“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” -John Maynard Keynes.
Well John, I accept the new facts and I explode into action. That’s what I do. And here’s a little story to go with it. It starts at first with a cruise controlled 120 mph smooth rider Dr Heart Attack on his way to sin city for a cheeseburger. An abrupt wheel’s lock following to terrified screams in the radio to “abort mission, I repeat, abort mission”. The fastest turn around in history, or at least since Anitschkow’s hypothesis that linked cholesterol with cardiovascular disease. Then a modest 20 mega newton acceleration back to the safety of the shire. And the arrival home of Mr Healthy, just in time for tea, and a categorical refusal to loot the cheese cupboard for the first time in forever.
It took exactly one phone call from my local GP practice and a request to visit the doctor’s office to change my hobbit like pie and ale eating habits. I guess there are rare occasions where it pays off to be a hypochondriac – paranoid – neurotic – grass puffing hobbit after all. The findings that I was asked to review was not leaving much room for guessing. My cholesterol levels were worryingly high. The glass ceiling of pie and ale was in tatters. And this Icarus, like the squirrel from Ice Age refusing to let go, only far heavier, was on his way to a one last pie in the sky.
I was overweight too, by about 10kg. My BMI was slowly sliding from mid-range overweight levels towards this one scary word at the other end of the scale: obese. How the hell did that ever happen. I was certain, and I mean 150% cardiovascular arrest dead sure, I was the picture of health. Working out several times a week. Lifting weights. Eating my 5 a day. Practicing yoga. I was playing the enlightened health guru no less!
But I was in denial. Not much more in cognitive dissonance than my average fellow countrymen and woman who Uber Eat their LDL. Deliveroo their addictive Triglycerides on a regular school night. Shoving them all straight into their arteries, as we do, and with a big smile while at it. Clog them up the crowds keep yelling extatically! Clog them up!
And indeed the UK is amongst the most clogged up nations in the world. With 25% of the population in the marshmello ranges of the BMI scale, shooting past Germany like a missile, overtaking Finland and Canada, foot on the throttle eyes on Australia, competing hard and aggressively for who gets first stroke, dreaming of beating Mexico and the US to the grand finale.
And it might just explain why the UK got hit especially hard by Covid-19. And that’s not just me playing the latest hit game ‘who want’s to be a shite epidemiologist’. Obesity, as scientists recently proved, puts individuals at significantly higher risk of mortality than the rest of the population, not only from lifestyle disease such as diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease, but also from our lovely Adam’s Family member little Covid-19. We really are our own worst enemies. Maybe the government would do better at flattening the curve when the second wave arrives if it requested us all to social distance ourselves from our fridges instead of from poor little lonely Covid looking for friends. The hated germ got nothing on us. We easily screw it all up perfectly ourselves.
But anyhow. I guess I was myself sleep walking down Statistics Avenue. I only came back a year earlier from a 12 months backpacking and trekking expedition in the Andes screamed the voice in my head. Over there I was ultra-fit! Well, in comparison to the desk leaning office-rat me that is. I was carrying 15kgs on my back instead of that usual Starbucks mug in my hand. Climbing the steep mountains and glaciers of Peru and Bolivia for months on end instead of wandering the grey maze of office corridors towards the vending machine. I was rafting the rivers of the Amazon basin in search for Eldorado instead of that sugar fix to awaken me from the usual Powerpoint and Excel induced coma.
How can such change happen in a space of one year? I’m not sure of the exact answer. But I do remember the exact moment when I hit the breaks and took a U-turn. And exactly one month later, my cholesterol was down to normal again. The ‘OMG the plane is about to crash into the mountain’ moment was momentarily over.
I’ve since also dropped the 10 kgs and moved well into healthy weight BMI ranges. That took me 6 months to accomplish. And if you wondered how? Just by simply switching from the carnivorous ass master that I guess I was, to a plant based whole foods kinda real man’s diet. Ditching most simple carbs on the way, processed foods, trans fats and the rest of it junk. I also reduced my alcohol intake to special occasions only. Counting every calorie religiously I now make fuelling my body more onto an exact botanical science, feeding it with what it needs to perform, instead of the toxic meat processing pet cemetery for parts of cow’s backsides that I made of it previously. Upgrading my exercise regime did its part too on my backside. But mostly it was about acknowledging the facts and accepting the mission: As always, should you or any of your IM Force be killed by stroke or covid-19, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This disc will self-destruct in 10 seconds. 10, 9 ,8, 7….
And it worked. And not only that, but it totally made me happier and far more aware. It even killed my food and drinks bill which is making me richer by the day.
Oh, and if to believe the scientists, which I very much do, mother nature seems to love me forever more for it. And according to some economists so does the economy. Hell, this here might even be the cure to world hunger. Funny thing that. I mean seriously, it doesn’t stop surprising me this new fact I’m facing. I mean who would’ve thought taking good care of my health and just being more kind, methodical and thoughtful towards myself, would so easily also equal reducing my personal carbon footprint by ca 80% (this according to a comprehensive test I run during a visit to the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio De Janeiro), save me a load of cash every month, which I now invest in a greener economy, and which in turn contributes to lifting the country out of recession.
Behold, I present to you the facts! Do you accept the mission??
You know, I must admit it does make me somewhat more optimistic knowing that if even a BBQ mad red meat destroying knuckle head like myself can turn a corner, maybe the rest of us can. Vegan messianism? Jewish vegetarianism?? Maybe. Or maybe the market failure which will blow up the economy and the mass extinction that follows due to climate change isn’t written in the stars after all. What sort of torch in the backside of mankind would be needed for us to re-set I do not dare guess. But I refuse to believe we are hardwired to destroy ourselves. And I’m pretty certain we will all start being incredibly healthier, happier, richer, greener, the very second we internalise the new facts, however scary and impossible they may seem at first.
And once we do, it really is just about hitting the railroad switch, and we’re back on the right tracks. The usual mass psychosis roller coaster calms down a bit… And we’re all back to that gentle and calm train ride again… For a little while at least… All the way back to the shire. And just in time for tea.