Obesity in the Church

No, I don’t mention this in the context of male-female relations. That horse has been slaughtered over here many times.

Oh noes. This is about a larger problem.

I used to joke about how I always thought “Full Gospel” was a reference to the size of pastoral waistlines. In fact, I often wondered if Dunlop’s Disease (“stomach dun-lopped over my belt”) was a prerequisite for being a pastor.

But it’s no longer a joking matter.

Not long before I got married, JRC, one of the members in my youth group–during my tour of duty as a youth minister–died at age 34 from complications of Type II diabetes that had long been exacerbated by his chronic obesity.

Just last week, a friend of mine–CD–from a previous church life died at age 36 from congestive heart failure. No one knew he had it, until he developed pneumonia and ended up in the hospital, where the docs discovered that his heart was dangerously weak. He had no chance.

CD was a cheerful guy, albeit socially awkward because he was mentally handicapped. But CD was also quite rotund: he was a heavy eater–he was one of those guys who would raid the potlucks and go for the all-you-can-eat buffets. While obesity does not always cause CHF, I’d hazard a very educated guess that his lifestyle was a huge contributory factor.

I say none of this to pile onto CD or JRC. They were each mentally not quite all there; my gripe was the larger culture–including their own parents–who coddled them too much and enabled their lifestyles.

At the same time, their cases bring home a larger issue that–I must confess–Christians as a group need to address soberly.

No, I’m not the food police. Nor have I any desire to micromanage what you put into your mouth.

At the same time, last time I checked my bible, gluttony is a sin. And while all obesity is not the result of gluttony, a heck of a lot of it in the Church is. (If you disagree, then fine, but then it is on you to show that Christians who attend church regularly have a genetic issue that facilitates this more so than Buddhists.)

I DO put the blame squarely on the pastors in this one. It pisses me off, because their negligence is feeding a culture that is leading to higher morbidity and loss of vitality, on top of presenting a mockery of a witness for the Gospel.

My $0.02 on Rachel Frederickson, Season 15 Winner of The Biggest Loser

Of course Rachel Frederickson lost too much weight too fast. And yes, at first glance she appears anorexic. I’ve dated a gal who was anorexic. I know what anorexic looks like. Rachel looks anorexic. And if that is the case, then she has swapped one dangerous situation (catastrophic obesity) for another (anorexia).

That’s not to blame Rachel; she was in a competition that rewards pure weight loss at any cost, the only surprise is that this is the first time any contestant has done what she has done. (Or if she is not the first one, she certainly is the first to look as if she has.)

Oh no. This one is on the folks at The Biggest Loser. They have fostered a culture of “lose weight at any cost”, and this is the result. The only surprise is that Rachel is the first winner to look this drastic.

By focusing solely on weight loss, TBL promotes unhealthy practices in their “reality show” competition. Other contestants have admitted going to extreme measures to “make weight” for the weigh-ins, and it has not been uncommon for contestants, even winners, to regain every pound and then some.

But Rachel is the first winner to actually “look” unhealthy.

This should force TBL to take a long, fresh look at their format, and make some major changes. Here’s what I suggest:

(1) Fire every trainer and “expert” currently on the show. Irrespective of what good Bob, Jillian, and Dolvett have done, the time has arrived for new faces who will foster a new culture.

(2) Expand the contest to an entire year: three months at the ranch, and 9 months at home. Provide a prize for those who win at the ranch (perhaps $100,000) while allowing all contestants–including those eliminated–to be eligible to compete for the top prize at the end of the year. The contestant with the best performance off the ranch would get a prize (perhaps $100,000) and the overall winner would get ($250,000). This would create a potential for a winner to take home $450,000. Even an eliminated contestant could still win up to $350,000.

(3) Create a new standard–a Wellness Index–that is age-calibrated to score each contestant. That index should include a number of factors: lean body mass, body fat percentage, V02MAX, blood sugar, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, and performance in selected physical activities. Provide each contestant with a score at the start of the season, and–each week–score them on how much they improve their score against that benchmark.

(4) Create an additional standard that would serve as a bonus that can help in close competitions. This standard would be behavior-based and would focus on food choices at home, preparation of meals, food selection at restaurants, ability to avoid unhealthy choices, getting proper exercise. This can include additional points for completing athletic events, such as 5K races, 10Ks, all the way up to ultramarathons and triathlons, with higher scores for more difficult events. (And winning any event would carry even more points.)

This would allow for some “game playing” on the ranch while rewarding sustained performance over the course of the year.

Health Insurance Getting Dropped: a Real-Life, Small Business Example

KM–a friend of mine and Cubbie’s–is a physician in Central Kentucky.

