One third of Americans have Syndrome X. What is that? On August 28, the Los Angeles Times printed a shocking article explaining how one in three Americans has Insulin Resistance Syndrome (though most do not realize it), also known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X—a condition that prevents the body from managing insulin well. The disorder, which has increased by an enormous 61 percent in the past decade, places many millions at high risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and colon and ovarian cancer.
What has caused this appalling condition? Medical experts say Syndrome X is the most widespread result of so many people being overweight and unfit.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, incidents of diabetes between 1991 and 2000 in the United States increased by an amazing 49 percent, with 17 million people now afflicted. A corresponding rise occurred in rates of its “twin disease,” obesity, which increased by 61 percent during the same period, to include 26 percent of the adult population. Add to this the number of those who are simply overweight, and that brings us to an astounding 64 percent of U.S. adults (National Center for Health Statistics).
Ample evidence shows that being severely overweight or obese also increases the risk of illness from numerous other, often life-threatening problems including heart disease, lung problems, gall bladder disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
It is not only the U.S. that is suffering. Most of the developed world has fallen into a similar damaging routine.
In Europe, about half of all men and 35 percent of women are considered overweight. Scientists and physicians who met in Brazil recently for the ninth annual International Congress on Obesity addressed the fact that the number of obese adults around the world is soaring—along with the corresponding health and economic consequences. The International Obesity Task Force estimated that 1 billion people—almost one sixth of the global population—are overweight or obese.
It may be surprising, for some, to learn that much of this health crisis is preventable. Referring to Insulin Resistance Syndrome, experts say that “[D]iet and exercise can take care of the condition in many if not most cases” (L.A. Times, op. cit.). The American Obesity Association calls obesity “the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.”
Certainly there are a number of other factors which can contribute to obesity, such as hormones and genetic makeup. But in most cases it is the result of poor eating habits and lack of exercise—an unhealthy lifestyle.
A Lifestyle Problem
We are suffering a tremendous loss of quality of life as a result of sickly diets and unhealthy patterns of living—unhealthy lifestyles. Basically, we eat too many of the wrong foods, drink too many of the wrong drinks, and spend too much time sitting! Paradoxical as it seems, our poor diets, though rich in quantity, still provide inadequate fuel for full physical health. Besides the debilitating illnesses listed above, how many struggle daily from fatigue, impaired mobility, poor concentration and a host of other, lesser problems also associated with lack of proper nourishment?
To begin to correct this health problem, we need to change the way we think about food and exercise—and develop a real desire to learn and abide by the natural laws which regulate our physical health—a way of living that really makes us feel good!
Modern “developed” society bombards us with pressure to make or accept unhealthy or even harmful diet and lifestyle choices. Food advertising urges us to buy quick and easy, highly processed convenience foods that fit in perfectly with our hectic, convenience-driven lives.
Food producers have for decades gone to extreme lengths to select, dye, flavor, texturize and preserve their food products so that they are as marketable as possible. More often than not, the food products we pull out of plastic bags and cardboard boxes have virtually no resemblance to the natural fruits, vegetables, meats or grains they originally are supposed to have come from. As a result, we have come to accept—and enjoy—a lot of artificial food in place of real food.
Major social changes in our society have also changed the way we eat. As Eric Schlosser points out in his best-selling book Fast Food Nation, “The extraordinary growth of the fast food industry has been driven by fundamental changes in American society. … In 1975, about one third of American mothers with young children worked outside the home; today almost two thirds of such mothers are employed. … [T]he entry of so many women into the work force has greatly increased demand for the types of services that housewives traditionally perform: cooking, cleaning and child care. A generation ago, three quarters of the money used to buy food in the United States was spent to prepare meals at home. Today about half of the money used to buy food is spent at restaurants—mainly at fast food restaurants.”
The Economist added, “[T]he food industry is largely giving American consumers (rich and poor) what they want. A pattern of life in which fewer families eat regular meals together, fewer parents remain at home during the day to cook, and increasing amounts of time are spent working or commuting creates demand for convenient, fast food (especially when it is as cheap as it is). Tummy size, then, is largely a side-effect of modern American life—and the choices that Americans make” (Aug. 29). This explosion in processed food production has led to, by Schlosser’s estimate, one quarter of U.S. adults visiting a fast food restaurant on any given day, and an incredible $110 billion spent on fast foods in 2001. This is compared with just $6 billion in 1970. This means that more money is spent on greasy burgers and fries than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos and recorded music—combined!
Because there is such a thriving consumer demand, perhaps it’s not surprising that approximately 10,000 new processed food products are produced each year in the U.S. (though 9 out of 10 of them fail). It doesn’t help any that many restaurants serve gigantic portions—far more than one person needs to eat in a sitting—and that we can “supersize” our greasy meals at will.
