We are constantly hearing the message “invest” to assure a happy, successful, fruitful future. We interpret this as investing in our education - to drive career choices; invest in a house to provide an environment where we want to live, and will hopefully build equity; invest in financial securities to build future security. It is rare that anybody talks about investing in our health when we are young.
YOUTH IS OFTEN FOCUSED ON WANTING AND GETTING
As time passes, our values are constantly changing. When we are young and only responsible for ourselves, acquiring material things seems to have a lot of significance. Perhaps we are influenced by the designer, or the manufacturer’s name on the label, or perhaps we feel a certain peer pressure. Later when raising a family, the hope is that rather than the material things, investing in experiences with our spouse/partner/kids becomes the focus.
VALUES CHANGE FROM ‘THINGS’ TO LIFESTYLE EXPERIENCES
For me, as my kids were growing up I started to put an emphasis on lifestyle. That always included being very active. We went on several ski trips every year, we looked forward to an annual hiking trip at Yosemite, and not only did we become “soccer parents”, our sons were “soccer kids”. Yes, that’s right, the kids would follow us to where our soccer matches/tournaments were, almost as often as we were taking them to theirs.
As young(er) parents we took our health for granted. We did not consider nutrition as such an important factor contributing to our ability, or obstacle to being able to “keep going”.
BEING ACTIVE DEPENDS ON BEING HEALTHY
Another consideration as we were raising our three boys, was assuring that we had careers that would support their education, our lifestyle (without a need for extravagance) and hopefully set us up for some flexibility and security in our “senior” years. I remember having conversations with many elders in my family who would point out how they didn’t have the time/money to live the life they wanted when they were young, and they didn’t have the physical ability for the lifestyle they could afford when they were of "retirement age” - a strange concept in itself.
Given how I was always active while raising my sons, and that my husband and I were fortunate enough to have careers that reduced our concern about financial stability and comfort later in life, I did not give that much thought . . . until I started to struggle with serious/chronic fatigue, in my late 30s/early 40s. That really changed my priorities.
BEING HEALTHY IS DEPENDENT ON EATING WELL
So, what is important to me now? My family, including my spouse, my children, my grandchildren and my animals! What else? My lifestyle - being very active … and finally, my health! No, let me restate that - my health is definitely at the top of the list! Without that, I can not even begin to appreciate the rest. Yes, it was important to plan a career to set us up to enjoy a certain lifestyle, but I admittedly neglected to invest in my health with a conscious plan to have the quality of life I wanted.
The incidence of chronic disease that either kills us or severely effects our quality of life over 50 is indisputable. I can’t imagine anyone is reading this that has not lost loved ones prematurely to some of these diseases including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. How many seniors struggle with obesity and diabetes and can not enjoy hiking, swimming, or skiing with their grandchildren?
INVEST IN YOUR HEALTH - EAT WELL - LIVE A VITAL LIFE AT ANY AGE
In a perfect world, this message is delivered to us when we are young so we can make good choices in lifestyle as we do with our career. I was nearly 60 years old when I totally committed to making lifestyle/diet changes that would support me living a life as active and as full as my life in my 30s.
I was in my 50s when I woke up to the importance of treating my body better, especially regarding nutrition, transitioning to a completely WFPB (whole food plant based)/vegan lifestyle at age 62. I also started riding horses in my late 50s, and now proudly claim my label as a horsewoman. I ski, paddleboard, and bike with my grandchildren, and expect to keep doing these things as long as we are all having a good time. I’m teaching them how to play pickleball, and feel like I still have a few years when I know I can beat them.
While we raise our kids and emphasize how much their future depends on their academic focus, we may want to also deliver the message that their investment in their physical health is of equal importance. Making good food choices will dictate what is possible as they become adults in their second and third chapters of their lives.
Remember: Age is only a number … vitality is a state of mind … we do best for ourselves when we take responsibility for our health (and what we eat)!