We're Not Getting Younger

We're Not Getting Younger

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Health and general wellness has been on my mind these past few weeks as I've been in and out of the doctor's office for various ailments. I finally realized that even though I'm young at 23, I'm not as young as I used to be when my body felt like it could handle anything.

I've had several broken bones, smashed fingers, sports injuries, and illnesses that doctors couldn't quite figure out. Because I've always had a fast metabolism, I quickly learned I could eat whatever I wanted and gain little to no weight. That's never been good news for my sweet tooth. I never had to count calories, and I never had to exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

But the habits I fell into when my body was younger and functioning better don't cut it anymore. I still have a fast metabolism, but my stomach isn't quite as tough. I can't down as many cups of coffee per day as I could even two years ago in college. I notice a difference after eating certain fast foods, and it's not a good one.

I need to drink more water now to feel hydrated than I realized before. I don't necessarily feel well if I don't exercise in an effort to be healthy or as a way to relieve stress. Perhaps the largest adjustment as a night owl is recognizing I need more sleep.

I'm learning to be a better caretaker of my body by trying to go to sleep at a decent hour most nights. I'll go out for an occasional walk. I'm trying to intentionally cut back on caffeine and replace that with herbal tea or water.

Another major part of being a good caretaker of my body is praying for my health. When I'm healthy, I thank God. When I start to feel sick, I pursue God for healing. My pastor has been going through the book of Matthew in his sermons lately, and he's preached on healing the last several weeks. It's been helpful for me as I've struggled with health recently, and through my own prayers and the prayers of other people, my health is being restored.

In terms of being healthy, it's helpful to remember we were created in the image of God and that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV). 

We should strive to maintain that temple as well as we can so that our bodies honor God. Recognizing that God dwells in me causes me to want to take better care of myself, regardless of the fact that my body isn't getting any younger and is in fact starting to slow down. We are called to enjoy things in moderation. For example, Scripture urges us to enjoy food and wine but warns against gluttony and drunkenness.

I'm attempting to make healthier changes to my lifestyle before it becomes vital to my health. Having not felt well in recent weeks caused me to reconsider some of my lifestyle choices and desire to improve my health instead of waiting for it to get worse first.

What health changes have you made as you've gotten older? How are those changes intertwined with your spiritual life?

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  • --Consistent fitness is a lifestyle (change), not a quick diet or exercise fad shortcutting the process.  Most fad diets fail simply because most people don't want to remain on them for an extended period of time.  Once they reach their desired weight, they often go back their same old habits and put on the pounds and lose their energy levels again.  Yes, if you're on The Biggest Loser being whipped in Jillian Michael's torture dungeon and eating nothing but spinach and chicken breast over several months, then yes, you will get thin.  But what will happen once those restraints are loosened?

    If most people actually kept a daily food journal of everything they ate and drank throughout the day for a whole week, I bet they would be shocked to see the numbers.  The caloric intake per day, the fat, the "bad" carbs, etc.

    Exercise is also an important component of healthy living.  True, you can still be thin without having lifted a dumbell or jog a mile, but it doesn't mean you are healthy.  But at the same time, it does have many physical benefits--you have more energy and can afford to eat more.  Honestly, the best way to fit into your schedule is to make it a habit, either going with a friend, working with a trainer, running during your lunch hour at work, or what have you.

    Finally, one thing I think kills people which affects most everything else is sleep.  The average American adult only gets around 6.5 hours of sleep per night on weekdays (7.5 on weekends).  Whether or not it significantly affects metabolism is still debatable (many studies though hint that not getting sufficent sleep affects it negatively), but regardless it affects energy levels and does not allow effective wound and muscle recovery.

    My personal habits?  After being not obese but still overweight for years, I decided to something about it.  I starting meeting with a trainer regularly who helped me work on my goals.  I kept a food journal and had strict calorie, protein and fat limits.  I met with her 3 times a week building muscle and did cardio on my own in days in between.  I replaced some of my food with protein shakes (most American food is sorely lacking in protein unless it's accompanied by junk.  Other plus about protein, it is a good appetite suppressant).  Eventually the pounds came off and I got stronger, not only building self esteem, but allowed more practical uses like moving boxes.  Eventually I didn't need the food journal because my overall eating habits have changed.

    In all of it, I never had to give up any of the food I loved.  I have always and still eat pizza, burgers, ice cream, and baby back ribs.  I simply only eat 2 slices not 4, have half a burger or a smaller one, 1 scoop of Rocky Road instead of 2, and half a rack instead of a full rack.  I believe it's important not to deny people what they like.  It just creates too much of a forbidden fruit.  And I almost always make it a point to get a full 8 hours of sleep per night.

