The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


I had a friend who was 5′ 6” and weighed about 300 pounds. He died at the age of 52 as a result of the diabetes for which he took insulin for twenty years and the strain he placed on his cardiovascular system. His name was John.

John, obviously aware of his obesity, used to joke with us that, “I’m the right weight. I’m just a little short.” We used to laugh at this – until the day we attended his funeral.

The admonition that we should do, “All things in moderation” has been around for 2500 years since it was uttered by Aristotle. John failed to heed that advice – and paid for it with a shortened life.

Let me re-iterate something that I said early on in this blog. I have always had to be careful about what and how much I ate. I inherited this from mom’s side of the family. It used to amaze me how dad could eat two pieces of apple strudel and lose weight. I would go into the kitchen while it was in the oven and merely sniffing the aroma I could put on a pound. So I understand how people who struggle with weight issues view themselves and the world.

But I took charge and took responsibility for myself – believing that I was the best person capable of taking care of me. (In the absence of anyone else – it was a fairly simple choice).

Over the years that I knew John, it would be fair to say that he not only stressed his own body but he put an equal stress on the healthcare system. It is no exaggeration when I tell you that he averaged twenty to thirty appointments with his various physicians a year. (I have no doubt they gave him advice to lose weight which he either ignored or at which he was unsuccessful). Personally, I think any of us who weren’t medically trained could have offered the same good advice.

By contrast, in the 10 years I knew him I had 12 appointments with my doctor. All but two were for an annual physical – and the others were as a result of slipping on the ice and fracturing my right elbow. I am not one of those who has to see the doctor because I have a small sniffle – and I reject the idea that we have to get an annual shot to immunize ourselves against all the diseases the world is waiting to dump on us.

I have neighbors who are as religious about getting an annual flu shot as they are at attending Sunday services at their church. And almost without exception, they wind up getting flu-like symptoms for a few days. Several have still gotten full-blown cases of the disease against which they were supposedly immunized. By contrast, unprotected as I have been, I have never gotten the flu as an adult. Call me lucky – but I think otherwise.

There’s an adage that people in information technology know intimately, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If our diets are poor – we will experience their effects – perhaps not today or tomorrow but eventually. If our diets are good we will experience their beneficial effects for our lifetime. It seems to me that isn’t so much a matter of medical awareness as it is a matter of common sense.

But is this simply a matter of personal choice – or is there something more profound at stake here? I believe that it is the latter.

Whether Obamacare is ultimately held to be unconstitutional or is repealed by a future Congress is at this point a moot question. Presently it is the law of the land – and it has implications for all of us. In fact, because of its provisions it has implications for more of us than ever before in the nation’s history.

Study after study have shown that when people have health insurance, there is a greater utilization of the services available to them than for those who do not have that coverage. That is something which a reasonable person would expect to happen. If something is available to us at little or no cost we are likely to take advantage of it.

The corollary to this is that we will be putting an even greater strain on a system that is already overburdened. The inevitable conclusion is that the quality of medical care can only decline for those who need it. (If I have to wait an extra week to get my annual checkup that’s no big deal to me. But for those who have a legitimate medical issue and have to wait an extra week to see a physician– it might be significant).

Having said earlier in this post that I view the matter of my health as my primary responsibility (and by extension your health is yours), I view what I do, the foods that I consume, the lifestyle I follow as my business. However, my actions not only affect me but they can have a positive influence on society. Since I am less likely to need the services of the healthcare industry, my space is free for someone else.

If you understand the concept of personal responsibility (and more importantly are willing to implement it in your own life) then the next time you pull into the drive- through perhaps you will think twice before you automatically decide to “Super-size” that order of fries and might consider a juice or water alternative to that extra large soda you normally order.

If you adopt that strategy – it could be the first step toward a life-changing pattern of healthier behavior. You might help unclog the system by reducing the number of times a year you show up in your doctor’s office.

If we fail to take personal responsibility when it comes to our own health – inevitably we will all come up, “Just a little short.”


Comments on: "JUST A LITTLE SHORT" (6)

  1. Diabetes and Heart disease run on my dad’s side of the family so I always have to watch what and how much I eat. I’m usually pretty good about it but that wasn’t always the case. Back in middle school I was just over 300 lbs and my doctor told me that if I kept it up i was going to die. That’s one way to whip a kid back into shape. Started exercising and eating sensibly and, despite a few hiccups now and then, I lead a fairly healthy lifestyle. People just need to take responsibility for their health.

    • Good for you and congratulations! I know it’s easy to slip and we all do. But when faced with the choice of eating a donut or a salad I think to myself, “Would I rather eat this donut or spend an extra day on planet earth with my dog and my friends?” It makes the decision a lot easier.

      Keep up the good work.

  2. Good food for thought (no pun intended!).

  3. It always surprises me that people who are never late getting an oil change or tuneup for their car, don’t apply the same principle to the machine which is their body. If we all did that we would need half the hospitals and doctors, big pharma would be a cottage industry and Obamacare would be a minor footnote in the history books.

  4. nearlynormalized said:

    Sense, common sense, responsibility for oneself–whatever is needed for us to face up to the fact, we are in charge of our lives and should, keep the best and discard the rest. Are we a thinking group or a group that is led by the ring in the nose? It is pretty obvious when an a friend of my brothers was surprised that potatoes are from the ground, not from a box. Oh my, such is life in the big city.

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