Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Truth? Healthy Living Requires Effort.


(I want to preface this post by explicitly stating it isn't about weight. Healthy living isn't determined by your weight and this post applies to everyone regardless of their weight - being skinny is no more automatically synonymous with living a healthy life than being fat is with living an unhealthy one)

I need to expand a bit on my last few posts.

The unfair truth is that living a healthy life requires effort. It requires making time to include regular exercise. It requires making time to cook real food. For most, those two things will require reorganizing schedules, taking long hard looks at after school and work obligations, and for many it will require developing new skill sets involving both fitness and cooking.

It wasn't always this way.

Once upon a time many jobs were physically demanding. Once upon a time eating out and processed meals simply weren't an option. Once upon a time calories weren't cheap. Once upon a time we had more time.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting life was idyllic 60 years ago. Human nature being what it is I'm sure many still didn't prioritize exercise, and that many more, while cooking, certainly weren't cooking healthful meals.

That said, if someone wanted to improve their health 60 years ago, cooking wouldn't be a foreign concept, and their after work and weekend time for things like fitness would likely not have been taken up with after school chauffeuring or the electronic tethers to which we've all grown accustomed and dependent.

What you need to do to improve your health may not be in and of itself complicated, but finding the time and skill to do so in this current environment undoubtedly is.

But it's only a hardship if you make it one. Attitude's crucial to winning a healthy living fight. Exercise isn't about day to day suffering, it's about living a longer, better, more functionally independent, literally less painful life. Cooking's not about being a time consuming chore, it's about improving the health of your family and perhaps becoming less reliant on medications.

And one thing's for certain. It does require effort, and if anyone (including yourself) ever tells you differently they're either ignorant or they're liars.

Like anything valuable in life - education, marriage, parenthood, work - you get out what you put in, there are no shortcuts.

So what do you need to do? First I'd recommend you ignore the minutia and remember that there's no perfect diet (for health or for weight management) and no one way to go - and please ignore whatever the latest study they're trumpeting in the news. And then?
  • Cook more frequently from whole ingredients (eating out less frequently and eating fewer processed meals).
  • Move more and intentionally include as much exercise as you can enjoy into your life (your toothbrush level of exercise).
  • Live the life you want your children to live and include them in all of your health living endeavors (teaching them the joy and value of cooking and exercise)
  • Be a quitter if you need to.
  • Never ever forget that the best you can do varies day by day and that your personal best is always great.

Is it fair?

Never.

Is it easy?

Definitely not at the beginning, and certainly not always after that.

Is it doable?

Absolutely.

It's about priorities and choices. That doesn't mean you're a bad person or parent if you don't choose to live with a healthy lifestyle - we're all entitled to choose the way in which we live our lives - but if your desire is a healthy lifestyle and you simply think it isn't doable then I think you're shortchanging yourself.

Health is incredibly valuable.  It requires effort.  There's just no way around that.

Bookmark and Share

17 comments:

  1. Great post. Thanks for that. The only thing I'd add is that, although it does require effort (as you say), that effort can diminish (or we perceive it to diminish) over time as we create new habits and see the health benefits of our new choices.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would also emphasize the trade offs: more time exercising means less time in a doctor's office treating aches, pains, diabetes etc. Less eating out means more money for a treat like new workout clothes or a movie out with family. Cooking means time with family working together and less time in the car.

    I think people see healthy living as an add on to everything else rather than a substitution for other behaviors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great post Yoni and Dr. Steph you are 100% correct. When I see my family members and peer group suffering from open heart surgery, dialysis, heart attacks, and more, it is reinforcement that living a healthy lifestyle is well worth the effort.

      However, I will say there's very little effort. The food costs less, cooking simple recipes is fun, exercise and being outside in nature is incredibly therapeutic.

      Delete
  3. Wonderful, pithy piece, Yoni. I agree with everything you and the other commenters say, wholeheartedly. As someone who facilitates nutrition classes & one-to-one sessions with cancer patients & their families I see first hand how damaging a processed diet and lack of activity can be. Most feel hugely impowered when they start making small changes, feel the benefit physically & psychologically, and make more significant ones. I always advice to start where they are & realise that even small changes count. Great article that I will share with others.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous8:27 am

    Beautifully written. And I'm so glad you prefaced it with the reality that being healthy is not synonymous with being thin (or vice versa). I've heard countless people comment with confusion how they or their loved on has cancer/diabetes/heart disease and it's so confusing because "they've never had a weight problem" since the obesity "epidemic" has been blamed for just about every ill in society.