Here is her response to my recent post:

Here is an example for you…

I am a small business owner (8 employees plus myself) who has provided group health insurance since opening my business. Six of those employees were covered by health insurance and my group plan, this past year, cost 70k yearly (it went up about 30% per year). This is a huge expense for a small business. I received a notice that our plan did not meet compliance with Obamacare’s new regulations. Therefore, I dropped our health insurance and, instead, opted to give a stipend for employee directed coverage. While the stipend will still cover their expenses, most of them are discouraged by the huge hassle. I am a bit relieved, however, to be stepping OUT of the insurance business.
As any reader can attest here: KM is being quite generous with her workers.

If You Lose Your Health Insurance

The way ObamaCare is working, it’s quite possible that a third of Americans who currently HAVE health insurance may lose it. This includes people who had employer-funded coverage who stand to get dropped, as well as those who have private plans that are no-longer in compliance and who now must sign up for one of the “better” plans.

Whatever you do, if you lose coverage, think long and hard before signing up for one of the other plans. If, after reviewing those plans, you decide that you can afford a plan that will prevent you from going broke if you have a medical disaster, then by all means do what you must do to hedge yourself against that eventuality.

But let’s say that you fall into one of the following categories:

(a) You cannot afford any of the new plans;

(b) You can afford the premium for one of the new plans, but the plan you can afford will not be sufficient to provide the financial hedging that you need if you have a medical event.

In such a case, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. In that event, the rational decision is to take the path that allows you the most control over your own money.

That means:

(1) Don’t bother purchasing insurance.

(2) Take the amount you would otherwise spend on premiums and save it. You can still put up to $2,500 into a Health Savings Account (HSA), pre-tax. If your employer has Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), you can sock pre-tax money away into those. And with some new rules coming down, you may be able to carry $500 in FSA money over to the next year. Beyond that, stick as much money as you can into an envelope.

(3) Be proactive in seeking physicians with whom you can arrange private payment in the event you will end up needing to do this. Many will work with you. Try to cover as many bases as you think you will need–a primary care doc, a dentist, a pediatrician, a general practitioner, a cardiologist, an orthopedic surgeon, a neurologist, a dermatologist–and get ahead of the curve.

While ObamaCare is a disaster, it can also be a great opportunity for Americans to seize the initiative and become a free country again. Breaking the chains of the financial-medical complex–while not the only step necessary–is an integral step toward that end.

The Real Question: Does it Even Matter?

CBS News is reporting record lows for President Obama’s approval rating as well as overwhelming lack of support for ObamaCare by the American public.

Those approval numbers are well-deserved, as ObamaCare has been a complete and utter disaster. While the failures of the website have been nothing short of catastrophic, they pale in comparison to the shock of ObamaCare, which has millions of Americans losing their jobs, getting their hours cut, losing their health insurance and being forced to purchase plans that have fewer benefits and higher costs, and run the risk of losing their physicians, who may not be “in network”.

Much has been made of states like Kentucky, which apparently had a smoother rollout for the online health exchanges. Except that most of the Kentucky enrollees are for MEDICAID. This is a budget bubble waiting to burst.

Still, in assessing these disasters, the most important question here is this: does it even matter?

Keep in mind that Obama is the President for whom Americans voted, twice.

Granted, the Republicans faced the perfect storm in 2008. Bush was largely unpopular due to the war efforts and his deficit spending. During his eight years in office, he lost both houses of Congress. While Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had initial momentum with his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), the financial collapse of 2008 all but guaranteed Obama’s victory. Especially when McCain erased any material difference he had with his opponent by supporting TARP.

But Obama had been a weak President. While he was able to get a Democrat-controlled House and Senate to pass ObamaCare, he was so abysmal that he lost control of the House in 2010 and saw his influence in the Senate greatly-impaired.

And yet, in Mitt Romney, Republicans managed to nominate a weak candidate whose own health care reform was the model for ObamaCare.

While Obama’s campaign performance was lackluster, Romney catastrophically uninspiring. Obama carried every swing state. In order to win, Romney was needing a victory in three of four–Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He lost all four.

America spoke, and they decided to keep Obama.

Republicans had two alternatives against that backdrop: (a) do nothing to stop ObamaCare and let it crash on its own weight, or (b) refuse to raise the debt ceiling and force a balanced budget. The latter would have forced spending issues to the surface, the former would have passively allowed a bad law to fail, at which point Obama would own it.

Instead, Republicans chose the worst possible route at the worst possible time: (c) try to defund ObamaCare while failing to address fundamental spending issues. This made it look like a political vendetta rather than a principled stand.

Now, ObamaCare is failing catastrophically. The house of cards that is postsecondary education is getting wobbly. Unemployment is still terrible in spite of five years of unprecedented economic and monetary stimulus. The national debt–not including unfunded liabilities–is double what it was when Bush left office.

And yet, Hillary Clinton has a better-than-average chance of winning in 2016. This is because there is no credible opposition in the GOP.

