“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Beth-za’tha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.” (John 5:1-9)
Americans can often be viewed as creatures of contradiction. We are a land of permanent tattoos and magnetic bumper stickers. We preserve the original restaurants of our favorite fast food chains as historical landmarks, but blow up the stadiums of our favorite sports teams when they’ve “seen their time.” We also dream of obtaining perfect fitness while watching an average of 28 hours of television per week.
Keeping this in mind, should it be any surprise that the nation that has won more Olympic medals than any other country in the world, also has the highest obesity rate on the planet?
On June 25, 2008 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report stating the number of Americans with diabetes ballooned a whopping 15% to 24 million from 2005 to 2007. In 2006 the CDC found that only 4 states in America had an obesity prevalence of less than 20%. The same report showed 25 states had a prevalence of 20%-24%, 19 had a prevalence of 25%-29%, and two, Mississippi and West Virginia, were tipping the scales with over 30% of their populations considered obese. If these statistics aren’t shocking enough, consider the fact that only 8 states had an obesity prevalence of 10%-14% in 1985.
As Americans have been busy gaining weight, we have also become more and more depressed. Among boys age 5 to 19, the rate of hospitalization for depression jumped from 11.2 per 100,000 from 1990-1992 to 14.5 per 100,000 from 2002-2004. That is an increase of just under 15,000 hospitalizations over a ten year period, which is only about 1,000 people less than a capacity crowd at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan where the Michigan State Spartans play basketball. The story is even more disheartening with the opposite sex. In the same period, among girls age 5 to 19 the rate of hospitalization for depression soared from 15.4 per 100,000 to 27.8 per 100,000, an 81% increase over ten years. That is a jump of just over 43,000 hospitalizations, which is roughly 1,000 people MORE than a capacity crowd at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan where the Detroit Tigers play baseball.
While news media, “experts,” and “diet gurus” are never short on theories about America’s waistline woes, one hardly ever sees the correlation between food and mood creep into the mainstream. Millions of Americans saunter around this country is a haze of confusion knowing something is not quite right, yet they can’t quite seem to put their finger on exactly what. Their problems are multiplied by the abundance of bad reporting and misinformation that pervades the media. Referring to several people’s accurate sentiments that Americans would do wonders for their health by returning to pre-1970’s eating habits, the New York Times recently quoted one “expert” as saying, “Nostalgia is going to get us nowhere.” The article went on to state, “Neither will wishful misconceptions about the efficacy of exercise.”
False statements such as these and several other factors have led many Americans into passive submission about their overall well being. I know because I use to be one of them. Much like the man at the pool in Beth-za’tha, I had plenty excuses for my excessive weight. In one conversation about Body Mass Index (BMI), I’m sad to admit I once asked a friend, “Could you EVER see me weighing 180!?” I’m also sad to admit that question directly preceded my 7th slice of Little Caesar’s pizza at my niece’s birthday party.
By the grace of God, however, I was able to admit my utter lack of control over sugar January 12th, 2006 when I weighed 273 lbs. On that day, I gave up eating “overt sugars” like cookies, candy, cake, and ice cream, and stopping sugar addiction. In 2008, I decided to give up starch, sauce, & dairy for Lent and unwittingly rid myself of the rest of the “virtual sugars” in my diet; i.e. the simple carbohydrates like refined flour that are converted into glucose the minute you eat them and cause your blood sugar to spike just like refined sugar.
Well, it turns out the BMI is accurate because I now weigh 186 lbs and my life often feels like a fulfillment of 2 Corinthians 5:17, which reads, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”Once upon a time, I was a moody, edgy, arrogant, judgmental, depression-prone, guilt & anxiety ridden wreck. I soared upon the heights of great self-confidence one moment, only to plunge into the depths of despair the very next. I went through long periods of not wanting to get out of bed and even worried I was losing my mind at times. Simply put, I was a slave. But emancipation was as simple as kicking sugar.
This has proven to be the case not only in my life, but in the lives of countless others. If the symptoms listed above sound anything like you, it’s time to break free and I can help.Therefore, I’ve got some questions for you:
- Do you eat a lot of refined sugar like cookies, candy, & ice cream?
- Do you eat a lot of simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta, chips, & pretzels?
- Are you a very moody person?
- Are you a very edgy person?
- Do you sometimes feel like your thoughts control you, as opposed to you controlling your thoughts?
- When you ate Rice Krispies as a kid, did you eat them for the Rice Krispies or for the sugar and milk at the bottom of the bowl?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you’re not alone. Jesus is standing right in front of you asking, “Do you want to be healed?”