Why be healthy? This is a serious question. There is very little correlation between specific lifestyle changes and length of life. (Mental serenity and positive attitudes do seem to promote a longer lifespan.)
Each study that emerges seems to indicate something different -- butter is bad, butter is good. Don't eat fats, eat only this kind of fat. Eat more carbohydrates, don't eat any carbs. Weight training is a solution to being healthy, aerobic exercise is the only thing that is important. If you try to follow along with the latest directions indicated, your body will seem to be at the end of a yo-yo. I loved the line in the movie "Sleeper" where they told Woody Allen to smoke a cigarette because it was one of the healthiest things for his body. I doubt that's true but the movie does point out that "knowledge" isn't static.
So, why be healthy? I would categorize these reasons into three categories -- triggers, quality, options.
- Triggers. As discussed in the previous blog, many of the health-oriented studies are NOT describing "causative" situations. Having a high-fat diet will not clog your arteries. Salt does not make your blood pressure rise. Smoking does not cause lung cancer (if so, then every person who ever smoked (tobacco or other substances) would get lung cancer).
However, if your genes say "I have a tendency towards high blood pressure and I cannot process excess salt" then a high salt diet may TRIGGER health problems. Since, for people with these genetic tendencies, it is possible to reduce the chance to get diseases which can decrease lifespan -- these are active measures one can take to live longer.
If you do NOT have these genetic tendencies then change of behavior may not make any difference at all. As mentioned above, however, this year's orange may be last year's black. Your best reference as to what is likely to make a difference to your body is your family health history.
- Quality. There isn't a chart or a set of numbers that says whether or not you are healthy. However, you can listen to your body. If you break out in a sweat every time you raise your hands above your head to put a dish away into a cupboard -- that is not a good sign. If you are out of breath after you have walked from the store to your car holding a bag of groceries -- that is not a good sign. If you have indigestion after most meals and are taking half a bottle of antacid to calm it down -- that's not a good sign.
You very likely know what you should do to make it better -- it's just not easy with bombardments of advertisements for excessive, low nutrition food or a multitude of ways to be entertained with only a finger or two moving. Reading a book is passive but it means that you are controlling your own stimulus rather than being controlled from the outside. Make conscious choices.
Just ask yourself -- was the sixth slice of pizza worth the pain of your stomach afterwards?
- Options. What do you like to do? What do you WANT to do? Are you able to do it (or learn to do it)? Working towards a healthy lifestyle expands your options. If you are badly overweight, there are many things you cannot do. If you cannot breathe, it affects your stamina and limits the length of activities. If you are physically weak, additional limits exist.
It is easy to be a slug on the couch. You might even live a long life doing such. Is it what you want?
What makes it harder for you to do the things you feel are healthy for yourself?