I plan to survive. How about you? This is how.
If you read my stuff regularly you know what's coming. Maybe. We are, as always, a few days away from the annual cat o' nine tails that is New Year's Eve, and the Night we SWEAR that this year we're gonna (lose weight, start exercising, rinse, repeat.)
Been there. The problem is that these days the conditions are so different, and yet so much more important. The I'ma gonna this year is about survival, not just thinning down or getting that six-pack.
As we face off with another year of Covid, the stark reality that yet another variant is likely to rise after Omicron simply because not enough folks are vaccinated, we are hitting a hard stop. It is far less about aesthetics, fitting into the thin jeans or whatever egocentric desire we have forever focused on up to this point.
Aesthetics hardly matter if you're dead. That seems to be lost on many of us.
This time it's about something else entirely. It's about making it to 2023 and beyond without crippling ourselves.
I am addressing this to all of us, but most particularly those past fifty, and those who are currently dealing with multiple health issues, especially lifestyle illnesses. Chances are you've read the stories. If you've got any of them, you know how vulnerable you are to Covid.
That is, unless you suffer from a terrific break with reality, which some many millions have already, and if so, have a nice journey, and those who would like to stick around will give you a wide berth.
I got in terrible trouble back in March 2020 when I wrote about what we then knew about Covid-19. I knew then that my immune system was strong. Given my athletic habits, my respiratory fitness put me in good stead were I to get sick. One woman came after me with claws; I don't necessarily blame her, but I wasn't bragging. I was stating facts. That was long before Delta and Omicron.
Since we've now been doing the dance with this virus for two years and counting, we now know more about who is at greater risk and who is more likely to do well. What we absolutely know is that those who are most susceptible almost always have any number of other conditions which make them very vulnerable to this virus, which is brutal and unforgiving.
That said, it's fair to say that what we don't know about what makes us susceptible remains a vast empty landscape indeed, albeit being truly healthy is the linchpin which gives us our best shot.
The shape we are in, the foods we eat, our exercise habits, and a great many other life choices have much to do with why you and I might be more or less worried about our chances should we get ill. That said, I bloody well do not wish to get ill, and am committed to do all I can to avoid it. And in every single possible way I want the same for you, Dear Reader.
The point is, however, that with Omicron sweeping around the world like a summer fire in California high country, all of us are susceptible. It varies by degree, and part of that degree is directly in our hands.
I want you to survive. Here is what we now know:
From the article:
The COVID mortality rate for Americans over the age of sixty-five is more than eighty times higher than for those in their late teens and twenties, and over-sixty-fives have accounted for more than three-quarters of COVID deaths in the U.S. The coronavirus has now claimed the lives of at least one in every hundred older Americans.
At 69, normally I'd fall into this category. But I'm an athlete, and my biological age is very different from my chronological age. Another commenter, Rickie Gills, wrote me this the other day, which I post with her permission:
Routine is important for this Virgo. Gym three days a week. Trainer or PT twice a month. Stretchly (sic) therapy once a week. I give myself two days off with recovery boots (lipedema) at home. I’m in my late 70s and have been lifting for 8 years. 2022 is my health focus year. Including extended intermittent fasting as of now. Cardiologist says my biological age is 39. Nice. Commitment pays off in quality of life. Can’t stop now. (author bolded)
Rickie's body is effectively forty years younger than her actual age. While she and I both carry various bits in our health buckets simply from having been around this long, we are likely far less susceptible to the worst of this virus because we are working out regularly. Our bodies are healthy, and while I'm not familiar with her diet, I suspect she is as careful with that as I am.
This is where I stand. We are going to be living with Covid for a good long time, certainly for as long as masking and vaccination are politicized. About the only sane response is to work on our health, and for once in our lives eschew the idiot diets that won't work and stop making excuses about getting up and moving around the room. We are out of excuses. Our choices have led us here, and we can choose to lead ourselves out.
Don't hear that as a blame game. Not at all.
This isn't about shaming you or me or anyone else. It is an invitation, as is all of life an invitation, as is every single day and every minute and every second of every day an invitation to make a choice to do something out of respect for ourselves.
