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Your Health Depends on You

By Stef

I could always eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. I could work on 3 hours sleep and not really suffer more than having a bit of a hard time waking up in the morning.

In the last few years though, approaching 35, I realise that I have slowly gained about 15 pounds and many of my clothes don’t fit anymore. I suddenly hate the way I look in pictures. Can that be me? I look so old and out of shape!

The worst thing though is that I am starting to feel pain all over my body. My knees hurt. My ankles hurt. My shoulders ache. And I’m tired all the time.

Lately I also go out of the way to take an escalator rather than go up a couple flights of stairs. I never used to give stairs a second thought, but now I consider how my knees feel, and how tired and sweaty I will feel when I get to the top.

What could be wrong with me? I feel about 80 years old. If this is what 33 feels like, I don’t want to know how old age will feel. I went to my doctor, sure I had something wrong. My thyroid maybe, or low iron perhaps. But all my tests were normal.

“How much do you exercise?” he asks. “What is your diet like?” I explained that I have been just doing what I always do, so why has everything suddenly changed?

“You are getting older,” he says. “You are not a teenager anymore. You have got to take better care of yourself.”

I know it is dumb to feel depressed about hearing those words. Everyone gets older; I just didn’t think it would start to affect me so early! I went home and spoke to my sister. “Wait until you hit 40,” she says. “That’s when things really start to fall apart.”

I thought about that. My sister is in her 50s and has scores of health problems. Overweight, arthritis, high cholesterol, bad headaches, high blood pressure. Was I on the same road? We were from the same family, so how much was already in the genetic cards for me?

Then I thought about her life. A high stress job. A lot of convenience foods. Not enough sleep. And virtually zero exercise. I wondered how much of her health problems could be eased with some lifestyle changes. Yes, she was also living the same life she always did. But maybe it was starting to catch up with her.

I can’t change my sister’s life, but I suppose I can change mine. So these days I have been trying a bit harder to go to the gym and take the stairs.

My laziness wins far too often, but it’s a start. I am trying to get more sleep and eat something other than takeout, at least some of the time. On the days that I manage that, I do admit that I feel better.

Yes, it’s easy to slip back into old ways, because it is familiar. But every time I do that, I think about how I might be robbing some healthy days from my future.

The other day my sister said, “You look great, what have you been doing?” So I guess it’s working!

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