A journey from resolution to reality

Very often, the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle become evident only after oneself or someone close in the family or friends is hit with a major catastrophic illness.

For many years, I wished, hoped somehow and made resolutions time and again to change my lifestyle. However, umpteen resolves could not trump the adversities of an erratic life of academic grant hunting and other such. The net result was an accumulation of tons of adipose tissue. Something had to change.

So finally, this was a year of retribution after a close friend of mine got me into running; for the first time in my life, I am confident that I can continue my fitness journey without quitting.

Everyone needs such a year when you hit pause in life, forcing you to reflect, introspect, and make necessary modifications. What changed in 2018? As much as the credit belongs to the friend who got me into running, a supportive wife and children, my coach and the team, there is something else. It was also me and my mindset towards fitness. 

Knowledge is not a major challenge in the modern world. Everyone seems to know almost everything, thanks to the information overload on the Internet. Choosing to act on the knowledge one possesses (or not) is the greatest hindrance for any progress to be made either at an individual or the community level. How do we make this transition from knowledge to action? The answer is not simple, but worth exploring for our own good.

When you purchase a vehicle, it comes with a manual on how to maintain it and an insurance policy, without which you cannot drive on the road. Regular service and maintenance are then done to prevent any major problem.

Compare it to the human body and mind; we are not handed a manual when we are born. But the most complicated mechanics and state of the art technology are embedded within for the healthy functioning of human beings. Forget the regular maintenance of it, when was the last time you went for an annual check-up or took care to maintain the vital functions in the body?

It is this very paradox which is driving us towards illness and wellness alike. The human body and mind are the products of evolutionary advantages with the rarest of the rare technology and infrastructure embedded within the most complicated network of neurons, muscles, vessels, tissues and fluids. 

Like one won’t leave their Mercedes-Benz to be serviced at a local garage, you just don’t pick up pills from a local pharmacy without prescription. An idling car burns fuel without really going anywhere; similarly, an overthinking mind can give only stress without any results. A vehicle with clogged filters is as good as useless, so get rid of the smoke which obstruct your lungs and airways as the human body doesn’t have the option of either cleansing or replacing them. 

You don’t learn to drive your vehicle without expert guidance, so have a coach to guide you through to fitness. I was blessed to get a good coach in Chandrashekhar Subramanyam, who helped me shed the initial inertia and get the discipline in life.

Bridging the gap

So here is 2019, a potentially defining year for each one of us. Let this year bridge the gap between perception and action making the rest of the life a joyful journey. To begin with, what needs to change are the representations of self and other people around. Find and tag with a good friend who is fitter and more disciplined.

Most importantly, get a guru. A frequently asked question is whether one finds a good Guru easily. In my view, the real question is whether you are a good student. Each one of us can begin somewhere, evolving our own health and fitness goals and modifying our behaviours.

An activity initiated at an individual level can transform and promote a healthy, active lifestyle in our families and in the communities we live in. Changing the amount and duration of physical activity and sedentary time can start by simply standing, walking, running and being mindful of our routine life.

Can’t we pay at least one-tenth of our attention to our health and fitness compared to what we do for maintaining vehicles? Perceiving a “fitter you” is a good beginning, while walking the talk is the first step in realising that perception.

In Buddha’s words, “Discipline is absolutely necessary to enjoy good health and to bring true happiness”. 

(The writer is Professor and Head — Lifecourse Epidemiology, Indian Institute of Public Health, PHFI, Bengaluru)

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A journey from resolution to reality

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