In my three decades of life, I have built up some awful dietary and fitness habits that I really need to shed if I want to continue on with this life I’m living. Also if I don’t want to feel like a giant hypocrite while I get my degree in dietetics; honestly, Aidan, what even the hell?
I’ve grown quite tired of feeling like death is right around the corner, so this year I’ve decided to do something–anything–about it. And so, in the spirit of the New Year, I’ve compiled a list of health goals I will achieve in 2020… ya know, like ya do.
Goal One: Kick sugar addiction to the curb
The 90s were a crazy time. Gas was only a little over a dollar a gallon (in San Diego, anyway), people had jobs that allowed them to take vacations, and the nutritional world didn’t yet know the extent of how badly sugar can mess you the hell up. So, sugary cereals and treats abounded in my childhood home.
That combined with a lack of after school adult supervision to give preadolescent me bountiful opportunities to indulge in that sweet, sweet life.
The fact that one of my fondest memories from my childhood is going to the donut shop on Sunday mornings with my dad and getting a dozen donuts to bring home. Back when life was carefree and fun.
As a result, at not even 32, I am carrying the weight of a crippling sugar addiction that sends me into withdrawals after just two days without a fix.
That ish has got to go.
At the time of writing this, I’m a full week into a “no added sugar” purge. Things like cookies, cakes, and (my favorite) donuts, as well as anything that has more than 3g of added sugar (so fruit and honey, which are natural sources of sugar, are still ok) have no place in my home. This will go on until I no longer feel like there are bugs crawling under my skin and I’m no longer willing to cut off my pinky toe in exchange for a bowl of ice cream.
It’s going… well…ish.
Goal Two: Take up yoga and meditation to improve my breathing technique
Breathing. Sounds easy, right. And yet, when I walk anywhere, I find myself horribly winded before my legs even have a chance to feel even the slightest bit of stress.
I’m a shallow breather, which isn’t a problem when I’m just lying in bed doing nothing, but isn’t very helpful if I want to do anything that requires more than sixty seconds of sustained movement.
Goal Three: Improve my cardiorespiratory endurance
This is obviously directly linked to goal two, but the methods are different. Goal two is about how I breathe; this goal is about the quality of my breathing. To improve cardiorespiratory function, I need to participate in aerobic exercises like running to get my heartrate up.
Well, running might be an exaggeration. The last time I tried even a light jog, I almost went into cardiac arrest before I even got to the end of my block. I’m going to start with brisk walking and gradually increase the strenuousness of the activity as I see improvements.
The overarching goal here is to no longer get horribly winded walking up the fourteen individual stairs to my apartment. It seems easy, and yet…
Goal Four: Improve my overall strength and muscle endurance
More endurance! Whoo! Endure all the things!
Well, actually, my main goal is to improve my strength so I no longer struggle with things like carrying groceries up to the apartment or carting my laptop and charger around school with me (along with my books and lab manuals and whatnot).
But with strength training comes muscle endurance, and that would be a benefit, too. Especially when it comes to my upper back, because I happen to have a very ample upper front that my back muscles struggle to compensate for.
Goal Five: Lower my blood pressure through a combination of diet, exercise, and stress management
As you may have surmised, I have high blood pressure. This is likely because I eat a lot of sugary/salty/deep fried foods, have absolutely no fitness life to speak of, and have the anger/stress levels of Denis Leary, Lewis Black, and George Carlin combined. My blood pressure is so high that doctors have wanted to put me on medication for it since I was in my mid-twenties.
That presents a problem for me for two reasons: First, I can’t swallow pills, so any oral medications have to be chewable or liquid. Somehow, I don’t think they make children’s chewable Lopressor. Second, even if I could swallow pills, I try to avoid pharmaceutical solutions whenever possible. Taking a pill may lower my blood pressure, sure, but it won’t fix the damaging behaviors that led to hypertension in the first place.
In the words of Taylor Swift, “Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes.” And blood pressure medications don’t fix sedentary lifestyles.
I take a very holistic approach to my health and wellness. I really believe that my physical health, mental health, and spiritual health are all interconnected and can have serious effects on each other.
I’ve been in the grips of a pretty bad depression for a couple years now. It waxes and wanes, some days are worse or better than others, but it’s always there, to the point that I don’t remember what life was like without it. It’s taken the joy out of things I used to love, like writing and blogging publicly, and I’ve even stopped practicing my spirituality because I feel like “what’s the point?” I’ve tried therapy and cognitive techniques, and they help a bit, but something more needs to be done.
So, I am starting the new decade off by reminding myself that it’s never too late to develop healthy habits and help myself feel better.
It’s been a rough few years; I’ve earned it.