    It's very sad that the federal guidelines don't support this kind of thinking (I'm in the US). A friend of mine went to a nutritionist recently to try to lose weight and the RD put her on a diet that includes and even encourages frankenfood. Egg beaters, slim fast replacement shakes, frozen microwaveable diet meals, etc. Luckily she trusted her gut and didn't go that route.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous5:17 pm

      Nutritionist and RD are two very different things. Anybody can hang a shingle and call himself a nutritionist, so the diet here makes me wonder. An RD is a registered dietician, with a degree and a license from a college which checks up on them.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous7:11 pm

      It was a RD (just checked with my friend). Yes, the ADA sets the guidelines for what RDs teach and counsel, but those guidelines are seriously messed up. It's all about macronutrient ratios and there is little focus on whole foods.

      Delete
  5. I agree Yoni, it does take effort and commitment. We are an unprocessed family. I make everything from scratch and I am proud of that and I love that my kids know what real food is. Because of food sensitivities (dairy and petroleum based ingredients such as artificial colours or flavours) we almost never eat out or eat processed foods.

    We do all need to get out and move more but I find it hard at times with 4 kids in tow, especially in the winter but as they grow older, it is getting easier, but it it is still a challenge.

    The only thing is that as much effort I put into living healthy, my weight doesn't reflect it...And the sad thing is that many people just can't see past that...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous8:41 am

    Healthy living does take effort - I learned that after my gastric bypass surgery BUT once the habits are formed it no longer feels like an effort - it becomes second nature.

    I cook all of my meals now & can't imagine eating take-out. I run daily - last year I was barely able to walk. Looking back, living unhealthy took more effort to live than living healthy.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous10:20 am

    Amen Brother Yoni! Awesome post!Awesome comments!

    For me, it is all about health. Yes, I've been fortunate in that I've never been overweight but I've worked darn hard for over 25 years with activity and whole food eating to maintain my healthy weight. But I've dreamt of being "thin" too, celebrity thin, magazine thin etc... Somewhere around my 40th birthday I came to my senses, starter to appreciate the body I have and started on a mission to be as fit as my busy life will allow. So as I approach my first 1/2 marathon of 2012 my mission is simply to be fitter, go faster and a little bit further. Lastly - screw you Frankenfood! You can't fool me with your promisies of more fiber, less sugar etc. I love Michael Pollan's food rule "if it is a plant - eat it, if it is made in a plant - don't". Thanks for the boost!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very nice post. I have some friends who short change themselves with this very adage; that being healthy is so hard. But a lot of things in life are hard, that has to stop being an obstacle for people. A real life that involves fulfilling work, social life, family life, and health involves hard work. You just have to change the mindset.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This made me cry, this morning. Thank you! I have made several healthy lifestyle changes in the past 2.5 years resulting in 110 pounds of weight loss. Recently I have gained 10 of those pounds back simply by stepping back into old habits. This article reminded me to get back on the train. To re quote you.

    Is it fair?

    Never.

    Is it easy?

    Definitely not at the beginning, and certainly not always after that.

    Is it doable?

    Absolutely.
    It really is doable with day by day effort.
    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent post!

    Thanks for the reminder of this simple truth. It's amazing how we can work hard in our jobs, work hard raising our kids, work hard in our relationships, but drop the ball when it comes to ourselves.

    It is as easy and as hard as the basics. Cooking real foods, doing real activities, and living a healthy, balanced, and active life.

    Plus, it feels good to know I'm working hard to be healthy. I am proud to say I'm taking care of myself, not just to life longer and healthier, but to model it for my kids. A healthy lifestyle also allows me to keep up with them, instead of sending them off to watch TV and eat processed snacks.

    We cook together (a skill I am devoted to teaching them), and it's not going to be as hard for them I hope, because they won't be having to "learn" a new lifestyle when they are adults. Starting out healthy is a good way to stay healthy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for putting the focus in this post on healthful habits and not on weight. I often wonder, though -- how many people are discouraged by exercise because it's seen as punishment for having the wrong size/shape body, and when it doesn't cause weight loss, it clearly didn't "work?" Movement can be joyful, but not always when there's a lot of baggage to carry.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post. So many excellent points!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great post - my only 'ick' is that you fail to consider those in society who are most at risk (think social determinants of health) for whom leading a healthy life requires even more effort due to things such as lack of education, income, environment...

    Yes, effort is required but a societal level change needs to happen to better support individuals/families making the effort to lead healthier lives. Food deserts, lack of walking/cycling infrastructure, governments that partner with big food, lack of affordable access to recreation...these are all things that make it that much more difficult for some...

    I know you've covered these things before and that you 'get' it...I just think it's worth mentioning. The idea that individuals just have to put in the effort is often what can discourage some in attempting to lead healthier lives.

    ReplyDelete