Sunday, December 1, 2013

The serious post (time to make a change?)

It was 2005 and my dad had asked me to do what he described as "a huge favor" -- drive him to a reunion luncheon celebrating his college class's 60th anniversary of their graduation. So I did.

Their *60th* college reunion. The people there were... well, there's no better word: they were old. They were seriously old. I mean... do the math. They were all in their eighties.

They also, across the board, shared another characteristic: none of them were overweight.

None of them.

In fact, most of them were on the thin side.

And I have to admit that, at first, I was kind of surprised. We live in a culture where a simple trip to a baseball game can leave one overwhelmed at the size and scope of the obesity epidemic for what seems like every age group, but then I realized an undeniable fact: the less-healthy members of the class of 1945 were either dead or too disabled to make it to the reunion. I was looking at the fittest of the survivors. Put differently, the metabolically troubled often don't make it to 80.

So, instead of a room full of walkers and wheelchairs, and old folks of all sizes and shapes, which is what I had expected, it was a moderately-full room of spry, thin, seemingly-happy senior citizens. My dad had one of the few canes in the place. Otherwise, the diners were ambulatory and mentally as sharp as the proverbial tack.

Warren Zevon told us a while ago: "Life'll kill ya."

The difficulty is that it kills some of us a lot faster than others. Yeah, there is no doubt that we can only do our best and some nasty stuff is going to take a few of us down earlier than we want no matter how much we eat well, sleep well and exercise smart.

But for the rest of us, there's a critical point -- a time where, if you are metabolically messed-up, you are going to have to make a choice that you probably didn't have to worry about when you were younger: establish healthy habits or live a shorter life than you had planned.

Unfortunately, there is a point in the aging process when lifestyle choices necessarily get serious, and that age is, also unfortunately, different for everyone. There is just not a standard Road Map of Life that applies to everyone. But when you get there, failing to seize that moment to make huge changes can be a costly mistake.

When I say "huge" changes, I am not necessarily referring to going paleo or doing CrossFit. How about simpler (but still big) stuff, like ditching processed foods, quitting smoking and moving your body every day? Or maybe you actually need to take even more drastic steps. Ultimately, I am talking about whatever it is that you need to do to get healthy. Today.

Don't get me wrong.... It's all your choice. Do what you want. I just think you should make that decision with your eyes open, fully aware of the path that you are headed down. Instead, it seems like there are a lot of folks who just kind of passively keep on keeping on with processed food, lousy sleep and a sedentary existence until... Boom. It's actually too late.

Because the tragedy isn't the person who willfully chooses to live a shorter life in exchange for the "freedom" of an unhealthy lifestyle. It's the poor soul who thinks he or she has time to keep screwing around, and then dies of some metabolically-related disorder, all the while abstractly planning to make some big change in the future.

Aging is serious stuff. Like Mr. Zevon sang, it'll kill you. But how and when is often a product of the choices you make. True story.

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