Tag Archives: stewardship

We’re Number One! And Gaining

Belly FatWhich is the fattest of the fifty, the most obese of these United States? The winner–they certainly didn’t do any losing, did they?–is (drum roll)…

Mississippi, which weighed in at 35.2% of its citizens obese. (Pun intended.)

My own home state of Missouri came in tenth at 30.9%. The other 8 in between these two were (in order) West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, and Iowa, all of them with roughly one-third of their inhabitants tipping the BMI trigger for obesity.

We’ve already mentioned that BMI is a notoriously imprecise tool for measuring appropriate individual body weight, but as a tool in the aggregate, it’s much more acceptable. Why? While we might find individuals who are so muscular that their BMI records them as obese when they are actually in great shape–LeBron James being a poster child for this category–those people tend to be the exceptions. Show me a hundred people in the obese range of BMI and you’ll probably find that the vast majority of them have earned that label.

On the other end of the scale–another intentional pun–we find that Hawaii (19%) is the least obese state. What I find troubling is that some of the states with the highest concentration of evangelical Christians are also the most obese, while several states that are notoriously lacking in evangelicals (New York, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts) are all in the least-obese ten. Why is that?

Certainly we cannot blame this steady loosening of the belt throughout the Bible Belt on pot luck dinners. So what is the reason? Are Christians simply so focused on other-worldly things that they can’t push back from the table? Are we totally failing on that whole “prayer and fasting” thing?

All kidding aside, if there is an actual connection between obesity and evangelicalism (and it’s not just a coincidence of geography), then Christians should really be taking a hard look at themselves–especially the middle of themselves–in the mirror. We don’t need to look like fitness models, but we can’t do our best work for the Lord carrying around all that extra tonnage.

Biking It

A couple of days ago, I rode my bike to the grocery store. The trip wound up logging 4 miles due to the fact that I got to the bottom of our street and realized I had left my helmet sitting in the garage. In reality, the store in question is 1.8 miles away.

Besides the stupid inefficiency of getting down the hill before missing my helmet, I wasted a good bit of time on this jaunt trying to keep the new bag that Penny bought me from jamming up in the spokes. I also managed to get stopped by a train. On a good day, when my gear is properly on my head and attached to the bike, I should be able to make the round trip in about 18 minutes. That’s moving at a fairly modest 12 miles an hour. If I were particularly earnest about things, I could probably manage an average of 15, but let’s be conservative.

Driving the same route, I can go as fast as 35 for the bulk of the way. That’s nearly three times as fast. On the other hand, stoplights take the same length of time for bikes and cars. Plus, I can’t drive 35 on my street without incurring the wrath of my neighbors, and there’s all that time you spend walking from your car into the store. (Yeah, I really said that.)

Is there a point to all of this? Yes, there is. When I bike at 12-14 mph, I burn something like 57 calories per mile or 205 calories for the round trip. What do I lose by riding to the store? I lose perhaps 15 minutes of my time, maybe 20. What do I gain? For starters, I gain the $2.07 that the IRS would allow me to deduct for mileage. I know that I won’t actually see that $2.07 in my wallet, but the expenses add up. I also gain a decent little workout, the equivalent of running about a mile or a bit more. Is that a fair trade-off?

Granted, I’m not going to be doing my major shopping trip on my bike, but much more often I head to the store to pick up a few apples, a bottle of BBQ sauce, or some other smallish item. But if I were to make this run one time a week for a year, I’d save some $100 and add 50 miles worth of workouts to my year. That 10,000 calories amounts to about 3 pounds lost for the year.

I like that trade-off. It seems like good stewardship all around.

The Trifecta of Food Stewardship

Cooking at HomeIf you haven’t already figured it out from my posts, I am enthusiastic about wise eating, that is eating that is

  1. Healthy
  2. Economical
  3. Simple

Of course, food ought to taste good too, but I feel as if that goes without saying. The problem with a lot of modern eating is that it misses out on at least two of the three factors by being done via restaurants.

An article by Taylor Lee over at Pennyhoarder goes right up my way of thinking but adds some practical suggestions for how to make cooking at home not only cheaper and healthier than restaurant fare but also at least as convenient as getting in the car and heading to Applebee’s.

Every meal I plan has to fit three requirements:

  1. It has to be a recipe I enjoy eating.
  2. It has to be easy to make, with no more than 30 minutes of prep time.
  3. I should already have all the tools I need to prepare the dish on hand.

She has plenty more good stuff to share as well. Check it out.

The Five Factors of Fabulous Food

imageIt occurs to me, as I consider the possible topics for a Food Friday entry, that I should spend a few moments considering the criteria for inclusion. After considerable thought–perhaps 20 to 30 seconds at least–I’ve arrived at five factors that allow food to make the cut here.

