If We Truly Cared About Our Health

Temporary mass hysteria is no substitute for a consistent and coherent approach to living

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Image credit: IBTimes UK

Eighty-six percent of US citizens are overweight, thanks to atrocious diet and a near-total absence of exercise. Many other nations (Mexico, UK, Hungary, Australia, to name just a few) are now experiencing a similar situation.

As a result most people by middle-age suffer from a variety of chronic lifestyle-related ailments. The average forty-five-year-old in the USA is on four different medications, supplemented by a variety of over-the-counter drugs. Seventy percent of people hate their jobs. Most are stressed over various factors they feel to be beyond their control. Many feel alienated from their families. A huge number of people self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and spend their evenings gawping at mindless entertainment.

Seriously folks, is this any way to live?

Today everyone and their pet hamster is in the grip of a media-induced panic about COVID-19 and everyone is terrified of dying from what’s being pumped up as The Next Black Death. But aside from the fact that all the data very clearly tells us this isn’t at all the case, everyone must die eventually. Death is the price we pay for this astonishing gift of life. And from all currently available data, the coronavirus will actually kill only a small percentage of the population: the people who were already at high risk of dying anyway over the coming weeks and months.

Because guess what? Although in the USA half of our total lifetime expenditure on health care happens in the last six months of life as doctors and hospitals perform insane acts to drag out their patients lives, old and sick people die. We may not like it and it may make us sad, but it’s the end we all face regardless of how many TV shows we watch in which heroic doctors pull people back from the brink of death just before the credits roll.

But we ignore real data and we ignore the obvious. Instead, we self-harm with atrocious lifestyle choices and then we expect no ill to befall us. We appear entirely unable to grasp the inevitable consequences of our daily actions.

Why do so many of us sleepwalk through existence, treating life as a disposable commodity that has hardly any value? Why do so many of us come to regret our wasted lives when it’s far too late to make meaningful changes?

Surely, instead of panicking about the latest well-hyped sensation for a few weeks, we ought really to be thinking about the entire span of our lives. We ought to be considering how to live in ways that make us healthier and happier rather than becoming even more miserable than we were last week.

The USA is the ultimate consumer society in which we work ourselves to death in order to buy things we’re told will make us happier. We buy these things, they don’t make us happier, so we work even harder in order to be able to buy yet more things, certain that if we only buy the right things then surely, eventually, we’ll stop feeling quite so hollow!

But of course, things don’t make anyone happy for more than a few fleeting moments. Our consumer culture is based on a false assumption.

We’ve known for a long time what things actually do make us happy: spending time with people we care about, contributing to our community, eating healthy foods that nourish our bodies, and taking regular exercise.

Most of us think we don’t have the time for any of this because we’re too busy working late at the office; when we finally get home we’re so exhausted that we slump on the sofa at gawp at some mindless entertainment until we fall asleep, only to wake a few hours later, rinse, and repeat. Where would we find the time to exercise, shop for healthy ingredients, and then spend time in the kitchen making healthy food to eat?

But we do have the time. We simply squander it.

The average US citizen spends nearly five hours every single day staring at mass entertainment. By throwing out our televisions and not simply substituting them with Internet-delivered pablum, each of us can recapture five precious hours per day. Those hours can be filled with activities that genuinely make us happier, more relaxed, and much nicer people. Five hours per day is seventy-seven days per year: far more than even the most generous annual vacation plan.

And here’s the thing: good actions are additive. Sure, at first we struggle to waddle more than a hundred yards. We crave the sweet-salty-fatty foods we’re familiar with and healthy foods don’t seem as appealing.

But when we persevere, we make an amazing discovery: as we exercise, our bodies begin to crave McSlop and Kentucky Fried Cancer less and less. As we eat healthier foods, we can perform more physical tasks with greater ease. As our bodies become healthier, we sleep better and so our minds become more refreshed. As our blood pressure drops, we become less agitated.

In other words, we can create a virtuous circle with every healthy thing reinforcing every other healthy thing. The more we do, the more we can do. All it takes is exchanging bad habits for good ones.

Unfortunately, everything in our modern society seems dedicated to making us ever-more sick and fearful. Our so-called entertainments are mindless noise, filled with violence and terror. We really truly don’t need to poison ourselves with The Waddling Dead or any other such nonsense; it’s not healthy for us and it adds nothing whatsoever positive to our lives. Our so-called foods are mostly metabolic disasters; it’s been estimated that more than 80% of the food sold in a typical supermarket ought to be labeled Unfit For Human Consumption.

One statistic among many: half of all US adults have cardiovascular disease.

Seriously. That data-point alone ought to be screaming loud and clear that we’ve got it all wrong when it comes to living our lives. But we ignore the data, we keep cramming slop into our bodies, we slump on the sofa every evening, and then we panic when the sensation-hungry media scares us about some new disease.

If we really cared about our health, we wouldn’t inflict on our bodies the least-healthy-possible way of life. It’s no good being terrified of some new virus when we’re killing ourselves every single day.

Sure, we can all find excuses for why we’re doing all the wrong things and none of the right things. Nothing is easier than telling ourselves it’s not our fault. Our modern world encourages us to be victims, to rob ourselves of agency. Why are we so appallingly unhealthy? It’s our genes, it’s “chemicals” in our food and in our water, it’s because of the Patriarchy or Capitalism or some other nonsense the only purpose of which is to enable us to hide from the fact we have choices and we’re mostly making the wrong ones.

We don’t have to make poor choices. We can ignore the ads, the “special offers,” and the temporary cravings that result from a lifetime of bad food. We can get out and go for a walk, and then a few weeks later maybe even try jogging short distances. We can eschew McSlop and try some fruits and vegetables. Sure, it may not be easy at first. But aren’t we worth it?

Shouldn’t we aspire to be more than flesh buckets into which huge corporations dump their metabolic garbage?

Oh, and by the way: when we’re healthy we can shrug off viruses like COVID-19. Which means we won’t need to let the mass media terrify us merely in order to boost its ad revenues under the guise of “keeping us informed.”

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Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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