The other day I listened to a song called Dear Younger Me in which, as you might guess, the singer tells his younger self all the things he wishes he’d known back in the day. Which got me thinking, of course, what I wish I’d known when I was younger.
Some of what came to mind was, as you’d expect, deep and philosophical, but I was surprised with how much of it was health-related. Here are the top three tips I would give myself about my health and self-care choices if I could do it all over again.
Get More Sleep
I was a runner in high school, and a pretty decent one at that. But around my junior year, I plateaued. I sometimes ran out of steam mid-race. I now know that outcome was inevitable, given my five hours or fewer of sleep per night. And over time, my paltry sleep affected more than my running. By the time I finished high school, I was so exhausted that I decided to keep any extra activities in college to a minimum, meaning I missed out on a lot of cool opportunities because I was so wiped out. Later, as a young parent, I noticed how much sleep-deprivation diminished my cognitive abilities. Mom brain is no joke! I now make sleep a priority, even napping during the day if I don’t get enough at night.
Beware the Chair!
Earlier in my career, I commuted several hours a day. When I was at work, my rear end was in a chair about 90 percent of the time—and not an ergonomically friendly one, at that. After several years, my back rebelled, and I landed myself first in the hospital and then sequestered at home for a couple of months. It was ugly and painful, and I vowed never to repeat it again. And I haven’t. When I left my chair-bound days behind, I discovered an unexpected side effect: I lost 10 pounds without any other change than sitting less.
Refined is Desirable in Culture, Not in Food
I ate a disproportionately high number of white foods when I was younger—and I’m not talking cauliflower. White bread, white pasta and white sugar made up a huge portion of my diet, and I paid for it with hypoglycemia, rashes, digestive issues and more. And based on research I’ve come across since then, I suspect that some of the junk I ate while pregnant may have contributed to some of my kids’ current health struggles. Sorry, little people! I’m trying to make up for it now by educating them about good nutrition. And by making them the black sheep of the school cafeteria by stocking their lunches with fruits and veggies. Again, sorry, little people! You’re grumpy about it now, but it just might save you from having to write your own “Dear Younger Me” letter someday.
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).