The Slow Burn: How I Came to Appreciate the Dangers of Being Unhealthy

June 15, 2024

Erica Prosser (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

Irish dramatist and author George Bernard Shaw allegedly said something to the effect of “Youth is wasted on the young.” I actually don’t agree with this sentiment for the most part (not many among us would make the same stupid, impulsive decisions now that previously led to arguably some of the most memorable times of our lives), but I do believe it fits when discussing the matter of health. 

As an elder millennial, I spend a lot of time complaining in our signature way (via dark-humored memes), that facts like “mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” are forever branded on our brains, yet no one thought it might be a good idea to teach us how to manage our money, communicate effectively or regulate our emotions. Honestly though, as someone who spent my formative years in the era of “thinspiration” and “heroin chic,” I find the number one skill that I’m still lacking is how to effectively take care of my health. We were never taught how to nourish our bodies, choose movement that felt good, or identify the link between our mental and physical health, and now many of us are struggling with body dysmorphia and chronic burnout. 

I was a relatively athletic kid/teen, I played club soccer along with two or three school sports, and I had a parent who always kept us active. What I was putting in my body just never really crossed my mind. So imagine my surprise when I moved out, started working two jobs while going to school full-time, and suddenly I was packing on the pounds at a rapid rate. Add a couple of pregnancies into the mix and suddenly I’m 10 years older with lower back pain, constant exhaustion, pelvic floor issues and bursitis in my hip, wondering what the hell happened. Somehow, despite it having happened over the span of several years, it still felt like a shock to the system. It really did sneak up on me. 

Even with the mounting evidence that I needed to make a change, I was still putting my health on the back burner. I was still relatively active, chasing my two kids around, working out somewhat regularly and sticking to what I liked to call a “medium” diet—relatively healthy with lots of fruit and veggies, but with a pretty substantial amount of picky-eater-approved “beige” food mixed in. I told myself I needed to focus more on my mental health and that I still “had time” to figure out my physical health. Then in the same year, two of my family members had heart attacks. They were both in their early 60s at the time and one would have been fatal had he been on his boat fishing, like he often was, instead of home with his wife. 

This truly blew my mind. I found it almost unfathomable that not one, but two seemingly healthy individuals who lived an “average” lifestyle very similar to mine could be unknowingly putting so much stress on their bodies that they almost lost their lives. I realized then that all of these items on my to-do list—learn more about nutrition, find exercise that you enjoy, practice yoga, add in mobility, meditate, get enough sleep, work on your mental health etc . . .—were not individual tasks to be taken on, but instead all pieces of a puzzle that together, made up my overall health. They were all interconnected, and when I started neglecting one, the others were sure to follow. 

Now the irony here is not lost on me that to avoid burnout you must initially add more things to your to-do list. But the great thing is that when you get into a rhythm, they actually make every other aspect of your life substantially easier and more enjoyable! And while I believe everything in life ebbs and flows (i.e. I don’t ALWAYS practice what I preach), I’m still hoping to spend my later years embracing adventure and vitality, traveling the world and chasing my grandkids around in the pool, all fuelled by a foundation of good health.

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