On “preppers” and making sure you have a future.

I know someone who is a prepper. Perhaps you have not heard of this term. A prepper is someone who takes the Girl Scout motto of always being prepared to the extreme. Preppers often have a six month supply of dehydrated or canned food. They often grow their own food. They stockpile weapons. They take self sufficiency seriously.

Often the goal is to get “off the grid.” They will have generators or solar panels. They might have a well. If the electricity goes out, they have enough fuel to survive for months. And trust me, they do think the electricity will go out. There is a gnawing sense of impending doom that they express.

Some people aren’t preppers but they too are returning to the older ways and learning to grow and can their own food. They are learning how to sew their own clothes. They are getting books on homesteading but on just a little bit of land. Not everybody wants to move out to the country, so they bring the country mentality to the suburbs. They want to be self-sufficient, which is the opposite of dependent. They want to take care of themselves.

Much of this trend is inspired by mistrust of the government. They fear that the government is either too involved in their personal lives or can’t be trusted. People can joke about the “zombie apocalypse” all they want, but these people are prepared for that.

Yet this particular lady I know is really interesting. She does all these things, and yet there is something more that she is doing that has brought up a conundrum in my mind. She is willing to spend money and time making her home more accessible for when she and her husband get older and more infirm. She wants the house to have no stairs and have wider doorways to accommodate a wheelchair. But she isn’t willing to spend the same money and time to get healthy. She wants to make her house accessible, but doesn’t think about the idea of getting her body in shape so she doesn’t need a wheelchair. Somehow, that is seen as too difficult. She uses the excuse of her already bad health as a reason to not get healthy. She says she is too young to feel this old.

I went through every argument she had about her health and came up with solutions for her. There is always a way to exercise. But somehow, “exercise” has become a dirty word in Western culture. She came up with an excuse for why she couldn’t every time. If you spend as much time figuring out how you can, rather than how you can’t, you’ll get there.

She also uses the excuse of her hours at work to explain why she can’t go to the gym. You have to decide what is more important, your loyalty to your job, or to your life. Sure, you have to work. And sure, you may have made a career at this place. But you have to take care of yourself. The workplace won’t care if you wear yourself out and die early and miserable.

Your body is your home. It is important to maintain it. You can’t trade your body in for a newer model when it wears out. Sure, there are replacement parts these days, but they involve surgery and physical therapy. Remember in the movie “Zombieland”? The first rule is “cardio cardio cardio”. If you really think that “they” are coming, then you’d better get in shape.

We don’t need to worry about being invaded by another country or being bombed by terrorists. We don’t need to worry about Korea. We need to worry about Krystals hamburgers. Have you noticed the fact that there are calorie counts on fast-food menus? Sure, you can make better choices while you are there. But the best choice is to prepare fresh food at home. Sure, that takes time. But if you are truly a prepper, then it seems logical that you’d divorce yourself from fast-food too. Part of the prepper mentality is doing things for yourself and not trusting what others have done.

We are killing ourselves with our mouths. Our “eat like a kid again” mentality is killing us. Eat the chili cheese dog, the hot wings and the funnel cake. When you get heartburn, just take an antacid. Or get your heart valves replaced or have a liver transplant. Or get on diabetes medicine. There is something very dangerous about this way of thinking. It is backwards. Do whatever you want and take a pill, or have a surgery. It is safer and healthier to eat well and exercise first, but so few of us do that.

If you are really concerned about the future, then the best thing you can do is take care of your health. Make sure you have a future.

I know one lady who says she doesn’t have time to exercise because she had to take care of her child. If she doesn’t take care of herself, she won’t be alive to take care of her child. Right now, she already can’t do it well because she can’t even run with her child when she plays.

There is no substitute for eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise. There are no shortcuts to health.

My father had a doctor who knew he smoked. When my Dad complained about coughing, he was prescribed cough medicine. The doctor treated the symptom rather than addressing the cause. So my Dad died from a heart attack at 60. He smoked two packs a day and was obese. About a week before he died he said that I would be glad to know he was now eating eggs only once a day. I don’t ever remember him eating a vegetable.

The weird part is that we have gotten so used to people being obese that we see it as normal. We think only the people who are bigger than us are obese. And we think that the people who are smaller than us are too skinny. Just like in the story of Goldilocks, we think we are just right. But we aren’t. We are deceiving ourselves.

I am 5’ 4”. When I weighed 192, I was obese according to the charts. At 145, I’m just on the edge of “normal”. Between those weights, I’m “overweight”. That you read about who takes up two airplane seats, that person is “super obese” or “morbidly obese”. More than likely, you are obese and don’t even know it. Or perhaps you do know it, and have just gotten resigned to it.

Part of our problem is that we treat our stress with food. We get anxious about the future, or unhappy about the past, and we eat. We were taught this as children. When a child wails, parents often soothe them with food. It stops them from making noise. So, unconsciously they are teaching a child to self-soothe with food. If you have an emotional problem, eat. Our culture doesn’t like to deal with emotions at all. So we stuff them down, literally.

There is a way out. Get a book from your library about deep breathing exercises. Get a book about how to deal with anxiety. Often the only change you can make is to yourself. You often can’t change your job or your spouse or your neighborhood. But you can change how you deal with them and how you react to them. Check under my “resources” category and read the list of books I’ve called “Survival books”. Consider taking up a hobby like painting, beading, singing, or playing a musical instrument.

As for me, I do water aerobics and yoga. I walk 20 minutes a day at lunch. I changed how I work so I get in a mile and a half while I’m at the front desk. Every little bit counts. Sure, I miss the reading time. But I like to think of every hour spent exercising buys me two more hours of life. And my knees feel better, and my clothes fit better, and people are noticing that I’m in better shape. It isn’t easy to keep exercising. It was tempting to get to my goal weight and then back off. But exercising isn’t a luxury. It is essential. If we stop moving, we rust.

There was a lady who saw me recently and realized I’d lost weight, and in the same amount of time it had taken me to lose weight, she had gained it. She said “you suck” about my weight loss. This is a crazy way to think. This isn’t a game of musical chairs. The fact that I’ve lost weight doesn’t mean she can’t. She was feeling jealousy, as if I’d taken something from her. That entire way of thinking keeps her in “victim” mode. That way of thinking leads to death, even before you are dead.

It is better to do something than do nothing because you think it isn’t enough.

Are you freaking out right now, just reading this? Stop. Breathe. Repeat. Breathe deeply in through your nose, in on a count of 10, then out on a count of 10. Keep doing this. Every time you feel stress, remember to do this. It is a simple way to get control of yourself. Then go for a walk in the sunshine. Walk slowly, and look at things. This isn’t a race. None of this is a race. The future will get here, when it gets here. Make sure you are there to appreciate it.