Later this morning we will all hear the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act. Either way it goes I've already realized that my health is largely a factor for which I'm responsible. And I'm taking steps to turn realization into actualization. In this post I'd like to consider my personal health care reform: the difference between realization and actualization.
Realizing my health is my responsibility. It's no secret that health issues are different after age 50 than before. It is remarkable, however, just how easy it is for me to keep my head in the sand. For half a century I lived a health care-free life, where the consequences of my habits were not serious. I could eat and easily work off the excess calories. Exercise was more or less a take it or leave it, do-it-when-I-feel-like-it ocassion. I could gain weight and then lose it quickly.
Now at age 55 the free ride is over. Everything I do has consequences for my health. That's the first half of realization. But there's more. I am not without choices and opportunities. I can take daily steps to hold on to or get back to good health and to make the most of the rest of my life.
Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules today, or how Congress responds, or who is next elected president, my future health - or lack thereof - will largely come to me from my own actions today. I am responsible for my health: not the government, not the health care industry, not the insurance companies.
Actualizing good health habits. Not only is it remarkable how long I was able to keep my head in the sand on the realization side, I have a remarkable ability to ignore my own realizations. In other words I can realize but not actualize. We've all done this to ourselves, right? That's what tomorrow is for - as in I will start "tomorrow." No more. Today is my day. Today is the day that I will STEP into good health tomorrow. Here are 5 steps I am taking today to actualize my good health tomorrow.
1. Exercise every day. Every day? Yep! The book, Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry S. Lodge took away all my excuses. There is a daily tide ebbing away slowly away at my health and I have to fight it every day. Sure I miss a day here and there. Schedules conflict. Lazy days happen. But I don't have the attitude any longer that 3 days a week will suffice. Every day!
2. Watch what I eat. I always think to myself when I hear someone say they are "watching what they eat," that I always keep my eyes open. I never eat blindfolded. Now I don't laugh so much. There are many different kinds of blindfolds. The blindfold of ignorance is one of the worst. (More on that in a moment.) Now I'm consciously aware of foods that more quickly turn into fat. I've become convinced that it's not just a matter of calories in-calories out. There are some foods that more quickly add inches to my waistline than others. One book that really helped me was Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes.
3. Educate myself. Ignorance is not bliss. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was 32 years old and played on an official softball team for the first time in my life. On my first at-bat I slid into first base. I educated myself in two ways. First I learned the hard way that the bases are anchored down. My foot slid under the base, connecting with the post underneath with my full force. My leg went right and my foot went left. I snapped my leg in two! Second I learned one never slides into first base. Today this story is funny. At that moment, though, it was excruciatingly painful. I don't want to suffer that same ignorance with my health today. I'm reading all the time. I'm subscribing to health care blogs. One of the best is YOU Docs Daily by Dr. Oz and Roizen (though they haven't posted in a couple weeks. I'm not sure why.)
4. Know my numbers. Speaking of Drs. Oz and Roizen, I love the Real Age test. Do you know your real age? I'm not talking about your biological age. Without cost of anything but your time and effort, RealAge.com can tell you what your real age is - which can be younger or older than your actual age. Beyond the fun of taking the test, you'll learn the numbers you must know if you want to maintain good health.
5. Partner with others. Actualizing my health is not something I can do entirely on my own. I need accountability. Its just way too easy to slack off and "do it tomorrow." In this area I'm blessed. My brother and sister both do a better job at this than me, and are willing to help me. My daughter, Jillian, checks in with me often. My wife, Mary Kay, also sets a good example for me and holds me accountable.
Here's a conversation from this Tuesday evening with Mary Kay, when I was comfortably seated in front of the TV. "Did you go to the gym today?" No. "Did you run?" No. "Did you bike?" No. "Did you walk?" No. Then I got the look. You know the look I'm talking about, right? I promptly went down to the bike trail for a five-mile jog.
The bottom line is that health care reform is largely a personal choice. Yes, there are health care issues that I cannot control. My days are numbered and only the Lord knows that number. But I can take responsibility for all the other numbers between now and then. These next hours and days will be filled with national health care reform conversations. The health care reform conversations that I need most to heed, however, are the ones I have with myself and those who love me most.