Episode 1. It's Time to Look at Your Body
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A hundred years ago, obesity was rare, and diabetes, cardio vascular disease and cancer were even rarer. Today – two thirds of people in the west are overweight and heart disease is the number one …
A hundred years ago, obesity was rare, and diabetes, cardio vascular disease and cancer were even rarer. Today – two thirds of people in the west are overweight and heart disease is the number one killer, diabetes is a pandemic and cancer is running wild. What exactly is going on?
Something’s Not Quite Right
That’s right, we’re going to talk about some things that aren’t in the Bible in this series – and as a Bible teacher that’s something I’ve struggled with a lot in planning and preparing these messages. Just for a few programs, we’re going to do something that I as a Bible teacher do very rarely.
Because there is something going on in our world that you won’t find in the Bible. Obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardio vascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
That’s not to say that they didn’t exist back in Biblical times – with medical knowledge as it was a few millennia ago, of course, when someone died, let’s say of a heart attack or stroke, they didn’t know the cause back then – people just died. But by the late 19th century and early 20th century, we knew how to identify these diseases, it’s just that they didn’t exist.
In the early part of the 20th century just a two or three thousand Americans each year would die of cancer. Today, that number is over 650,000 – and it’s only that low because medical science has come up with ways of reducing the morbidity rate of those who a myocardial infarction – that to you and me, is a heart attack.
The rates of heart disease are much higher still, with up to a third of the population of the average westernised, industrialised country suffering from some debilitating effect of cardiovascular disease. If you were an Australian or an American at the turn of the 20th century, your chances of being obese were remote, around one in 25. Today, your chances of being an obese adult are around one in 3 and climbing.
People, something terrible is going on and we need to talk about it. I am someone who all his life has struggled with his weight – I used to weigh 110 kilograms (that’s 220 lbs) and I’m not what you’d call tall.
My problem was that I was always hungry – I lost lots of weight lots of times, but I always stacked it back on again. So in my early fifties I decided three things. Firstly all these low fat high impact diets hadn’t worked for all of my life. Second – if I didn’t do something about it – given what my blood tests and my doctor were telling me – I was going to be dead sooner rather than later. And third – I had to go and find out the answer – why was I constantly hungry, how could I change my appetite and how could I live a healthy lifestyle at a healthy weight.
I’m not alone. There are huge numbers of people in that same place. So I went and did the research, found out the answers – which, by the way were contrary to what my doctor was telling me – and without much effort, changed my diet in such a way that my appetite reduced dramatically.
And my friend, once your appetite reduces, losing weight requires almost no willpower at all. If you’re not hungry as much, you don’t eat as much. What happened to me? Well, I lost 25 kg/55 lb over a year and a half, slowly. The fatty liver syndrome (a precursor to cirrhosis and cancer) that I’d suffered from all my adult life just went away. And my doctor is amazed at by cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar readings. He’s never seen such a drastic improvement in just a short time.
So here’s what I’m going to do. These next few episodes of Christianityworks I’m going to share very simply and plainly my journey from obese, to healthy. It’s a journey that left behind the starvation diets, because I found out what I needed to wind back the clock on the western diet, remove the things that were causing my problem and eat a diet that is healthy, that I enjoy and that gives me the energy that I never thought I had. No fads. Not starvation. No rocket science.
God has given you and me the most amazing bodies – and as it turns out this is the only body that I’m ever going to get on this earth and that is the only body you’re going to get on this earth. It’s time to start looking after them – and I’d like to share how to do that with you today, and over the next few episodes.
Your Amazing Body
The body we live in is something that we take largely for granted. It’s just … there. It’s been there as long as we can remember and sometimes we live as though it’s going to go on forever.
But this body that you and I are encapsulated isn’t going to go on forever. You know what they say: there are two certainties in life – death and taxes. One day your body and mine will quite literally, give up the ghost.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been doing a lot of reading about diet and food and in particular our digestive system – how we process food.
I’m now in my mid fifties and for most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with my weight. You get to your mid fifties and you know that you’re getting to the pointy end of this whole healthy eating and living thing, because it’s at this age that many people suffer heart attacks, discover they have diabetes, end up with cancer – the three big killers in western society and in any country that has adopted elements of the western diet.
We’re going to talk a lot about that over the coming few days. But today we’re going to kick off by just realising how utterly amazing our body is. If we’re going to head to a healthier lifestyle – which many, many people need to do – there’s this decision that needs to take place about how we eat and live and exercise and sleep.
Healthy living is a deliberate decision that we need to make – and when we do, all of a sudden, within just a couple of weeks we stat feeling so much better that we can’t imagine going back to the old ways of living.
And part of making that decision is realising how incredibly precious this body is that we’re living in. So let’s kick things off by taking a look at just a handful of amazing facts about your body. Are you ready? Here we go. Did you know that:
You produce 25 million new cells every second – 24/7 for your whole life? 25 million – that’s more than the population of Australia. And each of the 2.5 trillion red blood cells in your body can circumnavigate your body in under 20 seconds.
