And it ain’t me.
A few weeks ago, we had some men removing some dead trees around our house. While I was walking out with one of them to look at the job, he asked how I was doing today.
“I’m a little bit groggy, but good. Quit coffee.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“It’s just not good for me at all.”
“Does everything you do have to be good for you?”
That question struck me as funny. It gave me a little insight into the thinking of a guy whose physical condition and demeanor makes me think he’s probably not doing very many things that are good for him at all. In fact, I think he’s probably having a lot of temporary fun at the expense of his future happiness. He seems to be about my age, maybe a few years older, but he already has greying hair, a big ol’ fatty-liver belly, and weathered-looking skin that makes me think an early bedtime and clean food and drink are not priorities for him. Nice guy, still has a great set of teeth.
He’d driven past while I was out running earlier in the week, and probably at this point figured out that I’m pretty heavily invested in my health. I don’t care what a random guy thinks of my lifestyle, but it made me want to explain myself to the Universe, which is about all this blog is good for.
Does everything I do have to be good for me?
Well, no. In fact, not everything I do is good for me. For instance, today is my birthday, and I will probably eat something ill-advised, but not too ill-advised, certainly not cake, right before I have a gin and tonic and go bowling with Get Along Husband. I don’t know why, but one little drink makes me much better at bowling. For that matter, it’s a magic elixir for playing piano and writing, as well. So I guess you could say it’s good for me in some small respect. Two drinks, though, and I’m nearly retarded, so it’s a self-limiting indulgence.
Since I’m in good health after a few years of intensive repairs, it’s not really much of a ding at all to my system to have a little birthday treat. But if I did things like that regularly, instead of just on my birthday, I’d eventually slide down into the same pit this guy is clearly headed for. How long would it take? How many times a month or week could I get away with such things? I don’t know. I used to joke that when I’m ninety, I’m going to take back up smoking and eating pizza. I can’t possibly have long enough to live after that for those things to really wreck me, right?
But I no longer joke that way. When I’m ninety, I expect I’ll care just as much about the way I feel as I do today at…well, I’m not twenty-nine anymore, anyway. Or even thirty-nine. Sob.
Obviously, there are people who look at the lifestyle I’ve gotten myself into and think it looks absolutely miserable. I exercise for at least forty-five minutes, four to six days a week. I have very little “entertainment food”. (Anything that is not meat is entertainment food.) I have regular bedtimes. I’m still working on no drugs, since caffeine is a drug, and I still dose that in the form of an energy gum. It doesn’t harm me the way coffee does for some reason. I consume very little alcohol. It sounds awful to some because they want comfort, self-indulgence, and entertainment all the time. Many people don’t think what I’m doing would fulfill all those “needs” of theirs.
That’s just not true! I am very satisfied with my food. I’m entertained by all sorts of non-food and drink activities. I’m pain-free. I’m having so much FUN zipping (it’s zipping for me, anyway) up and down these mountain roads, lifting heavy weights, and doing high intensity training. I feel good pretty much all the time. I’m not huffing and puffing just walking around. I don’t have pain in every joint from eating inflammatory foods. I could go on, but suffice it to say, as Owen Benjamin likes to phrase it, nobody is having more fun than me! (I know, that should be “I”, not “me”, but good grammar just doesn’t sound like as much fun, does it?)
When I first started on the long road to getting fit, I had a negative goal. I didn’t cut carbs and seed oils out of my life in order to feel good. I cut them out because I felt bad. I sometimes thought I was condemning myself to a life of no pleasure, every day, forever. I once sat and watched people eat pizza and a lone little tear trickled out of my left eye, because I missed it that much. But even without a vision of myself in good health and mental state, I still had a very compelling example before me as I watched my grandmother’s decline.
She was diagnosed with Type II diabetes many years ago, and I watched her devolve over those decades from a vibrant, hard-working, helpful (sometimes overly so, bless her heart) individual with a rock-solid will and an inordinate amount of self-confidence to a frail, sad, weak, dependent old lady with several advanced diseases, all metabolic in nature. It was sad and frustrating to stand helplessly by as doctors operated and injected and dosed her to death, when all she really needed was to stop taking the poison that had made her that way. She died last October, and instead of celebrating a long, victorious, productive life, we were mostly just relieved that she was no longer suffering. I simply did not want to live or die like that.
It didn’t have to be that way. Her food was poison to her body and her mind, and nobody ever told her until it was too late. So far as in me lies the ability, I won’t let it be that way for myself, or for anybody else that I have any direct influence over.
Now, though, I don’t do “crazy” health things because I’m scared. I do them because I enjoy life in a way that I didn’t even know was possible before. I now have a positive reason for not eating that nasty, super-sweet birthday cake I used to think was so good: I want to feel good on my birthday! I want to have as many good birthdays as possible!
I want that so much, in fact, that there’s a good chance that, while I do fully intend to let loose a little bit today, I may come to the point of decision and not even care if I have a treat or not. I can take the ding to my temporary metabolic state. It’s hardly even a thing at this point. But I don’t have to. I can just not do that.
That is power.
And I guess that’s the point I really want to bring to my reader today, especially if you’re a food or drug or caffeine (I’m still working on that, myself) addict. You always have a choice to make, even in the middle of that bite you shouldn’t have taken. You can spit it out. You can choose to do better with the very next breath, without hating yourself, without punishing yourself, you can just decide right now:
“No, I want to feel good. I want to perform. I want to be sharp-minded. I want to be proud of myself. I don’t want to be a slave to my pleasures any more. I don’t want to become weak, demented, and helpless.”
It is not a life of misery to love the body God gave you enough to go through the emotional pain of not eating or drinking the things that you just can’t resist. It is temporary. Once you’re through it, you’re through it, and for the rest of your life your health will be as much within your control as the Lord wills.
Everything I do doesn’t have to be good for me, but everything I do does have to be a conscious and rational choice that doesn’t hinder me from getting better and better. I’m in a place where I can do that now, and it feels like super-power. I’m not special. Anybody can get here, and if anybody reading this wants personal encouragement, hit me up in the comments or by email, and I’ll cheer you on and advise you as much as I can.