Poor eating habits are not alone in damaging our health and vitality—our quality of life. Our “low impact” or “no impact” lifestyles, especially our lack of exercise, are also slowing us down and making us sick.
Our bodies were made to need exercise. It is mainly in recent decades that we have become so sedentary as a nation. Joseph D. Beasley, m.d., highlights this change in The Betrayal of Health. “The Industrial Revolution gradually choked off that rigorous outdoor activity. Commodities once produced in the home are now made in factories, and the office has replaced the field as our place of work. We no longer walk; we drive. Even much of our recreation is sedentary—watching television, reading, playing board games, drinking and talking, going to the movies, playing video games. We are a nation that spends a great deal of money to expend as little energy as possible. We look for external sources of passive pleasure, such as drinking or drugs, television, and other technical artifacts. And, as Jean Mayer has pointed out, while ‘it is only in the past generation that most people have become sedentary …. [The human body] is not adapted to such a life’” (emphasis mine).
Our bodies were designed to enjoy great health under the right circumstances—if we obey the natural laws that are necessary for good health. We are sluggish and unfit today because of broken physical laws. But we can learn and put into practice the laws and principles of good health. They are simple laws, most of which were common sense to our great-grandparents, and they include natural, healthy food and adequate exercise.
Trying to Fix the Problem
Many people want desperately to lose weight and improve their health. This is obvious when we consider that $33 billion is now spent annually on weight-loss products and services.
The 1990s were known as the “no fat” decade, but the Economist reports that “The low-fat meals that Americans guzzled down were often packed with refined flour and heavily sugared to give them flavor (which the customers also wanted); people who tucked into them kept on wanting to eat more” (Aug. 29).
Many popular fad diets and programs can actually harm our health. People, it seems, are looking for health in pill form at the pharmacy! Most of these fad diets are unsuccessful, with dieters quickly gaining back what they lost—and often more! Most quick-solution diets also do nothing to actually improve the overall health of the individual as pounds are being shed. Advertisements encouraging us to drop weight without exercise, eat all we want, take this pill or drink and lose it fast don’t work in the long run.
There is no truly beneficial weight loss program that requires zero effort.
We need to accept responsibility for improving our own health. According to most medical experts, the only guaranteed way to lose weight for good is to change our eating habits and adopt a regular exercise program.
“Last month the ftc [Federal Trade Commission] announced that 40 percent of the weight-loss promotions it investigated contained at least one flagrant falsity. More than half of the advertising in the ftc’s study made claims that were probably false” (Grand Forks Herald, Oct. 8).
In our high-speed, pill-popping society, turning to exercise and more wholesome foods may seem old-fashioned (haven’t we been hearing this for years?) or like just too much trouble. But it’s the one formula that has been proven over and over again to work in improving health and attaining a healthy weight—not an unnatural “model” figure—but a healthy, fit one. You don’t have to necessarily look thin to be fit and healthy.
What is your health worth to you? What kind of quality of life do you want? You can take charge of your own diet and lifestyle and reap its benefits—improved health, better fitness, increased energy, even a positive mental boost!
Back to Basics
Herbert W. Armstrong, a skilled communicator and educator, had much to say about health. In his book The Seven Laws of Success, he wrote, “We are physical beings. The mind and the body form the most wonderful physical mechanism we know. But man is made of matter. He is 16 elements of organic, chemically functioning existence.
“He lives by the breath of air—which is the breath of life itself. If the bellows we call lungs do not keep inhaling and exhaling the oxygen-containing air, man won’t live to achieve any goal. You are only one heartbeat away from death! As the lungs pump air in and out, so the heart pumps blood through an intricate system of veins and arteries. These must be supported by food and by water.
“And so man IS just what he eats. Some of the most famous physicians and surgeons have said that 90 percent to 95 percent of all sickness and disease comes from faulty diet!
“Most people are in utter ignorance of the fact that it does make a difference what we eat! Most people, and the customs of society, have followed a regimen of eating whatever tastes good to the palate.”
Our bodies are maintained entirely from the food and drinks we consume. It makes sense that in order to have healthy, strong bodies, we need to eat a variety of healthy, nourishing foods. The nourishment we need is basically found in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, lean meats and dairy products.
The two predominant refined foods in the U.S. are sugar and flour. The average American consumes an astounding 125 pounds of sugar annually, much of it hidden in the form of baked goods, soft drinks, bread spreads, alcohol, ketchup and salad dressings. Today over 95 percent of flour used in the United States is refined white flour. Refined sugar and flour, along with products high in cholesterol, form a large part of the average American diet and are not conducive to good health.
“The greatest single loss of vitamins from industrial food processing occurs during the milling of wheat down to refined white flour. Almost all the flour we use today is refined through a series of about two dozen processes, including high-pressure steel rolling, scouring, grinding and magnetic separation. From the original grain of wheat this lengthy extraction separates out the relatively tasteless, colorless, low-nutrient-density white flour for human consumption, and discards the very nutritious wheat germ at the center and the mineral-laden high-fiber shell (the wheat bran)” (Beasley, op. cit.).
