When I was younger, I thought I was invincible. Broken bones and sprains from extreme sports were badges of honor. Late nights and partying were signs of vitality and “rest is for old people”. Junk food? Bring it on….the more the better!
Well, as I’m about to turn 54 and we are expecting our first grandchild any day now, I have to admit that my days of perceived invincibility are over.
I grew up believing that the later years in a person’s life were the “golden years”. While the added years of experience create an interesting intellectual mosaic, I have news for any young people (my definition of young keeps changing as I get older btw) the “golden years” are more like the “rust years” when it comes to your physical condition. At least that is what I thought up until I started to listen to my body.
How does your body speak to you?
Your body tells you many things, but you have to pay attention to the signs. It would be great if we had a built in “mom” to always be there to look out for our well being, but we all grow up and get busy. Without “mom” around to remind us, many of us wake up in our forties and can’t figure out what happened to our invincibility.
The changes are barely perceptible at first. However, as time goes on in your busy life, you may find that you start to notice nagging pains that won’t go away, fatigue that seems to follow you everywhere, colds that seem to come more often and last longer. You find that you don’t “move” with the ease that once came so naturally. Perhaps you notice that fat begins to appear in the “trouble” spots and muscle tone begins to fade. The list goes on and on and I haven’t even gotten to the diseases that start to show up when the magnificent machine you call your body starts to break down from lack of attention and abuse. Geez… I think it’s time to go to the fridge and find some comfort food as this is depressing!
Your Body: The World’s Most Sophisticated Machine
Your body is a machine, make no mistake about it. I first began to think of my body as a machine after having a conversation with Malcolm Howard. Malcolm is an extraordinary human being. He is disciplined (trains many hours per week), he is an athlete (Olympic Gold Medal in rowing in Beijing), and he is smart (waiting to compete in the 2012 London Summer Olympics before attending medical school).
My conversation with Malcolm didn’t get into the bio-mechanics of his sport, but it did cover his efforts in terms of training and consumption. We tend to think about athletes in terms of their phyisical shape and hurculean efforts, but few of us consider that the fuel that they put into their bodies is as important as their training. World class athletes like Malcolm think of their bodies as finely tuned machines that need to be nourished and maintained. Their careers depend upon the performance of their machines. While Olympians and professional athletes make up a tiny percentage of the population, their lessons should be heeded by all of us.
Stay strong…stay healthy
I have written about this topic before, but it is worth repeating. Proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, and stress relief will change your life for the better. The aging process is inevitable, but there are things that you can do to improve the quality of your life and extend your life.
Nutrition: Eat more fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds (the alkaline foods). Eat less meat, dairy, carbs, processed foods, sugar, and flour. Your body needs nourishment and oxygen so that your cells can produce the energy it requires. Why not use the best nourishment for your body.
We are always surrounded by “diets” that tell us to avoid all kinds of things. The reality is that we should be focusing on what to put into our bodies insteady of what not to eat. It is virtually impossible to overeat the “right” things, but you can never seem to eat enough of the foods that make you feel sluggish or bloated. Listen to your body.
Hydration: We, as a society, are massively dehydrated, and it leads to premature aging and disease. Water acts as a carrier and transmitter in your body and its importance can’t be overestimated. You need to consume 2 1/2 liters (or quarts) per day to simply replace the daily loss of fluids. You also need to replace fluids list by exercise or hot weather. You typically ingest about 1/2 a liter of liquid from your food each day, so you need to drink up.
What you drink is important. Many of us poison our body each day with corn starch sugars in the form of sweetened drinks or sodas. Don’t keep sodas in your house and don’t let your kids drink them. Drinking a Coke should be considered a punishment, as opposed to a treat.
The only liquid your body requires is water. Make sure your water is clean by using filters, because the water that comes out of your tap or your bottled water in not clean. If you can afford it, drink alkaline ionized water, as it provides all the same electrolytic properties as alkaline food and it provides superior hydration due to the microclustering of cells.
When you are craving a snack in the evening, your body is more than likely telling you that you are thirsty. You have probably just eaten a couple of hours earlier, so your body isn’t hungry, but your body doesn’t know the difference between hunger and thirst. Drink a big glass of water when you are hungry and you will be surprised how often it will satisfy your hunger. Listen to your body.
Exercise: Exercise is a critical factor in staying limber and in feeling good about yourself. You don’t have to go overboard. In fact, going overboard can be worse than not exercising at all. A walk with a pet or a friend, or riding a bicycle, or working around the yard can be both physically and mentally stimulating. Getting outdoors to breathe fresh air and take in some sun will do your body and your mind a world of good. When you feel tired and sluggish, start moving and you will be surprised who much better you feel. Listen to your body.
Stress Relief Take a break. When you develop a headache, take a break. When you find yourself getting upset or angry, take a break. When it all seems to be too much, take a break. When you get cramps from tension, take a break. Listen to your body, because stress is a killer.
Try to think of your body as your personal machine instead of taking it for granted. Nourish it, hydrate it, exercise it, and relive it from stress. Your body is your most prized possession…treat it that way.
The opinions in this article are those of the author.