Last week I wrote about gravity, the wonderful, amazing, invisible force that keeps us attached to the earth.

It is also that unkind, apparently uncaring power used to measure our weight. Step on a scale and the number you see is the downward force of your body.

You can increase that downward force by bending down as if you are preparing to jump.

Of course you can dramatically decrease the downward force if you do jump. Which is what I do when the number scares me badly.

When we’re born, we are weighed. That weight, along with our length — later known as height — are two statistical measurements we keep track of for the rest of our lives.

There are reasons for measuring the height and weight of infants, and they mostly have to do with health.

The words we need to hear often come from those we wouldn't expect to say them. In this case, this was inscribed in a wall of a bathroom stall.

Both height and weight are fairly good indicators of how we are doing as we age through the single digits and into our early double digit years. Grow too fast or too slow, gain too much or too little weight, and you will notice concerned faces watching you.

Somewhere in the teenage years, if not sooner, the measuring gets handed off from the parents to the children. Part of our own journey into monitoring our height and weight is comparing ourselves with our friends.

Who is tallest? Who is growing up fastest? Children can be merciless when it comes to comparisons, demeaning anyone who is not “normal.” That happens with height, and it certainly happens with weight.

And so it begins. A measurement once used to ensure our physical health gets used to tear down our mental health.

Growing

Somewhere along the line we stop growing vertically. Growing in weight doesn’t happen that way, though. We can keep right on gaining in that category. Most of us do.

Our height gets arrested by our skeletal system. The long bones stop getting longer because the growth plates on the ends “close” in our mid-to-late teen years.

There are no growth plates to close in our tummies, though, or anywhere in our flesh. Height gain stops, but weight gain seems to be almost unlimited.

Many things contribute to weight gain, which is generally thought to be much easier and much more pleasant than weight loss.

There are two issues with our food intake in America. The first is that our intake exceeds our need, though rarely our want.

Second, much of the food we eat in the U.S. is highly processed and contains all kinds of stuff we don’t need that isn’t good for us.

So if you and I stop (or slow down) eating processed foods, we will very likely lose weight, and both the weight loss and fewer chemicals will be good for us. In other words, we will lose weight for good — in both senses of the phrase.

If we continue to eat fewer processed foods, we will likely continue to lose weight and grow healthier.

How Not To Die

That phrase is actually the title of a book by Michael Greger, M.D. My wife and I found it several years ago when she was thinking a lot about health. That got her (and subsequently me) started on a food path to good.

Dr. Greger tells that he was a young boy when his grandmother was sent home from the hospital to die. There was nothing more they could do for her and her serious heart problems.

Soon after getting home, Mrs. Greger saw a segment on 60 Minutes about Nathan Pritikin. Somehow Mrs. Greger got into — and traveled across the country for — Pritikin’s new program in California. It was live-in, and everyone was put on a plant based diet then started on low-grade exercises.

As Dr. Greger says, “They wheeled my grandmother in, and she walked out.”

She was 65 when she was sent home to die after multiple open-heart surgeries, severe angina, and unable to walk without pain in her chest and legs. After changing her diet and adding walking, she lived to be 96.

That convinced young Michael to go into medicine, and he has been helping people not die ever since.

He founded NutritionFacts.org, and later compiled much of that information into How Not To Die. He names 15 diseases that can be treated — if not eliminated — with a plant based, whole foods diet.

An American problem

America is more overweight than any other developed country. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article reporting that people have traveled in Europe, eaten more than normal, and lost weight!

The difference, most people speculate, is that the food we consume in America is much more processed. The chemicals are killing us, and for those who stay alive, the health care costs related to obesity are skyrocketing in the U.S.

When it comes to food, the answer is simple: Eat all you want as long as your diet consists primarily of plant based, whole foods.

Beyond the physical

Weight isn’t just physical, as you know. For millenia weight has been used to describe anything that is a burden. The weight of the world, for instance.

That ancient book the Bible, in a modern translation, has this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

The previous chapter lists dozens of people, many by name, who lived a life of faith. They are now depicted as witnesses in a stand, watching us live our lives (depicted as a race).

Naturally we don’t need extra weight holding us back, whether that is sin (pride, for instance) or being unforgiving.

Just like physical weight, we need to lose that kind of weight for good.

Last word: weight loss of any sort is much harder (almost impossible) when you try to do it alone. So grab a friend, encourage each other, and get healthier together.

What a great way to do good!

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