What Your Lifestyle Can – and Can’t – Accomplish

Going to extremes is only human, but it’s not healthy. Many people have a difficult time finding a healthy balance in lifestyle choices.

On one extreme are those who throw caution to the wind. They eat – overeat – anything that tastes good, overuse alcohol, smoke, and never exercise. “It’s my life, and I want to enjoy it!” is their motto. If and when they do develop obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or some other illness, they expect a magic pill to make it all go away.

On the other extreme are those who wouldn’t eat a piece of bacon or a candy bar if they were starving. It’s raw, gluten-free, and organic, or it doesn’t pass their lips. They spend as much on supplements as they do on food, and work out ten hours a week or more. And if they get sick they desperately search for some alternative way to get better.

And then there are those who jump between those two extremes – with no better results. A crash diet won’t last very long. An extreme exerciser who becomes a couch potato won’t feel good or be healthy in the long run.

Here are two principles to keep in mind:

  1. Our choices do make a difference. This is true in our physical health, and also in our relationships, spiritual life, and everywhere.
  2. We cannot control everything. Our bodies are mortal, relationships take work on both sides, and God simply will not be controlled!

Both of these ideas are important. It’s a matter of learning what we can control, and what we can’t.

So on the lifestyle front, what can we reasonably expect our health habits to accomplish?

  1. Slow down, not stop, the aging process. Smoking, obesity, and an unhealthy diet do make every body system age faster. Exercise and healthy eating slow down that process, but cannot make one young again, or live forever.
  2. Have more, not endless, energy. Exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining a healthy weight will give you more energy. But you still need adequate rest – for your body, your mind, and your soul.
  3. Have a better attitude. If you feel miserable, you’re going to act miserable and treat others poorly. But even with a healthy lifestyle you will still need to make the choice to be happy. No one else can do that for you.
  4. Lessen the risk of disease, not prevent it completely. A huge percentage of illness is preventable. But healthy people still get sick and die. Accidents happen. Some sickness happens just because we live in a sick world.
  5. Scale back, not completely undo, results of previous lifestyle choices. Quitting smoking, losing weight, eating better – it’s almost uncanny how much healthier someone can become by adopting a healthier lifestyle. But not all the effects of previous unhealthy choices can be undone. Some consequences last a long time.

So here’s to accepting the fact that our choices do make a difference. Why not get all the mileage out of them that we can?

Your turn: Which extreme do you tend to fall into? Are there lifestyle choices you wish you had made differently? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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