I have a problem.
For the last three or four years, I’ve kept a 10 pound bag of chocolate chips in my pantry. We've made good use of them, though it was only by the grace of God that none of us developed diabetes. Part of my morning ritual was to grab a handful of chips from the bag, savoring their sweetness on my way to the coffee maker. On occasion, they would get a smear of peanut butter first. Potato chips, pretzels and Doritos occupied a place of special honor, residing in the penthouse on the top floor of the pantry. The view was breathtaking, if not a bit salty.
Nearly all the hospitals in Phoenix provide a room for paramedics and EMT’s to do their reports, watch TV and have a snack between calls. The snacks vary depending on the hospital, but chips, cookies, pastries and muffins are the usual fare. Break room refrigerators are stocked with soda, Gatorade and water.
Some of the hospitals provide free meals for us. We can visit the café between calls and pig out until the cows come home. I rarely miss an opportunity to have biscuits and gravy with a side of sausage. And some chocolate covered pretzels for the road.
This is a glimpse into the kind of lifestyle that I’ve enjoyed for the last 30 years. Last weekend this lifestyle has come to an abrupt end.
I’ve been aware of my less than ideal eating habits for years. Aware – but living in a sort of happy rebellion against the truth. I had a support group of friends who joked with me about how we’d prefer death over a bland, tasteless diet of tofu and sprouts. We’re been proud of our preference for junk food. I’ve know all along that it was all just a front. I’ve been rationalizing a deadly diet and ignoring the warning signs that a change was needed. One definition of rationalization is trying to convince your mind that something is right when your heart knows its wrong.
One of the major obstacles I had to overcome before I could seriously consider making a change in my eating habits was correcting my perception of what a healthy diet looks like. In the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize that healthy diet isn’t much different than the one I already have. Change can be frightening. But the changes I need to make aren't as severe as I once thought. (And a healthy diet still has room for a little chocolate)
My diet includes some foods that are actually healthy, like peppers, onions, carrots, pineapple, nuts, beef, olive oil and butter. In future messages I’ll discuss the controversy surrounding foods like beef and butter, which have been called unhealthy but actually provide nutrients we need.
A healthy diet includes more of the healthy things I’m already eating, while reducing or eliminating the unhealthy ones.
Another consideration (for me) is how my health affects the security my wife has in our marriage. My wife is pretty crazy about having me around. She’s come to depend on me a lot. She leans on me for emotional support in hard times and I do a lot of things around the house that she values highly. We spend a lot of time discussing life and sharing our dreams for the future. One of her greatest fears is losing me to a serious illness or premature death.
I have a number of brothers, uncles and a father who have all recently died from cancer. My wife doesn’t want me to be the next victim.
So my task is to take care of this tent to the best of my ability as long as I reside in it. And I haven’t been doing a good job of that. So I’ve been given time to repent; time to change my thinking and actions concerning the foods I eat. God has given me a few dreams about a healthier life. I’m inviting you to come along on yet another journey of discovery. Don’t worry. I won’t become one of those pushy know-it alls, who insists that everyone eat only the things they eat. I’ll share with you what I learn and let you decide if it’s something you’re interested in doing. If not, we’ll still be friends.