I just had a birthday — one of those “milestone” birthdays that remind you that you’re well along on the journey of life. Time to stop saying, “are we there yet, are we there yet,” and start enjoying the scenery along the way. I’m not going to tell you which milestone it was — let’s just say that the senior discount has suddenly become much more interesting.
This milestone birthday has got me thinking about ways to bolster my health for the rest of the journey. I’m mindful of the magic trifecta: diet, exercise, and sleep.
Diet: When I was growing up, the mantra was, “You are what you eat.” Us kids had visions of ourselves turning into walking slices of Velveeta cheese with potato chip hats on our heads. In those days, “diet” meant eating less. The potato chip companies tried to defy that trend with their ad campaign, “No one can eat just one.” Diets are not good for business when you’re heavily invested in potato chips.
Today there is a dizzying array of diets to choose from. The one I keep coming back to is the Mediterranean diet. As far as I can tell, this one simply calls for eating a balanced diet low in red meat and high in vegetables. I can try that. The secret to the success of this diet lies in location, location, location. Your average American is likely to fail if they think they can follow the Mediterranean diet from home. It only works if you actually travel to the Mediterranean region. Go to Greece and Italy, bask in the sun and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, eat fresh lemons and olives, and you will immediately feel healthier and more relaxed. Sign me up!
In addition to eating well, you’re supposed to drink enough water a day to stay hydrated. I absorbed the goal of eight glasses of water per day in junior high school health class. But I was too young to ask the burning question: does coffee count?
Exercise: I’ve embraced the idea that walking 10,000 steps a day will make me healthy, wealthy, and wise (Oh wait, was that “early to bed?” Forget it—that’s too hard). I rely on my smartphone to be my personal assistant in this effort. If my phone records around 10,000 steps a day, I am an exercise hero. I don’t have to feel embarrassed when I go to the doctor to face the inevitable question, “Do you exercise.” Yes, I walk. But my phone is not necessarily a reliable data analyst. If I wear a dress without pockets, for example, I don’t get credit for all my steps that day. Or there’s the time I woke up in the morning to find that I’d already logged 20 steps before ever getting out of bed. Either I’m walking in my sleep, (which should count as exercise, right?) or my phone is trying to give me a little boost of confidence. It wants me to feel like I’m doing well, right before demoralizing me with its negative messaging. Today it informed me, “On average, this year’s step count is lower than last year’s.” This, after I exceeded 10,000 steps two days in a row and posted a 21,000-step day earlier this month. So much for encouragement!
Sleep: That’s the hard one. Between the coffee (yes, it counts), staying up late because I’m a night owl, the need to get up in the night to go to the bathroom from all that drinking, and the sun coming up at 3 a.m. in the summertime, I find it hard to log seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Maybe if I programmed my phone to track my hours of sleep time, I would be more motivated.
In the end, the magic trifecta of diet, exercise, and sleep is merely a tool to help me enjoy the rest of my journey of life. I look forward to more milestones along the way. Next stop, the Mediterranean! After all, that senior discount ought to be good for something.
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.