Be Light and Healthy

What If I Don’t Die Tomorrow?

Posted on: January 16, 2011

“The question is not ‘What if I die tomorrow?’  It is, ‘What if I live another 20 or 30 years the way I am?”  Kim Wolinski

For some people the thought of dying tomorrow serves as a reminder that this lifetime is finite and motivates them to experience life to its fullest.  However, it can also serve as an excuse to forego changing your behavior in a positive manner.  It’s easy to justify eating that hot fudge sundae or not being active by thinking “Hey, I could die tomorrow so I should just enjoy myself now.”  The truth is the vast majority of us are not going to die tomorrow, and how we treat our bodies drastically affects the quality of our lives as we age.  Though it sounds insensitive, the truth is that if you’re unhealthy and you die tomorrow, the problem is solved.  The bigger question is what if you live for many more years? 

Aging is looked upon negatively in our culture.  Instead of accepting it as the natural progression of our time here on earth, many people deny and resist it.  In addition, they believe failing health is inevitable, and their beliefs are reflected in the quality of their lives.  The first step to improving your health is to change your thinking.  By taking care of ourselves, we can avoid waning health.  Compression of morbidity refers to condensing the time associated with physical and mental decline as we age.  By cultivating a healthy lifestyle, we can expect to thrive as we get older.  Combining good health and the wisdom of your years is a dynamic and rewarding approach to aging.  I was fortunate and didn’t have any health issues prior to losing 100 pounds; however, I believed they were inevitable as my unhealthy lifestyle collided with the aging process as I approached 40.  I had witnessed other people’s health diminish when they reached this pivotal age.  Instead of just accepting my belief, I used it as motivation to change my lifestyle.  The human body wants to be healthy and is constantly trying to pull you into balance.  It’s never too late to start improving your health.  An inspiring example is my uncle who is 87 years old and remains healthy and active.  During inclement weather, he puts a stack of pennies in his hand and walks around his house.  Each time he completes a lap, he drops a penny.  He continues with his laps until all the pennies have been deposited.  As long as you’re breathing, making small positive changes can have a real impact on your health and the quality of your life.    

People’s obsession with instant gratification runs rampant in modern society.  It’s no wonder that people are looking for quick fixes – a pill to make them better, a get thin quick diet, or weight-loss surgery.  The fast-paced world we live in often distracts us from the fundamental fact that making sustainable life changes requires an investment of time.  It’s unrealistic to think that years of unhealthy living can be reversed overnight.  However, slowly changing your behavior can lead to lasting changes that will profoundly impact the quality of your life and serve as the foundation for healthy aging.  It’s important to recognize that change is uncomfortable, and we often look for excuses to stay stuck in our negative behavior.  If we fail to pause and reflect, we remain unfocused and continue moving in the wrong direction or fail to move at all.  By taking small steps, we can correct the course we’re on and begin moving in the right direction. 

Paying attention to how different foods affect us can help us embrace the change process and become aware of the information our bodies are trying to communicate.  Each individual is unique; consequently, there is no one perfect diet for everyone.  In addition, our reactions to food change as we age.  Our bodies are constantly sending us messages to tell us what foods will optimize our health, but most of us are not open to receiving them.  By experimenting with different foods and remaining aware of how they make us feel, we can learn to trust the messages our bodies are sending.  As we transition to foods that provide us with energy and make us feel good, it compels us to continue down the path to good health.  If the mind-body connection is weak, it may take some time to tune into the messages.  Be gentle with yourself as you start to connect what you are eating with how it affects you.  Starting to experiment can be as simple as trying different foods for breakfast and checking in with yourself immediately after you eat and again a couple of hours later to notice how you feel. Eventually, you may choose to expand the experiment to encompass all the foods you are eating.  Keeping a Food-Mood Journal can help you identify patterns that emerge and facilitate your transition to healthier foods. 

In addition to nourishing ourselves with wholesome food as we age, it’s important to pay attention to primary foods, which Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, categorizes as relationships, career, spirituality, and exercise – things that nourish our souls.  If you are retired, it’s important to retain your sense of purpose.  Volunteering, engaging in activities that enable you to connect with others, and spending time in nature are very nurturing to the spirit.  In addition to exercising your body, it’s essential to exercise your mind.  Following your heart and pursuing activities that bring you joy will enhance the quality of your life.   

I invite you to question your current beliefs about aging.  If necessary, change your thinking and focus on the positive aspects.  Reflect on your current state of health and consider making some small changes to enhance the quality of your life.  The investments you make now will help build a strong foundation of optimum health and wellness that will support you for the rest of your life.  In addition, I invite you to sign up for weekly e-mail updates to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.    

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