I’m amused when people tell me I’m looking well. Usually it’s an indication I’ve filled out a little. This is different from being told I’m looking great, which happens on those rare occasions when I’m prioritising my health and thus looking healthier.
I read about this exercise in a book somewhere: go to a shopping mall and make a mental note of the number of people, regardless of age, that look healthy i.e. strong, energetic, fit and lean. I can’t help doing this now every time I’m at a mall, and it’s a seriously depressing exercise. What’s more, you can count me on the unhealthy list.
But here’s the thing – I’m not unwell. I still get up in the morning, do demanding work, and take care of myself, my family, our home and a myriad of other things. I don’t have any significant ailments – a few twinges and niggles here and there admittedly – but nothing that would put me in the non-well category.
While I’m very grateful for this, I’m not sure it’s enough for me. I notice that increasingly I have to remind myself to stand up straight and not round my shoulders. I’m often done-in by 8pm, unable to string a useful sentence together, bits of me – back, hips, shoulders – ache a little more often than they used to after a day on my feet.
It’s been a number of years since I picked up my feet and just ran, quite a while since I’ve done a cartwheel and crouching down to get things out of the bottom of a cupboard then standing up again requires greater effort than it used to. In truth, I don’t feel healthy – i.e. strong, energetic, fit and lean in combination.
I could go with received wisdom and accept that this is simply the natural arc of getting older; that I need to accept that parts of me will ache more, be less flexible and I’ll be less fleet of foot and strong of limb, but I’m not sure I’m ready to concede.
What I know is that it takes effort to be ‘healthy’. Those rare creatures in the shopping malls are not chowing down at McDonald’s. They prioritise doing exercise – not only because it’s good for them but also because it makes them feel good and good about themselves. They take the time to plan and organise for their healthy life together with making conscious choices about what they ingest, how they move and ensuring they get sufficient quality sleep.
When I write To Do Lists, what I’m going to eat and what exercise I’m going to do are not top of the list. Even if ‘take a walk’ makes it onto the list, I rarely get around to scheduling when that will happen or quantifying how far or how fast, so that I make the best use of that time for my body and my enjoyment. I haven’t timed how long it takes me to plan, shop or prepare healthy meals, let alone create space to update my Spotify playlist so that I can enjoy listening to new music while I walk. As a consequence, I don’t schedule time for the things that would enable me to be healthier.
No one, and I mean no one, gets healthy by accident. You may have lost weight inadvertently while enduring one of life’s painful chapters, but getting healthy requires thought, planning and effort. So, having delivered that wee sermon, I’m off to take my own advice and plan what I’m going to eat for the next few days.
And you? Are you well, healthy or both? We’d love to hear any tips based on what you do to be healthy.