Although the refined flour may be “enriched” with synthetic vitamins added to it, there is no comparison to the original whole wheat. Most of the goodness of wheat flour is removed in the refining process, and only a small number of the 27 or so nutrients lost in processing are re-added to the flour (and even the benefits of these are doubted by some medical professionals).
It may not be possible for us to completely avoid all overly refined foods. But increasing our intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and replacing much of the refined sugar and bleached flour we eat in its processed form with natural, whole-grain foods will go a long way toward improving our overall diet and health.
Take responsibility for your own well-being. Be conscious of what you put in your mouth—including what you eat and what you drink.
Don’t underestimate the importance of drinking plenty of pure water. It has been stated that this is the cheapest diet aid in the world! Pure water is vital for proper digestion, removing wastes from the body, transporting nutrients, building tissue and regulating body temperature.
Studies have also shown that drinking plenty of water cuts hunger and even increases metabolism—helping the body burn fat more efficiently. Lack of water can trigger daytime fatigue, a fuzzy short-term memory and inability to focus on a computer screen or a printed page.
Many people drink as much soft drink as they do water—or more. Earl Mindell, in Unsafe at Any Meal, reports that 21 percent of sugar in the American diet is consumed through soft drinks.
As a healthier alternative to soft drinks and other sugary drinks, drink water, milk or juices that are made entirely from fruit (not “fruit flavoring”).
Build Health in Your Children
Health & Medicine Week reported recently that “Nine of the ten biggest school districts in the country are failing to provide the kind of healthy lunches that would help prevent childhood obesity and other health problems ….” One dietician was quoted in the article as saying, “Kids need more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and fewer greasy hamburgers, chicken nuggets and French fries. Learning how to eat right is a lesson that will benefit them for life” (Oct. 7).
In a Newsday article, Cara Ebbeling, a research associate at Children’s Hospital Boston, outlines a common “toxic environment” for children: too little exercise, too much television and too much junk food that’s high in added sugar and/or fat and low in vitamins, fiber and other components of natural foods. “If we do not do something, the children of this generation will die before their parents,” Dr. Sue Kimm of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine was quoted as saying in the same article. “When you’re young, you’re most susceptible to habits or addictions” (Oct. 6).
Parents must build good eating habits in their children. British surveys found that 1 in 10 children starting primary school in the UK is obese—largely as a result of their parents allowing them to decide for themselves what to eat. Eating habits formed by children are hard to change as adults; 60 percent of obese children grow into obese adults.
There is a huge amount of junk food marketed toward children. Parents need to educate themselves about good nutrition and then teach their children healthy habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
We have all heard that if we consume more calories than our bodies use, the extra energy is stored in our bodies as fat. It’s true! The goal is to achieve a healthy weight and then to maintain it through a right balance between energy consumed and energy expended.
Our bodies need physical exercise in order to maintain optimum health. A sedentary lifestyle—the drive-to-work, sit-at-the-desk, drive-home, sit-for-dinner and then sit-in-front-of-the-TV life so many live day after day—is not healthful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 60 percent of U.S. adults do not engage in sufficient physical activity, and 25 percent are not active at all. Nearly half of U.S. youths are not vigorously active on a regular basis.
We live in a physically lazy, “comfortable” society that has developed an aversion to physical exercise. Many of us try to avoid anything that takes bodily effort! But this approach is contributing to making us a physically weakened people.
We can reverse this trend and improve our health by being more physically active.
If you are not physically active, look at what you are missing! Regular exercise helps you lose weight—especially body fat; it helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints; it reduces the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, of heart disease and some types of cancer; it reduces depression and anxiety, increases energy levels and mental alertness and improves a feeling of well-being.
Physical activity does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial. Regular walks several times a week, or anything else that gets your blood pumping, will help. The most important thing is that it be consistent. Exercising twice per month is not enough. Find a physical activity you like to do, plan to make it part of your regular schedule, and do it!
Our bodies were designed to thrive under the right conditions—to allow us to live full, productive, energetic, happy lives. When we feed ourselves junky, nutrient-deprived food and live physically dull, inactive lifestyles, we are not enjoying the quality of life that is within our reach if we improve our health.
As Prof. Andrew Prentice of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine points out, “Obesity is not a disease—it is a normal biological response to the way we now live. And the drug companies are in this rather strange dilemma, if you like, of actually trying to find a cure for something that is not broken in the first place” (Daily Telegraph, Sept. 10; emphasis mine).
The only proven way to reduce weight problems for good, and in the process improve our health, is to recognize that there is something wrong with our diets and lifestyles and to make healthful changes. If we do it, we can take charge of this important aspect of our lives and reap the abundant benefits!