Use It Or Lose It

As I inch closer and closer to the age of retirement, I find myself focusing more on health and fitness. I guess that’s a normal thing. When we’re younger, it’s not so much of a concern. Bad things only happen to old people (not true) and we’ll always be able to get out and do the things we enjoy most (also not true, unless it involves a lot of sitting).

We talk a lot about dreams and success, but none of that really matters if we’re too frail or out of shape to enjoy it. When I was in the Navy, we made a port visit to Monaco. A group of us went to the Jacques Cousteau museum, at the top of a cliff next to the port. We had to climb several hundred steps to get there. And, believe me, it was worth the climb.

Now, I’m pretty sure we could have taken a taxi, but we were young and it was a nice day. Besides, the scenery was awesome. And not a one of us was tired when we reached the top. But if I tried that today, I’d never make it past the first 100 steps. And that’s with several rest breaks along the way.

That bothers me, because there are some magnificent attractions in this world that you can only access by climbing stairs. Pyramids don’t have elevators, and I don’t think you can get a helicopter to drop you off at the top. And even if I did make it to the top, I’d probably fall trying to get back down. It’s an attraction I’d have to admire from the ground.

Pick up any travel or leisure magazine, and they’re full of pictures of people zip lining, bungee jumping, or simply hiking up a narrow trail to swim at the base of a waterfall. And never once do you see them sitting on the side of that trail with an inhaler and a bottle of nitroglycerine. These people are having the time of their lives.

Most of us will work for at least forty years before we’re able to retire. All the more reason to set aside some money and do it while we’re still young, but that’s not always an option. Between paying bills, raising a family, and climbing the corporate ladder, life has a way of pushing our plans back. “Next year” we say. “Keep that magazine handy, because someday we’re going to do that!”

Well, magazines are a good way to feed your dreams and, if you’ve been reading these posts any time at all, you know I’m a proponent of dream-building. But if you neglect your health and fitness along the way, all the dreaming in the world won’t fix that. You may still get to your destination and you’ll have fun. But think of all those things you won’t be able to do when you get there.

Make no mistake – as we age, our health and physical abilities will deteriorate. It’s inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we have to passively accept it. And most doctors will tell you that physical activity, even a little, can make a huge difference in not only our level of fitness, but also in our physical and mental health.

I used to bowl on a league, and one night they stopped us mid-game to wish a member of the league a happy birthday. He was 103. More than a hundred years old, and still at it. They handed him a microphone and he told us he’d been bowling his entire life, and that if he hadn’t remained active, he’d have died years ago.

Now, my guess is the ball he was using weighed about half as much as mine, but it’s not about how much you can do – it’s about doing something. Anything to get you out of the house and moving. I see people in the gym who are much older and in much worse shape than I am, struggling to walk a leisurely pace or lift ten pounds. But you know what? They’re trying. They’re doing something.

We all have visions of a better, more relaxing life, and we spend most of our days on this planet working to attain that. And, for most of us, that day will come. We may not retire on a tropical beach or have the means to travel the world. But there’s something to be said for playing with the grandkids or getting through the grocery store without having to stop and take a breather.

So, as you work toward those dreams, make sure you take care of the body that will help you make the most of them. If you’re young and healthy, don’t take that for granted. And if you’re older and less fit, do something about it. Every little bit helps. It’s your life, so make the most of it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

But the Label Said ‘Low Fat’!

What have you got planned for the weekend? I hope you’ll get out and do something really fun, or at least find some time to cuddle by the fire. Looks like that cuddling thing may be our best bet because, if the weatherman is right, we’re in for a brutal weekend. Snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures. Lovely.

For most of us, it also means a trip to the grocery store to re-stock all those healthy alternatives we’ve been consuming all year. Yeah, there may have been just a note of sarcasm in that. I think most of us go in with good intentions. Yet, when we get home, we can never seem to find all those good things we’d intended to pick up. The store must have been hiding them in the back.

I read an article yesterday that said eating healthier is the number one New Year’s resolution each year. And I read a couple of others that suggested exercising more and losing weight were at the top of the list. I guess it just depends who you ask. But it’s pretty evident that health and fitness weigh heavily (no pun intended) on our minds.

If that’s the case, why is obesity such a problem in this country? According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 39.8% of adults in the United States are obese. Not chubby, not overweight, but obese. And, the problem becomes more prevalent as we get older. So, not only are we big already, we’re getting bigger.

Ask your doctor about losing weight, and the first thing they’ll talk about is diet and exercise. If you’re looking for the silver bullet that’ll make the pounds magically disappear, that’s as good as it gets. Granted, some people opt for surgery, and in some cases that may be the appropriate treatment. But, regardless of how we lose weight, unless we change our habits, it’ll come right back.

And that all begins at the dinner table. Nutritionists suggest we spend most of our time in the grocery store on the outer perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, lean meats (and some not so lean meats), seafood, and dairy products. It’s also where you’ll find the bakery, so be careful. You might want to skip that section altogether.

But, aside from a few healthy products like beans and whole grains, the middle of the store is where you find all the junk that got us in this shape to begin with. Unless you get all your meals from a fast-food restaurant, in which case we need to have an entirely different conversation.

