I have often referred (probably almost annoyingly) to living a healthy lifestyle as a journey.
A journey always has crossroads and detours and unforeseen roadblocks. I like to think of them as phases.
Phases really just summarize where your head is during that period, and we usually enter a new phase with a bit more wisdom than we had.
Of course there’s a lot of room for error on the whole wisdom thing. We tend to think we’re wise at the time.
As we learn later, true wisdom comes from learning that you don’t know everything and have much to learn. This is especially comforting to parents.
At least that’s what I like to tell myself.
The 5 Phases
Phase One – The “WHAT-ever” Phase
You’re out of high school and your once gravity-defying body parts have traveled a bit south and you can’t scarf down oodles of fries and Bloomin’ Onions at quite the same rate. I like to see this as a bit of enlightenment. Even though your motivation might be purely superficial, you realize you need to do something and decide to check out the gym. Besides, there’s lots of cute guys/girls to check out there.
Fit Tip: You’re still a bundle of energy and recover pretty quickly. Those unhealthy decisions don’t look so bad on a twenty year-old body. Don’t we often refer to it as baby fat? But don’t blink because Phase Two is going to sneak up and bite you in your gravity-defying behind!
Phase Two – The “Awww Crap, I Have a Real Job and Responsibilities” Phase
Maybe you’re in college or working full time and possibly newly hitched and starting a family. There’s barely time to bathe much less time to workout. But you know you can’t live on Ramen noodles and diet soda forever. You’re starting to notice hangovers suck more and you feel horrible after midnight snack attacks of ice cream, bags of Oreos, and bologna sandwiches. You’re starting to pick up signals from your body that you better cut this crap out and invest in your health a bit. You think about it and do 25 situps in the morning for 3 days straight. You’re just too busy.
Fit Tip: You might be seriously stressed and working, studying, or parenting all hours of the night and getting very little sleep. You probably aren’t prioritizing any health needs, but it would benefit you immensely if throughout the day you infused your busy life with small healthy decisions. This is a great time to learn what balance means. Small decisions like adding 15 minutes of exercise, drinking more water, and going to bed an hour earlier pay off big if you’re consistent.
Phase Three – The “You Still Think You’re Hot But Spend Your Paychecks on Spanx” Phase
Where did the time go? You’ve been raising kids, reaching awesome career goals, and expanding your social circle. Those rounds of colorful cocktails and girls’ nights out mean an extra 30 pounds and you have no idea how it happened! I have nothing against some discreet undergarments, but now it’s beyond the superficial: your health is at risk.
Fit Tip: A BMI (check with your doctor about your BMI) above 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is considered obese. This increases your risk of some cancers, coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other diseases according to the CDC. Not only will getting your fitness together now do wonders for health, but you’ll also be able to take an exotic vacation with all the money you saved on Spanx!
Phase Four – The “OMGeeeee I’m 40″ Phase
I remember turning 40 vividly. I walked into my house and it was decorated with black balloons. They made their own freaking dinner that week. Funny how at 40, you don’t feel 40, whatever that means, but when you catch a look in the mirror, or better yet in pictures, you realize you’ve, um…evolved. Yes, let’s go with the word evolved. I like that. Maybe you’ll have a mid-life crisis and get a tattoo or pierce something. But really this is the moment you need to seize life with a passion and purpose.
Fit Tip: The focus is always health, but now it’s about more than physical health. There’s everything from kids going to college to hormonal changes to taking care of elderly parents. You might be a new grandparent, or even going through a divorce. When you’re healthy and strong you’re able to handle setbacks and stress. Many unhealthy behaviors manifest later in life as an illness or injury. But 40 is relatively young considering the average lifespan, and you have a lot more life to enjoy. Much of your decision-making now is going to shape your quality of life later.
Phase Five – The “I Don’t Give a Crap What Other People Think” Phase
You’ve made it this far and been through some major rough patches in life. You’ve also accomplished many things you set out to do. Things look different from this part of life. Maybe what was once important, like material things or how perfect your hair looks, seem to matter less. You care about your outward appearance but in a different way. As far as your health, you probably are paying a price or reaping the rewards from phases 1-4.
Fit Tip: If you chose to be healthy along the way, good for you! If you didn’t, never fear; healthy choices will benefit you greatly, and because we tend to feel more aches and pains later in life, you could experience a huge improvement in your blood pressure, joint problems, ability to perform everyday tasks, and flexibility. Many people do their first marathons after 50! I like to think of this as the second life. Being healthy will give you the freedom to learn something new, travel if you like, enjoy your family and friends, help others, and do it all with energy, gratitude, and joy.
** What phase are you in? Did I miss a phase? Did you find one phase of your health more difficult/easy than another?