Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Acquisition of Health

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard the news that former head of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs, passed away. I'm not going to turn this post into an off-topic homage to Mr. Jobs, despite the fact that I was once a Mac enthusiast and an Apple devotee and am still a dual-platform user (I use both Windows and Mac, favoring neither). There are likely thousands, possibly millions, of writers of all stripes who are doing just that, and I see no value in adding to the pile. Those who care, will say something. Those who do not, will close the browser window or tab.

What I want to talk about is Mr. Jobs's lifestyle. From all external observation and by reading what insider's said about him, he lived an exemplary lifestyle. He has been a vegetarian for nearly all of his adult life, practiced meditation, exercised regularly, and was trim and fit in appearance. Even after his liver transplant and treatment for pancreatic cancer, he walked every day and had incremental goals to improve his fitness and stamina. What is more, Mr. Jobs was someone who could afford the best medical care in the world and certainly received regular check-ups and attention for any and all health problems. Mr. Jobs did everything "right" in his life in terms of supporting good health, but he still died at the relatively young age 56.

Since fat people are constantly having their lifestyles scrutinized and they are blamed for any and all health problems they have, I think it is valuable to look at the life of someone who one might arguably be viewed as a paragon of lifestyle choices. People so often look at others and believe that, "if only" they did the right things, they would be healthy. It is absolutely true that there are lifestyle diseases which can be improved or eliminated if one makes choices which are more conducive to good health. However, we must accept that health is not something everyone can acquire with a "better" lifestyle. What is more, the degree of change necessary to improve health is not equal across individuals. One person may improve by making small changes and another may improve marginally making huge changes. Every body is different and it is only the illusion that we can control our destiny through making the "right" choices that makes people so keen to judge. If they believe Fatty McFats over there could be healthy by eating better and moving more, then they can believe that they can also acquire health by making the "right" choices.

Unfortunately, as Mr. Jobs's unfortunate and premature death illustrates, good, even stellar, lifestyle choices don't always result in the acquisition of health. We all have a different genetic make-up which influences how healthy we can be. Sometimes, it means we get cancer at a young age no matter what we do. Sometimes it means we get diabetes even if we eat well and are exercising regularly. It's important not to view sickness and disease as something people buy with their choices, and to understand that life and being healthy are a good deal more complicated than we'd like to believe.