You’re not going to live forever. You only have one life. Treat your body right. Eat right, sleep well, exercise. Take care of yourself, so you can be around to have kids, watch your grandchildren grow up, and live a long healthy life. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
We as Americans are so good at giving health advice. We know all the right things to say, don’t we? In a world where information is readily available at our fingertips, we have access to the latest diet trends, health advice, exercise videos and calorie counters. We find thousands of diet blogs, and we follow along and read anxiously as we relate to the blogger’s weight loss triumphs and trip-ups. We peruse websites for healthy recipes, “pin” new healthy fitness quotes and ideas to our Pinterest boards, and talk openly about our desperate desires to be the healthy human beings we know our bodies are capable of being.
Then we go out and eat a giant cheeseburger, drink six beers or stuff our pretty little faces with ice cream. We know damn well what it’s doing to our bodies, and yet we can’t for the life of us stop ourselves from partaking in such activities.
I’ve struggled with being overweight for most of my life. No, I don’t eat my feelings (contrary to what I sarcastically exclaim every time I’m craving a donut), and I don’t stress eat or even eat when I’m bored. I am, and will always be, a lover of food. I love good food – I’m willing to pay for a great meal at a fancy pants restaurant, and I happen to have a very unhealthy relationship with anything involving bar food, ranch dressing or any restaurant that serves margaritas. I love mozzarella sticks. I also love french fries, and am virtually uncontrollable once I’ve started eating them. I eat because I like food, and that will never change. Food has always been a celebratory outlet for me – birthday dinners are a prime example of how I was raised with the understanding that eating out at a restaurant was some kind of reward – for graduating, surviving another year, etc.
For the greater part of my life, my weight has never hindered my ability to live my life. I danced as a kid, took gymnastics and was otherwise pretty active. I regularly played capture the flag with the neighborhood kids across a landscape that spanned the entire course of the block. I participated in color guard and winter guard in high school – an activity that, despite what the untrained eye may observe, is more athletically challenging than some of our more famous sports. I walked the hills of Athens, Ohio during college, trampled the streets in high heels and even ran a half marathon last year. I’ve never been on a medication for my weight, and despite being regularly told by doctors that I ought to drop the extra poundage, I’ve never been given the scary ultimatum of either dropping the weight or being faced with one of several diseases in “X” number of years.
Losing weight has always been about vanity for me – as it is for most young people who struggle with being overweight. I want to be skinny. I want to fit into whatever I deem an acceptable size of clothing. I want to look hot, be the envy of people who said I couldn’t do it, or to throw it in the faces of every douchebag who’s ever cracked a fat joke at me (really, guys – please find more intelligent and witty insults. Making a crack at the fact that I’m overweight isn’t new or brilliant. I’ve been aware for quite some time, thanks). I have notoriously made jokes about my weight for most of my adult life – always making sure to claim myself as the token fat kid before someone else could; I was always the first to point out that I was out of breath after running up a flight of stairs – if I made a joke about it, then no one else could, right?
Well, here I am at 25. I know, I’m still incredibly young. But more and more, I’m learning about people in my life who are having health issues – some due to weight, others due to heart issues, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. The possible health issues I could develop later in life are limitless, I know that. Some of these issues, as I’m also aware of, are hereditary, and there may not be a damn thing I can do about it. But the more I hear, the more I realize that I’m playing with a dangerous amount of fire by eating Chipotle once a week – even if I do run 12-20 miles a week. I’m being awful cavalier about my life, aren’t I? Knowing what could potentially happen to me as a result of my eating habits and my inability to get my shit on lockdown?
Diabetes. High cholesterol. Heart problems. Knee problems. Back problems. God, seriously…I could go on for days. When you really get down to it – how fucking crazy are we for knowing that these things could happen and yet we continue to do things that aren’t in the best interest of our health? If I’m going to die of a heart attack in thirty years, I’ll be damned if it’s going to be because I didn’t take care of myself now. I mean – whether you believe in fate, karma or the Lord Almighty as the big hands behind your life, don’t you want to go out knowing that you were the best, healthiest you that you could be?
It’s not a perfect theory, I know. I mean, I argue with myself on a daily basis as to whether or not I should go to the gym after work or just say “fuck it” and meet at the bar for happy hour. Sometimes, the bar wins. Sometimes, it should win. There’s a balance in everything, and figuring out your own balance is hard. And honestly, most of us spend the greater part of our youth destroying ourselves with food, alcohol, binge drinking, not sleeping, smoking this, trying that – and that’s not all bad. But there comes a point where we have to realize we’re not invincible. We’re no different than our grandparents who are now struggling with heart issues, from our parents who are desperately doing everything in their power to avoid going on pills for whatever it may be. If we don’t get our shit on lockdown now, that’ll be us. And even if we do get ourselves healthy and fit now, there’s no saying that we still won’t have to struggle with issues later. But if we do, at least we can say we didn’t do it to ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be around for the long haul. And I’m not going anywhere. At this point, I still want to fit into this and that, and look good for this and that – but I also want to be able to stay active and able when I’m 70. So if I have to eat a salad now to avoid having an insulin pump in 50 years, then that’s a fair trade for me.