Before I start this post let’s be clear, I’m not a health nut. Yes I like to be healthy, but I have no intention of letting an obsession with health rule my life for ever more. At a weekend and usually at least once during the week I enjoy a beer or two. If I’m in a shopping centre and I’m peckish I’ll get a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s. I eat way too much chocolate and if I go a day without a chocolate biscuit it feels like a real achievement.
Despite all of this I do like to take care of my health. I’d like to think that everything I eat and drink that’s inherently unhealthy I consume in moderation. I enjoy these things because they’re enjoyable. They’re full of fat, sugar, salt or alcohol, all of which have an undeniable and pretty appealing impact on the reward centres of our central nervous system. But I know if I have too much of them then the rewards start to quickly get outweighed by the costs or risks.
I might be totally wrong with this too, but I tell myself that the running I do helps to mitigate some of the fairly minor risks I create through my unhealthy choices. It also, I hope, mitigates some of the risks that just being alive poses. The odds are that one day in the hopefully distant future I’m going to have a stroke or a heart attack or get cancer or something else and that’ll be it. Keeping fit might just delay the inevitable for a few years and in the process allow me to enjoy some unhealthy food and drink guilt free.
But allowing myself to eat burgers and drinking beer without guilt is only half the story. The other half of wanting to keep myself reasonably healthy is not for me but for my family.
My mum died of cancer when I was 15. She was very health conscious in terms of her diet but never really did much exercise. My dad also ate fairly healthily, though he drank way too much, smoked and also did no exercise. At 60 he had a stroke which left him with almost no use of his right hand side and only able to say about 10 words.
My kids are only 4 and 1 at the minute but one day, all being well, they’ll be 34 and 31. They might move to the other end of the country or the other side of the world and might not want or need to see their old dad. But if they do I want to make sure I’m here for them and am fit and able to give them whatever help they need in life just as I am now.
I’m sure there’s way more I could do to be more healthy and increase my chances of living an even longer life. These things don’t happen though for two main reasons. Firstly, there’s only so much willpower I have to commit to making healthy choices. Secondly, they would be no way near as much fun as running.