    No, fitness in today's modern, seditary, junk food and always plugged in culture isn't easy.  It does take a lifestyle change.  But it can be done with practice and good habits.

  • --I started Crossfit about 7 months ago. Its a lot like church(please don't throw theology at me for saying that), you go in, you die, and then you leave more alive than ever. We pray together as well. A change in diet is the most important part of being healthy, you could not work out at all and eat only whole foods and you'll instantly feel 1000 times more energetic and healthy. The only problem i have now is that I've gotten extremely fit and i think its alienating me from a lot of single women that aren't quite as fit. i honestly don't care if a girl isn't in shape as long as she's got some CS Lewis on her bookshelf :)

  • --Good post :) Just wanted to reply to RIsoldier. If you don't have problem with women a bit out of shape just show interest in them and they should understand your interest :) Yup the C.S Lewis part is interesting, I like his work but don't have a lot of his books just the "Chronicles of Narnia" and I read "Mare Christianity". His writing some time is too dry for me but  I love what people have done inspired from his books.

  • --I am a high school teacher and I feel this frequently.  Even though I'm not quite 30 yet, I know I don't have the same metabolism or energy as my students.  They can run around till all hours of the night, eating all sorts of junk food, while I have to carefully monitor the calories I consume and if I don't get enough sleep I feel it.  The teenage years are a great time for eating whatever you want and in large quantities too!  I sometimes remind my students of this and try and get them to enjoy being able to eat junk food without really gaining weight because these years will be over before they know it.  Unfortunately I didn't know that my "junk food years" were over until after I had gained a lot of weight in college.  But gradually I adopted new lifestyle changes and I lost the weight and kept it off.  I realized that I couldn't eat fast food multiple times a week and rely on soda pop for my hydration.  And purposeful exercise became a necessity.  

    I also think that being single helps with being able to keep fit.  I'm not constrained by family responsibilities and so I can exercise anytime.  The only thing that holds me back is me.  I try to keep that in mind when I don't want to go out for a run.  I remind myself that hopefully I will eventually be married with kids and I will probably wish that I could just leave for an hour for a nice jog!

  • --The biggest change I made was eating for nutrition and not for weight. There's a huge change in mindset that comes with that transition. Sure I could go cheap and easy and out of a box, but it's so much more enjoyable to eat something homemade and made from real food. No low fat anything. No low calorie anything. No artificial sweeteners. I just make myself real food, enjoy it, and stop when I'm full.

    Also, I almost entirely cut out sugar/HFCS. A little bit every now and then won't kill you, but most people's understanding of a little bit is far too much.

    That's part of the reason I vehemently disagree with the nutrition mantra, "Everything in moderation." How much is a moderate amount of something? Do we really mean everything? A moderate amount of crystal meth? A moderate amount of rotten meat?

  • --My biggest goal right now is trying to get enough sleep. I have a few early morning classes that require me to be up by 4 am several times a week, and while I'm a morning person, anything before 6 am is ungodly.. Of course, this means that I have to get my homework and reading done and shut off all the internet boxes pretty early in the evening. It's making me look harder at my priorities and what I spend/waste time on during the day. So one little health change has really started to affect the rest of my life.

  • --Most of my friends are in the 40's, as am I. One of the things that you notice, is that health issues become part of the normal conversation. That, and the accumulated aches from old injuries. (You tell yourself that it is ONLY the injuries.... you hope.)

    I'm running on what i mostly known as a "Paleo" diet. You can just as easily call it an "Eden" diet - or more realistically, an immediately posty-Edenic diet before people started farming. Upsot is that the main diet components are fminimally-prepared meats, vegetables and fruit. Fats and protein, but limited carbs (low GI) and almost no grains. It's done good things for my incipient hypertension and still allows me some "luxuries like dark chocolate (70%) and full-fat icecream.

    I've been wearing the same-size jeans for 25 years.

    One thing to watch is shoes... Poor shoe construction and/or fit can come back to seriously bite you in later years.

  • --Sorry.... Forgot to include how that interacted with the spiritual.

    In some ways I am more "comfortable" with the fact that God does some things slowly, and that the ultimate solution to some issues may not come this side of Heaven. Aging and health issues are a pretty strong hint that we do live in a fallen world, that miracles never were meant to be a complete and permanent solution, so preraration for the next world is more important than comfort in this.

    However that does not negate the need to be better stewards of our bodies while we are still here, nor the fact that we have limited time-windows for some things, includuing finding a spouse.

