Other than politics, probably no topic stirs more passionate debate and is more open to nuance than our health. Being healthy challenges definition. There is no finish line to cross, no standard of achievement to meet. Sure we have scales to check up on our weight...and esoteric measurements like the body mass index to tell us who knows what...and ideal images to dream about, like the ones spread across the covers of fitness magazines. But do any of those things really have much to do with being healthy?
We might see a middle-aged athlete running down the street, with a youthful glow about them that proclaims perfect health. The kind of person who could live forever, right? Certainly longer than the slug walking by in the other direction with a cigarette in his hand and a gut hanging down to his knees. But what are we to make of the very real possibility that the runner could drop dead the following week and the gut-man might live on past 100?
Not much, because in essence life’s really a crapshoot. But who wouldn’t want to improve their odds? It helps explain why billions of dollars every year are spent by Americans in their quest for better health. Hopefully no one is delusional enough to believe in such a thing as “perfect” health...or unbeatable odds...despite the promises made by the companies marketing some products and services. The perfect diet plan? The perfect workout? The perfect combination of carbs, protein, water, sleep, sex, and carrot juice? Whatever.
It’s dizzying for sure. In fact, all the endless options available to help us live healthier, undoubtably lead many people to throw up their hands in surrender and just chose to live unhealthier. Screw the odds. It’s certainly easier that way. No need to worry about when you’re going to exercise. Free reign to eat all the hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. And a money-saver too. Have you compared the price of a container of organic berries to a box of Nilla Wafers? That’s money in the bank for college. Or a new car. Or that $48 Porterhouse at your local steak shack.
But the thing is, I don’t think it is that difficult to be healthy. OK, I am ducking now from the slew of nasty mental retorts from all you who have struggled with your weight or other health issues in absolute futility. Just bear with me though. First, it’s simple if you stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Your health is all about you. Fine, maybe it’s not so easy to stop comparing ourselves either. Not when we’re conditioned by those harrowing memories of childhood, or the constant barrage from today’s media. But you have to do it. No one really wants to be like the gut-man, do they? Even if he does live to 100, his odds aren’t great, and it must be awfully painful along the way. So put the blinders on. Just because your neighbor can run a marathon faster than you can circle your block doesn’t matter. If you’re circling your block several times a week, in lieu of watching “Survivor” re-runs on cable with a bag of Cheetos, kudos to you!
Which leads to the second point: Living healthy is not that difficult if you commit to a few simple indisputable concepts and avoid the disputable ones. Indisputable concept #1: Exercise is good. Whatever you like, go for it. There is something out there for you. Indisputable concept #2: Eat mostly whole foods, straight from the earth, with one ingredient and limited or no processing from the hands of man.
There’s your start, but there’s definitely more to the story, like a politician saying he will make your life better by cutting your taxes and giving you free health insurance. Yes, there’s lots more to the story when it comes to our health. I said in the title to this blog that there are 32 indisputable ways to live healthy. I’m not sure why I picked that number, but it sounds about right. Let’s hear some more.