This last week, one of my good friends and co-workers had a brush with his own mortality and thankfully it looks like he's gonna be okay. From here on out though, his life is going to be drastically different. For the sake of this article, we'll say this fellow's name is Jack. First though, a disclaimer-
I love junk food. I love wolfing down a greaseball double-bacon cheeseburger and fries then topping it off with some ice-cream or deep-fried cheesecake. On certain occasions when I'm feeling particularly evil, I have been known to down an entire large pizza in one sitting, sometimes with chicken wings to top it off. This is typically followed by several hours beached on the couch, wondering if the "I feel like my stomachs' gonna explode!" sensation is similar to what a big snake feels after it's swallowed some poor critter whole. It's quite a pathetic spectacle, as I smear pizza sauce on the remote since I'm too lazy and sluggish to get off the couch to get some napkins. There have been times when I have rolled out of bed and scarfed down a bag of oreo cookies for breakfast (not a good idea) to then torment my poor co-workers with the effects of a very shaky sugar high. Sometimes my supper has consisted of many pints of beer and endless nachos while watching hockey at the bar. I have to tell you this to let you know that this is not going to be some snotty holier than-thou article about poor food choices. I'm just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to bad eating decisions.
While I do indulge in artery clogging, heart-attack inducing food from time to time I've learned to limit these indulgences in gluttony to once in a blue moon. Quite often when I go out to restaurants with friends I find myself chafing at the menu options... there just isn't a lot out there that's healthy. Quite often even the "healthy" stuff is pretty nasty, with artery clogging dressing and sugar dumped on top of some green leaves. So I've learned that moderation is the name of the game. For the most part, I watch what I eat, exercise, and if I've been good for a long enough time I reward myself with some of the sugary, sodium packed, fat-filled food that tastes oh so good. The simple truth is... junk food can and will kill you if you eat enough of it.
Now back to Jack. Jack is a fellow who is in his early 50's and for the past 15 years has lived a very sedentary lifestyle. He works a desk job that while very mentally demanding and rewarding, requires no physical activity whatsoever. His home is 1 block away from the office so his daily exercise is a 2 block walk (sometimes 4 if he goes home for lunch) He's a great co-worker and friend, and is one of the best cooks you'll ever meet. For as long as I've known him, his diet has been mostly garbage. I don't say this as an accusation, it's just the plain old truth. For years he's been living off a diet of fat and sugar, drinking litres of soda pop and downing greaseball burgers several times a week. Every now and then he mumbles that he knows it's not good for him, but he's had the attitude that I see in a lot of folks. I call it the "fat and happy" attitude. This is the type of thinking that says "eat, drink and be merry to your hearts content, for tomorrow you shall eat healthy" Tomorrow turns into next week. Next week turns into next month. And before you know it, your body has become accustomed to living off a near constant diet of high-fat, high sugar foods. The human body is an amazing thing that adapts the best it can to whatever you throw at it. On numerous occasions Jack has stated that the extra weight he's gained (he's got a big belly that's grown considerably) was all just part and parcel of getting older. "Just my metabolism slowing down you see" he'd say, as he polished off another toblerone bar. And it is indeed true that your metabolism does slow down with age, bit it's also like saying that getting a diet coke with a big mac meal instead of a regular coke is the healthy option.
Just prior to Jack's incident, he spent two weeks out of town on business. This means two weeks of living out of a hotel room, which means every meal was from a restaurant. Toward the end of his trip, another co-worker noticed that he was drinking LOTS of water. This other co-worker has family that's diabetic so he knows all the signs to watch for. Jack admitted that he was ridiculously thirsty and always seemed to have a dry mouth. Thankfully, the trip was almost over and the next day they were flying home. So Jack called ahead to his doctor and arranged an appointment. The next day, lo and behold the doctor confirmed he had diabetes. Testing was done, medication prescribed and strict dietary instructions were given and Jack was on medical leave from work. It looked like things had settled down until a couple of nights ago. Jack woke up in the middle of the night feeling very strange. His vision was blurry, breathing ragged and quite confused. When they got him into emergency, his blood sugar turned out to be 49. A blood sugar level of 49 is extremely dangerous- that's coma territory. If he hadn't gotten medical attention when he did, it quite possibly could have been the end of his story. Thankfully, they injected him with wunder drugs and stabilized his blood sugar levels. He's been in hospital the last few days being monitored closely and he'll be released soon. He's had a wake up call and if he plays his cards right, he'll still have a long, full life ahead of him.
Diabetes and heart attacks kill thousands of people every year and cause disability for thousands more. I fully acknowledge that some diabetics are that way due to genetics (one of my good friends is that way) but much of this strife is caused by eating junk. And that's what a lot of our food is....absolute junk. I know this is a sensitive topic for a lot of folks and I'm gonna get roasted for saying this, but we really do need to reign in the types of food available on the market. As I said, I love junk food but I'd rather see it go away and have to put up with the occasional pity/gripe session than to see the continued effects it's causing.
Almost 2/3 of north American adults are overweight, and this will affect their overall health and lifestyle as they get older (unless there is a major mid-life change, which some folks do manage to pull of quite well, and kudos to them). My problem isn't that fast food and junk food exists. My problem is that as a society, we have allowed the worst possible food to be offered in the most numerous choices, with the cheapest price. It's everywhere, it's cheap, easy and fast. And it often tastes mighty good too. In truth, the effect of all this bad eating is more of a threat to us than terrorism ever will be. Far more people have and will died because of cheeseburger overload than any terrorist could ever even dream of killing. Yet we view the topic of controlling food as an infringement on our human rights, while we're more than happy to strip rights and securities away from everyone in the name of fighting terrorism. With that said, I would then put forth the assertion that if you want to help the terrorists win, go to Chillis and have as many oversized portions as you can handle!