Friday, July 9, 2010

Tightening Our Belts

Over the last six months, I've been trying to get back into shape. Pastoring is a sedentary vocation, and by the end of last year I had managed to amass some pretty considerable mass. At five nine point five and one-seventy, I wasn't technically obese. I was only on the very cusp of being overweight.

But the weight I had was all nearly entirely fat. I still had the stick-like legs I've always had, but muscle tone was barely discernable. I'd fallen out of the habit of regular and intense exercise, through a combination of my own inertia and the stressors of life and church. I wasn't doing or feeling well.

To my dismay, I found I couldn't even really run if I wanted to, which would not have served me well in the event of a zombie outbreak. Sure, I could have out-lumbered the old-school George Romero zombies, but anything faster than that would have been problematic.

My body was still a temple, sure, but that temple now involved several sprawling additions shoddily built by incompetent contractors.

I remembered my pastor friend Bruce, who let weight lead to depression which brought on more weight in a spiral that eventually killed him.

So for half a year, I've been slowly but surely whittling away at myself. I started at two workouts weekly, and then ramped that up to one day on, one day off. I've been ratcheting back on the carbs, meaning the pretzels and the chips and the beer, and replacing them with water, fruit, or protein shakes. It hasn't always been easy, particularly the beer. Sigh. It's hard kicking yourself out of a pattern of life.

But I feel better. Not only am I thirteen pounds lighter and now only two pounds from my goal weight, I'm also considerably stronger. Measured in what I can curl or press, I'm nearly twice as strong as I was at the perigee of my flaccidity. It has required effort. If I am going to continue to be leaner and stronger, that effort will need to be sustained. Permanently changing your pattern of life is the only way out of obesity and weakness and decline.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why America can't get this through our collective heads. Yeah, we're the Fattest Nation In the World (tm), but I'm here not thinking about our individual corpulence. Instead, it's our collective overconsumption of material goods, coupled with our willingness to go deep into debt to sustain that pattern of consumption.

As our current stimulus driven "recovery" sputters, and our jobless rate stays high, there is talk in DC of yet another temporary stimulus. Let's borrow more, say the pols, because it's all about jobs and getting back into our previous pattern of growth. "We can't cut back now," say they. "Americans need jobs! Now is not the time for financial austerity!" This is politically expedient, sure. If you're pouring borrowed money into your district, you're much more likely to get elected.

But it is also, in the long run, going to destroy us. There will never be a right time. Never. Not ever. In order to create the consumption pattern that existed before the market meltdown in 2008 and 2009, we financially overextended. It was false prosperity. It was fat. Relying on temporary stimulus after temporary stimulus to "jump-start" the economy reminds me of the person struggling with their weight who bounces from fad diet to fad diet, making no headway. We're popping pills and drinking Super Big Gulps full of diet Coke while snarfing down whole bags of Doritos.

Unless we change your whole pattern of life, eating right and exercising more, things ain't never gonna change in our Body Politic. At least, right up until that last massive coronary.