in body image or health we again miss the point.
On the other hand, getting fat in the name of self-forgetfulness is not self-forgetfulness, it’s poor stewardship. Not knowing where your food is coming from is not self-forgetfulness, it’s poor stewardship. Eating out 3 three times a week at Applebee’s all you can eat wings and 2x a week at church potlucks is not self-forgetfulness, it’s gluttony.
I think many of us are much closer to gluttony and poor stewardship than we are to self-forgetfulness.
Self-forgetfulness doesn’t mean we neglect, but instead we carefully steward all that God has given, all the while not being mastered by any of it, because we are so focused on God’s greatness.