A new contagious epidemic is currently afflicting the Western world. Unlike the diseases that plagued us in the 20th century–malaria, smallpox, and polio–this new disease cannot be treated with vaccines or antibiotics. As our politicians debate about how to fix the crisis, it is already killing millions each year and spreading quickly. I am speaking, of course, about the obesity epidemic that is sweeping the Western world.
In America, one in every three adults are now clinically obese. Obesity cripples a person both physically and financially by unleashing a myriad of diseases and health complications. Obesity can cause diabetes, heart disease, and stroke; it’s also associated to cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate. Even when obesity doesn’t directly cause illness, it can complicate an existing condition. Obesity can aggravate osteoarthritis, intensify the flu, and complicate childbirth.
It’s easy to see, now, how as much as half of our healthcare expenses could be spent on treating obesity and its related diseases. America currently spends around 16% of its total GDP–one in every six dollars–on healthcare alone. No culture in history has ever spent so much money to treat its sick, just to remain as unhealthy as ever. Being grossly overweight results in an unending stream of medical bills, which in turn makes healthcare bills one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States.
How, exactly, did our country become so fat? Like all major problems, the obesity epidemic happened gradually. Over the course of one hundred years, Americans gradually transitioned from a wholesome, organic diet to a highly-processed, junk food diet. We ate fewer fresh fruits and vegetables and replaced them with more oil, sugar, refined grains, factory-farmed meat, and chemicals. The resulting processed food was more calorie dense, but, ironically, it contained fewer of the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) that our bodies needed. In sum, we got fatter while getting less nutrition.
Doctors have coined a special term to describe our hamburger, french fry, and soda pop cuisine: the Western Diet. It’s a catch-all phrase that describes our unhealthy cultural eating habits. Not surprisingly, the more doctors study this diet, the more ill effects they see. The Western diet is linked to high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, and every form of cancer. It accelerates aging–and yes, it can even cause acne.
diseases of diet are expensive because they are chronic. In other words, once you acquire an illness, you’ll be paying for it for the rest of your life. This is because most medical treatment can only cure symptoms; they don’t deal with the underlying cause of the illness. For example, patients who suffer from high cholesterol levels often take Lipitor to stave off heart disease. While that pill may be extremely useful for preventing heart attacks in the short-term, it can’t fix the root cause—a bad diet.
In the long run, it’s dangerous to resort only to taking pills without changing our diet. Not only are these drugs toxic in the long-term, but these high-priced prescription drugs can cost hundreds of dollars each month. Over the course of a lifetime, we could easily spend hundreds of thousands in medical treatment (1). And so a crisis of malnutrition turns into a crisis in health care, which turns into a crisis in finance, which ultimately leads to bankruptcy.
The good news is that losing weight through healthy eating isn’t hard. We just need to switch over to an eco-friendly diet of whole, natural foods. Whereas most diets focus solely on outward appearances, a natural foods diet focuses mostly on your internal health. The optimal natural foods diet is high in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains. Shun synthetic foods like factory-farmed meat, hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar, and refined flour. To conveniently purchase natural foods, shop at farmers markets, where organic alternatives are often available.
There are plenty of benefits to eating right. You’ll help the environment by reducing packaging and food chemicals. You’ll also save money, both on groceries today and on healthcare tomorrow.
So do it for yourself. Don’t become another healthcare statistic. You can’t afford not to eat healthy.
This life expectancy calculator estimates how long you might live based on your current lifestyle. Can you make any improvements in your diet?
- A 2009 CDC report claims that the obese spend $1429 more on medical bills than their normal-weight counterparts. If that money were invested instead, at 7% return on investment for 40 years, it would be worth around $63,500 per person, after adjusting for inflation. A family of two could save at least $127,000 just by eating healthier.
- Keep in mind, though, that God has sovereignty over every aspect of our lives. While we should definitely strive to live healthier, God has absolute control over the span of our lives. See Luke 12:22-34.