It’s not exactly earth-shattering news that many of us are not particularly motivated look into prevention (that’s the proactive approach) until something starts feeling off (the reactive approach).
When we feel good, it’s all fun and games. We eat as we please, follow or not an exercise routine, skip sleep here and there and the balance holds. If you’re thinking ‘well, that applies to when we’re young’, you are correct. However, ‘Do as we please’ becomes a bit more complicated as time goes by.
No frogs were harmed in the process
You can call it wear and tear, or life as it happens, or whatever poetic expressions you may like. My way of looking at it is best illustrated by the ‘frog in boiling water’ analogy. (For the record, I have always been a big lover of animals, frogs included, so I always cringe when I come across such expressions but allow me to use it this time for it is an adequate illustration.)
As life goes on, we may feel a bit of pain in our joints, or we get more bloated or experience other digestive issues after consuming foods or beverages that had been perfectly fine before. Sleep may be disrupted by unknown (to us yet) causes, and we may feel sluggish at times. We put on weight and that makes physical exercise less appealing, but that seem to happen all around so no big deal, right?
The not so normal things we accept
You may have, say, joint pain that comes and goes. Or perhaps occasional digestive issues, or (slow enough) weight gain. You don’t think too much of it because they come and go, and also, making changes does not always come easy.
By the way, you’re not alone. We’re all like that to a certain extent, it’s part of being human.
More symptoms may creep in, and we think ‘well, it’s aging, and that’s normal’. And some of that is true. Aging is a part of life. But those symptoms that decrease your quality of life and the ability to do the things you love do not have to be part of life.
You now know why the frog analogy. If the water gets increasingly warmer and then hot, the frog will likely not jump out.
Say you’re the frog
OK, the good news is that you can jump out of the slowly boiling pot. That’s the equivalent of doing things that help you maintain strength and mobility, a healthy digestion, good memory and brain function, strong immune system, and a general sense of well-being.
Now for the bad mixed with good news. Our bodies change all the time, and that’s not just a marvelous thing, but necessary. We shed cells as new ones are created, and our tissues get renewed all the time. On top of that, we have our almost 40 trillion resident bacteria that ride their own waves of change. We have a say in how they change, and they have a big say in how we feel and act, and in our long-term health.
Depending on our choices – from the way we breathe, eat, sleep, move, and destress, all these changes can serve us well towards building long-term health and longevity. We can undo damage and we can improve our health dramatically, which is reflected in having fewer troubling symptoms and a lower risk of the chronic diseases associated with aging such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia.
The best news of all
Our bodies are so beautifully put together that they respond well when we start doing the things that we know to be good for us. Say you decide to add three different plant foods every day. Maybe you throw a handful or two of spinach leaves and some diced carrot in your stir-fry or have a Greek salad for dinner. Or you chew your food better and not eat on the run.
Perhaps you decide to keep track of our water intake, and that makes you get up more, so now you don’t sit for hours on end.
Or walk for a 20-minute walk every day because your spouse or best friend or your neighbour talked you into it.
You decide to get proper sleep.
And then you start feeling better.
Healthy is the new sexy
You find that you want to keep doing whatever it is that makes you feel good. Now you got a glimpse into the goodness of having less pain perhaps, lower stress, better digestion, better sleep. Prevention may not be sexy, but it sure adds up to feeling great in your body which is close enough.
And then you may drop the ball, as we all do. No matter. Start again.
Eventually, the good habits you’re adopting, no matter ho insignificant they may seem, will inspire you to go the distance.
Your cells and tissues (including your brain!), and your gut bugs too, will get a steady supply of what they need, whether nutrients, oxygen, movement, sleep. The net result is improved health and a lower risk of chronic disease.
I am a firm believer in that empowering feeling that comes with saying YES to what makes us feel better and NO to what chips away at our health. It takes effort, yes, but I promise that it won’t feel like effort if you keep at it until it becomes a habit.
It’s worth it. Try it.