As I mentioned in my February recap post, I’m heading home in May and I’ll be there for my mom and stepmom’s birthdays and Mother’s Day (both on May 8th). I also mentioned that they were born on the same day AND same year: 1947. They will both turn 69.
But…they couldn’t look or probably feel any different. While my mom has been through some serious medical problems in her life: tons of knee cartilage surgeries, bleeding stomach ulcers, two heart attacks, and nearly dying once from having two forms of pneumonia at one time (plus breaking bones here and there), my stepmom just seems to have some annoying allergies and age-appropriate aches and pains.
What makes the difference? Their lifestyle.
I love my mom dearly and hate to throw her under the bus, but honestly, it keeps me in check to do my best not to end up like her, at least health wise.
While I battled being chubby as a teen, my mom was super skinny (my brother got her beanpole genes). And it wasn’t her diet or working out that made her thin. She did none of those things. Although I think if my mom had been overweight, she probably wouldn’t have done anything about that either.
What I find most crazy is how my mom settled, from what I would consider a very young age, to feel average or way below average with her health.
My stepmom, on the other hand, constantly ups her game as she gets older. She plays golf, goes on walks, travels with my dad, and has changed her diet to feel the best she can. She also has strong social ties, something I don’t think my mom has a lot of either.
I observed all this growing up, and vowed I would do my absolute best to optimize my health with whatever means necessary.
And optimizing health doesn’t mean just eating healthy and exercising. It also means finding some kind of tribe you connect with, a sense of purpose with your life, perhaps some kind of spirituality (even if that means just believing in something bigger than yourself), practicing stress-reduction techniques, forming close bonds with people, finding balance, etc. (Read about the Blue Zones and how they can help you live longer).
While I know you can spend a lot of money doing all kinds of things to feel your best, including working with a personal trainer, seeing a dietician, subscribing to some kind of online food delivery, optimizing your health could simply mean the absence of doing things that make you feel crappy, like eating fast food, eating too much sugar, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much alcohol, not getting ANY exercise, and not nourishing your brain because you watch too much TV news or engage in other kinds of mind-numbing activities. And if you smoke…don’t even get me started! You might as well take that $20 out of your wallet and light it on fire.
“Well it’s so easy for you to say,” you might be thinking…
No it’s not. I am not blessed with some kind of super-human willpower or Olympic athlete-level motivation. As some of my longtime readers know, I was a chubby teenager who sucked at any kind of exercise and sports, and ate Wendy’s fast food practically every day one year in high school. But there came a point where I was simply not happy with feeling just “OK.” The change did not happen overnight, and I continue to learn new things all the time that I try and implement.
And while I’m thankful that I have a good job now, which affords me to perhaps take certain things to the “next level” (I bought some high quality green powder and I take supplements daily), I still think if you want to feel better than average, you will find a way.
When I was a struggling freelancer, I found a way to work out at a boutique gym (I do blog and video work) for free. I did a shift at a yoga studio in exchange for unlimited yoga for a time. When I was playing more competitive volleyball, I trained with a coach for free because I brought him new clients. And while I didn’t drink fancy green smoothies, I didn’t bring junk food into the house.
If I couldn’t make it to the gym, I did free apps or ran outside. If I couldn’t afford a massage, I’d do foam rolling, a poor man’s massage (take a tennis ball and put it between your shoulders and the wall and move it around to work out tight spots) or took an epsom salt bath. When I couldn’t afford a facial, I used food like lemons, egg whites, avocado or oatmeal to give my skin some nourishment (and I looked totally hot with it on my face-lol). Or made a homemade sugar scrub to exfoliate.
Even now with a good job, I’m still really frugal whenever possible. Recently I became a brand ambassador for Skechers, so they gave me some high performance gear to test out, and a coupon code to give out to friends (promo code: TZ) for 25% off (BTW I freaking love the pants and tank top).
And I’m still learning and exploring. I’m strong and fast, but HORRIBLY inflexible, so I’ve made it my mission to do more yoga and evening stretching, because personally, I don’t want to be one of those hunched over little old ladies.
Nothing is worse when you have your health suddenly take a turn for the worse. It’s usually those moments that we vow to do whatever it takes to get healthier. But there are many people out there who may not have ever experienced a major health crisis or something to that affect, and instead are literally dying a slow death that they hardly even notice, because to them, they are OK with feeling, meh.
Stop feeling just meh, and take some kind, any kind of actionable step to improve your overall well-being. It’s not a thing you will ever regret taking on as a challenge in your life.
What do you need to change to not just feel “OK?” What small step can you take today?
P.S. March is colon cancer awareness month! Encourage your friends or family over 40 to research getting screened! And read why it’s very personal to me.