Musings from My Hospital Bed – Awakening from Anesthesia
I had spinal surgery in February (2015) and all went well, thanks to a brilliant surgeon, superb nursing care, and loving support from family and friends.
In my five day stay in the hospital following the operation, I had time to flick through many TV channels and observed people in the hospital as I walked up and down the halls with my physiotherapist.
I was struck by how grossly overweight we have become in our nation – and how accepted this is now. People who are clinically obese are everywhere in our daily lives – in stores, on the street, in airports, and certainly among hospital patients, visitors, and most distressingly, hospital staff. So many of the nurses, X-ray techs, and even the doctors in the hospital were grossly overweight.
On television, I saw severely overweight people in sitcoms, the news, and action films – some even expressing an attitude of, “Yeah, I got a big belly. That’s the way I am. Get over it…”
Most distressing were TV commercials featuring rotund people made to laugh and congratulate themselves in ubiquitous ads for statins and medicine for diabetes to bludgeon down blood sugars and cholesterol levels “to get those numbers you’re looking for!”
As a physician, I wonder, “What are these people laughing about?”
Obesity is no laughing matter; it is a state of chronic inflammation and disease. Abdominal fat generates inflammatory cytokines that interfere with insulin receptors and fan inflammatory reactions throughout the body. Those in a state of obesity wear out their hip joints faster, clog their arteries, often develop diabetes, have difficulty breathing, and if, heaven forbid, they wind up on an operating table, their surgery and post-op recovery is fraught with dangers from blood clots to pneumonia to fearsome wound infections.
“Each person who realizes the truth of what food has become in our society and who awakens themselves from the fast-food anesthetic by making the transition to a truly health-promoting, plant-based diet gives an invaluable gift to themselves and to everyone around them.” – Michael Klaper, M.D.
This grieves my heart deeply because “they” are US! They are not bad people nor wrong for having this disorder. Instead, they are trapped by their acquired taste, lifestyle habits, and chemical dependencies (yes, many processed foods are chemically addictive) – and are being led down a path of disease and disability.
Now, I realize that some people who are obese have become so in response to emotional, physical, or sexual trauma in their past. I feel great empathy for such people and believe they are especially deserving of understanding and counseling to help them heal these deep psychological wounds.
However, the majority of Americans who can no longer see their toes when they look down got themselves into this state, not from emotional distress, but through mindlessly swallowing a river of fatty, fleshy, fast food as recreation, habit, or to supply some cheap, available pleasure in lives that are often bleak or lacking in meaning – for which, by the way, they may not be to blame, but most certainly, bear the responsibility for improving.
Why do we do this? Why have we allowed this to happen?
We have allowed ourselves to be seduced and sung to sleep by powerful interests in the corporate and governmental world who learned long ago the power of the ancient Roman strategy to control its citizens: bread and circuses. “Just keep the population fed, entertained and distracted and you can do anything you want – pass laws that favor the few, rig the tax codes, repeal environmental protections – even start a war or two. Just keep ‘em fat and happy and they’ll let you do whatever you want.”
The circuses are dazzling – Hollywood movies and gossip, reality TV shows, professional sports, computer games, “news” programs, malls & shopping extravaganzas, and good, ol’ mindless sex, drugs and rock & roll – fun for a few moments, but ultimately meaningless energy drains. An especially effective and pernicious strategy to keep the tax-paying populace docile, is to foment right-left political unrest to divide the people into “us versus them” and set them seething and churning against fellow citizens with whom they actually have so much in common.
The “bread” is cheap (thanks to massive agricultural subsidies) and filled with addicting additives. Gorging on devitalized, salty, sugary, flesh-based, fast food plays a key roll in distracting and sedating us. Ultimately, of course, they kill us – but not before creating society-rotting epidemics of diet and obesity-related illnesses. These self-induced plagues of degenerative diseases fuel a massive disease-care system that patches people up so they can continue gobbling down the foods and experiences that are making them so obese, limited, and ill.
The current Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is the witch’s spell of the poppies in the “Wizard of Oz,” and the eating the bliss-synthesizing Soma from Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” made real.
The underlying (pun intended) message delivered in the statin commercial is, “take these pills to inhibit the vital cholesterol metabolism in your liver and your muscles and you can keep right on eating your cheeseburgers, pizzas and ice cream because that is your birthright as an American.” (Readers in other countries, who consume a S.A.D.-like diet, can simply insert your national namesake at the end of that sentence.)
The commercial’s voiceover drones the inevitable, medically jaw-dropping litany of side-effects, essentially saying, “Don’t be surprised if your muscles get sore, your liver becomes inflamed, and your brain doesn’t work, as well – and that you might die – but, hey, you’ll get those numbers you’re looking for.”
As if “the numbers” will save them. However, the numbers won’t save them! Unless they change their diet to a truly health-promoting one, their arteries will continue to fester and clog and diabetes will still ravage their nerves and kidneys, despite lower “numbers.” A tsunami of heart attacks, strokes, blindness, and amputations awaits these happy, hypnotized pill-takers riding the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) train.
Ubiquitous bulging waistlines attest to the effectiveness of the bread and circuses strategy. However, it is time to wake up and free ourselves from this cheeseburger-induced, Buffalo-winged, sausage pizza-fueled stupor! It is killing us as individuals, bankrupting our society, and destroying this planet – and our children’s future.
We can awaken from this nutritional nightmare, create a new future for ourselves as individuals and as a society, and watch the obesity epidemic melt away with one powerful decision by each of us. With the simple expedient of changing our food choices to whole plant foods, gloriously prepared and seasoned to any international cuisine – Italian, Chinese, Thai, even American comfort foods – we can eat all we want and still create a lean, healthy body with clean arteries, normal blood pressure and largely free of degenerative diseases.
In my medical practice, I routinely see breathtaking transformations of formerly obese bodies by those adopting a health-promoting eating style. These now exuberant folks shed 50, 75, 100 pounds or more, totally re-casting and reclaiming their self image, their role in life and their enjoyment in living – all while exploring, and deeply enjoying, a new world of tastes and textures.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Example is not the best way to teach. Example is the only way to teach!”
Each person who realizes the truth of what food has become in our society and who awakens themselves from the fast-food anesthetic by making the transition to a truly health-promoting, plant-based diet gives an invaluable gift to themselves and to everyone around them.
Each person I see suffering with obesity reinforces my desire to share information to help my brothers and sisters to awaken from anesthesia. Let your compassion, your actions, and your example help those around you to awaken, as well.
To your good health and happiness,
Dr. Michael Klaper