Thursday, January 15, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 1-11 (18)-04
by Jeff Gill

Once January moves up into the double digit dates, resolutions that began the New Year start to sag down into the occasional, singular observance.
Weight loss, stopping problematic personal habits, or starting healthier new ones are the bulk of those good intentions that so rarely make it into February. Many times the problem is that we set our goals so high, almost unreasonably so, that we quickly lose heart and get discouraged by the relatively small good effects we see.
As a devotee of St. Murphy, the apostle of low expectations (and unexpectedly successful conclusions!), I want to share with you just a short list of eight simple guidelines. Whatever your resolution was, unless it’s something like completing your Beany Baby collection or converting your Ford Pinto to a hemi, these basic suggestions can help you meet and follow-through on your intentions for better living in 2004.

1. Drink water – most Americans, the American Medical Association tells us, are dehydrated to some degree: all the time. Just the amount of dehydration varies! This comes from our mass consumption of diuretics in soda pop, coffee, and tea (diuretics make you, shall we say, lose water) like caffeine, plus many people take medications that have a diuretic effect as part of their activity in the body.
Dehydration causes headaches, joint pain, general weakness, along with a false sense of hunger for a snack you probably don’t really need.
And water you drink is food or sugary beverages you aren’t consuming; it’s the cheapest appetite suppressant around.

2. Sleep more – the AMA also has come out recently with more bad news about the amount of sleeplessness most Americans drag around behind them like Marley’s Ghost, and that’s starting when we get up, not just right before a late bedtime.
Lack of sleep can cause us to snack to stay awake and alert; more dangerously, it may (no one knows quite for sure) be responsible for more auto accidents than even drinking.
Don’t feel energetic enough to exercise? Maybe you just need a bit more sleep! Don’t have time (let’s just all say it unison) to sleep more? How late did you stay up last night watching a rerun of something you’d already seen before? Just asking.

3. Eat color – this sounds a bit weird at first, but is the best all around guideline according to most dieticians. On the one hand, if your plate most meals is a spectrum of tan, grey, brown, and white, you are likely ingesting a large amount of fat, sugar, and carbos. Contrariwise, if your plate is a real rainbow of reds, greens, bright yellows and vivid blues, you’ve probably got a heap of vegetables and fruit looking back atcha.
This is a simple rule that actually has helped me more than trying to think through calories, portion sizes, or food groups. In most settings, eating color means you’ll fill yourself up with better stuff, while gray gravy, brown meats, and white Ranch dressing over all means look out waistline and artery walls.
Oh, and if I were to add one more to this list: Eat breakfast. With color, of course. Break your fast of the night and you break the whipsaw cycle of hunger through the day.

4. Get moving – yes, yes, the fine folks at the Cooper Institute down in some warm weather state said again a few weeks ago in honor of the new year that every American should exercise “vigorously” three or four times a week for forty minutes or more. Thanks, guys.
Meanwhile, many people I know can even manage to get off the couch (full disclosure: that’s where I’m writing this) to take a walk regularly.
What anyone would really benefit from is just moving more. Do that, and you are making progress. Honest.
If you are seriously overweight, and really can’t hardly walk, let alone jog, OK. Commit to holding your feet straight out and rotating your ankles for five minutes each evening. Clasp your hands behind your head and lift them back and forth like a winning prize fighter for as long as you can. Not much, you say, Mr. Cooper? Hey, it’s a start.
Take the stairs when you have the chance, instead of standing still in an elevator. Park out past the last car in the Kroger lot (it’ll help your paint job, too; no one will open a door into your quarter panels out there). Tighten and relax muscle groups from your face and neck down to your calves and toes while you have to stand in line or wait in a chair. Just move, and you’re moving in the right direction toward exercise.

5. Budget yourself – The numbers are out for 2003 and projections into 2004, and they make me sad. Really. Non-mortgage debt per household was over $18,000, and average credit card debt per family was about $7,500. Analysts say if you factor out the small but significant number of us who always pay off the card each month, that number would be much, much higher.
Meanwhile, most families don’t know what their after-taxes income is, let alone what their expenses are in which categories. Which is why they predict a further increase in the already record pace of personal bankruptcies, vehicle repossesions, and home foreclosures.
If you don’t have a budget, you will have financial problems this year; if you have financial problems, it is easier to justify eating, drinking, or doing other unhealthy things to “deal with” the problems.
If you have a budget, you will have less trouble financially. If this sounds strange to you, it means you’ve never had a budget; just try it this year.

6. Read something – Of course, “The Community Booster” is a good start. But if you want to work your mental muscles and keep them longer, hone your memory, and increase your awareness of the world around you, reading is the key. Newspapers, magazines, books, cereal box labels.
Watch TV, and learn to feel passive, helpless, and under siege. Ol’ Mr. McLuhan had it right: the medium is the message. My concerns with television are and have been not so much with the content (tho’ often appalling, rarely uplifting, trivially educational at best) than with the means we receive the images. In a prone, snack-ready position, we absorb limited, simplified perspectives positioned to best highlight the ads that jam their own odd propositions about reality down our cerebrum.
Read something. Really, almost anything.

7. Grow spiritually – Sure, you knew I’d get to it. Define it how you will, and for some it will be going back to their AA meeting, for others picking up a book in the New Age section, and for many it will be going to worship services. But whatever you do to increase your awareness that there’s more to who you are than your passing desires and temporary worries will benefit not only you, but those around you (ask them, they’ll tell you).
Find a faith community or house of worship that feeds you spiritually, and take the counsel of a leader or wise person you respect about growth, and you will see many of these suggestions and your own resolutions fall into place.

8. Annual physical – Some may say this should go first, but I didn’t want to lose you before you got started. A medical exam on a regular basis can catch the stuff you don’t know is catching you, and a good doctor (they do exist) will tell you about expensive, time consuming, painful procedures to improve your health like “fasten your seat belts” (Thanks, Dr. DeShetler!).
And if you give blood regularly, you can get a quick check in between those physicals that can help keep you in fighting trim, plus help others in need. My health is better because I’m a regular blood donor, and I’ve never needed a pint of blood medically in my life (Thanks, American Red Cross!).

Resolutions and good health are not just for the towering paragons of will power and devotion. Simple steps like these can get us to where we want to go. . .or at least to February!

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and wants you to know you should do as he says, not as he does, at least where it comes to breakfast and sleep. If you have veggie omelet recipes to share or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail him at