Pierini wrote a blog the other day that really touches on why I decided, an age where most don't worry about their health, to get much more disciplined about eating right and exercising. In his post titled, "A Fat Man on the Beach" he brought up the line uttered by so many (too many?)middle-aged people who refuse to eat right, exercise, or do anything about keeping their bodies in good shape. "Why in the world are you doing this?" After all, you're going to die anyway, right?
Well, duh, we're all going to die. That is inescapable. Before we die, our bodies are going to deteriorate. That's going to be disheartening and it's going to be painful. We can't avoid that either. I haven't hit 30 but I'm not immune to this phenomenon. About a month and a half ago, I threw my lower back out lifting something that I had no business lifting. The recovery is slower than it was even 5 years ago for me. That finger that I smashed last summer still hurts periodically, especially in cold weather. Life can be abusive and the body can only take so much.
Still, what so many miss is that we can CONTROL THE RATE OF DECLINE. Where does it say that after 40, it's just all downhill? There are people out there that do magnificent physical tasks out of proportion to their age. Bernard Hopkins is a top-ranked light heavyweight at age 44. Randy Couture won the UFC Heavyweight belt at the same age. J.R Simplot, a potato farming magnate, decided that he should stop sking... at age 91. Look what Jack Lalanne did in his 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. Look up Monohar Aich. Pierini does competitive lifting in his 50's. Most of these people do things at ages that qualify them as crazy, gifted, amazing or insane in middle age.
Andrew Weil had a great term to describe what I'm talking about: Compressed Morbidity. The idea is that you take good enough care of your body so that you shrink the inevitable decline as much as possible. Charles Atlas did this very well. He stayed active through most of his life even though he may have been born with a heart condition. He had very few problems with his health until the very last few years of his life. While he was outlived by the portly Alfred Hitchcock, the latter suffered mightily. He was limited by his abuse and neglect for his body. Charles Atlas didn't neglect himself and he was pretty much free to do as he pleased.
This was one of my motivating factors in cleaning up my act. Prior to 2003, I'd eat ice cream by the quart. I wouldn't touch a veggie unless I put at least a tablespoon of butter on it. I know there were far worse eaters than me but I realized that sooner or later, this would have to stop. It would come down to two choices: I could wait until I was 37 when the doctor told me that I was borderline diabetic and I needed cholesterol medication (which is what is happening to my co-worker). Or, I could do it now, make it a habit, and avoid living by prescription bottle. After all, it's far easier to establish good habits at 22 than it is at 42. Plus, I may preserve some of my youthful energy and enjoy life far longer than what is commonly though possible. That's why I bother.