When I was younger I always remember my mother as a fierce, strong woman but now, at 77 she is crumbling away before my eyes. A few years ago she had a heart attack and her health has declined rapidly since then. She has all sorts of health problems and takes a huge number of pills every day. She told me recently that she is ok as long as she doesn’t move, but with every move she makes something in her body hurts.
This rouses all sorts of emotions in me. Firstly, obviously, I am very saddened by it as this is my mother and there is nothing I can do to help her. Years ago I would try to give her advice with regards to her eating and exercise habits. She comes from France, from a region that values food over most things in life. All of her siblings are extremely overweight. She’s never been somebody who has exercised though she used to be fairly active. The problems arose after she retired as her lifestyle naturally became less active and she never took any steps to make up for that. Now of course, it is far too late.
Another emotion this stirs is that of gratitude. I still have the use of all of my limbs. I do not have any diseases or health conditions. I am young enough and healthy enough to run around, do karate, and lift weights. When I see people who no longer have that ability it makes me feel grateful that I still can. Sometimes I catch myself in that state of mind when I don’t want to go and exercise. I say to myself “sheesh why do I have to go exercise everyday, I would rather just stay indoors”. But exercise is a gift, not a curse.
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An Attitude of Gratitude
I hear people talking about having an “Attitude of Gratitude” a lot and I am starting to understand it now. In the context of health as I am talking about here, because I am grateful that I have the ability to exercise it makes it much easier for me to go do it. For many people who are trying to lose fat, gain muscle, getting fitter or whatever, their big stumbling block is finding the motivation to do the exercise. It seems like a choore, too much effort.
But imagine if you physically could not exercise. Perhaps you had been in some accident and had lost the use of your legs. How would you feel then? Do you think that under those circumstances you would want to go and do some exercise? You bet you would! You see our physical health is something that we take for granted. Thankfully most people can go through their entire lives without being in some horrific accident. But what we don’t see is that slowly over the years as we age, we do lose that physical ability and often we don’t realize it until it is too late. The time to act is right now, while you still can, before it’s too late.
Evaluate where you are in your life right now. My guess is that if you are reading a blog about fat loss you are probably less than retirement age and are probably still physically able. How many years of physical ability do you still have ahead of you? If you were to take up exercise as a part of your regular lifestyle, could that make a difference to the rest of your life? Whether you are 20, 40 or 60 years old the answer is a resounding yes!
Of course old age still happens, it cannot be prevented and eventually our bodies will decline, not matter how active we are in our younger years. The average life expectancy of people living in western societies has been steadily increasing over the last half decade or so. Check out this chart from Wikipedia. At the moment for North America it is between 75 and 80. Many people naturally ’slow down’ at retirement, as my mother did. If you retire at 60 but continue to live until you are 80, that’s twenty whole years. How would you like to spend those twenty years – sat in an armchair nursing your swollen ankles and stiff hips, or out and about and still enjoying life?
Shifting my Focus Towards Health Rather than Vanity
Seeing my mother the way she has also started to give me new associations. She is now overweight and has lost all her muscle. Unfortunately she is not unique. I do my weekly grocery shop in a store where about 80% or more of the customers look overweight, unfit and unhealthy. I see so many old people that look like they are in just as poor shape as my mother. So I am starting to associate strength with health. I do weight training about 4 times a week and as I begin to see some muscle definition I begin to feel healthier.
I want to lose my excess fat for vanity reasons but I am also starting to think more about the health aspects than the vanity. I posted a while back about the different types of body fat and I still carry a lot of visceral fat around my belly. However I don’t look in the mirror lamenting the inability to see a six pack. No, instead I look in the mirror and think about how much fat is clogged up around my internal organs right now. I wonder when my turn for a heart attack will be if I don’t get rid of it.
Vanity is all well and good but it’s not a lasting motivator because there are many aspects of vanity that we cannot control. As we age we get wrinkles, brown spots, grey hairs and probably lots of other nasty things that I don’t even know about yet and these things will happen regardless of our lifestyle. But our lifestyle in relation to health impacts us all through our lives.Unfortunately I don’t see my mother very often as we live around 2 hours apart. Every time I do see her I am reminded of her waning health and it makes me grateful for my own.
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