Some folks follow their diet books as if they were the Bible, while others find diet tips in the Bible.
Count Cal Samra among the latter, although he doesn’t approach with the usual goal of a diet to shed weight. Instead, Samra extols the nutritional aspects of one’s diet as rooted in biblical examples as well as those from a variety of other sources, including literature, medical, athletic and even the first ladies club of Michelle Obama and Melania Trump, of all people.
Samra, of Portage, Mich., extends some credit for his relatively good health at the age of 87 to the grace of God and relatively clean living, he attributes much of his longevity to wellness gurus he chronicles in his new book, “In Pursuit of Health and Longevity — Wellness Pioneers Through the Centuries.”
For the record, Samra’s 254-page tome doesn’t include tips from fly-by-night, as-seen-on-TV fitness plans that help you shed weight one day, only to feel bloated as it oozes back the next.
Many of the experts he writes about really are from centuries ago, although a few more recent notables include as TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz; athletes such as tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams (Samra himself plays tennis four days a week) Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback most fans love to hate, and comedians such as Bob Hope, George Burns and Red Buttons.
Indeed, Samra kicks off with the Hebrew prophet Daniel, who lived from about 620 to 538 B.C. Even when Daniel served in the Babylonian king’s court, the prophet eschewed the mountains of luxurious foods served to the courtiers. Instead, he stuck to the dietary laws of his Jewish faith, obtaining permission for himself and three companions to eat only vegetables, lentils and water, Samra writes.
“At the end of 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food,” Samra quotes from Daniel 1:15-20.
Samra quotes Mayo Clinic radiologist Rex Russell’s book as saying, “The lifestyles of the young Hebrew Daniel and his friends provide great examples of the healthful qualities of vegetables and eating according to God’s laws.”
Of course, since Samra is the founder and longtime editor of The Joyful Noiseletter of the Fellowship of Merry Christians, it’s only natural that the book include some examples of WWJD and What Would Jesus Eat?
Jesus was physically fit by natural means rather than being a body builder, Samra writes. He worked hard, he walked almost everywhere, climbing hills and mountains, and he was a sharp contrast to the sedentary, portly clergy of his era.
Samra characterizes Jesus as a layman who was the “ultimate health reformer,” with a message of salvation through both spiritual and physical fitness obtained in serving others.
As for WWJE, Samra cited evidence that Jesus was breast-fed, also drank goat and camel milk, and, as he grew, he ate natural, organic and kosher foods.
Samra pairs Methodist Preacher John Wesley with Ben Franklin, who believed in God as a creator who then washed his hands of his creation and doesn’t interfere in daily life, as “warriors for good health” in the 18th century.
Wesley’s best-selling book, “Primitive Physick,” featured health tips for pastors and lay people alike, stressed exercise, fresh air, a diet of almost all vegetables, drinking a lot of water and all things in moderation.
Wesley’s life span of 88 years beat Franklin’s 84 only slightly, and Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac” is replete with health suggestions such as:
- “Eat to live, and not live to eat.”
- “To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.”
- “Many dishes, many diseases. Eat few suppers and you will need few medicines.”
In a chapter titled “The Mothers’ Reformation — a Meeting of the Minds,” Samra notes that Melania Trump is following in Michelle Obama’s footsteps as a foe of obesity and advocate of good nutrition.
Samra’s book, available for $14.95 plus shipping and handling from The Joyful Noiseletter’s website, includes more examples from dignitaries and historical figures, as well as a chapter on the healing power of pets that nobody can deny. He also lists numerous examples of various authorities stressing humor as great medicine and the longevity of comedians, humorists and clowns.
Bob Hope and George Burns were centenarians, and Red Buttons lived to be 87, Samra observes.
Buttons attributed his long life to “humor and health foods,” Samra writes.
Buttons also explained his philosophy of aging to the Journal of Longevity: “Eighty is not old. Old is when your doctor no longer X-rays you; he just holds you up to the light. That’s old. Old is when you order a two-minute egg and they ask you to pay in advance.”
As for Samra himself, he has a practical reason for aspiring to a long life, explaining that he recently discovered that a funeral could cost him $13,000, adding, “It’s getting too costly to die.”
Mike Tighe can be reached at mtighe@lacrossetribune<mailto:mtighe@lacrossetribune>, or follow him on Twitter at @necktye.