If we accept that the broad purpose of ‘charity’ at a worldwide scale, is to save lives and reduce pain and suffering, then we are at a time when we need to drastically reconsider how we are directing the help we give.
As we approach the end of 2012, there are approximately 905 million undernourished people on the planet. That number is slowly shrinking, by approximately 1 person every 5 seconds. That’s 6 million less starving people every year. If we continue at that pace, and if global warming, changing climate patterns and fossil fuel shortages don’t cause any new problems greater than they already create today, then in 150 years there will be no more starving people on this planet.
But, right here, right now, in 2012, worldwide 10.7 million people will have died of hunger this year.
There are also 1,567 million overweight people on the planet. 522 million of them are obese. Yes, there are more than half a BILLION obese people on Earth.
In 2012, worldwide:
- 20 million people (approx) will die from cardio vascular disease and heart failure
- 7.9 million people will die of cancer
- 4.8 million people will die because of smoking, as the world smokes 5 and a half TRILLION cigarettes this year
- 2.4 million people will die because of alcohol consumption
Many of these 35 million deaths are preventable, many are caused by poor lifestyle choices.
In short, obesity and lifestyle-disease is killing more people worldwide than hunger and malnutrition. It is not unrealistic to state, that worldwide, more people die from eating too much and from eating the wrong foods, than from not eating enough. Many obese, sick, diseased overweight people, are as malnourished as the impoverished of Africa and Asia who are starving to death. Such is the state of modern processed food, so much of it so devoid of real nutrients, that millions of people are obese from over-eating, yet malnourished at the same time. In fact, this malnutrition is often half the reason why they are obese, since food companies sell products which have no natural nutrients in them, but are stuffed full of refined sugar (itself an anti-nutrient that strips your body of nutrients) and factory-made chemicals, additives and preservatives.
Of course, the twisted irony is, that over-eating is broadly self-inflicted, a disease of the rich world, while under-eating is something few have any choice or control over. While the poorest people on earth starve, the richest are eating themselves into early graves.
Let me put it into another perspective for you. In Western Europe, where I live, research published in The Lancet shows that almost 30 percent of all years lost to poor health, are from weight-related causes. In other words, almost a third of everyone who dies before reaching “a ripe old age”, dies because they are overweight, and they could have lived a lot longer had they keep that weight off.
If we accept that the broad purpose of ‘charity’ at a worldwide scale, is to save lives and reduce pain and suffering, then maybe we should stop sending our donations to the starving refugees of Africa, and start spending our money educating obese white Westerners who can’t stop drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, eating burgers and fries, and scoffing chocolates, cakes, pastries and doughnuts?
Now of course, I understand that this is a massive and radical over-simplification of an incredibly complex situation. There are many political, social, commercial, religious and environmental systems that have converged and inter-connected for the different extremes of society to end up as they now are.
Over the last year, some of my friends have been kind enough to share honest feedback with me, and they tell me that sometimes my writing and ranting on this blog can come across as arrogant or elitist. I want you, whoever is reading this, to know that I am not arrogant, not an elitist and do not think I am in any way ‘superior’ to anyone who smokes, drinks, is obese, or enjoys a bit of chocolate or a cake from time to time. I WAS obese. I DID smoke, for 18 years. I WAS a heavy drinker for a number of years, and a moderate drinker for 2 decades further. I WAS fat for years. I did NOT exercise for years. I was a lazy kid, an idle teenager. I wasted my body, wasted my time, wasted my life. I worked in a factory for over a decade and had no ambition, when I was capable of much more. I spent my youth getting fat on the sofa watching TV. Pizza was my favourite food. I STILL love a bit of chocolate!
I only come online and rant about these things because I have BEEN THERE, and I spent 2 decades of my life from my late teens to my mid 30s doing all those things. I now know that I was lazy, and I know that it is easy to change, and that all it takes is a mental shift, a change in attitude, and then the physical changes are much easier. I now know that I can live longer, healthier, and – I use this word cautiously – a “better” life. I have the energy, the strength to do more, to achieve more, to accomplish more, to be a better father to my children, a better example, and to get more out of my life. I want you to know this is not supremacy talk, I am not advocating some modern-day Aryan race where we are all 6-foot-2 eyes-of-blue blonde-hair beauties, all perfect and all the same. Not at all, I celebrate diversity in our culture, in our looks, in our nature, in our beliefs…but I don’t see any logic in any argument that supports an unhealthy life and an early death.
