By Jennifer L. Williams, Contributor, USDR.
If there is one thing I have learned in my few summers living and working in Southeast Alaska – many people wait to travel, take their leisure time, when it is difficult due to age and infirmity. Whether it is a lifestyle choice or an accident or genetics, people struggle off the cruise ships with oxygen tanks and wheelchairs or hobble along due to excessive weight or other issues. It makes one think long and hard about the decisions in life that get us to that point. While it is difficult to fight genetics, we all can make changes to have a healthier “golden era” in our blessed later years.
While many people who cruise to Alaska are in good health, and increasingly more cruise ship passengers include families and younger singles and couples traveling for vacations, over half of the cruise ship passengers are over 50. They are retired, and have waited until these later years to do their traveling. Alaska is often their “dream” destination and it is my job to make sure they have the best experience possible on my tours. But they struggle down the gangplank and huff and puff their way from the dock to the bus waiting to the take them to the harbor, and then from the bus drop-off to the waiting boat. It’s not a far walk but for someone with mobility issues or breathing problems, it is a bit of a challenge. I often wonder if they could change that moment they decided to take up smoking and then ignore the warnings or stop exercising or whatever it is they were doing.
Smoke? Give it up…ration your cigarettes or go cold turkey and use the patch or the gum. Not only will you save your lungs, you will save money. Put that money toward that dream trip. Lose weight and keep it off. This doesn’t mean you need to conform to the magazine images (that are all photo shopped in any case). Very few of us girls will EVER be runway models. But find a weight that is suitable for your frame. Walk every day. Ride a bike. You don’t need to run a 5K or lift weights five times a week. Small changes will make an impact. While I think it’s fine to have a Twinkie every so often, don’t base a lifestyle on junk food. Moderation is the key. Think about how much money you could save by not bringing home the junk food from the grocery store or buying a quick hit from a convenience store. Sock it away for another dream trip.
We as Americans spend billions of dollars a year on weight loss programs, only to gain it back. Only about 5% manage to keep it off. That means 95% of us gain it back and sometimes more. We lapse back into those habits because of stress or changes in our lives. According to some statistics, American spent $60 billion on diet plans in 2010, including almost $20 million for gym memberships and equipment and $6 million on bariatric surgery. Roughly half of our population is “dieting” at any given time. Our national obsession with weight loss is staggering in terms of numbers and lives. The experts suggest small changes – smaller portions, fewer junk food snacks, less sugar, short walks. Take one change at a time to make your body healthier and your quality of life better.
Part of the issue is that we do not want to think about the eventual downward trend of our lives. We are so obsessed with here and now that we have forgotten that living a full life is more than simply the latest gossip or the obsession with every status or tweet. Death stalks us all; we cannot avoid it. We want to deny it and focus on youth. So our bodies will eventually decline and quit. And what happens when you look into the mirror and see youth “slipping away”? How do we want to live the life that God gives us? In denial of His work by continually damaging it or by keeping ourselves healthy for His Kingdom? It is about that quality of life – the spiritual life, too. But you won’t hear anyone saying that there are going to go on a Bible-reading exercise program. God knows our fears and wants to hear them. He offers us life; a very different life after death. Because we want to deny death until we have to, we deny that He offers us anything beyond it. Salvation is His ultimate plan for our minds, bodies, and souls. It frees us from the guilt and sin of being a fallen creature. But we live in a post-modern society that declares God is dead and live it up while you can. We should enjoy the life we are given. God wants us to be happy and healthy and make a different for Him while we are here. He has a plan and it’s harder than any exercise regimen you could ever imagine. And in the end, it is worth more than all the exercise combined. It is life everlasting in a new form.
That doesn’t mean we can give up on our bodies. Staying healthy and giving our bodies good food, adequate sleep and daily exercise makes us feel good and can go a long way to solving a whole host of problems. So go ahead – save up for that dream vacation and enjoy every minute of it. While we may not be able to fight genetics, we can do everything possible to improve our quality of life to live it to the fullest and best possible.