Your nerve impulses travel at over 400 km or 250 miles per hour. And just one sneeze generates a wind gust of 166 km or 100 miles per hour.
Your heart will beat around 100,000 times every day or 2.7 billion times in an average life of around 75 years. And your lungs, with a surface area big enough to cover a tennis court will inhale around 2 million litres or half a million gallons of air each and every day without you even thinking about it.
Your eyes can distinguish over a million different colours and take in more information than the largest telescope we’ve ever built. I’m presuming that’s the Hubble Telescope out there in space.. And as if that weren’t enough, your nose is your personal air conditioning system – it warms cold air, cools hot air and filters out impurities.
Just take a look at your hand for a moment – in just one square inch in the middle of your hand you have about 9 feet of blood vessels, 600 pain sensors, 9000 nerve endings, 36 heat sensors and 75 pressure sensors. And when you touch something, those sensors send a message to your brain at around 200 km or 124 miles an hour.
Your eyebrows are there to keep sweat out of your eyes, you make around one litre of saliva a day. And if you were able to stretch all of the DNA in your body from end to end, it would be enough to take you to the sun and back almost 700 times.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about the amazing chemical factory that your body is. It has the most finely tuned, complex processes that scientists and medicos are really only beginning to unwrap for regulating temperature, complex bodily functions like appetite, sleep – do you know that science doesn’t yet fully understand what sleep is all about yet. They have theories, but they don’t actually know.
And all this in a body that is made up 70% of plain, simple old water – H2O. My friend, we’ve just scratched the surface in the last few minutes of how amazing your body is. Go ahead – look in the mirror this is you that we’ve been talking about hear. Your body. The one you’ve been given. The only one you’ve been given as a matter of fact.
And as amazing and robust this body of yours is, it is also incredibly fragile. If you lose use of the main chemical factory in your body – your liver – you have about 7 hours of life left, because without it, you can’t function. Yet a rapidly increasing proportion of our society, particularly those who are overweight, have fatty liver syndrome which can lead to cirrhosis which can lead to cancer of the liver – all totally preventable.
Somewhere between 60 and 80% of adults in developed economies are overweight or obese – that’s up from around 20% at the beginning of the 20th century. And right there you have heart disease, diabetes and increased risk of cancer. People – something has to give here. This finely tuned, previous, complex glorious body in which you live needs some looking after. Now perhaps you’re one of the small minority who exercise and who have a healthy weight.
Over these coming few days and weeks, we’re going to be chatting about how you can start to look after your amazing body, how you can get into healthy living and increase the odds of you living to a ripe old age – a healthy, ripe old age.
Is that just moderately interesting to you? The way our society and our health is headed, people, something has to give and what I’m hoping is that it’s not your body that’s going to give up the ghost sooner than it should. What I’m hoping is that over these coming few weeks, we can talk about some things that will get you excited about healthy eating and healthy living – because not only is your body going to thank you, but if you’re someone who knows you need to do something about this – you are going to feel so much better. So much. That’s a promise.
It should be no surprise that we have an amazing body because it was handcrafted by God Himself. He designed it, and He made it and He gifted it to each one of us – my body to me, your body to you. It is a precious, precious thing.
The more I study and learn about the body, the more I marvel at the faith required for an atheist to say – there is no God. Really? If there is no God, how did these finely tuned, complex systems and feedback loops and balancing mechanisms and protective mechanisms happen in our bodies? By chance?
That takes a level of faith that I simply don’t have. The psalmist had it right, when in Psalm 139 he wrote:
“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
And it is not an unreasonable thing for God to want us to look after that amazing body that He’s gifted us with; a body that is absolutely essential to the life we live. He has a plan for you, He has a plan for me, plans that – if we abuse our bodies with an unhealthy lifestyle – are not going to be realised.
So over the coming days, we’re going to be talking about how anybody can live a healthy lifestyle. No brutal diets, no fads, just a simple, healthy way of eating and living that certainly has changed my life, and might just change yours as well.
A Short History of Food and Health
As we chat about living a healthy lifestyle, I know what some people are thinking. There’s like this guilt thing going on because you know that you’re carrying a bunch of extra weight and you know that that’s because you put too much of the wrong stuff into your mouth and you don’t exercise. Am I right? And so you’re sitting there, squirming, feeling not just guilty but hopeless because you’ve tried every diet that there is under the sun, and nothing’s worked. If you’re wondering how I know that, it’s because I’ve been there too.
Here’s my dark little secret: all my life until a couple of years ago, I have struggled with my weight – as a child and as an adult. In fact, I have lost more than 20 kg at least seven times in my life. If you still measure weight by the pound that’s around 45lb. And each time, other than the last time, I’ve put it back on again. I starved myself, I did low fat diets, I exercised until it wore my feet out.
I tried everything – and each time, I put the weight back on again. And what drove me nuts about that was the fact that I am an incredibly self–disciplined, focussed, outcome oriented guy. When I set my mind to something, I pretty much always achieve it. As evidenced by the fact that I have lost over 20 kg more than 7 times in my life, that takes a lot of discipline and willpower and yet, I’m being completely transparent with you here – each time I put it back on again.