I’ve been there, I had that mindset. I can remember being a stupid teenager myself, sucking down a dozen beers every night and smoking an entire pack of cigarettes in an evening, saying I would be happy to “live fast and die young”, at 18 I would say I didn’t care for making it passed 40, I just wanted to have a good time and then burn out. Like ‘most’ young men, at 18 I thought I was a big grown up, but in reality I was just a stupid kid who knew nothing. I am now 42, and I am pleased to say that I am healthier than ever, slimmer, in better shape, fitter, stronger, and have more energy. 42-year-old me could kick the butt of 20-yr-old me in every way, I look better, feel better, and I would beat old me at any physical task now. At 42, far from being ready to die, far from feeling old and like my best years are behind me, I now fully intend to live beyond 100 and it actually worries me a little that ONLY 60 years left is barely enough time to do all that I want to do with my life. What a dumb kid I was at 18 years old.
So I don’t write this stuff because I want to lecture you “don’t eat that cake” and I do not want to come across as the dreaded “reformed smoker” type, and I do not think I am “better than you” because you’re fat and I’m not…I just CARE, and I think we should ALL live healthy, and live long lives, and it SADDENS me to see people smoking and drinking and eating themselves into a shorter life, when it does not have to be that way. Smoking is less controversial these days, most people accept it as “a self-inflicted death sentence” but food is a much more controversial and complex subject. Most people are understandably confused by the myriad of conflicting diet advice out there, and most people wrongly believe that they can walk around a typical supermarket, buy everything apart from the cigarettes and the hard liquor, and they will be eating a “normal” and “reasonably healthy” diet. WRONG! 90% of what the supermarkets sell is NOT really good for you, and a lot of it is truly BAD for you.
I feel passionately about trying to help people understand about good health and good food and I just want to help. I beg of you, please understand that in my writing, if I sound arrogant or elitist or judgemental, I am NOT…please don’t let me poor writing skills make you think less of me. I want to help overweight people lose weight because it saddens me to know that they will die 20 years sooner than they should, and when that time comes, they will then, and only then, regret the shortening of their years.
I wrote about this here on this blog a few weeks back – the time delay between cause and effect. We smoke the ciggies, drink the beers, eat the pizza and cakes…and at the time, they taste nice, make us temporarily happy and seem to have no ill effect. So we keep doing it. Paying the price comes on a hospital bed 20 years later. Paying the price hits you in the doctors surgery when he says “I’m sorry, but you have cancer/diabetes/heart disease/need a bypass/gastric band”. Paying the price comes when you have to kiss your 4 year old grandchild goodbye knowing you’ll never see him in a school uniform on his first day at school. I see so many lives darkened by the ever pervasive sadness of modern lifestyle disease. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, all ruin lives every day, and yet it is easier than you think to be healthy.
It is easier than you think to lose that excess weight, easier than you think to quit smoking, easier than you think to moderate your drinking, easier and actually more fun that you think to fit in regular exercise…being slim and fit and healthy is easier than most people think. I don’t encourage you all to this because of some elitist attitude, just because I want you all to live into your 80s, 90s and maybe even beyond. Too many people face a future of retiring at 70 and living a short unhappy retirement in and out of hospital, taking a box full of pills every day and not having the strength, mobility and energy to enjoy their post-career years.
I have done all the wrong things, for decades…I KNOW how good that cigarette tastes, I know how good that pizza tastes, I know how good that beer tastes. I have done it all. I also, now, know how good real food tastes once the sugar and chemicals are banished from the diet. I know how good it feels to cross the marathon finish line. I know how much fun an hour of sweaty exercise feels. I know how it felt to look at my bloated, shapeless, fat weak body in the mirror. I know what that did for my self-esteem. I now know how it feels to look at my lean strong body in the mirror, and I know how THAT feels to my self-esteem. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and I know which feels better. I want to help other people to make that discovery, to be the best person they can be for themselves. To live longer, feel better, and get more from life. I sincerely hope you understand, I care, I truly care, and as ill health saddens me, so helping people to help themselves, motivates me.
I live in 21st Century England, and I have not travelled extensively in all other parts of the world, so I only ‘know what I know’ and I know I still have much to learn. But it seems to me that everyone in our modern Western society is so wrapped up in living out all the little details of their lives, that many, many people are missing the basics, forgetting the important things. It seems to me as though millions of people are completely absorbed in the detail, detail which is actually really quite superfluous when it comes down to it, and in their busy-ness, they are overlooking the stuff that really matters, like staying healthy and staying alive.
I see these people every day, in offices, in shops, at schools, at work, out and about in public places. I see people taking minor chores way too seriously. Stressing over the office stationery order, shouting and rushing about, moaning about the cost of car parking or fuel or the rising gas bill. I see people rushing about getting the kids to their after school activities on time, fussing over connecting with their friends on Facebook, decorating the living room, buying Christmas presents, filling out the insurance claim for that stained carpet, and so on endlessly.
