Thursday, November 10, 2022

What I'm willing and not willing to do to live a healthy lifestyle

I like to read books about longevity and health. Dr. Michael Roizen is my favorite author in the space, though there are many others  Drs. Joel Fuhrman and Neil Barnard come to mind  who are also go-to sources for this type of information.

Of course, there's a difference between reading about healthy living and, you know, actually following through on it. If you were to ask people who know me well, they would say I am generally a fairly healthy individual. But I'm more acutely aware of the areas in which I fall short than those in which I'm compliant with the latest recommendations around diet, exercise, stress management, etc.

And now in my early (rapidly approaching middle) 50s, I am largely at peace with it all.

At some point, you have to decide what you're willing to sacrifice in the name of better health and what less-than-healthy indulgences you want to maintain in your life. And connected with that, you have to be ready to accept the consequences of those less-than-healthy choices.

I don't mean to suggest that healthy = boring/difficult/burdensome, by the way. That's not necessarily the case.

But the fact is, many of us naturally prefer the bag of chips over the carrot sticks, and sitting on the couch over getting out and walking.

Over the past 15 years, I've had four what I would call "significant" weight losses of 20 or more pounds each. The biggest of those came in 2016, when I started around 217 and got down as low as 166, which in retrospect was way too low for me.

Yet, if you go by the BMI charts  and believe me, I'm well aware of the limitations of BMI as a measurement of overall health  166 pounds for someone my height is within 10 pounds of being "overweight." So what's the answer?

As I type this, I'm approaching significant weight loss #5. I've dropped about 17 pounds since the first of September through my method of choice, Weight Watchers. It's a system that works well for me whenever I make up my mind to follow it.

I also benefit from the gender biology of weight loss, in which men generally have an easier time dropping pounds than women do. You ladies get screwed in a lot of ways, and this is one of them.

Last Saturday when I weighed in at the local Weight Watchers studio, the scale read 187.2. My official WW goal weight, as prescribed by my primary care doctor a decade ago, is 185. Once I get there, I'll switch to maintenance mode and try to stay around that number for...well, for the rest of my life.

Because you see, when you're someone who has had a number of successful weight losses, it also means you're someone who each time has put the pounds back on. I have never in my adult life been able to maintain a healthy weight for more than a year at a time. So my next big challenge is learning how to keep myself where I should be in terms of overall body mass.

I'm willing to make the mental and physical sacrifices necessary to do that. In fact, here is a complete list of the things I'm willing to do to live as a healthy person:

  • Cardio: I power walk (usually just over 12 minutes/mile) five days a week, generally covering a total of 12 miles every seven days. I'm very consistent with this, and it's largely because I love getting out and moving.
  • Eat leafy greens, beans, nuts, fruits and veggies: These are all staples of my daily diet, as they should be.
  • Don't smoke: Not a problem. True story - I've never even tried it. Not even once. I have never inhaled smoke from anything and have no desire to try it.
  • Keep my weight down: See above.
Those are admirable, but they do not cover all of the bases, health-wise. There are other habits we should be forming if we want to live longer, happier lives, at least from a physical standpoint. Here are the things I should be doing that I'm not:
  • Strength training: The truth is, I hate lifting weights. I just despise it. I know I should be doing it, I know it has amazing benefits. Yet I can't seem to get myself to do it with any regularity. It's the one thing on my "bad" list that I hope to change. Maybe it will be my 2023 resolution.
  • Meditation: I don't "feel" like I'm stressed, but the recommendation is that we should all be doing something to manage stress in our lives. Deep breathing is another popular technique. I don't make the time to do any of it.
  • Getting enough sleep: I rarely sleep more than 7 hours, and most of the time it's more like 6 to 6 1/2 for me. I feel OK, though, or at least I think I feel OK, since there may be a higher level of "OK" of which I'm not even aware that I would experience if I just went to bed earlier. But as well as I sleep, I just don't love it as much as a lot of people do. I would rather be up and doing stuff. If there was a way to live without sleeping, I would jump on it. As it is, I should be getting more shuteye.
  • Inserting even more healthy foods into my diet: I love fish, but I rarely eat it. Too much trouble buying and cooking it. I also don't do a good job with the "healthy gut" foods like yogurt, kimchi, etc., nor do I drink nearly enough water.
  • Having a social life: I hang out mostly with Terry and my son Jack, the two people with whom I live. You're supposed to have a wider social circle than that, and men in particular tend not to be very good about building and maintaining friendships. I don't know, there doesn't seem to be enough time, though I know the reality is that I could make time if I really wanted.
I could go on, but the point is, I miss the mark on more items health-wise than I hit. That doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I'm doing what I can manage, and if that means a few years off the end of an otherwise healthy and happy life, so be it.

Or at least that's what I say now. Check back with me in another decade or two.

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