The question you have to ask yourself is why? And I’ll tell you why. I was always hungry. And when you’re always hungry, you eat. But why was I always hungry. That’s what was driving me to distraction. There had to be a reason. It turns out there was and there is and it’s that reason – the root cause of obesity – that we’re going to talk about today.
And to do that, we need to take an historical perspective. What if anything has changed over time in terms of our eating habits, and our health outcomes? That’s not an unreasonable question to ask, because it may give us a clue or two as to the cause of the sky rocketing increases in obesity and its health outcomes – heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Well some things have changed. They’ve changed dramatically. According to the Author of the book “Sweet Poison”, David Gillespie, In 1910, just over one in five US adults was overweight and fewer than one in five of those was obese (so one in 25 of the hole population were obese). A century later, two out of every three adults is overweight and half of those people are now obese (so now, one third of the whole population are obese). Writes Gillespie – in just 100 years, the chances of a given US adult being overweight have gone from very unlikely to highly probably and the trend is accelerating. If it continues, by 2036, a person with a normal Body Mass Index will be as rare as an eight–leaf clover. And in Australia our statistics are just as shocking. .
That’s a dramatic change. And remember, back then, there was no concept of a low fat diet. There were no so–called healthy margarines. People ate lard and dripping and bacon and eggs for breakfast. Yet back then, very few were overweight and today the majority are.
That doesn’t make sense. And here’s another fact. Did you know that heart disease was almost unknown back then? In fact it wasn’t until the mid 1920’s that cardiology became a speciality. Now to be sure, life expectancy has gone up in western societies. In the US, before 1900 75% of all Americans dies before age 65. Today more than 70% will live to be over 70.
That comes from the dramatic eradication of many diseases like polio, typhoid and a bunch of diseases that used to kill people, but they now are almost unheard of. And yet the deadly irony of all this is that heart disease – which was virtually unheard of at the beginning of the 20th century – is today the single greatest killer in the western world. It will kill 650,000 Americans this year.
Those facts beg the question – what’s changed? And it confounds logic that more medico’s aren’t asking that same question. Some are, but most of the medical community seems to me to be focussed on treating heart disease – something they’re doing quite well, because the death rate from heart disease is falling – rather than asking how can we eliminate heart disease altogether, since it is only a produce of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The answer to what causes heart disease lies in the research of a naval physician Dr Cleave who came up with the “Rule of Twenty Years”. Cleave made a careful study of hospital records of third world nations, mainly Africa, and was struck that virtually no single native came down with common diseases of Western cultures such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Those diseases weren’t merely less frequent, they were virtually non–existent. His research further led him to conclude that the culprit was the western diet which was high in refined carbohydrates – sugar, white flour and so on.
Conducting further research, Cleave observed that about 20 years after a society introduces refined carbohydrates to its way of life, diabetes and heart disease will simultaneously begin to appear. If you want to know more, Google Cleave’s “Rule of Twenty Years” – Cleave is spelled C–L–E–A–V–E – Cleave found that the average inhabitant of the British Isles was consuming just 7 kg or 15 lb. of sugar in 1817. By 1955 that had grown to around 50kg –110 lb. and today, Australians and Americans are consuming upwards of 70 kg or 150 lbs. of sugar. That doesn’t count the other refined carbs like chips, rice, flour, bread, cakes and so on.
The medico’s will tell you quite simply that all those refined carbohydrates are turning our blood stream into porridge. You may have heard the term atherosclerosis – which literally means porridge of the arteries. And it’s killing us in droves.
The thing that distinguishes the so-called western diet from traditional diets is not the fat content. The Inuit in Alaska traditionally only ate meat and fat and had zero heart disease. The thing that distinguishes the western diet is the highly refined carbohydrate content – and people it’s killing us.
Let me prove the point to you about the increase in refined carbohydrate content. Question – how many times does the word “sugar” appear in the Bible? I’ll tell you. Exactly zero times, because sugar wasn’t known back then. “Sweet cane” is mentioned 3 times, but as an exotic delicacy from a far off place:
“Jeremiah 6:20 – Of what use to me is frankincense that come from Sheba or sweet cane from a distant land?”
The other sweet thing was honey, but you had to fight the bees for that, and it was a rare delicacy. And finally fruit, but only in season and only if you lived near the apple tree in question. Sweet things were very rare.
In fact, historically, that’s been true until sugar went into mass production in the late 19th, early 20th century to support, of all things, cocoa and chocolate sales. The first can of fruit juice (which is effectively sugar separated from it’s antidote, fibre) didn’t go on sale in Australia until the late 1950’s
So if we want to track the cause of this rapid acceleration in western diseases, we need only correlate the increase in consumption of refined carbohydrates, with the increase in cardiovascular disease.
My biggest secret to getting back into good health again, including the loss of 25 kg – is virtually removing all the refined carbohydrates from my diet. People think that that’s extreme, radical – everything in balance is the answer. Berni are you crazy. And I guess, in the context of our sugar laden culture it does seem extreme.
But in an historical context, it’s the sugar-laden diet that most of us are eating that’s extreme. And people, it’s killing us. In droves!