Yes, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) looks promising, as does Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). But they have no future in a party that is run by an establishment that is closer to Rockefeller than to the Tea Party. That is the other 9,000-pound elephant in the room besides Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ).

End-result: until the money runs out and the defecation truly slams into the circulation, don’t expect the situation to materially improve anytime soon.

Obama is Unhinged

Either President Obama has absolutely no clue how the real world works–and this is possible, as he went from academia to community organizer to politician–or he is trying deliberately to destroy the American health care system.

Fact is, businesses have spent the last three years preparing for the implementation of ObamaCare. That was passed by both houses of Congress, signed into law by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court.

As a result, businesses have made capital planning decisions around their expected costs due to this law. They have laid off workers. They have cut workers from full-time to part-time. They have dropped coverage for certain workers because the coverage did not satisfy the requirements of ObamaCare. That dropped coverage was part of a business decision that was part of a capital plan that was negotiated with investors.

In addition, insurance companies have already made capital decisions regarding the plans that were dropped, and the addition of new, “compliant” plans. Because each state has its own rules for capital requirements, insurance companies must go to great lengths to ensure that they have the necessary reserves to cover the plans that they provide. They dropped the old plans–and added the new plans–with particular capital structures in mind.

As the old plans were dropped–and new plans added–companies made key changes in business rules, some of which are very complex. Those business rules were carried over into their respective IT systems. Developers for those systems have modified their code, made database changes, and have gone through several layers of testing to make sure the new rules are working.

Therefore, to pass a law–or, setting aside the legalities here, issue an executive order–allowing people to keep their old policies, with less than two months remaining in the year and with businesses having already made decisions with respect to capital and operations, does nothing to materially improve the situation, and in fact will only make things worse.

Fact is, even if we repealed ObamaCare today–permanently, effective immediately–a mother lode of damage has already been done. It will take years to recover from this disaster.

I am not defending the Republicans on this, however, as the Establishment has utterly failed to make a coherent case for free markets, and in fact is arguably in bed with the Democrats in their desire for fascism.

The Biggest Loser is a Real Letdown

So far, season 13 of The Biggest Loser is well short of the hype of its mantra: “No Excuses”.

At this point, nearly every one of the contestants–except, save, a couple of the older fogeys–is but a scheming game-player who won’t act like a grownup.

The “red” team has been a colossal disappointment, as none of the folks have the balls to confront the catty, scheming antics of Conda. She’s been at her games ever since the start of the season–even once showing flagrant disrespect to Dolvett–and yet no one has stood up to her decisively and told her to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

In this past episode, the “aqua” team–Adrien and Daphne–earned their spots back on the ranch, as they were able to lose sufficient weight at home. Adrien was put on the “red” team whereas Daphne was put on the “black” team. They were given immunity for their week back–provided that they did not gain any weight–although their weight losses would count for their respective teams.

Conda and Kim were disdainful of Adrien and Daphne from the get-go. In their initial meeting, Adrien–when asked–said that, at home, he and Daphne trained for 14 hours per day, as he lost 34 pounds and she 26 pounds in their month at home.

Immediately, that set off BS indicators, as well it should have. (Aspiring Navy SEALS in BUD/S might train that long, but they are in tip-top shape going into the training. Adrien was clearly exaggerating.)

At the same time, the team response was totally inappropriate. Conda and Kim went off about the perceived arrogance that the claim showed; at the same time, they should have been helpful and said, “That much work doesn’t jibe with the weight you lost. That’s indicative of a problem with food discipline, and that will be an issue here. You’re going to need to work on that or you won’t be able to lose your weight.”

Daphne did not help her cause, as she was often skipping the “homework”.

To his credit, Adrien was an otherwise hard worker. He was able to keep up with the rest of the team, and seemed to be putting in his due efforts. Unfortunately, the lack of food discipline killed him: he only lost 2 pounds, and that did not help the rest of the team.

While the team was understandably disappointed in Adrien’s performance, they overlooked a larger issue”: Conda had also lost only 2 pounds. This is worse, because Conda has been there longer, and was expected to have the discipline instilled from 5 weeks on the ranch. Instead, Mark, Kim, and Conda tore into Adrien, even as the rest of them voted Nancy off.

What’s bothersome is that, while Adrien was a little “loud”, there was no effort to reach out to him. Instead, the rest of the team effectively said, “Screw you…we don’t want you here.” And yet, not one of that team had the balls to stand up and tell Conda to STHU and knock it off with the corrosive BS.

The “black” team isn’t much better. While they have a few hard workers, they also have a lot of petty game-players as well. Some of that is due to immaturity; some of that is due to lack of testicular fortitude.

A group of wussy Southern Baptist preachers would have more balls than this group has.

This brings me to the two people who need to be called out: Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince, two trainers who are otherwise very solid. That they have not addressed this with the trainees is quite the oversight on their part. If they don’t confront this soon, this season will be a disaster, and they will have only themselves to blame.