The point is, I see so many people rushing around trying to do all these “little things”, yet I look at them physically, and the state of their health, or complete lack of it, stands out from a mile away. I meet people who get stressed out rushing to do their work and domestic chores in time to catch a soap opera on TV, yet these same people are in terrible shape, destined to a future of serious ill health, and they say they are “too busy” to join a gym, they “don’t have time” to work out.
I am troubled by the fact that so many people are so fully-engaged, so utterly absorbed in such trivial matters, they fill their every waking hour doing very small things, to which they attach great importance, while they seem to ignore ‘the elephant in the room’, the really important big issues.
I think that we, as a society, we are all losing sight of the things that are truly important. While we fill our time with all this fluff, we let our bodies become fat, stiff, weak, inflexible, saggy. Our fitness erodes til we can’t even run a few hundred yards…a fit human should be happy to run and walk 20 miles per day. We neglect our loving relationships. We drink too much booze and we eat too much chemical-laden crap and we all die with heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We are using up the earth’s natural resources, wiping out many species and polluting the environment at an alarming rate. Yet we stress over getting little Daniel to his after-school origami class on time. We rush through cooking a meal so that we have time to get our butt on the sofa to catch Eastenders.
Why are we not looking forward at everyone suffering poor health in their 60s, 70s and 80s, everyone dying of the same things and saying “hey, hang on a minute, we must ALL be doing something wrong…let’s stop and figure this out”
But we are all so wrapped up in the minutiae of the daily doing, creating our own stress over trying to make enough money to buy enough crap to fill free time we no longer have…we are not stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. We pursue our careers with vigour in the hopes of owning that shiny BMW, yet by the time we get the keys, we have become one of those fat stiff guys who has to pull hard on the handle above the driver’s door in order to heave ourselves up out of the seat.
I think our priorities and values have become all screwed up. I think we are ignorantly choosing to be blind to the fact that our behaviour between 15 and 45, determines our health and ultimately our death in the second half of our lives. I think we know what we are doing, just choosing to ignore it. I think we need to plan a bit more long term.
I think people need a change of focus, we need to understand and work on:
- Health, longevity, having plenty of energy, staying injury and illness free, particularly from our 40s onwards.
- Living a life full of love, nurturing our close relationships. (Another day I will blog about my thoughts on “Spending the most time with people in your personal Tier 1″…remind me!)
- Pursue a meaningful career, make something, help people, sleep well at night knowing you made a contribution to the world.
- Care for Mother Earth. Care for, and protect, the future, see further than the average Term of Office of a democratically elected government. They never think further than re-election, every 4 or 5 years, so they never look after our future. How would you like the world to be for our great-grandchildren?
Just a few hundred years ago, most people had to fight just to survive, and most people were hungry a lot of the time. Now in almost no time at all, the fastest growing health challenge among the human race is obesity. All of the commonest causes of death in Western society are linked to poor dietary and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drinking, obesity, sugar consumption and poor nutrition. I believe that over the next 100 years, scientists will PROVE time and again that poor diet, high sugar consumption and low-level continuous stress, are the major causes of almost all the major modern lifestyle diseases.
I appreciate that my own lifestyle is far from perfect, and I also respect the fact that I am not a qualified doctor or healthcare professional, but I believe that the 12-point plan I have set out in MotherNaturesDiet makes for a considerably better way of living than the majority of what I see around me. I would encourage you to think about your own lifestyle choices, and think about what you are doing now that may carry a temporarily hidden cost, which will only be revealed many years down the line.
I encourage you to do something I have done for myself, which, if you take it seriously, can be very powerful. When you are home alone, stand naked in front of a full length mirror and truly assess what you see. Take pictures if it helps you. Think about those cigarettes. Think about the beer, the bottles of wine, the whiskey and vodka. Think about the chocolate bars, the cakes, the muffins and doughnuts. Think about the take away meals, the TV dinners, the curry, the Chinese, the pizza, the greasy kebab. Yes they taste nice at the time, yes they are fun, and we all work hard and all deserve a bit of a fun now and then. But how often do you use food or booze to get your bit of fun? Could you use exercise? I have cleansed my palate of sugar, now the old bad food tastes greasy and horrible to me, and the nice healthy food tastes like a treat.
When you are a diabetic, when you are on blood pressure pills, when you are prescribed statins for the rest of your life, when you sit looking at your doctor and he tells you that it’s cancer, then it’s too late to undo the things you smoked, ate and drank for 30 years before, the damage has been done.
Think about what you are doing. Are you really placing your focus on the big, important things in life? Are you spending your time on petty detail, while ignoring the big picture? Is it really so hard to find time to exercise and cook decent healthy meals? Find the time. Make the time. Invest in living a long healthy life, before all you have is regret.
Focus on what really matters.
- Live long.
- Stay strong.
- Be healthy.
- Love more.
- Hate less.
- Care for the planet.
- Care for yourself.