November 17, 2010

Are Healthy Eating and Exercise the Evil Twins?

It isn't as if we don't know eating the right foods, avoiding the bad ones, and exercising are good for us. If we want a satisfying retirement we'd better protect the only body we have. This isn't new information. So, why it it so tough to follow through? I know part of the answer: we are born rebels and we chart our own path. Well, maybe not. More is at work here. See if these reasons sound familiar to you. They have worked for me for years.

The payoff for good habits is in the future. This excuse just keeps on working. We are living today. Thinking too much about the future isn't our style. Besides, we have plenty of time to switch to healthier habits. Of course, the future isn't as far away as it used to be and what we do today will have a cost tomorrow. But, procrastination is a well-practiced skill by the time we are older.

Better food and healthy eating are more expensive. Organic vegetables and range-free chickens are probably healthier. But, have you seen the cost? The dollar menu at MacDonald's looks awfully appealing when compared to the cost of pesticide-free fruits and vegetables at Safeway. Farmers' markets aren't much better. The food tastes better and supporting area farmers feels like the right thing to do. But, does it fit the budget? Of course, the average American spends as much as $250,000 on out-of-pocket medical care from age 65 until death. Is that in the budget?

Other food choices are more pleasing. Being concerned about a healthy diet means a lot of the "good stuff " is off limits. Is Ice Milk really the same as Ice Cream? Even though the FDA allows it to be called low-fat ice cream, it is not. Rich sauces have been good for the French for hundreds of years. Shouldn't I be allowed a little?  Is there any way to make chicken fried steak that will pass the healthy test? The bottom line is we have 10,000 taste buds on our tongue that we hate to waste on food that lacks...well....taste.

The gym? It's 15 minutes away. Besides I have too much else to do. I have a stair master in the spare room. Come to think of it that's where my new sweater is hanging.  We have all sorts of reasons why exercising enough to help us is too much bother.  "I can't walk today, it is too (hot, cold, light, dark, wet, dry). I can't go to the gym, I'm trying to be green and I don't want to drive."

We know all these excuses are just that, excuses. At some point your body is going to start to break down. While genetics play a big part in what happens to us, we have a tremendous amount of control over the quality of our physical aging. Isn't it odd that we are a society of instant gratification for everything except health and exercise. Then, we figure we can wait just a little while longer.

This list comes from my personal list of lame excuses. The first one, about the future, is starting to catch up on me. Once you past 60 the future doesn't seem to stretch quite so endlessly ahead. The gym excuse was great for almost 5 years. Then, we switched to a facility only 5 minutes away (at half the cost) and I lost that one. Now, I'm pretty good about going 3 times a week. I bought a treadmill, used it to hang my clothes in the bedroom, and finally sold it a few years ago. Worst $900 I ever spent.

If you have uncovered any tricks or hints that work for you and may help the rest of us do what we know we should, I ask you to share! Personally I have no interest in entering an Iron man Marathon. But, I would like to not become the Falling-Apart-Man. Can you help us build a happy retirement lifestyle?


  1. I am hard wired to enjoy exercise. It releases stress and I enjoy the immediate sense of accomplishment. Healthy eating started 17 years ago when I looked at my dad, who was in pretty darn good shape, in a hospital bed after he had quadruple by-pass at 60. (He's still going strong today, including weekly golf outings with me and some grandsons).

    As you know, a common suggestion is to schedule your workout time and have a partner. This is a very valid technique, and my wife and I enjoyed it a few years back when we trained for and ran a half marathon.

    Like most things though, each person is different on motivation. I'm a bit unique in that I enjoy solitude, so it's easy for me to workout by myself. Others need socialization or some pressure from a partner, so they are best joining a club and being part of a group.

    Ok, enough said. Enjoy the day, and park farther away from the grocery store in the lot and save some door dings and enjoy the walk :-)

  2. J,
    Have you ever noticed how people work to get the closest parking spot to the door of the gym? Is that somewhat counterproductive?

    I am also one who enjoys his solitude (the perfect mindset for a writer) so I can go to the gym alone and not have a problem. But, I prefer to go with my wife when she is available. It's more fun and it helps her get there more often.

    Had my physical yesterday...everything is looking good so I'll keep to my plan for now.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts J, and have a very fruitful day.

