Dr. Kevin Plummer, with his kids

On how habits affect how we age

Kevin’s an athlete. Tall, tight, and full of that coiled energy that lifelong jocks carry, especially when they maintain it over the course of a lifetime, he walks — no, stalks --around his office as if on springs. I met him last year when I first moved to Eugene.

One reason I like working with Kevin is because, at 48, he’s facing down middle age. His attitudes about aging, exercise and health are what made me commit to working with him. It’s also why I wanted to share some of his observations about what he’s seeing as a combination of Covid, quarantine and life choices have affected people coming into his practice.

“I don’t see aging as an issue of time,” he said this morning as I lay face down on the table, getting work done on my lower back. “ I see it more as our habits.”

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

In other words, some people tend to gain a few pounds a year, each pound placing an exaggerated load on the spine. Under quarantine, he saw people put on more weight, and faster, placing an even more damaging load on their spines and overall health. Combine that with sedentary habits, bad food and the increased stress and anxiety that an insecure future places on some folks, people are struggling.

By the same token, some people that he treats have used their quarantine time to improve themselves. Keith has not only beaten his personal best forty-yard dash record, but also his vertical jump. He sees others like this, too.

People who, when faced with the same restrictions and limitations that many of us juggle, choose to create a different set of habits rather than give up. While a great many of us, me included, have watched our incomes plummet, we all are gifted with the same amount of time every day. Some, like a woman I wrote about recently who lost 48 pounds so far AND finished a book, see that time as an opportunity.

Those are choices. Day-to-day, minute-to-minute decisions about how to spend the moments we have.

Before you gaslight me about how LUCKY we are, kindly, Kevin has two hyperactive young boys, a live-in love, a house and a practice to manage. While some Hollywood folks and others have paid staff, neither of us does. The knee-jerk response that somehow there’s plenty of extra cash or a cadre of employees to handle all the details is just childish.

Bottom line, if you are truly committed, somehow you find ways to improve yourself, even if that means in very small steps. Besides, that’s how all great changes tend to begin.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

As for hacks, this gets a laugh out of him.

Kevin shared a story about a sixty-year-old man who was well over 300 lbs. With nothing to lose, his health in tatters, the man decided to begin with one pushup every day.

Just one.

Every day.

Until he could two, then three.

“That same man now does triathalons, “ Kevin added.  It would be fair to say that a hundred pushups for that man, who once faced a potential early death and a badly truncated life, are now a breeze.

Fundamental life changes, shifts in lifestyle, happen in moments, but they accumulate. No matter how badly you and I might want out of our oversized skin suit, and I’ve been there myself, there is NO healthy hack to do it fast.

Note that I said “healthy.” Sure you can get gastric bypass surgery. However far too many folks who went that route either found themselves tethered forever to doctors to deal with the complications, or they abused their new bodies and ate it all back on.

Change your habits, change your life, but there is no shortcut.

Kevin on occasion sports a splint for a bad finger, a torn up ankle. He’s a jock. He uses his body, and he’s got young boys, which is a recipe for the occasional ding. And he pushes, plays and enjoys life to the fullest.

As might we all.

So do I. This past year I had a fractured finger, fractured toe, a laundry list of injuries. We all have wear and tear, especially if we use our bodies to work and play hard. However, time isn’t the enemy, to return to Kevin’s primary point.

“Mindset, and our internal attitudes about what we deserve, what we are worth committing to are far worse enemies than time. For if we don’t believe we are worthy of health and fitness, we will not commit to better habits,” he said.

Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

Habits are those habits which lead to the donut vs. the yogurt, the booze vs. the bicep curls, the couch vs. the crunches. Minute-to-minute, quarantine or no quarantine, Covid or no Covid.

We fill the time we are given with our choice of habits. In many if not most cases, you and I can begin, like the 300 lb.-man of sixty who is now finishing triathlons, with one very small, but ultimately very critical step.

If there is a hack, that’s it. But it’s neither quick, nor is it easy. There is no way to hack life. Life is just life. What you do with it, the habits you choose, the decisions you make about what life hands you and me, are what determine the quality of that life.

Choose your habits, choose your life. It really is that simple.