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We all know the basic rules for healthy living: don’t smoke, lose weight, eat right and exercise. We hear them over and over again — most likely at every visit to the doctor. And we don’t even have to wait to enter the exam room before the preaching starts. Even in the waiting room, posters and signs depicting runners in motion, food pyramids and talking vegetables trumpet the Four Commandments of good health to those who glance up from reading stale magazines while waiting for their name to be called.
They are only a few simple rules, yet surprisingly few of us follow them according to a recently published study conducted by Michigan researchers. The study looked at the lifestyle choices of more than 153,000 adults from all 50 states and here’s what they found: about 24 percent of Americans smoke, 60 percent are overweight, 77 percent don’t get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and 78 percent don’t exercise for at least 30 minutes five times a week. In all, the researchers found only a minuscule three percent of Americans fulfill all four criteria for healthy living.
Obviously, these standards are out of step with the reality of modern American society, yet no one argues that they should be lowered because they may make some feel uncomfortable or inadequate if they are unable to fulfill them. We don’t claim that the medical establishment has invented them to keep us dependent on them for guidance. Instead, we make our New Year’s resolutions, buy our nicotine patches, chomp celery during our lunch hours and promise ourselves that next time we really will take the stairs instead of the elevator. Why? Because we understand that the standards have been created for our own good. Even if we can’t fulfill all of them all of the time we know that, ultimately, they exist to help preserve our life.
Oddly, some take a very different approach towards the teachings of the Church which also exist to preserve our life — both improving our life here on earth and our eternal life.
Many argue that the Church should “adjust” her positions on birth control, homosexual unions, euthanasia and even abortion because they do not conform to the lifestyle choices made by numerous American Catholics. That makes no more sense than demanding that the USDA recommend a diet of mainly fat and sugars because that is what many people eat.
The Church proclaims the teachings handed down by Christ not to shame or condemn but so that we may “have life and have it in abundance.” And that’s worth more than anything the posters in doctors’ offices across the country can give.
It is interesting how many are willing to take the hard path and the narrow road that promises to lead to cardiovascular health but not the one that promises to lead to eternal life.