Saturday, July 11, 2009

Comfort Food?

Most of you know that my "Clark Kent" is driving a gas tanker 400-500 miles a day. There is much about driving that is stressful: stop lights, big city traffic, road construction, two lane roads with long no passing zones and old people in front of you with nowhere to be and all day to get there, squeezing a 65 foot long vehicle on to and off of busy gas station parking lots; and other similar things. Nothing, however, is more stressful than having to cross IDOT weigh scales. Today, while crossing the scales coming out of St. Louis, I heard those words all truck drivers hate to hear: "Pull your truck around back, driver, for an inspection."

Even if your truck and trailer are in perfect mechanical shape, and even if all your documents are in good order, you can still expect to spend an hour parked behind the scales. And when you already have a 12 hour day on your schedule, that extra hour is maddening. And if anything is wrong with truck/trailer or documents, your whole day will be shot. Fortunately, today was just an extra hour. Everything was according to Federal and State regulations. But that extra hour put me an hour behind, and the stress made me hungry. Real hungry.

I had already finished my lunch and the apples I had brought as a snack, so I began to fantasize about candy bars, chocolate donuts, and Little Debbie snack cakes. You know, comfort food. Anytime I'm stressed, or lonely, or angry, or bored I think of comfort food. Today was no different. And all the way to Murphysboro, every gas station and every grocery store I passed called out to me. Doggedly, I pushed that truck all the way to my destination without stopping. Of course, my destination WAS a gas station, I had to use all my willpower to keep from buying comfort food once I got there. I managed it - today. (For those of you for whom it matters, I haven't bought a candy bar, donuts, or snack cakes for almost two years. When people find out that I'm a vegetarian, they ask me if I miss meat. No. But as a health conscious cyclist, I do miss candy bars, donuts, and snack cakes.)

Although not the main reason I kept myself from comfort food today, one of the reasons was the Anna Biathlon in October. This year Dale Moore and I are in the same age group WITHOUT Kevin Turner. That means it's him against me. Mano y Mano. Club President vs Club Vice President. Bragging rights. And the thought of carrying a couple of extra pounds up the hills north of Anna kept me honest.

The main reason I abstained today was concern for my health and the impact it will have on my wife's future. Did you know that consuming just 10 calories extra each day will result in a weight gain of 1 pound each year? And only one candy bar a week, say 250 calories, will result in a weight gain of 4 pounds each year. A man who is 165 pounds when he is 18 years old would be 273 pounds when he is 45 if he eats just 250 calories extra each week. Frightening, isn't it? And those extra pounds have the potential to shorten my life and prevent me from providing for my wife in our old age. Or even worse, they could cause me to be a financial burden on our family due to the added cost of treating disease. Let me quote from the John's Hopkins Guide to Health After 50:

"Approximately 280,000 adult deaths in the United States each year are related to obesity. Several serious medical conditions have been linked to obesity, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Obese men are more likely than non-obese men to die from cancer of the colon, rectum, or prostate. Obese women are more likely than non-obese women to die from cancer of the gallbladder, breast, uterus, cervix, or ovaries."

All that in exchange for some comfort food. Not much of an exchange I'd say.

Are you at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese? Check your BMI. For most of us, it's a good indicator. A BMI of 24 or lower is healthy. Mine is 24, but only 2 pounds more and I'll be 25. That's overweight. A BMI of 25-29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is obese. Do the math. Take your weight times 704 and divide the result by your height in inches squared. ( It's a number worth knowing.

The Apostle Paul once said, "you are not your own, you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body". While admittedly he was speaking of sexual mores, and while not everyone who reads this is a believer in the Bible, the idea has some merit. You are not your own. Your spouse, and children have a right to expect you to take care of yourself so that you can continue to contribute to their lives as you age, and especially so that you don't become a burden to them by developing diseases that you might have been able to avoid with better choices.

Some of you will say, "Miles, we all have to die of something!" When I come to your memorial service, I'll keep that in mind. As for me, I will try to continue taking care of my health by not exchanging it for comfort food when I'm stressed, lonely, angry or bored.

And I want to beat Dale in October.

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