Zowie, the health issue kicks off, and might I begin by saying that it already looks like a much healthier issue than its predecessor: how the USA seems to spell the United States of Anxiety for so many Canadians. But enough about that.
I must admit that when Mike wrote to me declaring yours truly as one of the healthiest people he knows – and asking me to write a short salvo on my thoughts about healthy lifestyles, and the means by which they are regarded, formed, and sought-after in various countries around the world – I was flattered, to say the least. My work – and believe me, that is a loose term – has led me to various locales around the world since I graduated from university three years ago. I’ve set up shop in Asia, Central America, Canada and now the UK. During this time, I have been introduced to a variety of cultures and I have seen many a variation on the theme of `how it’s done.’ The only way to travel this way and to keep your mind open to foreign influence, without drowning in a sea of booze and recreational substances, is to take extremely good care of yourself.
You need sleep. This is one of the most overlooked elements of any contemporary lifestyle. Regular intervals of comfortable rest will ensure that your body and mind serve you to the best of their capacities and that you won’t have to rely on any outside substance to put you down. Insomnia is an ugly thing, and you need only spend a night in a Korean sauna in a three-piece suit after a period of savagery and cerebrally unrecorded adventures a couple of times to appreciate that. Sleep also promotes a healthy metabolism and will set you ahead of the under-eyed fatsos that can’t figure out why hoagies in front of `Nick at Night’ have not served them well.
Activity is key. You need to find something that you enjoy doing that works up a sweat and gives the old bloodlines a bit of a flush, lord only knows what kind of sludge you’ve got moving through you right now. I have chosen running. It energises me at the top of my day and I can do it anywhere in the world – all I need are my sneaks. I have run on country roads in Nova Scotia, mountain paths in South Korea, and open fields in Singapore. It takes about half an hour out of my day and comes down to a matter of doing it.
Diet makes a difference. I have given advice on this subject many times, not only because the food that I like to make and eat is healthy, but because it is delicious. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good English fryer after a heavy night of Guinness, but not everyday. My advice is always this: stop buying food, start buying ingredients. Ready made this and ready made that – forget it. It may take a little more time to produce your own version of supermarket-frozen-food-section-boxed-microwaveable staples, but it will be worth it. Buy fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat and your food will taste better and will be better for you.
Koreans, as a people, and mind you, in general, eat incredibly healthy. Their diets consist of a lot of vegetables and tofu in addition to meat (take in a Korean kalbi dinner sometime and thank me later). Two key ingredients that I took away from over a year of living in Seoul were ginger and garlic. These are two ingredients that grow in abundance the world over and that you simply can’t get enough of. Ginger is especially good for warding off sickness in the winter months and, as an easy additive to almost everything you eat, they will help you maintain a healthy diet.
Organic is not a bandwagon, it’s a goddamned ark. Organic ingredients cost more and are sometimes harder to find, but they are worth getting because they taste better and they eliminate the subconscious chemical ingestion that can hardly be monitored or controlled by modern science. Tomatoes aren’t supposed to be the size of softballs, cows that eat spinal cords are poison. The seven-foot tall kid who played on your high school basketball team, who grew up drinking genetically modified milk on his dad’s farm, is not a freak of nature; he is a freak of science. There are dangerous things swimming in your cornflakes kids; take re-possession of your bodies now.
When I was growing up – and once more, this is loose terminology – Dad always used to say, “all things in moderation.” At the time I thought that moderation would turn me into a cold-hearted conservative bastard, itching for the trigger when those neo-liberal hippies or some band of weird foreigners would come into range. But it turns out that he was just talking about finding a life of balance, a life that sustains itself without significant cost to its inhabitant (that’s you). The child-president of the United States is finding out what moderation is all about and I trust that the flow of crack cocaine into the Oval Office has been, “toned down.” But I’m off on a tangent and the readers are restless. As freedom reigns, so too must judgement, so too must consequence, and that’s no axis of evil and it won’t happen overnight. It’s all a process and you don’t find the key to your own health by the time you’re twenty-five and then ride downhill. Moderation’s best friend is curiosity and they convene at a place called education where the bar’s always open and you can mix your own concoction. In other words, I’m no prophet, I’m no expert, but these things are at work around the world and around the corner. It’s up to you to find the balance and put it to work in your life.