Health isn’t for old people

Being in your mid thirties is a weird place. People in their twenties and below see you as geriatric. People in their forties and above look at you and see an infant.

But I’m not as young as I used to be. I can remember being young. I can distinctly remember thinking, as a young person, that ill health is pretty much an affliction of the aged, and that in my youth I could spend my youthful vitality however I liked and worry about healthy living later.

That decision was a mixed blessing. It did lead to some health problems (none as serious as I deserved, thankfully), which in turn got me interested in health in a way I never have been before and probably never would have been otherwise. Getting my priorities straight in my thirties isn’t ideal, but it’s better than waiting until my fifties to do it.

What I never really thought through was how almost everything I could want was dependent on my health, and insofar as I could easily have been healthier, I could have had more of the things I wanted.

What’s probably most dear to me now, which also would have been somewhat convincing when I was younger, is my mind. My thoughts are better when my health is better. Intelligence and memory are improved by good health. Mood and mental health and energy are improved. Relationships are improved. Character and moral quality is improved. The more the brain deteriorates or is working inefficiently, the harder all these things become.

Of course, there’s also the more physical aspect. Better health translates to better stamina, greater strength, less pain, less self-consciousness. What person, of any age, wouldn’t want that?

The problem seemed, when I was younger, that I would have to give up pleasures and live like an ascetic to have these benefits, and I couldn’t do it. But what I didn’t know then, what I wish I would have known, is that I was wrong. I have nothing against asceticism, but it’s not identical with healthy living. There are so many amazing foods and activities that are intensely pleasant that are also entirely healthy. The trick is just knowing which those are. Once that’s known, the choice could hardly be clearer.

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