Before I changed how I ate and started exercising I drank, ate fried food, meat, cheese, eggs, dairy and spend more time on my sofa than moving in any meaningful way. I was 55 pounds heavier, had high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia and a stomach ulcer. I was the typical example of a middle aged man heading straight for his first heart attack. It's possible all these changes I've made have only delayed the inevitable and that next week I'll still have a jammer while out on a run. If that happens people will say "see, lifestyle change doesn't matter." Buy maybe what they'd miss is that I delayed that event by 5 years. Maybe it will have allowed me to see my daughter grow 5 years older. Or possibly survive that heart attack with a heart that's stronger than the one I had 5 years ago.
Health is a game of odds. You often see statistics like vegetarians live 9 years longer than omnivores, people that exercise regularly have a 30% lower chance of developing diabetes or whatever. These statistics lay out your odds like you were in Vegas. If I could tell you that standing at the roulette table I could increase your chance of winning by 30% you'd jump at the opportunity. There are always going to be outliers in any statistical model, those that abuse their body and live to a ripe old age, and those that do everything right and die young. Ignoring the general odds is a fools game when you base your logic on the outliers. I'm placing my bet on the people that exercise, manage their stress and eat properly
Furthermore, when we criticize the basketball player that had a sudden massive heart attack, the runner that gets diabetes and the healthy eater when they get cancer we are ignoring the quality they've brought to their life. People do live longer nowadays, but they also live sicker. I'd wager that the fit, active and health conscious person is living life fuller, experiencing it deeply and enjoying the body they've been given. By choosing a healthy path you are respecting the body you've been given and like a cloth filled with water you are ringing out all you can from it by twisting it fully. It might seem that the path of least resistance is desirable. The path of Netflix binges, and potato chips. Certainly they occasionally hold appeal for me. But by getting out of bed and running, hopping on my bike, pushing myself to swim, go to yoga and the gym I'd argue I'm really using the tool (my body) that I've been given. I'm experiencing it fully. By eating properly and practicing a thoughtful life I'm respecting the gift of life I've been given.
Bob Harper seems to be getting a lot of support and encouragement. And yes he's being roundly judged as well. There was a genetic component to his heart attack (I believe his mother died of one) but I don't believe genetics are a death sentence, we can influence our genetics (I'll leave epigenetics for another post). Could he have improved something in his life? Perhaps. I've seen plenty of my plant eating brethren posting about how he should have never left the lifestyle (apparently he toyed with veganism in his past) but lets give him credit for living life fully and taking steps toward his health in a way very few do. I've long cringed at the dietary advice given on the Biggest Loser show. I'm also not a fan of the extreme quick weight loss method. In fact most contestants don't maintain their weight loss mostly I think because they crash diet and don't adopt a healthy lifestyle. Bob however did. He's a beacon of health, lets give him credit for that. He rolled the dice and came up unlucky. I'm sure he's grateful he survived and I'll be curious what changes he makes.
In the meantime should you ever hear of a fit, healthy vibrant person having a health scare resist the urge to point fingers and suggest their efforts were worthless. I know for me, if I ever do succumb to a heart attack while out running, I'll have died happy having lived life rather than observed it.