Even if it’s not your New Year coming up, this time of year, with Fall coming in, lends itself well to new beginnings, whether it’s the energy of kids going back to school or the return to our more usual life after summer, Autumn seems to call for a similar introspection as January. For Jews, it’s even moreso as we take stock of our year at this time and prepare for the next. We always want it to be a better year than the last, but this year in particular, there seems to be a urging to dig a little deeper and make larger, more lasting changes.
We blow a horn called a shofar and part of its meaning is as a wake up call. The fact is…most of us in the US could use a wake up call.
- Nearly 30% of the world’s population is obese or overweight.
- Poor nutrition is 1 of the 4 leading lifestyle risks for chronic disease.
- Unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
- Most medical schools require little or no nutrition classes as part of their curriculum!
- The general public is constantly being inundated with miracle diet pills and one-size-fits-all plans.
- Healthcare is actually “sick care” and more focused on medications than prevention.
I’ve seen this play out in my own life. When I met my husband, I was a runner and probably on the higher side of the health spectrum…but he wasn’t. He already suffered from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It quickly became clear that the same things that worked for me…didn’t work for him. We tried multiple different diets seeking health for him and, over the years, his weight just increased as did his health problems.
One of the most frustrating things about all this was all the conflicting information we’d receive about diet. Dietitians would recommend one diet for his diabetes, but that diet would contradict the diet they prescribed for his heart disease. In the news, there would be a report one year that something was a “super food,” and then a report the next advising people to avoid it. We tried paleo, vegan, the whole 30, whole foods, calorie tracking…each time he’d lose weight for a bit, but the minute we relaxed even a little, he’d gain it right back…and then some.
In the midst of all of this, I stopped doing the things that were working for me to focus on trying to take care of him and the kids. I stopped exercising because it meant leaving them. I stopped hiking so much because he couldn’t. I started eating what he liked and I gained weight and sought comfort in food. It was a vicious cycle and I felt like we were only going to keep getting older and sicker. What was the point of trying anymore? Why not accept that this is old age, that our 40’s, 50’s and beyond would be a decline of health and vitality and an increasing list of health conditions and medications?
I needed a wake up call.
I got one when I realized I didn’t want to die, but even more than I didn’t want to die…I didn’t want to waste whatever years G-d has planned for me. No matter what number of years I have left to me, this year taught me that I want to really live them, not just sleepwalk through them. It’s as if I heard the shofar long before Elul this year, waking me up.
I looked at our lifestyle as a whole and what I saw is that everything about our lives makes it harder to be healthy. Our professions both have us sitting at a computer for many hours a day. Our leisure activities were either inactive or revolved around food. Our social activities, when we had them, also revolved around food. I began looking for what I could change now, in the short term, what I could change over the next few years, and also what I couldn’t change and I began making a plan and bit by bit, I’ve been gaining back my health and fitness.
As I did, I had another wake up call…that this is what I want to spend my remaining years doing.
My career is rewarding in many ways. It pays me well and I get a lot of professional recognition as a subject matter expert, but it’s rare that I ever feel like I make someone’s life better. It’s rare that I feel like I made a difference in the world around me. It’s rare I feel like I have eased anyone’s suffering. I make computer networks work for large companies so that they can make money.
I feel like I am here to do more than that.
In my family and friends I see the same suffering I’ve seen in my husband. I feel like I’m surrounded by diabetes, heart disease, and risk factors for cancers. I see people struggling to keep up with their children, struggling to keep up with their lives, drowning in the weight they carry. I see suffering and while I don’t yet have all the answers to help…I do want to be a part of the answer.
I want to help bridge the gap between the life changes that doctors and dieticians prescribe and actually finding ways to make those changes in people’s lives. I want to help people become healthier and reach their goals.
And I’m willing to put my mind to use, picking up the books and going back to school to do it to become a real, certified health coach with an emphasis on nutrition and then, after attaining that, work on certifications to help people become more active, particularly those people who need it most. I want to help people who have health conditions or a lot of weight to lose reclaim their lives so that they can then do what they were meant to do, without pain and without struggle. I want to use all the painful, difficult experiences I’ve had in life, watching loved ones suffer, to help others, to turn those experiences into something positive that helps improve the lives of other people.
I’m tried of turning a blind eye to all those hurting around me from issues with diet and exercise and instead just plodding ahead on my own path and I’m tired of waiting for the right expert with the right answer for my husband and others. I’m ready to start working to learn and grow so that I can help people like him break out of this awful cycle.
What’s your wake up call this year?