Sharp, ragged breaths. One, two, three. A thousand thoughts pummelling without pause. The tiniest sliver of moonlight creeping through the dark. Hands cold, heart thumping, head pounding, body trembling. Then me, in fetal position, struggling to properly breathe.
I’d considered myself mentally strong, but it was the most mentally unstable I’d ever felt in my whole life.
How did I get to this point?
I blatantly disregarded nutrition levels, consumed more caffeine than my 5’3” stature could conceivably handle, and piled on more work than I could ever manage. On top of that, sleep came only once every few days and in less than two-hour increments. I had frequent sleep paralysis and it terrified me — eventually sleep medication was prescribed just so I could get into bed.
The worst part? By neglecting my physical health, my mental health slipped from my grasp altogether.
You must be thinking: why would anyone do that to themselves?
I was hyperfocused on achieving my goals and I wasn’t going to let time-consuming things like cooking and jogging get in my way. Besides, if I lived a long life, that probably meant I hadn’t spent it very intrepidly… right?
That’s the problem with high-achieving people. Deliverables have a measurable impact, but it feels our body and emotions don’t, so we disregard our health to get these seemingly more important things done. It’s rationally irrational.
The way we think about health today is flawed. We tie adequate nutrition and being healthy to a distant future version of ourselves — a future where we may be disease-free, stress-exempt, and long-lived. We’re occupied by our perpetual marathon for a better future that we bypass our body’s everyday needs.
It’s scientifically proven that humans see their future selves far removed from their current selves — almost as if the two were strangers — and it makes things like maintaining a healthy lifestyle difficult. Because it seems like our current situation isn’t imminent, we do short-sighted things like avoiding exercise, eating junk food, and not getting enough sleep.
We need to change the way we view health.
Health is often seen as an investment for the future, but it’s actually an investment that produces immediate dividends — the effects of healthy eating can be realized right from day one.
Being healthy is much simpler than trying to increase our lifespans, acquire eight-pack abs, or prevent cancer down the road. We need to think about the very real impact our diet has on our performance — today. Being careful about the food we consume is the most direct, controllable way for us to manipulate our performance. You are your own lab rat, but even better, because you get to design your own results.
Now my motivation to be healthy stems from the same reason I suffered from an anxiety attack two years ago: I want to perform at my best.
The quality of your immediate performance is directly correlated with your health.
It’s taken me 20-something years and thorough research of our deceitful food/agriculture industries to come to this.
My favourite part about health and nutrition is being my own case study. For instance, my body feels more nimble when avoiding high fructose corn syrups, white sugars, MSGs, and instant anything. These chemical substances manufactured into foods are what make people tired, sluggish, gain weight, and yet leave them yearning for more.
The first few weeks without processed foods are challenging because they’re prevalent and we’re addicted. When refined foods are removed from our diet and replaced with healthier options, our bodies learn to adapt and send us positive signals through better concentration, clearer thinking, and more in return. Preparing your own food, instead of having a meal mysteriously served to you at a restaurant, ensures you know what nutrients you’re ingesting to boost your capabilities to their very best. When it comes to food preparation, it’s perfectly excusable to trust in no one but yourself.
These days, I eat a mostly plant-based whole foods diet, consume minimal processed foods, and make sure I’m on my feet as much as possible. If I can’t understand an ingredient on the package label, I don’t buy it. And lastly, I don’t engage in things I don’t want to do because a healthy lifestyle is useless if I’m not happy.
I feel more alive now than I ever have.
This was originally posted to Medium on 22 Jan 2015.