They say if you don’t have your health you haven’t got anything. I’m not sure who/what to thank for my fortune in this department. My ancestors? Evolution? God? Fate? Luck?
Regardless of who I can thank – thank you! I’ve been blessed with an athletic physique, higher metabolism and strong bones. The only things I seem to have been born with that weren’t so great are really bad vision, crooked teeth and otosclerosis – which has finally come to bear in the last 3 years and affected my hearing greatly. (just today I felt it worsen. My left ear essentially hears as well plugged as unplugged.)
Meanwhile, one of my brothers had detached retinas at the age of 26! My other brother had to have a colonoscopy at the age of 25 to figure out why he was pooping blood! My sister’s hips are all messed up and require very invasive, painful operations to fix (bright side – she’ll never need a hip replacement.) Several of my friends over 40 are dealing with cholesterol issues. My friend and band mate Bill Petersen even died from a heart attack at 49 due to a congenital heart problem.
I’m super lucky. (it also helps that my mom made it her mission to keep us all off drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Thanks, mom!)
However, I can point to one defining period of time where I stopped being lucky and actually chose to start making healthy choices for myself. I was a freshman at the University of North Texas in 1994 and in those days, most degree plans required a PE credit.
It seemed laughable but that PE course kicked my ass and woke me up.
There were physical requirements to pass the course. You could not pass without being able to do x number of pushups without resting on the floor. I don’t remember what x was but it was more pushups than I’d done before or have done since. The hardest of these was locking fingers behind our backs with one elbow above our heads and one pushed up against our backs. We had to be able to do this both ways – right arm up, left arm down and vice versa. If you couldn’t do this by the end of the semester, you would not pass the course no matter how well you did on anything else.
At first I thought this was all no problem. That’s when 2 years of no PE or athletics other than skateboarding caught up to me. I remember playing basketball and feeling seriously winded after just a couple runs up and down the court. The coach even noticed and commented.
Of course, I whipped back into shape and let the experience be a wake up call — since then I’ve struggled on and off to exercise regularly but I’ve never stopped exercising for more than a week or two at most.
The bigger part of this course, though, was the lab portion of the class. That’s right, PE had a lab. It was the same as what we called “Health” in high school. That lab was possibly the most helpful and useful college course I’ve ever taken — and this is coming from someone who almost earned an associates degree!
This was way before the low carb diet trends or the efforts to get kids to drink less sodas. The biggest impressions made upon me were to stop eating anything with the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredients list and to walk at least a mile a day. Second to that was consuming less sugar and white flour. These became my benchmarks.
But again – most of my good health is simply luck. I did nothing to deserve or make it happen. I can thank my mom and a few others for their tips but it’s taken 30+ years for me to understand how truly lucky I am. As a younger adult, I suffered from the illusion that anyone could be healthy if they just made better choices. Experience has taught me that it’s not so black n white. Some people are just born with health issues. Some are born deaf or blind. Some are born with diseases that cut their lives short. Some are screwed from the get go by bad parenting and physical realities – like once you’ve been made obese by bad nutrition from your parents, it’s really easy to be obese again and really hard to keep the extra weight off. Some just aren’t born to run, jump, stretch, throw, kick, bounce, lift, curl, swim, thrust, pump, sit up, sit down, push, pull, heave, ho or even dance.
I am incredibly lucky that I can do all those things on the list and more with no real pain or hinderance.