How to Stay Healthy

By Richard Key

picture yourself thirty years down the road, the victim of poor health choices. There you sit in your bedchamber, pale and greasy, practically unable to move from sore joints, back problems, and generalized weakness. You make the portrait of Dorian Gray look like an ad for the fitness club. Years of excess have caught up with you, and now you’re a wasted heffalump whose only amusement is trying to defeat toenail fungus.

Now imagine a healthy, vibrant you taking charge of your life, making excellent health decisions, maintaining a normal weight, eating wisely, and preaching to all those around you about how, with a little work, they too can be full of vitality and energy well into their golden years. Decades later, after you’ve run off all your friends, you can be proud of the way you stayed the course, and can enjoy your remaining years lonely, but full of health and vigor.

He has little who doesn’t have his health, a wise fortune-cookie scribe once wrote while moonlighting from her real job as a copywriter for Procter & Gamble. In fact, health has been chosen as the official bodily condition of the 2016 Summer Olympics. And the easiest way to stay healthy is to remain young. Young people, naturally, have far less disease than older folks. Unfortunately, the only way to beat aging is to constantly be traveling near the speed of light, which they don’t let you do anymore, even in Texas. So, that leaves the alternative—lie about your age. No, of course I wouldn’t ask you to do that. What that leaves is following several guidelines and recommendations that lead to a healthy lifestyle, and ergo, a healthier life.

The first thing to do is stop inserting Latin words and phrases into your sentences ad nauseam. Latin is a dead language, and no good can come from peppering your speech with morsels of a lingua mortua.

Secondly, never ever sit down. Ever. Sitting, we know now, can knock years off your life. If you never sat down, you could live to be a hundred and fifty. You’re sitting now, aren’t you? I can tell from my writer’s perch that you’re sitting. I sense it. So much for longevity! Now, get off your keister right this minute, and toss out every chair in the house. Just throw them out in the yard. Honestly!

As you already know, your immune system is critical to your health. A finely-tuned immune system can fight off infections and lower one’s chances of getting cancer. A weakened immune system, on the other hand, invites disease. That’s how you get shingles. The chicken pox virus hides deep in your body, waiting patiently for just the right moment to pop out and cause problems. Like that girlfriend with the frizzy brown hair you once dated. She was an emotional wreck and your mom never liked her. You tried several times to break up, and each time she weaseled her way back into your life. Finally you broke up for good, and she moved to Milwaukee to study interior design. Then, fifteen years later, right after your divorce is final, she moves back to your small town where you run into her at Target, ironically. Suddenly, half your face is covered in painful sores.

You must develop good eating habits. Junk food is out. Soft drinks are out. Red meat is out. Cold cuts are out. Sugar is out. Fried stuff is out. Rice contains arsenic, and fish contain mercury, so they’re out. And you can kiss gravy good-bye. Salt is bad for you too, but if you don’t get the iodine in the salt, your thyroid gland will swell up like a tick on a vampire.

The bottom line is, there is very little that you can eat that won’t destroy you eventually. It really comes down to whether you want to starve to death or be slowly poisoned. You must be constantly vigilant as you shop for groceries to avoid all the harmful chemicals, additives, and disease-promoting components that are found in almost everything in the store. So, caveat emptor.

The one loophole here—and you really should take advantage of it while it remains open—is that coffee, nuts, and chocolate have been determined to be good for you. So, for now, force yourself to have some chocolate every now and then, and wash it down with a cup of joe. And eat a handful of almonds while you’re at it. Pointy-toed scientists are working around the clock to find ways to shut this down, so enjoy these foods now before they’re linked to teeth warts or earlobe dysfunction.

Drink plenty of water. Begin your day with two tall glasses of clean, sparkling water to purge your system of impurities that have built up overnight. Then have at least six more glasses of water throughout the day to ward off dehydration. As you slosh around the workplace, you’ll find yourself having to raise your hand during important meetings to go to the little room by the watercooler. That lets you and everybody else know that your kidneys are functioning properly. And after you turn in for the night, you’ll find your dreams filled with panicky situations where you can’t find a real toilet, and you are forced to relieve yourself on the houseplants in the Oval Office, prompting Secret Service agents to announce a “code yellow” and haul you away.

Green tea has been shown to contain disease-fighting substances and is super good for you. Fill your bathtub with it once a day and soak for an hour. And don’t forget to drink a bit of it too. Green tea contains antioxidants. Otherwise, no one would touch the stuff. Actually, some people do like its subtle flavor, which they describe as “even tastier than plain hot water.”

Health food stores are full of nutritional supplements and various herbal remedies: St. John’s Wort, echinacea, ginkgo biloba, fish oil, etc. These are substances that organized medicine doesn’t want you to know about because of their natural ability to correct imbalances in your system and heal many common illnesses and conditions. Conversely, they’re unregulated, potentially harmful nostrums produced by charlatans to milk profits from the udder of misinformation. So take these substances at your own risk…But just remember, they might be exactly what you need…If they don’t kill you first…Which they won’t because they’re harmless…Ha!…Ha yourself!

Develop an exercise program and stick with it. Touch your toes every day—or if you can’t manage that, pay someone else to do it, especially if that fungus is still there. Keep moving, and get one of those gadgets to count your steps if you need to. Ten thousand steps per day is recommended to stay healthy. March around the TV set if you have to. You won’t miss anything. Download John Philip Sousa’s greatest hits into your iPod, and high step around the neighborhood to the Washington Post March carrying a rake like a drum major’s baton. If people think you’re crazy, just remind them that people once thought Charles Manson was crazy too, and look at him.

And, get some sunshine! Vitamin D is necessary for good health, and natural sunlight relieves depression for many people. So, step outside and soak up some rays. Okay, that’s enough sunshine. Go back inside. Are you nuts? Sunshine is full of ultraviolet rays that cause your skin to age prematurely, and can even cause cancer. So, for heaven’s sake, wear dark clothes and a hat if you go out there!

Try to get seven or eight hours of sleep per night. A good night’s sleep is essential to maintaining good bodily function. Sleep allows your brain to process the events of the day, and gives your immune system a chance to refresh itself. If you’re unable to fall asleep right away, it’s okay to use pills. Go to your pharmacy and ask for the strongest placebo they have, and get about a thousand. Now pretend they’re tiny sheep and count them over and over.

So, there you have it, your concise road map to health. No more excuses. Carpe diem!



Richard Key was born in Jacksonville, Florida and currently lives in Dothan, Alabama with his wife. He works as a pathologist by day, but has been writing short stories and essays for about eight years. His work has been published in several literary journals and a few pieces have won awards. This essay is the third in his “How To…” series which seeks to help the reader navigate the choppy sea of modern existence.

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