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Are You Flabby On The Inside

Relax. This isn't going to be one of those health articles that make you feel horribly guilty. (You know what I mean - after reading some articles, you feel as though you should swim 95 laps and fast for a month.)

Instead, I want you to visualize a perfectly healthy person. Got it? Let's make that more specific: this person is male, he's 27 years old, and he's in fabulous shape.

Of course, you know he follows a program of regular exercise. No morning's complete, he believes, without an one-hour workout on the Nautilus machine and an eight-mile run. His hobby is rock climbing; he also never forgets to floss his teeth.

Moreover, he eats only what's good for him. Piles of fruits and vegetables. Mounds of alfalfa sprouts. Barrels of oat bran. He drinks quarts of water between meals, sleeps eight hours a night, and approaches sweets as though they were radioactive.

His physician says she's never seen a healthier human being. His triglyceride and cholesterol counts are marvelous; so, too, is his blood pressure. Since the day he was born, he's never been in a hospital. Once, he had a cold - it lasted half a day. The next day, he finished first in an Ironman triathlon.

Now that you have this person pictured in your mind, let me ask you a question: Is this person healthy? Is he fit?

Before you answer, let me tell you a little more about him:

Yesterday, on his way out the door to his daily workout, he kicked his dog, screamed obscenities at his wife, and brushed past his children without saying a word to them. At work, he lied to his boss, blaming a co-worker for his mistake. (He chuckled all day about “putting one over” on the boss. He even boasted about it to several co-workers.) All in all, it was a typical day for him.

This person is impatient, unkind, and selfish. What's more, he sees no need to change anything about himself. He is, most of us would agree, totally immoral and spiritually bankrupt. Now let me ask you that question again: Is he healthy?

Health, you see, involves more than just our physical selves; there's more to fitness than meets the eye. Think of a light bulb, for instance. If the outer glass is sound, is it a “healthy” bulb? Not if the filament is broken.

No, the “health” of a light bulb is determined by only one aspect: Does it produce light? That's the sole reason for its existence. Whatever prevents it from producing light makes the bulb “unhealthy.” Any bulb that cannot generate light is an “unhealthy” light bulb.

So what does that have to do with you and me?

The "So That" Principle

Recently, while my family and I were visiting Sea World in San Diego, California, our camcorder malfunctioned. Since we rarely get the chance to visit Sea World, I decided to buy a new-on-the-market disposable camera. (Although I believe that our disposable society is killing the planet, the crisis seemed to justify this purchase.)

As I was unwrapping the camera at the counter, the salesman looked me in the eye and said, “You realize you have to turn the camera in to a film store after you finish the roll of film.”

I laughed. “Right,” I said. “How else could you see what you've taken?”

The salesman shrugged with a half-smile. “I don't know,” he replied. “But last week a woman threw her disposable camera in the trash; and then wanted to know when she was going to get her pictures!”

Unfortunately, that woman isn't alone. Too many times we do “throw away” the benefits of our actions. We often cram so many “fun” activities into a vacation, for instance, that we end it feeling exhausted and miserable. We spend a fortune on orthodontics, and then don't brush our teeth. We buy an exquisite sofa, and then cover it with plastic.

When we do these things, we're forgetting what I call the “So That” Principle. The light bulb, for example, exists so that we can have light, just as l bought a disposable camera so that I can look at pictures of my trip to Sea World. Likewise, we take vacations so that we can have fun. We buy sofas so that we may enjoy sitting upon them.

Light bulbs, vacations, and sofas aren't ends in themselves, after all. They're only means to an end. They're valuable only if they help us get whatever it is we really want. If they don't do that, they're worthless.

So why should people be healthy?

If you ask different people that question, you'll hear a number of different answers. “If I'm healthy,” they say, “I look better,” or “I have more energy when I'm healthy.”

These are good answers, but they don't go far enough. Some of the most physically attractive people in the world, after all, are also among the most selfish. Some of the most energetic are in the maximum security wings of our prisons. No, beauty and energy are not enough in and of themselves. Beyond them must be another, better reason for us to be healthy, beyond them must be another, higher goal for us to pursue.

The Best Reason

Most people would agree that love is to people as light is to a light bulb. Just as a light bulb gives off light, so, too, we should love other people. If we're not a loving person, we're as “unfit” as a light bulb that doesn't give off light.

So, if our ultimate goal is to be a more loving person, then the best reason for us to be healthy is so that we can be a more loving person. Love is the goal of a healthy lifestyle. Love is the goal of the human life. Nothing else matters. Nothing else lasts.

If our lifestyle doesn't help us become a more loving person, on the other hand, then it's of little value to us. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how “healthy” we are. If we're not a loving person, we're as worthless as a broken light bulb.

Take Diane, for instance. She's recently become a vegetarian. Because of this, Diane is healthier than she was before. She's lost unneeded weight. She's brought her cholesterol count down to acceptable levels. She's lowered the risk of her getting cancer or heart disease.

She's also become a pain in the neck. When a friend who didn't know Diane's preferences served her chicken soup, for instance, Diane gave her a five-minute lecture on the dangers of saturated fats. Now, since her turn toward turnips, Diane has become a ruder and more demanding person.

Kevin, on the other hand, also became a vegetarian recently. Because of this, he's also gained all the benefits to his health that Diane did. Unlike Diane, however, he's become a nicer person as a result. Because of his extra energy, for instance, he's able to do more with his family. He's not as irritable as he used to be because he's not as worried about his health. Since his switch to “rabbit food” (as he calls it), Kevin's become a calmer, kinder, and more confident individual.

Using the “So That” Principle, then, how does vegetarianism measure up as a lifestyle? Well, in Kevin's case, it looks pretty good. In Diane's case, it doesn't. As a matter of fact, the “So That” Principle suggests that vegetarianism has made Diane less healthy, while making Kevin more so.

I could give other examples. I'm sure you could as well. Jogging. Losing weight. Softball. Half-court basketball. All of these things can become an end in themselves. All of these things should be means to an end.

Becoming healthier, after all, does mean gaining energy, but we add to our energy so that we can love more fully, so that we will be tenacious and gentle with our love, so that we can be more resilient and less irritable.

Likewise, becoming healthier should result in a more attractive appearance, but we should look better so that people will want to make friends with us and with our God.

And we attract others to God so that they can enjoy the balanced, joyful, breath taking, liberating love that God alone can give. As Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full”

So the next time you hear something about health (or money or religion or anything else that you really ought to be doing), plug in the “So That” Principle and ask yourself, “Will this make me more loving?”

Sure, it's great to be able to pinch your side and find just a little fat.

But can you pinch your soul and find the same?

Health | Self-help


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