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Is Tom Brady Hurting Your Health?

Why Confusing Life with Football Could Be Killing Your Wellness Efforts
Superbowl Cupcakes by pinguino, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  pinguino We live in a culture that is devoted to sports – we love the excitement and the competition, we feel satisfied by its clear wins and finite season, and we invest ourselves fully in our affection for our team. Looking forward to kick-off is healthy.Trouble is, we can often attack other goals – like disease prevention and good health – as if they are just another showdown on the field. But not everything is like football, including our personal health and wellness, and thinking that it is can set us up for failure.

Are you treating your health like a Patriots playoff game? It’s time for an interception. You can still wear you lucky socks when Tom Brady’s on the field, but throwing around that sports analogy doesn’t always makes sense.

Is Your Personal Health & Wellness Like Football?

Why It Is 

You’re running offense and defense.
You’re getting aggressive when it comes to nutrition—you’ve armed your kitchen with frozen fruits, you’ve shopped the perimeter of your grocery store, and you’re playing AC/DC’s Thunderstruck – you’re ready. But if your defensive line is benched, you’re in big trouble. The snack table at work, the vending machine you pass midday, and the late-night food commercials during Top Chef all require a strong defensive line to keep you in the game. Being a nutritional Neon Deion is the only way to stay alive in the scrimmage for good health.

You’re as good as your last touchdown.
Go ahead and spike the ball when you cross the finish line—it’s those little glories that make the game worth playing. But it’s only the first quarter, and there’s and lot of maneuvering to go. A fumble, a bad pass or a difficult sack, and all that kiss-blowing and moonwalking in the end zone is ancient history. It’s the same with your health and nutrition efforts. You had kale salad for dinner? Nice work. But breakfast is around the corner and your choices – eggs Benedict or oatmeal with ½ cup of wild blueberries – start all over again, and that salad is just last season’s highlight reel.

You can get slowed by injury. 
Bronco receiver Erik Decker’s knee injury may keep him off the field this weekend, providing a potential windfall for the New England Patriots. The health game is riddled with similar hiccups.  Times of stress can sabotage efforts at good nutrition; the holidays, with its cookie swaps and parties, can act like injuries and bench your best nutrition intentions; even actual injuries like illness or hospitalization can put nutrition and exercise on the back burner. Life is a nutritional gridiron, and as everyone who’s headed for the car a little too early knows, one quarter is never the same as the last.

Why it Isn’t

You can’t depend on your superstar quarterback. 
Football can seem like a battle of the quarterbacks. When Tebow and Brady face off, it’s nearly a two-man game: it’s all about the two helmeted suns surrounded by their luminous satellites. But in the battle for good nutrition, you are your own quarterback. And your own offensive line, your own runner, and your own field-goal kicker. You can’t rely on your star to get you through the season, and your latest hair style makes nary a difference to your heart, your brain, or your cells.

There’s no coach calling the shots. 
If only Bill Belichick could talk us through the right nutritional moves. While keeping nutritional goals can be supported by community, peers, and sometimes even a fitness trainer or nutritionist, most of our life does not come complete with a coach calling the shots from the sidelines. When you open your refrigerator, no one is yelling into their headphones, guiding your choice to chop up some vegetables instead of grabbing the leftover pizza.  Instead, understanding dietary needs, learning new strategies for getting high antioxidant foods, and cooking with health in mind is completely up to us.

There’s no Superbowl.
Football season is about taking it all the way, and that’s one of the reasons we love it: we are always looking toward the final ticker tape parade. But there’s no clear goal when it comes to health. You might be counting down pounds, or tracking your cholesterol and blood pressure. But most of the time, living a healthy, disease-free life is a continuum with no gold ring, and no Vince Lombardi trophy. But the good news is that there’s no heartbreak about a blocked field goal that tanks the playoff. When the season’s never over, you’re always in the game.

The stands are empty.
Cook a meal four times out of seven this week? Choose a wild blueberry smoothie instead of a monkey bun this morning? These small accomplishments can have a huge cumulative effect – and yet, the stands are quiet, and the foam fingers aren’t waving. What gives? As nice as it would be, no one cheers your small health accomplishments. Good health and nutrition choices are usually private wins that don’t get the fanfare. When you realize no one’s going to slap you on the backside for yards run, then the next time you bite into a fresh salad and take a pass on the processed dessert, you’ve only to showboat a little on your own, and keep on.

There is no next year.
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, there is no training season and there is no next time. Your health depends on what you do every day, year in and year out. Want a healthy heart? Make small changes in your diet like curbing salt and saturated fat. Concerned with cancer prevention? Maintain a diet that battles free radicals with foods high in antioxidants. Warding off the symptoms of metabolic syndrome? Eat your servings of fruits and vegetables every day for the advantages they provide to your well-being today and your longevity tomorrow.

The bottom line? No Monday morning quarterbacking – get a game plan for good health and start holding the line. Good health and longevity isn’t just sport, and you can bet it’s going to be a fight to the finish.

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