It’s been more than 7 weeks since I acknowledged that I had devolved into a fat, lazy shambles of a human being again. I figured it was time for an accountability check.
I did break down and buy that gym membership – and one for my wife – on November 6th, and have diligently exercised at least every other day, not counting the week of Thanksgiving.
Thus far, after two actual weeks of exercise, I weigh the same 265 pounds I did when I decided I was disgusted with my health and fitness and needed to make a change.
But I do feel a lot better. I have more energy now, after just two weeks of working out. I look forward to going to the gym to get my fix of endorphins each day. I think my wife is enjoying an energy boost of her own, as well.
The last time I undertook to lose a ton of weight, in my 20s, I had the benefit of a higher metabolism and a bicycle commute that ensured that I was burning a few calories, even on days I missed out on visiting the gym. This time things will be more difficult.
In fact, I doubt exercise will be enough this time. Thankfully, my primary care doctor has referred me to a nutritionist who can hopefully help me adjust my diet to help lose weight and improve overall health.
On A More Important Note
While we’re on the subject of primary care doctors, let me tell you a dirty little secret: I’ve gone for approximately 10 years of my life without any health care provider whatsoever.
Some of that was due to a lapse in insurance coverage – after I left a job in a large university health system, I entered into the journalism profession at such a low salary that I couldn’t afford insurance premiums. Any healthcare services were provided by community health clinics and urgent treatment centers. During this time, my wife also went without health insurance, a primary care doctor, and any women’s health services.
I would venture to say that our chinchillas received better healthcare than we did. At least they had a set veterinarian and some established continuity of care – Cheryl and I had nothing.
Keep in mind here that I have some chronic issues that should be monitored by physicians – I have asthma that can be exacerbated by issues with my cleft lip and palate (I become congested very easily and have issues clearing out congestion once it reaches my lungs – an allergy exacerbation almost always eventually becomes full-blown bronchitis if the symptoms are left untreated). I have cerebral palsy and a sensory processing disorder.
In recent years, thanks to a hospital visit resulting from a car crash, I also discovered that I have an autoimmune condition called sarcoidosis that causes benign masses to sprout up in various places throughout my body. I believe that condition to be in remission now, but when it flares up I can suffer from masses in my lungs, eyes, lymph nodes – even my brain. This is a condition that definitely needs to be monitored by a doctor.
Thankfully, I’ve been a relatively healthy person despite these chronic health issues.
I'm A Dumbass
When I started blogging about financial independence, I realized that health is probably the one topic more central to everyone’s lives than finances. If we’re not healthy enough to enjoy our wealth, what’s the point of working towards financial independence? Does anyone really want to spend their retirement in poor health?
Ignoring preventative healthcare is one of the worst financial decisions a person can make. Failing to regularly go to a doctor and monitor one’s health can lead to expensive hospital visits, surgeries, prescriptions and other interventions down the line. It can also shorten your lifespan and greatly increase the cost of living during retirement.
If one of the central rules of personal finance is to invest in yourself first, then one of your first investments in yourself should be in maintaining or improving your health.
I couldn’t really advocate for others taking control of their financial situations while I ignored my own health. I had insurance, but I had never really exercised it the way I should have.
In short, I was being a hypocrite.
Here was a problem that I had the resources to confront, but my own inertia – out of fear, shame and regret – was preventing me from doing so.
Confront The Shame
I was ashamed that I was fat and living a sedentary lifestyle. I was ashamed that I hadn’t kept up with my health over the years (I even lied to family and friends about going to the doctor). I was ashamed that I had spent so much time losing momentum rather than building it.
I let all that shame hold me back when I could have just picked up the phone (or opened an internet browser) and made myself a damn appointment – and I’m lucky that all my shame didn’t lead me to have a major health crisis like a heart attack during that time.
This is the same kind of shame that keeps people from addressing their personal financial situation, changing their lifestyle or improving their relationships. It’s not unique to me, you, or anyone else. I think it’s secretly universal – even the most intelligent and seemingly proactive people we encounter are bound to some extent by their own personal shames and fears.
What’s important is that we find within ourselves – and each other – the courage to address the root problems in spite of the shame we feel. I encourage anyone reading this to consider when and where shame has held them back from making an important improvement in their lives, acknowledge the shame as an obstacle, confront the actual problem at hand and then tell their story to hopefully inspire someone else.
It’s okay to be afraid. It’s not okay to let fear dominate your decision making.
I’m happy to say I had my first primary care appointment in four years on Nov. 16. While I’m not exactly falling apart, there are a few health issues other than my weight that I must confront, including, for the first time, higher than normal blood pressure.
I have a slate of appointments with specialists coming up over the next couple of months, and I will try to document my progress on becoming a physically healthier person as I write about my financial progress on Robbins’ Nestegg.