Last year, due to the overwhelming costs of our health insurance plan, Rhiannon and I decided to join a Christian based health insurance program. Though technically not insurance, the program effectively fulfills the function of protecting against the disastrous costs of terminal disease and accidents that leave you on the hospital bed while your life savings dwindles to nothing. For most of my life, up until a few months ago, I had been slowly gaining weight while appearing thin on the outside. Unbeknownst to me, my cholesterol and triglycerides were rising too-and fast. I was told that if I didn't lower my cholesterol, I'd be off the program.
To make the long story short. The program has a health specialist that has been calling me every week and keeping me accountable. I have to read a chapter in Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live book every week and then talk to a woman that calls me every Wednesday morning at 11:00 a.m. to ask me how I did the previous week. In case you'd like to know. I discovered that the secret to the greatest health is to eat as much whole fruits and vegetables (not supplements) and beans as possible and eat less of everything else. Although in no ways have I become a vegetarian, I've been doing that for the past few weeks and have lost 8 pounds, pounds that I had gained by stuffing my face with meat in Brazil and letting myself go while I was in Orlando last year. I'm losing weight and feeling great and I suspect that my cholesterol has been lowered too.
So why do I feel guilty? Part of the reason is because I know that while I am trimming my waistline here in the U.S. there are numerous missionaries around the world, especially in Africa who can not eat the leafy greens that make us so healthy because the salad is often contaminated. I also know that the awful white rice that is so bad for the body (because it's processed) is about all that people eat in Guinea Bissau. A bowl of rice a day. That's it. And what about my Pakistani pastor friend who spends all day visiting with people in their homes and praying for their needs? Each and every visit he is offered Pepsi and to refuse it would be a serious insult to the hosts. (We have a joke about being a victim of Pakistani hospitality, but it's actually quite serious)
A few years back, I was in Cambodia visiting a missionary friend who made a profound statement. He said that we Americans have a self-preservation mentality. In other words, we think that prolonging our lives is a virtue. If this is true, then what about those who put themselves in unhealthy living conditions for the sake of extending the gospel? Are they living unhealthy lives?
Lastly, there are other cultures who are not as weight obscessed as we are. In the Cook Islands, having a big belly is a blessing, not a curse. I'm sure they have diabetes and heart disease there too, but people don't seem to care that their diet is shortening their lives. To them, value is in relationships.
To throw another curve ball in this discussion, the Bible lists gluttony as a sin-something that statisticallly speaking Americans are the worst offendors. So which is worse? Gluttony or self-obscession? I don't reallly know. My current answer is to eat plants during the week and then pig out during the weekends. I have to soothe my conscience somehow.