Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good Advice

The world is full of advice. Self-help books, Dr. "How's that working for you?" Phil, religious leaders, teachers, doctors, celebrities, mothers, fathers, and friends all tell us what to do, when to do it, how to do it. Of course sometimes their advice is bad, such as when my father-in-law’s told us not to buy Apple stock in the late ‘90s. We didn’t listen to him, and can you say “iPod” and "iPhone"? YES! But too often, people’s advice makes sense, and if we followed it, our lives would be better, happier, and healthier.

Why, then, don’t we take advice, even when we know it is good for us? I’m baffled by this oh-so-human failing. Perhaps it’s the result of some evolutionary quirk because every person I know seems afflicted by it.

Two years ago, I took the
RealAge test. If you’ve never taken it, I encourage you to give it a whirl. The results show your “real” age, adjusted for lifestyle choices, diet, exercise, and general health. Just be sure to click NO on the questions asking if you want information on diet and exercise or your in-box will be flooded with spam. I’ve warned you in bold italics, so you can’t blame me if you don't take my advice.

In 2007, RealAge gave me a four-year credit for all the great choices I made, so at the age of 40, my RealAge was 36. Woohoo! At the time, I exercised a few times each week (it was summer and I walked the dog), and I also drove the speed limit, didn’t talk on the cell phone while driving, drank a half a glass of wine a day, had good cholesterol levels and blood pressure, kept my weight reasonable, yadda, yadda.

Three areas of my life warranted improvement, according to the experts at RealAge. They recommended I exercise more and at higher intensity, eat more fruit and veggies, and take a calcium supplement. No surprises in any of those suggestions, and I had no reason not to follow this excellent advice…except that I’m lazy, and prefer chocolate to fruit and veggies, and can’t seem to remember to take the supplements sitting on my bathroom counter.

Why is it so hard to follow good advice?

In the last two years, I pretty much quit exercising altogether. The dog now has arthritis and moves much more slowly, which means walking him hardly counts as a workout anymore. I intended to start rowing again and had George haul the rowing machine up from the basement. It’s now very dusty in the corner of our bedroom. Mr. Ironman keeps asking when I’m going to use it, and I answer, “Eventually.” I also intended to eat more fruits and veggies and to take the supplements.

You don’t need to say it. I already know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. When I took the RealAge test this April, the news was indeed hellish. I lost all but six months of the four-year credit I had.

Yikes. I really am 42.

Unfortunately, the RealAge test doesn’t ask how much soda a person drinks. By last July, I drank five cans of Coca-Cola Classic a day and had gained almost ten pounds in about six months. When I told George of my intention to quit, he laughed at me. He’d heard that particular intention many times before.

He’s not laughing now. I quit Coke in August and have lost 18 pounds. Kicking a life-long addiction to fizzy high-fructose corn syrup should be a good thing, right? No more bone-leeching carbonation, empty calories, and tooth-rotting acid, right? Wrong. Ironically, losing 18 pounds works against my RealAge score since it reflects a significant yo-yo in weight that isn’t healthy.

Sometimes a girl just can’t win.

When I took the RealAge test a few weeks ago, the experts had lots more good advice for me, truly reflecting my deterioration in the last two years.

Get more calcium, folic acid, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. I guess I have to open those bottles on my counter and pop some pills.

Cut down on red meat. I’m sorry, but if God didn’t want us to eat cows, He wouldn’t have given them tasty parts, like ribeyes. Thank you, God, for ribeyes.

Vary your veggies. It’s not enough that I eat more, I have to vary them. Sheesh!

Work out more often and more intensely. Duh. I felt great when I worked out seriously, and my back was incredibly strong. I do want to feel that healthy again.

Tighten and tone with weights, which is useful for keeping my bones from disintegrating as well as for boring me to death. I hate weight lifting.

Stretch. I’ve intended to start yoga for years….

Protect your joints. The arthritis pains in my knees and hands need to be addressed rather than ignored, apparently. But seeing as I can’t take ibuprofen without giving myself ulcers, and the alternative meds can cause heart problems, I think I’m between a rock and hard place on that one. Hopefully, my doctor will have a useful suggestion.

RealAge’s advice is all good. But is a life without ribeye worth living? I might be able to eat less red meat but cannot promise any more than that. Some changes, however, seem much more important than others. The exercise, fruit, veggies, and vitamins deserve immediate attention. I really don’t want to develop the osteoporosis that dissolved my grandmother’s bones. She spent the last 18 months of her life in a nursing home bed. I don't want to go there.

If I don’t do something now, though, that’s where I’ll end up. Guess I better get my butt in gear and take RealAge’s advice seriously. When I tell George this, hopefully he’ll laugh at me. Then I know I’ll succeed, just to show him who’s boss.

PS As for the funny grandparent stories, I decided to send cards to everyone who submitted Gina, chelemom, Susan, and Carrie, please send me your snail-mail address. And yes, Angela, you'll get one, too, even though you sent an email instead of posting a comment!


  1. Hey Susan! I love the Real Age test, too. I have been 36 for a while now. That first recommendation you could take care of with more fruit and vegetables in your diet. No need to pop pills. I really should quit sodas. Remember my all-consuming Coke habit? It has now turned into a pretty nasty Dr. Pepper habit. Working at a fast food restaurant doesn't help. Since I have 75 pounds to lose, I am going to follow your example and kick the high fructose corn syrup habit. I go to the gym five days a week, but I think as long as I have the fizzy monkey on my back, I won't lose the weight. LOL. I'll send my snail mail privately.



  2. This is so spot on for me! Both my ability not to take good advice, and my inability to stop handing it out. Something to think about!

  3. I subscribe to the RealAge stuff too! I've had extra years added on by the SLE, but turning 40 was kind of a shocker for me, so I got a hair cut, color, and a stomach infection that allowed me to quit almost all my cravings cold turkey. Now I'm back to eating bland foods, but at least I'm eating! I don't recommend it as a way to lose 12 pounds quickly, but it sure did help. :)
    Soda is definitely an evil, and just as hard to kick as smoking. Good luck!!!


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