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A Debt Ceiling Parable

By Dr. Brandon Green

A 40 year-old obese woman, one Mrs. Bachman, walked into her doctor’s office for an appointment and said to her physician, “Doctor, I’m here to see you about losing weight.  I’ve been thinking about all your warnings over the years, how my diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol are wrecking my body and I think now my weight is what has been hurting my back and knees. I know I need to make a change.”

The physician, pleased but in some disbelief that her cajoling had finally paid off, said to the patient, “Wow, Mrs. Bachman, I’m glad to hear that. So you’re ready to talk about diet and exercise?” 

“Exercise?!” cried Mrs. Bachman, “who said anything about exercise? I want you to help me figure out how to just cut the wasteful calories from my diet, and focus on small, limited meals that provide for only my basic functioning! What we have here is a food problem, not an activity problem. Plus my free time is already too limited, and I can’t have any more demands on it, particularly for things that I just don’t enjoy, like jogging or sit-ups.”

“Sorry, you did say you wanted to lose weight, right? Or do you mean that you simply do not want to gain anymore?”   

“Well, of course I want to lose weight, AND get back to my twenty-year old body! You know, back before all the insulin and pills!”   

“Well unfortunately it’s not that easy,” replied the doctor patiently. “Your weight problem is about more than just what kind of food you spend your money on…at this point, your metabolism is so deranged that you’re going to have to invest a lot of your time in work-outs so that your body is able to use the healthy food you do eat efficiently again.  Dieting alone won’t really make a dent in your weight problem, I’m afraid…though I won’t discourage you from trying some different diet regimes while you work your way into a full exercise program.  Try to start with just a walk around the block every day and increase the distance a little each week, and here’s some lists to take home of healthy drink alternatives to soda, good sources of fiber for your cholesterol, and…”

“That’s nonsense and half measures, doctor!” cut in Mrs. Bachmann, “I tell you I can achieve my weight loss goals with cuts to my eating alone! Why, I’ll only have one meal per week, less if necessary…I’ll keep my refrigerator virtually empty, and with the time I save in not cooking or going to the grocery store I’ll have even more time to do things I do enjoy, like smoking…or sun tanning!”

Mrs. Bachman was getting hysterical, while her doctor weighed which part of this ill-conceived plan to tackle first.  “I’m sorry; I just don’t think you understand.  No part of what you’re proposing will really help you to lose weight like you imagine, you’re just setting yourself up for different kinds of health problems, and at the end of the day you’ll still be unhappy with how you look and feel…please listen to reason, Mrs. Bachman, you need to do at least a little exercise. And if you want to look like you did in your twenties, then you have to eventually get back to at minimum as much physical activity as you did back then.”

No, no, no! There’s no point in even having this conversation so long as you have this obsession with exercise.  I’m a taking a principled stand here! I mean, gyms haven’t always been around…Did the Founding Fathers go run on a treadmill?!?!”

“Well, I really just don’t see what that has to do…”

"Enough!! This conversation is over, until you’re ready to prescribe a diet-only plan to my weight problem!” And with that Mrs. Bachman stormed out of the office, muttering expletives and something unintelligible about socialism as she went.

The doctor’s secretary, alarmed by the entire ruckus Mrs. Bachman had made on her way out of the building, came back and asked the doctor, “What was THAT all about? I haven’t seen her that agitated since the time she demanded all the senior citizens in the waiting room cover her co-pays.”

“Yea, I remember that,” chuckled the doctor, “she said all their social security checks really belonged to her to begin with…Hey, please call ahead to Bachman’s therapist, she has an appointment there next…Just give them the heads up that she’s in one of her moods.”

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