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Is healthy eating and living only for older people? A teen writes of how she came to internalise the need to live healthy.
I grew up in a household where I’ve had to think about my health consistently. Have I eaten enough fruits and vegetables for the day? How much added sugar does this drink have? Should I exercise more today?
Even though I grew up with this, until I turned fifteen, I never fully grasped the importance of eating well and exercising. But I am one of the lucky ones.
Everyday, I see my friends carrying processed and bagged foods to school, buying candy and sweetened drinks in the lunchroom. I want to tell them that what they are eating is unhealthy and potentially life threatening if they eat it every day.
I have friends who tell me that they exercise minimally or don’t play sports. I think that the problem today lies in the fact that it’s cool to be unhealthy. Lecturing others on their health is indeed laughable. But eating bag after bag of chips only proves that you have money to spend.
People tell teenagers that it is okay to be unhealthy because we can simply “fix it later”. I have a friend who once ate a whole pizza in front of my eyes. He felt that it was fine, since he played sports, he was healthy, and therefore this couldn’t affect him.
We’re young, we should live our lives. That’s what people say. I’ve had adults tell me that I can skip my work-out for a week because I am young and fit, and only older people really need fitness.
I think this mindset is the main reason that adults eat their spinach salads while their kids are out having their third hamburger. People in their mid-forties and fifties know that they are halfway through their lives. They know that if they don’t step up their game right now, they’re going to have serious heart and cholesterol problems when they are older. They know that if they don’t go to the gym, they’ll be obese at eighty.
But teens, we’re a fifth of the way through our lives. We’ve got enough time left. Some people think that they can trash their bodies and sit on the couch all day – and have enough time to turn it around by the time they are older. Teens don’t think about their retirement days. We’re only thinking about now. We’re not thinking about future health problems. We can’t see them now, so we assume they will never happen.
This is the root of the problem. Because even if we don’t see it happening to us, it’s still there. Cholesterol buildup. Weight gain. Increasing blood pressure. Silent killers.
So what should we do?
First, we need to be aware of what we’re eating. That’s not just making a mental note of what you ate for breakfast. It’s looking at the labels on packaged products at the grocery store, and writing down everything you’ve eaten in a journal to be aware of what’s going into us. After all, we may forget about the handful of candies we ate in the morning. With the processed food industry booming, we need to be more careful than ever in what we’re eating.
Secondly, we need to track our exercise. It’s the same deal. We can eat healthy, but we need exercise to be healthy. Get a Fitbit or a smart watch. Track your steps with a pedometer app on your phone. Try to make time for a twenty-minute walk in the evenings. Anything you can do while standing, do it while standing. One minute of exercise is better than none.
Thirdly, we need to learn to not give in. I know what that feels like. Being healthy and meeting exercise goals, only to be tempted by a slice of chocolate cake brought in by a friend. I’ve eaten my fair share of chocolate cake now. I, and you as well, need to learn how to say no to the chocolate cake. And true, we don’t need to say no every time. But once, or maybe twice. It makes all the difference. It helps save us.
That’s all we need to do. It may seem like a lot, but it gets easier.
But as teens, more of us need to be aware that what we’re eating and doing today has a huge impact on our future.
After all, if we don’t do it now, it’s never going to get easier.
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