Cost

Unless you are a trust-fund baby, you probably think sometimes about your grocery budget. That’s why I have been known to buy those $1 Michaelina frozen meals ($.80 with a coupon) that have virtually no redeeming value other than an entire chemistry set of preservatives.

Truly good food–that is, food that will do what you want it to do in your body–is going to cost something. It won’t be the cheapest way you can eat. It’s like when you buy the “cheapest” dog food that your store offers. It might fill up the dog’s bowl, but most of that food winds up lying in piles around your yard rather than nourishing Bowser.

We cannot be afraid to spend good money for good food, but we do, as stewards, need to seek out the most economical ways to eat well. Every Food Friday nominee should be reasonably priced–that is, you should get a lot of bang for your buck. That bang will be found in the other factors.

Upside

Good food isn’t just cheap food. Even though I keep track of my calories to avoid gaining weight, I recognize that calories alone are not the whole story. Food is not a single-dimensional thing. We don’t simply eat calories. We eat fats, carbs, and proteins that all carry calories.

Food worthy of my attention here will be food that has a lot of those positive nutritional elements for a reasonable price. I could eat 500 calories of greasy potato chips or a 500-calorie grilled chicken salad. Obviously the latter has a lot more to recommend it, a lot more upside.

Downside

At the same time that food has a reasonable price and some positive nutritional upside, it can be fouled up by the downside, the negative nutritional factors. Take an example. Today, I ate a footlong Subway Black Forest Ham sub. With banana peppers, onions, spinach, and pickles on it, I felt pretty righteous in my food selection. That sub, even with cheese, comes in at about 620 calories.

Had that sub been what I’d have really preferred, a Spicy Italian, the calorie count would have exceeded 1,000. I would have bumped the protein up from 36g to 40g but at the cost of going from 1600 to 3000mg of sodium and 9 to 48g of fat. Even though that Spicy Italian has a lot of the same upside, it comes at too high a downside for my preference.

Practicality

Maybe you are a devoted foodie, the sort of person who will keep thirteen different types of vinegar in the cabinet to make all the exotic recipes that appear in Food and Wine. That’s all fine, but my assumption is that if food is too difficult, too complicated, or too time intensive, I’m probably not going to make it.

A food could be the most economical, nutritionally ideal, and delicious fare possible. If I don’t ever get it on my plate, then it will do me no benefit at all.

Food Friday items need to be reasonably simple to prepare with ingredients that are easily located and stored. The skills and tools involved in the preparation need to be within the reach of anybody with a kitchen.

If you want to prepare fabulous, exotic recipes, I respect that, and there are plenty of cooking sites online to provide you with ways to use cassava flour and halloumi cheese. Sorry, but this isn’t one of those.

Taste

I’ve scoured the New Testament, and never did I find Jesus saying, “Blessed are those who eat bland and tasteless food.” God gave us taste buds for a reason.

The foods that Penny and I present here in Friday Food entries might not be your cup of tea (or plate of porridge), but they will definitely be something that we enjoy eating.

Food should taste good. If it doesn’t, then we’re writing ourselves off as something less than fully human.

Standing on the Promise

How's that standing desk thing working out for you?
How’s that standing desk thing working out for you?

Recently, I shared my simple process for building a standing desk at work. As a college professor, I can arrange my office in pretty much any way I want, but I do believe that similar approaches could work for many people either at home or at work.

So how did the use of the standing desk work out for me. My typical work day involves about 90 minutes at the top of the day, two hours in class, and then several hours of office work after class. Over the first several days with the computer in its new location, I assumed that I would do all my computer work standing and then sit for anything else: reading, hand writing, lunch, and so forth. I even went to a garage sale and bought a bar stool so that I could sit at the computer when I needed to.

What I discovered was that I almost never sat down either at the desk or on the bar stool. I would sit to read for long periods, but mostly I do that at home. I sit when a student comes in for more than a brief question, but otherwise, I’m on my feet. I even eat standing up, as if it were Passover ever day.

What does this mean? According to a calculator at JustStand.org, by standing rather than sitting, we burn .23 extra calories per pound of body weight per hour of standing. With me weighing about 190 pounds, I’m burning  an extra 44 calories per hour. If I average five hours a day standing at my desk, that’s 220 bonus calories burned, the equivalent of running about a mile and a half.

And I’m getting paid for it.

Why is this worthy of my comment or your attention since we’re supposedly talking about the Christian body? Jesus isn’t interested in you getting to eat another Snickers bar, after all.

My time, just like yours, is finite. If I can make use of my time to accomplish two things without having one of them suffer, then that’s fantastic stewardship. We’re not talking about texting and driving. Standing while doing computer work makes good sense. It uses the time and body that God gave me in a sensible manner. And if I can get that extra Snickers bar, so much the better.