  3. I'm having a hard time sticking to my exercise routine, which I was very diligent at when I was working, ironically. Seems that having unlimited time to do it means I can keep saying, "later."

    But then I remember it doesn't have to be exercise for exercise sake, spending a couple hours cleaning the house or a day working in the garden also count, and have the extra added benefit of looking beautiful after I am done! A little more instant gratification there. . .

  4. Excellent point about the definition of exercise. The things you mentioned like gardening or cleaning the house count just as much as 30 minutes on a treadmill. We live in a two-story house. So, those 14 steps, up and down many times a day, add up.

    Have a great day, Syd. Now, I am actually off to the gym (really!)

  5. Like J295, I have been happily working out since college. I like the feeling I get when I have completed my workout routine and the fact that it is doing me some good for the long run. One thing that has helped me is having a stationary bike in the garage. It is easy when I hit a slow time during the day to grab a book and ride the bike for 40 minutes. KEY is to have a good book - not anything too deep but more fast moving adventure. Then you are quickly engrossed in your reading and the time flies.

  6. I like the feeling after my time at the gym, too. It is the going in the first place that I fight. But, when it is over I do have an extra bounce in my step.

  7. Great minds think alike, I suppose this is where I should write that little missive I've been thinking of.. about how a sedentary girl who never played sports in her life loses fifty pounds since May?? LOL. Personally, I despise exercise, its the devil's invention if you ask me. All those people who told me that once I started I would love it and wonder why I never did it before?? They had no clue whatsoever. LIke you, what I can say is that I notice if I dont walk or do water aerobics in my energy level-but I will never, ever love it, and I will never, ever, ever jump out of bed and say oh, good, let's go exercise!

  8. This is real life and it isn't as simple as we would like. When you age, you can't wing everything and expect your body to compensate. The damage begins to matter. My take is that exercise is critical but the jury is out about what and how much exercise I need. Currently I am committed to a twice a week visit with a trainer. It has already made a real difference without taking a lot of time and will get me to the point where I can maintain. Lesson? Use experts and look for results. On food, I eat healthy to a degree but I don't buy everything the 'experts' say. I will eat anything I like but moderately. I try to eat more vegetables than I like and cut out the carbs. Fat is ok with me, Also I take vitamins and supplements. The jury is still out.

  9. I find every excuse in the book. I have tried to go early in the day, after a midday nap, before a midday nap, late doesn't matter, it is work.

    But, I know I must and I know I will pay for it if I don't, so off I go.

  10. Ralph,

    You have used an important word that would help a lot of people: moderation. We are scared that if we don't exercise 5 days a week, eliminate everything we like from our diet, and take part in marathons we are doomed.

    In all things, moderation, including exercise, diets, and food choices.

  11. I am wondering who will be healthier in the end - my sister who exercises daily to the extreme. She has had numerous hospital visits and broken bones and is ultra light- or me who isn't any of the above. I think she will either live to be 100 or drop dead of the stress she delivers to her body by the age of 60.

    I do exercise daily and am taking off ten lbs every six months- but it is slow going and I need to do way more before we go on our 30th anniversary trip in one year. I just want to be able to look good for that one- size 16 will due.Thinking that a gym would be a waste of money- but that wii in the basement might need to be plugged in:>) I already know I can walk just about anyone into the ground if I want to right now (after a week in DC with my sil the Marine- I know that I still have it). I just don't enjoy European snickers.

    Is skinny really the answer? I am thinking Ralph's moderation is really the key to enjoying my retirement years.
    Nice post Bob. Makes me "recommit" Time is shorter than we all would like to believe.

  12. Hey Janette,

    Walking is usually said to be the best all around exercise there is. It doesn't take special equipment, isn't as hard on the body as jogging, and will result in weight loss if done regularly.

    I've lost 20 pounds in a little over a year and have the last 5 pounds to go...and they are proving more difficult than the first 20. Why is that?

  13. For me, the age old rule for a successful exercise program applies, do something that you find fun. During the week, I go to our local aquatic center and walk laps in the pool for at least twenty minutes. If the weather is good, which doesn’t happen much this time of the year, I’ll go for a bike ride. I hate the treadmill, we own one but I hate walking and not going anywhere.

  14. I'd like to bike ride, but in my part of Scottsdale, the ability to do that without getting run over is limited. I suppose I could put it on the car and drive farther out of town but that seems very ungreen of me.