There are exceptions to every rule, and stores have learned to mix in some of the good stuff with all that other junk, because one of marketing’s best-known secrets is that if you can get a customer in front of a product, you have a better chance of selling it. If the sign over the aisle said “Junk food” we’d walk right on past. So, they mix in a couple of good things to get you on that aisle.

Be careful of deceptive packaging as well. Low-fat usually means extra sugar. Sugar-free means they’ve added a bunch of other stuff you don’t want. And don’t even get me started on terms such as “light”, “healthy”, or “reduced calorie.” Read the labels, and then compare them to the full-bodied stuff. You’ll probably find one is just about as bad as the other.

And here’s another suggestion – when you read the labels, look for words you can’t pronounce or that don’t look like anything that comes from a farm. If those words dominate the list of ingredients, you may want to pass. Also, ingredients are listed in order of magnitude – the first thing you see is the primary ingredient, usually flour or sugar. Something to keep in mind.

It’s no secret that obesity is a leading cause of health problems. If we want to improve our health, we need to maintain a healthy weight. But it doesn’t end there. To achieve optimal health, we have to give our body more of the nutrients it needs and a lot less of the rest. That all begins with the food we eat. Supplements help fill in the gaps, but a handful of vitamins and a Big Mac won’t cut it.

So, if you’ve resolved to lose some weight or improve your health, pay attention to what you’re bringing home from the store this weekend. Eating healthier isn’t hard and, contrary to what some will say, it’s no more expensive. It’s just a matter of making healthy choices. You already know what you need to do – just do it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Lose the Weight – Keep Your Health

Back when I began this thing, I decided that every now and then, I’d take a day to focus on health. Okay, judging by the size of my belly, maybe I need to do that more often. But in any discussion about dreams, success, and happiness, it’s important that we pay attention to our health.

It seems every day, somebody has come up with a new diet that promises to magically melt away the pounds. Well, there’s a problem with that. Whatever magically melts away can magically reappear, and it usually does. Don’t believe me? Just kiss somebody with an intestinal virus. You’ll lose up to ten pounds overnight. But it’ll all be back by Tuesday.

And so it goes with most of these fad diets, especially the ones that shut out one entire food group and focus on another. I once worked with a guy who lost a fair amount of weight by eating cereal three times a day. Granted, I would love to have his willpower. But I have to wonder how long that lasted, and what happened when he switched back to real food.

You see, the problem isn’t just what we’re eating. Well, it is, but hear me out. You can pour special oil additives into a dying car engine and it’ll stop making noise. But until you fix the underlying problem, it’ll just keep getting worse until one day it quits altogether.

We’re not all that different. If the underlying problem is something that causes us to overeat, or to binge on things our body doesn’t need, we’re destined for recurring weight and health problems. There’s no getting around it. The only way to fix the symptom is to fix the underlying problem.

Well, the diet promoters have that one covered as well. “You’ll get used to it, and when you do, you’ll never miss all that other stuff you were eating. In fact, it’ll make you feel nauseated if you do eat it. Stick with this and you’ll live happily ever after!”

Maybe, but that doesn’t automatically make it healthy. You can get used to anything, for a while. But sooner or later, you’ll decide you can start adding some things back in. And when you do, what happens? All those empty fat cells that your body has been storing since the diet began will grab up everything they can hold. Because fat cells, once they’re created, never go away.

Another thing to consider is the effect of the diet on your health. Our bodies were designed to consume and process a wide variety of foods, and they function best when those foods are present in ideal combinations. Cut out an entire set of nutrients, or focus too heavily on another, and your body can’t get the optimal benefit from the rest.

For instance, we all know that Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium. You can eat all the calcium-rich foods you want, but if you cut out your body’s primary sources of Vitamin D, you won’t be able to properly absorb the calcium.

On the other hand, phosphorus – the kind that’s found in wheat bran – inhibits the absorption of calcium. Now, everybody knows wheat bran is good for you. In fact, some diets are almost exclusively based on fiber. But we all know what happens when your body doesn’t get enough calcium. So, what’s a person to do?

Eat sensibly. It’s really that simple. Figure out what’s making you eat too much and correct the problem. When you feel tempted to snack (or gorge), get up and do something. Take a walk. Read a book. Get outside and play with the kids. More often than not, overeating is simply the result of boredom.

And when you do eat, make sure you’re getting some nutritional benefit from the food you consume. It goes without saying that most, if not all, fast foods are nutritionally deficient. They’re also loaded with sodium and fat. And you know what? The same is true of most restaurant foods. The only difference is they cost a lot more.

We live in a fast-paced world where it’s increasingly difficult to eat healthy. But neglecting your body’s overall nutritional needs for the sake of weight loss isn’t the answer. Before you launch into any diet, ask your doctor if it’s right for you. Read some independent studies. And if you do decide to give up certain foods, consider supplements to replace the nutrients your body still needs.

Bottom line – you can cheat your body for a little while, and you may even see some amazing visible benefits along the way. But it’s what you can’t see that can really mess up your day. Weight gain is a symptom, not a problem. So, fix the problem. Do that, and you can continue to eat the variety of foods your body needs without any of the negative effects.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved