Midlife (Health) CrisisPosted: October 8, 2012
As I become a grouchy middle age man, I’m slowly coming to realize I’m not quite the svelte, dynamic Adonis I once was. In particular I’m noticing that this year my waist measurement and my age will match for the first time in a decade, and that’s not the thrill that it once was. I also notice I get winded walking up a single flight of stairs, and I have trouble doing the sorts of things I used to enjoy, like yelling at kids to get off my lawn (what can I say; I was born a cranky old man). Looking back on the past twenty years, I think about how I got from there to here, and I have some advice to offer to those of you who may still be on the right side of thirty, or even some thoughts of what to do if, like me, you’re staring down the barrel of your high school reunion and a suit that doesn’t quite fit the way you hoped it would.
First, find some sort of physical activity you actually enjoy. I’m not talking about exercise here, I’m talking about fun. I differentiate between these two because, like almost everything else that was inflicted on most of us in school when we were young, we’ve come to associate the word “exercise” with awful things that we do because we have to and not because we want to. It was different when you were a little kid, running around for the joy of it, riding your bike just to see where you could go, and playing pick-up sports because you wanted to. Find something, anything like that and go with it. Don’t “get in a routine”, don’t time yourself, just get used to being active and enjoying being active.
Next, try one new food every month. You’d be amazed how easy this is to do, and you’ll also be amazed at how many of them you’re going to hate. Yeah, you read that right. I’m not going to sell you on how many wonderful foods there are out there, because the truth is most food tastes terrible to me, and you’re probably going to feel the same way. But I have no idea what foods you’re going to hate, and neither do you, and there’s something else: you have no idea what foods you’re going to love. What’s even better, chances are at least some of those foods are a lot healthier than what you’re eating now. My favorite new discovery was wheat bread. Tasted just fine and it was better for me. Believe it or not, it came as a big shock to me. You could have an “ah-hah” moment like that waiting for you.
Learn how to cook if you don’t already know. This has more benefits than I can easily list, but here’s a few: it’s cheaper than eating out, it’s generally healthier than eating out, it gets made the way you want it, and it can often be done faster (when you take into account travel time, wait time, etc.) Oh, and there’s just one more thing: if you really want to impress someone on a date, cook them a meal. Guys or girls, either way a well-cooked meal is a total turn on. Even a sincere attempt (as long as it’s edible) will score you points.
Pick one bad habit a year to work on. I’m not saying you have to get rid of it completely, but at least work on it. You’ll feel better about yourself as a person and you might even look better too. Don’t fault yourself for not being successful in completely eliminating that habit, and don’t feel like you have to work on the same one each time.
Don’t pick up smoking, and if you have, try to quit. I have nothing but sympathy for my smokers out there. I’ve quit (seriously) at least three times now. My record is one year. It’s a nasty, expensive habit, and one of the toughest to break I’ve ever had. Caffeine is the only one I’ve had more trouble with.
I will make one plea on behalf of all my smokers out there: if you are one of those anti-smoking crusaders who go around hassling them to quit, please stop. It’s just annoying. Especially when you pull out those little nuggets of wisdom about how smoking is bad for our health. Really?!? Are you sure? Wow. I wish someone had mentioned that to me in the eighteen years BEFORE I STARTED SMOKING. Or in the twenty years since. Oh wait, they have. At least once a week. Didn’t do a damn bit of good.
What you are doing is reminiscent of the old adage about trying to teach a pig to whistle: you’re just wasting your time and making the pig want to shove a carton of cigarettes down your throat. Or something like that. The reality is smokers will quit when they quit, and all you can do is give them the support they ask for when they ask for it. By the way, constantly bringing it up with “So are you still not smoking?” Counterproductive. This is as helpful as asking a recovering alcoholic “So, still not drinking?” You are simply reminding them of what they are missing. “How are you?” works fine.
Speaking of drinking, I suggest moderation. I’ve done the whole binge drinking thing, and to be honest I still don’t see what’s fun about it. It basically seems to me to be an excuse to do stupid shit and get others to also do stupid shit, in the hopes that someone will get injured, arrested, or sing karaoke. Maybe all three. If you want to go out and do stuff, do stuff. I’ve done all kinds of things that I dare not write about on the off chance that the statute of limitations hasn’t run out/my mother will read this, and I don’t have the excuse of having been drunk at the time. I cherish those memories, and I was sober enough at the time to have them.
So there you have it: my basic guide to life. No guarantees, no promises, but hopefully something of value.