While teaching in Wake Forest the past few weeks I've begun to put on unwanted pounds. Take this evening, for example. I ate at a fast food joint. I ordered their least expensive "snack." It was loaded with chicken fingers, dipping sauce, tons of french fries, and even a piece of what they called "Texas toast." Unfortunately, I simply have no way of preparing my own meals while I'm away from the farm. The "cheapest" food for me to purchase is fast food. Or is it?
The biggest lie is that junk food is cheaper than home cooked meals. It's not. Fast food is more expensive than a healthy meal at home. The obesity epidemic in our country is caused by the advertising and sale of junk food, coupled with the rise of a sedentary lifestyle. Whether I eat in a caloric deficit or not is my choice. Of course, genetics plays a large role in weight loss. But we all have to work with what we have. If your genetics requires you to restrict your diet, then that's what you have to do. (I'm speaking about myself here.) We all get dealt different cards in life and have to play what we have the best we can. Everything we accomplish in life is affected by factors both inside and outside our control, and not all of the factors that are outside of our control are as easy for one person as for another. It's probably fair to say that everyone can make the choice to lose weight. But for some of us that's a really hard choice that requires tons of work. Today I had to remind myself that I truly have an option when it comes to meal choices. I'm slowly making progress but boy is it hard. "That's life, Davey old boy." Finding meaningful relationships in life is hard. Finding a good job that you enjoy is hard. Growing up is hard. Education is hard. Getting old is hard. The only question is, What do I want and what I am willing to sacrifice to get it?
Having lived in Europe, I can say that the lifestyle choices Europeans make are dramatically different from the ones I face every day here in America. In a restaurant, the normal portions sold are half the size of those in the States. Everything is smaller, including the supermarkets. In Basel, Becky used to go grocery shopping every other day. The store was called Migros.
Everything she bought there was fresh. We had no car so we walked everywhere. The average person in Basel probably walks a good half hour each day.
Contrast the lifestyle of so many of us Americans.
I used to be a member of the "clean your plate" club. Now I throw away about half of my fries. Portion size matters as much as nutrition and overall calories consumed. This is where willpower and discipline come into play, and I do have control over those factors. Even hard choices are still choices. I think of all the thousands of Greek students I've had through the years. For some of them, Greek came easily. They seem to have been born with an aptitude for languages. For others, it was a struggle even to get a C in the class. Yey they probably worked a lot harder than the straight A group. Some people think they hit a triple when they were born on third base. I consider myself genetically blessed in some ways, but being a runner doesn't give me a license to over-indulge all the time.
At the end of the day, while I don't exercise to lose weight or keep weight off, I am always trying to improve efficiency and health as I seek to be a good steward of the body God gave me. But the notion that a grueling training schedule automatically leads to fitness is a myth. You can't outrun a bad diet. Or at least I can't. Something as basic as reducing portion size can make all the difference.