Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Scott's Road to Healthier: Part Two

Today's post is the conclusion of Scott's story. Hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I did!
Alright, enough about teeth, you probably want to know how this relates to my total health (other than how many studies do show a very strong correlation between dental hygiene and total health)? Well, it has to do with the new way of how I approached change and progression. I started applying the same methodology to the rest of my life. I’ve been playing soccer once a week since graduating college in a friendly adult co-ed league. I'm pretty fast but over the years I've had significantly less stamina. It’s gotten to the point where I do one shift and then take the entire next shift to catch my breath. My teammates give me funny looks and ask, "Are you OK?" I thought I might have some asthma or allergies that have gotten worse over time, but who am I kidding? I had also lost my bundles of extra energy. Suddenly, I felt on the field just as bad as my diet had been that day. I tried to eat healthier on game days, but all that soda and snack food was catching up with me.

How did I get healthier? I started by thinking of ways to be less unhealthy, and worked on them bit by bit. I can name on one hand the fruits I like and much less than one hand the vegetables. It's pretty hard to find a healthy meal I like. I took them all and put them in a salad, and suddenly, I'm undeniably healthier than I was before. Now at least 1-2 times a week, my lunch is a salad with pineapple, grapes (if they have them), cucumbers, and pea pods (if they have them). Not bad, right? It’s certainly much better than the two packs of ramen noodles, piles of Coke cans,vanilla wafers and potato chips I'm used to. Notice that I didn't say I stopped eating those foods. I still have them, just not as much, and some of these foods I've stopped buying entirely. When I go out for pizza, I always ask for pineapple on it. Why, even if half the places don't carry it? Because, why deny myself any chance I have to start my road to healthiness.

And slowly it's helped. The more it helps, the more you want to help yourself. I'm no longer fighting myself and my bad habits, I'm working for myself. A month ago I hit a major milestone on (which I didn't even realize until just now) was my road to a healthy living. I stopped drinking Coke. Oh sure, I've tried to stop cold turkey many, many times before. My wife stopped buying it for me months ago so I had to go make trips just for the soda if I wanted it, and that's helped give me opportunities to stop. Most of those opportunities failed. But the more I tried, the more often I would willingly replace a can of coke for a glass of water, or buy more orange juice or lemonade instead, and grab that from the fridge instead of the coke. A year ago, I never drank water. Ever. Now it's my main drink, and when I want taste I grab a lemonade or OJ instead. After 3 days without it because she didn't buy another 12 pack, I decided to just not go to the store and get something else from the fridge. And a week later when we ran out of everything but water, I went to the store and left out the Coke. I didn't even know I was quitting until I had quit.

Finally I've started down the same road with exercise. I often play soccer twice a week. I now go to cross-pit (a cross-training exercise class) at my wife's Tai Chi martial arts academy. I didn't start by going every week, I tried it out once, but I'm once a week now. I've joined an ultimate Frisbee team of my friend's (a sport that requires more sprinting than soccer). Suddenly I'm forcing myself to exercise enough times a week where I can start to improve. I can actually breathe again when I play soccer, and instead of focusing on how much I can't breathe, I can focus on the fun parts of the game: the mechanics, the dribbling and the passing.

The biggest lesson I've learned in the past five years of my life is that the point of this post is not to say, "Go me.” To me, that's the loser's attitude, because it means I wasn't doing all of this for me, I was doing it all for someone else, or for my image, or for some other reason. The point of this post is to say, "We can all do this". Everyone has different needs and different things to work towards, and even those that appear healthy have to understand how to live with a healthy mind and body. And if you're someone who it's apparent just from your appearance that you're not as healthy as you can be, then I hope another story helps to understand just how important it is to be healthy, and how you don't have to be ashamed of being unhealthy to anyone but yourself. Most importantly you never have to be ashamed of your road to healthiness. Ever. If your road to healthiness starts with a simple walk once a week, then be just as proud of it as a marathoner is when they cross the finish line.

Additionally, I want to mention how others have viewed my road to healthiness. When I started pointing out how much saturated fat is in foods, sometimes my peers at first would laugh at me. They said your blood pressure is low, you're a skinny twig, what do you care? When I told my peers that I'm quitting Coke but drinking lemonade instead, they said, "That's just as bad for your teeth." When I said I need more energy to run they said, "You play soccer every week!" A positive environment isn't just about your peers helping you along the way, it's about them understanding what you need. I simply tell them, "Look doing something better is better than doing nothing at all." My salad may still be unhealthy because of the dressing, but would you have me throw out the fruits and vegetables because it's not perfectly healthy and go back to chips? Maybe I don't need to worry about my saturated fats compared to someone who's larger or has bad blood pressure already, but does that mean I should eat like I did for the rest of my life and tempt fate?

Don't write off your peers' opinions because they don't see eye to eye right away. I explained my needs and methods to take small steps and quickly they started to understand. Obviously, if you have friends that don't want to understand after you've explained then good riddance to them. But everyone makes mistakes, and your peers often need some convincing to realize just how they need to help you. Better yet they may start to agree themselves. People who couldn't run before have started walking, and mixing small runs into their walks. My wife has taken steps towards making her diet and lifestyle healthier because she knows that I won't ridicule her for not being at her goal yet, and she'll have someone who's proud of her for every step that she does take.

Lastly, I'd like to mention that if this ever makes it past just being a personal email of thanks, I mention Sarah because she's all too familiar with the story of self-improvement and change. I know she's tried many things over the years that didn't work but it has all lead to a path of changes that did work. And while I realize the blogging community for health is filled many success stories much greater than mine, and those who are reading those stories are looking up to those great stories wondering how they can ever measure up. I hope that a story not so great can help to prove the point that everyone can measure up.