Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Ode to Health

OK, so I am no health freak. Baking is one of my most favorite hobbies. And while I don't binge on the cookies, cakes, brownies, or other treats I make, and although I often throw out some of my junk food that has expired, I do have quite a sweet tooth. I try to exercise a little self-control and eat just a little of something sweet instead of a whole candy bar or several servings of something else. Depriving myself of what I wanted never did me any favors in the long run. I consider myself to be a pretty well-balanced person and believe in moderation in most things.

While I may not have the best self-control and love splurging sometimes on an In-N-Out burger or some onion rings at Red Robin from time to time, I have a real interest in all things health.

It wasn't always that way. While my mother is a fabulous cook, and while I have grown up loving vegetables, healthy meal and snack options were not the preference of anyone at home. Soda was consumed in mass amounts (not by me, necessarily) in my house. Doritos and cookies were a regular staple. Fast food was a viable option for dinner on some nights. And our family liked to go out to eat as well. If we were hungry, the fast, fatty option was the desirable one. No way was anyone going to whip up some stir fry vegetables or brown rice or eat an apple instead of chips. That's just not how it was. I never would have eaten a lot of cookies or a whole bag of chips or a pint of ice cream--I still wouldn't. I'm merely illustrating what was typically available and desired by me and others at my house. Then I moved out.

I think my love of and interest in health and fitness started when I was 19 going on 20. I was dating a guy ten years older than I was who had a lot of years of understanding the benefits of health and exercise. I got up to work out with him a couple of times in the week, early in the morning. I didn't learn to love exercise from him; I was still young and very afraid to step out of my comfort zone. But he taught me some basics that still remain the foundation of my current workouts. He planted the seed.

When we broke up, I separated my gym membership at 24 Hour fitness from his account and have kept it for the past five years.

He also encouraged me to eat well. I've always enjoyed healthy food, but like I said before, had never really picked it as the first thing I wanted to eat.

I also took HEPE 129 to fulfill a general education requirement at BYU in the spring of 2006, if I'm not mistaken. I learned a lot about aerobic and anaerobic exercise--the importance of cardiovascular training and the principles of weight lifting. While I'm sure lots of people didn't read the texts in their entirety since it was an online course, I did! I just loved learning about it. I had to set weekly goals for myself and report on how well I had done with those goals. I started trying new machines and new exercises, really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. (I came to the realization that no one was watching me or could tell if I was confused about a machine.)

So from this course and from that past boyfriend, I experienced a dramatic increase in my knowledge of health and fitness within less than a year.

For the past couple of years, I have gone through patterns of exercising a lot and then getting lazy (usually in the cold winter months or when I was really tired from school and work). I typically exercise a lot during my summers because I have a lot of free time and find that sufficient rest and weather are not obstacles. I have been on a couple of different diets, one of them several times. And while I don't recommend dieting (rather, just smart lifestyle changes), I learned some very important health/eating principles from one of the diets.

I have learned much in recent years about reading food labels and making informed decisions about what I eat and how much I eat. So while I may still make less-than-healthy decisions, I at least understand what is wrong with what I am taking in. I know a lot about what to eat and at what times of day it's best, or when something's never good at all (you know, all the joyous things in life, like donuts). I drink at least 2.2 liters of water per day, I don't drink much soda or caffeine, I worked out six days per week all summer. And for the past week and a half have been unable to exercise because of being sick. You can't work out if you can't breathe, ya know? And before this would have been no big deal, but NOW I have missed it so badly! I did the 30 Day Shred today and have done yoga the past two days because that's all I could really handle since I'm on the tail end of this cold. All I'm trying to stress here is that I understand the importance of eating right and exercising--and that I now enjoy doing both--much more this year than ever before. Here's the why...

When I first started on this health kick in 2006, I'd visit home and insist that my mom buy me whole grain cereals, fruit, and non-fat yogurt. I'd try and try to encourage my dad, especially, to start planning his lunch meals and to eat a good breakfast in the morning. He has been overweight and pretty unhealthy for about half of my life. I have nagged and nagged at him to drink water, drink water, drink water! We went to the store, bought him a lunch pale or small cooler, packed him some food, tried to make things better. But with a majority of his day spent on the road for work, a fast and convenient meal usually won the battle.

All of my hounding didn't really do a whole lot until earlier this year, in late March or early April, when my dad was informed that he had type 2 diabetes.

Here he is in 2009...

In April 2010 and December 2010 respectively...

While this was a devastating blow for him, I don't think he or I or anyone else was really shocked given his prior eating habits and sedentary lifestyle.

My dad has always been one to preach that everything humans need has been provided for us by our Creator here on earth. He has been a serious proponent of being self-sufficient, going so far as to construct his own hydroponic system in the backyard and lots of other projects and goals in the making. He's not a fan of medication for various reasons, particularly that there are those who profit financially when there are natural and healthy solutions to health problems. He also believes that almost all of the disease and cancer that plagues modern society has all been brought on by mankind itself--that we have put ourselves into this mess.

But this diagnosis was a huge wake up call for him. And if you know my dad, you know that when he makes up his mind, there's no stopping him.

Since his diagnosis, my dad has naturally, without medicine, lost over 60 pounds and is down to 219 on his 6'1 frame. He has been able to keep his blood count under 100 and sometimes even under 90 for several days in a row by doing some moderate exercise and controlling his diet.

Here he is now with a friend at a reunion...

I am thinking that my determination, commitment, and enthusiasm over the summer and up until now has been rejuvenated by my dad.

I already understood the joys and benefits of health and exercise. I understood it before having any major health issues. I've tried to stress the importance of it to others around me, including my dad! But watching him make a total 180 in his lifestyle has been a serious inspiration to me to be consistent in and better about taking care of myself.

I learn more and more every day about the benefits of certain foods (especially plants) through conversations with my dad and through movies like Forks Over Knives. And I get stronger in my commitment to keeping myself healthy to avoid the most common issues, especially in the western world, of obesity, various types of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

I am amazed at the human body, its mechanisms, and its ability to heal itself from seemingly irreversible ailments when we make good, informed decisions. Back and forth "quick solution" diets are no way to go. It's with consistent commitment that we can maintain our bodies and prevent illness.

Thank you dad, for setting such a great example of stubborn dedication to health, and for inspiring me to continue in that vein as well.

My praise goes to all of those who respect and take care of themselves, and even more of my adoration and respect goes to those who take care of themselves in order to better care for others! We were created to be His hands here on earth, after all.

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