    Walking on a treadmill without going true!

    By the way, thanks for your moving picture on your blog for Veteran's Day.

  15. I too am pretty good at going to the gym three times per week. We live eight miles from town and there do volunteer work each Monday and Wednesday evening (teaching English to Hispanic adults). So, mid-afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays, I drive into town, run some errands and spend an hour or so in the gym. My third day to visit the gym is either Friday or Saturday. During the warmer months, I ride my bike for aerobic exercise. But during the winter, my aerobic exercise suffers a bit -- for I snowshoe or cross country ski irregularly. Bill

  16. Nice schedule, Bill.

    You have problems in the winter and I have the summer heat that makes it tough to want to get in a car to go to the gym. We all have our obstacles!

  17. Two things keep me getting up to go to the gym at 5 AM ( I hate it!!) in the morning: partners and goals.
    My gym partner picks me up on tuesday and I pick him up on Thursdays. Knowing thet are expecting us, gets us up!
    My running partner calls me every teusday night to make sure we are meeting Wednesday morning at 5:45 (feels like sleeping in! My biking group always lets me know I was missed if I miss a Sunday morning ride. Saturday, I bike to work and it seems to impress my staff and patients....I feel good about setting an example. Fridays may be a recovery day, or I may ride to work. Mondays are also variable,being my day off of work, but if my wife feels like going for a hike, the dog and I are there.
    Goals: short term...I climb mountains and want to keep doing it. Suffer in the gym...or you just won't make it on the hill! I love wearing the same size clothes I wore in college....besides, I have a lot of very expensive specialized sport clothing that I am too cheap to replace with a bigger size.
    Long term...I want to live to 120. I've got a lot of things to do, and it will take time!!
    Cheers, Keith

  18. Keith,

    120 years old is certainly a goal to shoot for. Best of luck! Based on your exercise schedule you just might make it. I could never get up that early for exercise. I've tried but the body and mind are not willing.

    Thanks for the comment and setting the bar so high for yourself.

  19. First of all, congratulations on the weight you've lost. I'm trying to take 10 pounds off and am stalled after just 5!

    I prefer exercising outside if the weather isn't too challenging. In the summer, which can be very humid where I live, I'll swim at an outside pool. Spring and Fall, I walk or bicycle. If it snows I get out my cross country skiis and do a turn around the park. The variety is nice but it is indeed easy to say, "I'll do it tomorrow" if life is busy. It is odd that I always feel great after exercising and still find it so difficult to get started.

    My husband makes it a priority, sets goals, and keeps a log of his exercise. He's a numbers guy and enjoys seeing all of those goals being met. That's never worked for me.

    Trying to learn from him - he makes exercise one of his top priorities and then fits other stuff around it. Sort of like the old "pay yourself first" for personal finance. I tend to put exercise at a lower priority and so it is often the thing that doesn't get to.

  20. I used to be like your husband, writing things down in a notebook and keeping track. But,as life kept getting in the way I'd get frustrated by the skipped entries in the notebook. My solution? Stop writing it down.

    Seriously, I applaud him for his dedication. It will pay off handsomely in the future. I'm more in your camp. It is too often the thing that falls to last on the list. Luckily, with a better diet and at least 3 times a week at the gym, the weight has gone down.

  21. I have battled my weight all my life. A case of diverticulitis that caused me to have 10 inches of colon removed not only caused me to lose weight (hospitals are great placed to lose weight, especially when on a liquid diet, but not recommended), but assess my eating and exercise habits. I eat better, get more fiber (not getting enough fiber is the only cause of diverticulitis, eat your fiber) and exercise more. I now my extra weight will take a toll on me as I get older.

    Still, it is a battle. I love stuff that's bad for me. I use the all things in moderation rule. I eat well most of the time, but occasionally indulge. As for exercise, I walk every day and do a lot of stretching and some strength training. On the days I lift weights, I always wake up and have to talk myself into it. I have to keep the goals in mind, lose weight, be physically able to enjoy a long retirement and, most of all, stay alive.

  22. Dan,

    I didn't realize such a major operation could be necessary with a bad case of diverticulitis. That is good information.

    I'm going to the gym today, figuring Friday will be too crowded: everyone filling guilty after tomorrow's food fest.

    Very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Dan.