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On Health

a brief reflection on health and well-being

This is my morning salad. It was quite tasty. I can imagine eating this on a daily basis.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. From the Constitution of the World Health Organization

Ever since the Summer break, I've let my health fall to the the wayside. So many things have happened in my life, and I've been having trouble trying to manage my time. Right now I have a stomach flu, and I feel like my stomach is tearing up inside me. It's fustrating. I had an agenda I wanted to accomplish today, but now all of these projects and responsibilities need to be pushed aside to recuperate my health. I'm not sure if this sickness was brought on by my recent unhealthy living or by something more specific like spoiled food or a contagion from someone else.

However, I think that this temporary abdication of responsibility is a blessing in disguise because it allows me opportunity to reflect on the well-being of my current lifestyle. In specific, I'm going to reflect more on the physical aspects of my health rather than some of the more abstract views of health. In the nearby future, I plan to expedite the execution phase of my Cooking and Fitness Projects as well. In specific, I will be discussing nutrition and fitness.

Nutrition

I've always had admiration of people who voluntarily live under strict diets—vegetarians, vegans, paleos...— and I am thinking of subscribing myself to one of these dietary restrictions as well. Not for any moral reasons—I do think that they are important— but because I fear death. Well, not death itself, rather living an unoptimal life. I agree with Henry David Thoreau when he said:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...”cite Henry David Thoreau

Yes. I too want to "suck out all the marrow of life", but I am not sure if I can do that if I consistently and constantly drink bulalo, Filipino bone marrow soup. It's sad to think, but I am beginning to see the old generation pass away. My parents, uncles, aunts... their health is beginning to deteriorate. Some in their late 60s but many others in their late 40s or early 50s. What fustrates me is that they accept their current health as normal and are not taking any steps to correct their lifestyle with diet and excercize. I'm not going to go any further on family matters, but to tell you that this is one of the primary reasons why I want to study history—to correct or at least bring to light the problems unaddressed by my family.

Also, just like Henry said, I believe my best option is to set limits on myself on what I eat as well as the quantity of the food that I will eat. I've tried to strictly count my Macros, but it was just too difficult. Using a food scale, feeling guily everytime I eat out, counting calories on everything I ate. Looking back, it was a miserable experience yet enlightening. I began to discover that my dietary choices are... to say the least... less than superb. So this next time 'round, I've decided to employ a different method. Portion control using bowls. This will make it easier for me to control my macros, but more importantly, it will limit my food intake and ensures that I have a balanced meal without much thought or effort.

The use of Dietary supplements is another factor I need to consider as well. To allay some of your concerns about improper use of supplements, I do understand that they are first and foremost, a means to supplement my nutritional needs, not to replace them. However, I think that they will be necessary if I begin to restrict my diet, especially in the early stages of my journy, because they will help fill in any nutritional gaps in my diet as I fumble through the journey of healthy eating.

I've discussed my basic plan with others, and let me say that the response has been mixed. Healthy people roll their eyes and say, "Of course that's what you do. Wait... you haven't been doing that?" while unhealthy people who are trying to live more healthily look at my plan with gleaming eyes and say, "Wow, this plan is brilliant!" (I'm exaggerating, but I know that is what they said in their heart). So, I think my planning is on the right track, I just need to take the first step.

Fitness

I've never been super sportsy. I tried... but my Asian parents put a higher emphasis on my higher education than my extracurricular activities. So, I've always felt awkward and inadequate when I tried to play basketball or football with my friends. I'm considering taking a community college class that teaches me cardiovascular exercise. I'm thinking dancing. It's not competitive (I hope), it's fun, and it will help me become more social. Also, maybe it will open up my social circle to more attractive people. You know... cast a wider net.

However, cardio exercize is only half of the equation. Before, I've used to be heavily into lifting heavy things. I started Starting Strength and moved onto 531 BBB. It's been over three months now since I've stopped lifting, but I would like to start again. It was always the highlight of my day. Part of me wondered why I stopped in the first place.

Further Reflections

One more thing I want to point out before I begin cleaning my home gym. I would like to reflect more on the quote I provided above. It's so resonant to me (and to my brother who is a doctor) that I don't mind repeating it again:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. From the Constitution of the World Health Organization

This quote sums up the groundbreaking epiphany I had about health from these past several months. In short, my conclusion was that health is not an absence of something, but rather a presence of something. The buzzword that people use right now is "well-being", but the meaning behind it is the same—health is an advance forward, not a retreat away. This may not seem groundbreaking for the majority of you, but it is to me. Health is a presence of something. That means that we need to make the concious effort to be healthy rather than spending the bulk of our time avoiding unhealthy things. I had this same realization with the concept of peace. I was talking to a friend, and he told me that peace was a given as a command. It's not an absence of something but rather a presence of something, like health. Therefore, we need to make the active choice to be peaceful.

I am hopeful about my situation, and I don't think I've put myself into a point of no return. I'm not an expert on health, but I know that I'm stepping in the right direction. This pursuit for health is not just for my sake, but also for others around me as well.

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On Suffering

Broken Sign
Broken walk signal and broken relationships.

"On Facebook, my friend, EL wrote this:

Does suffering need a reason? No, it does not. Although the beginning of the Book of Job gave a reason to why Job suffer, Job was never informed about this, just as God never gave an answer to all the questions He asked Job. Maybe there is a reason for our suffering, maybe there is not. Maybe instead of asking "why?", we should ask "what now?" Is there a reason for suffering? Maybe there is, maybe there is not, but does the reason really matter? Maybe there are things in the world has no answers. EL

I completely and wholeheartedly disagree. I've been trying to parse out what he wrote, trying to see if I misunderstood it, but no matter how I interpret his post, it's wrong. Dangerously wrong.

Reasons do matter.

The problem isn't whether or not there is an answer, the problem is never asking the question in the first place.

I can understand why people choose to believe this. If you or someone close to you is undergoing some unbearable pain, it makes sense to push the idea of suffering to the side and not dwell on it in order to continue with life. In short, its a coping mechanism. And sometimes, it is necessary. (To be fair, 'Everything Happens for a Reason' is a horrible phrase to say to someone who is in the midst suffering. My recommendation is just to listen, empathize, and support that person as they go through the situation. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to give them space and allow time for them to heal.) But if one builds his entire life on ignoring these questions and encourages others to ignore factors that contribute to one's own suffering or the suffering of others, it hurts everybody in the long run.

In the biblical story of Job, God did not provide the answer, but even still, there is an answer. Whether or not we can fix it (or even comprehend it) is another matter. What is wrong to ask why or how suffering exists? These types of questions are valuable question, and Job had every right to ask these questions to God. Nor do I think that God was angry at Job for asking these questions either. It may not have been the answer that Job wanted at the time, but it was what he needed.

We need pursue these ""why"" investigation as long as we don't dwell on them too long because they can cripple us from making a meaningful mark on the world.

The world sucks. There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. However, in order to grow and mature, we need to confront these problems head on and push ourselves to move forward despite how depressing and soul-crushing the world is.

Whatever religion or philosophy you have, "reducing needless suffering in the world" is a noble task, and any meaningful change needs to start with the foundational question of 'Why?'.

I'm no expert on suffering, but I've had my own fair share. Here's what I do know:

  • Suffering is multifaceted.
  • Suffering exists.
  • Suffering can be good, bad, or somewhere in between.
  • Needless suffering can be reduced but it involves the commitment andinvolvement of the entire community.

Don't ignore suffering. That's the easy way out and it hurts you and everyone around you. Don't belittle suffering either. Because its real and potentially dangerous.

Last but not least, always humbly and hopefully keep asking those big questions.

Further Resources:

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