    Living with the tension between these two can be something of an art......

  • --I know what you mean about taking a high metabolism for granted. There was one semester I gained 12 pounds from all the ice cream gallons and soda, but fortunately I was able to lose most of it over that summer and keep it off. I am really terrible about exercising since I am not at the point yet where I need exercise to stay thin, but I try to eat healthy, and I have found it helps to do physically demanding volunteer work like helping at the food bank, cleaning someone's house, helping someone move, painting, etc.

  • --As I've gotten older, I find that I don't heal from injuries as quickly.  If I twist my ankle, it might hurt for days instead of a few hours, or weeks instead of a few days.  Not sure how that ties in my spiritual life, but it sure does make getting older really lousy...especially for someone as clumsy and accident-prone as me!

  • --In my 30's...so far I haven't noticed anything directly related to age...mostly just my eating/exercise habits.  I tend to yo-yo 20lbs or so. (sometimes purposefully)  A six-month goal I have is to get back down and keep my weight shifts around 10lbs.  Bulking/cutting shouldn't be that dramatic... the key is I know what works for me and how to do it... but I'm sure one of these years I'll find myself having to do twice as much for the same result.

    I do have an issue with use of scripture - the "temple" passage is related to sexual sin...not physical health - though I think the principle still works generally.  Paul affirms that physical health is good, though spiritual health is the one we should give priority to.

    I'm not a parent yet, but God willing, if I am one day...I'll be an older parent.  So, health really needs to be a focus for me.  I get a little discouraged thinking about me being 10+ yrs older than my parents are for me....though I'm sure I'll be so happy to have a child  those feelings will pass.  And maybe they'll marry young and it'll all average out :)  

  • --Peter - I`ve also been following the Paleo diet this year.  (I`m mid-30s.)  So instead of rigidly counting calories, staying slim is a lot easier now that I avoid almost all processed food.  Except ice-cream and chocolate (in moderation!)  

    I used to obsess over counting calories, so by taking a step back and eating food that God provided for us (in the ground, in animals) I find that I focus LESS on food, which is good for my spiritual life.  

  • --In the OT a young man could be stoned for being a glutton and a drunkard, but we don't hear many sermons on gluttony (eating for the sake of eating, eating past when you're full) anymore. I'm guilty of it myself. Maybe if more Christians realized sinful patterns and misuses of food, we'd be healthier.

    I'm having to rethink eating habits since a mysterious GI condition (finally doctors decided it's IBS, still wondering if it could be celiac or endometriosis) surfaced that has lasted for the better part of a year now. It's discouraging, the year before I get married, developing a condition that will most likely be chronic and might shorten my life expectancy or make it difficult to have children. But I know a lot of people have to deal with worse. My symptoms are better if I cook my own food with no pre-made sauces, soup-stock, etc., and never eat food prepared by someone else or at a restaurant. It's not as easy as it sounds and as I'm new to all this diet restriction stuff and still figuring out what makes me worse/better.

    One thing I really like about living here in Japan is that in the city, you don't need a car. Most people commute by bicycle, bus and train. I chose my bicycle^^ It's only about 20 minutes ride to work but it wakes me up in the morning and de-stresses me at night. Also I use my bike to get around most everywhere for errands and such...I can handle a 2-hour ride now no problem.

    I sometimes wonder why the majority of Japanese people are so slender, or the reverse, why so many Americans are not. It's not the wonders of a traditional Japanese diet because very few people actually eat a traditional Japanese diet anymore, in fact there are more fried things here than back home. But in their snacks and soft drinks and processed food, they use a sweetener called mizuame (made from rice) instead of corn syrups. I wonder if that makes a difference.

  • --To be honest it was marriage that really made me want to start taking care of myself.  Now that I have someone I'm responsible to take care of I am motivated to stay as healthy as I can.  If I was still single I would still be eating canned foods and having microwaved dinners every night.

    I guess the big change is that I take daily vitamins, avoid most fast food, and pay more attention to the fat and sodium levels in everything I eat.  I used to eat processed sandwich meat until I learned it has something like 45% of the recommended daily sodium limit.  Now I eat lots of fish.  Also I'm a lot less reckless.  I drive safer, only cross the road at proper crossings, and think about safety a lot more.  

    All of us  will die one day anyway but I guess having a family make you feel needed and that is the best motivator (particularly for men) to change to a healthier lifestyle.

  • --I've been taking high quality nutritional supplements all through my 20s, and would recommend adding fish/krill oil, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil...I believe everyone benefits from the best version of ourselves: emotionally, spiritually, and, yes, physically.

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