More so, and more importantly, it's where you and I can start making smarter choices right away which will immediately being to pay off. No ultra-processed food, more fiber, more vegetables and cutting out the sugar will allow us to reap enormous benefits. If you still can't deal with parting with your processed food, you might want to look into Dr. Robert Lustig's latest book, Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine.
It's not the only book about this kind of thing out there but it is one very comprehensive tome.
That might just be the fuel you need to get going, make better decisions, and finally get your health in hand. Or not. That's up to you. The stakes are ever so much higher these days.
It sure motivated me. At one point in the reading of his book I marched to my fridge, and in seconds I had dumped all my salad dressings based on the first three ingredients. Now I make them from scratch. Not only do they taste better, I know precisely what's in them.
When we eat better, we feel better, which means that moving is less a chore. When we move more, and are fueling ourselves responsibly, those two fundamental steps are likely to go a long way to start reversing years of bad habits. But only if we stick with them.
Many of us do far better if we form communities which support better choices.
Every year, those of us who pitch health, fitness and weight loss resolutions to ourselves know at some deep level that they are not likely to succeed, given the temptations we face. This is different. This is more a matter of change or die, change or be susceptible to debilitating long Covid.
I would not state nor imply that all you have to do is eat better and move more and all will be well, for that's highly irresponsible. However.
An immune system in a body in a constant state of inflammation can't fight off bad actors. That is the point.
Inflammation is the body's friend, but not if said body is chronically inflamed from bad choices or illness. To that:
Obesity is also a factor. You know if your body is too big. Big isn't necessarily obese. Big is sometimes just how we're born and how the body is meant to be. That's very different from eating ourselves into oblivion, which can lead to obesity, which can cause inflammation and as we have seen, can be a serious factor in the fight against Covid.
So baby steps. As with all things.
Improvements come in increments, and are directly related to how long it's been since we took good care of ourselves. If ever, for that matter. But we can get results when we make changes. Especially as we inch past sixty and beyond.
That is worth doing, Covid or no Covid.
From The New Yorker article:
Aging involves confronting an ever-expanding set of risks; it means accepting that one’s days are growing more dangerous. A strain, a pain, a virus that in youth might have passed without notice—each new malady becomes saturated with a sense of foreboding. There is no escaping the bodily tax of time. And yet, in another sense, the dangers of aging rise and fall more generally. With the advent of cardiac stents, heart attacks became a little less deadly, and so aging became a little less dangerous. With advances in chemotherapy, some cancers are no longer lethal. Bit by bit, growing old has become safer.
Not for all of us.
We are now facing a very different challenge. You and I, as we age, are even more challenged to manage age's insults with better choices, and in the fact of this intensely-infectious virus, it behooves us to add every single layer of potential protection we can. The more healthy we are, the less vulnerable we are. All of us are vulnerable when it comes to this latest variant.
A robust baseline health means that if we do indeed get ill, the indications are that we are better likely to make it through alive, and with luck, recover faster as well.
That is the other best gift. To perhaps finally stop asking of ourselves to become fitness trainer-perfect, to reverse aging, to stop hating ourselves for going grey or any of the other guarantees of later years. In fact, if nothing else, to relax at some level into this most gracious of all life processes, but while doing so, taking the best possible care of ourselves as we can.
What a change of pace that might be for many of us.
As I wind down this second very difficult year, I am facing the first year of my 70th decade beginning in January. The older I get, the more I am challenged to make better daily choices in order to ensure that I can enjoy life as best I can given the challenges we all face. No amount of money, fame, riches or social media popularity will do a damned thing for me if I am irresponsible about my health.
The rich and famous have died rather spectacularly as well.
Some of those folks were also vaccinated, some twice, likely many without boosters. Those who argue strenuously that this proves that the vaccine isn't working are seriously deluded. There is a good chance that any number of these folks had lousy eating habits or drank too much or didn't exercise enough or had other lifestyle problems that the press didn't reveal.
We just don't know.
What we do know is that a strong body, a solid immune system built of good habits, and taking all the proper precautions all add up to a better shot.
However, that better shot begins, as do all the best things in life, with much better health. And that is absolutely within our purview.
So out of all of this, finally being forced to focus primarily on health as opposed to the breadth of our hips, the crispness of our sixpack or the youthfulness (or lack thereof) of our visages, perhaps that is indeed a breath of fresh air.
I'll take fresh air any day. Have a Happy New Year.