How do you define good health?

“She’s a very tranquil person and nothing fazes her.” – Regarding Sarah Knauss, age 119

“The key to longevity is being happy and making people happy.” – a friend’s 100 year old grandma

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

I recently began phoning a new friend, Adelle age 98, each week for about 30 minutes. We usually cover topics such as the weather (and her fear of me slipping on ice), our families, get-to-know each other stories, and last but not least, she inquires (in each conversation we’ve had so far) whether or not I am going to church.

This last week, I called her after watching a documentary on food called “Food Choices.” I had it on in the background while I worked, but it grabbed my attention as it covered some shocking statistics and studies – as most food and health documentaries tend to do. Despite my good intentions to take everything with a grain of salt (no pun intended), I did what I’m sure many of us have done, and wondered if I should change my eating habits.

Throughout my subsequent conversation with Adelle, I asked questions we all ask to those that have survived into their 90s and beyond: “what’s your secret? Did you / do you exercise a lot? What do you eat?”

She laughed me off and said, “oh no, I hate exercise.” Later she described to me how much she loved her gravy. And then a few minutes later we talked about the joy of baking and how she still bakes to this day. Something tells me she doesn’t substitute her recipes’ butter and sugar with greek yogurt and stevia.

Now, we can’t control our gene pool and we definitely don’t all have the miraculous genes of Adelle. Some people who smoke every day of their lives live ’til their 100 whereas others pass on early from lung cancer. Some die early from lung cancer after never smoking a day of their life.

But that just goes to show that we shouldn’t worry so much about our health. At least not in the way we currently do. There’s a pressure surrounding us – especially post-New Years Resolutions – to go to the gym every day, to try the “Whole 30” or “17 Day” diet, or any other iteration that has us giving up gravy and butter. I don’t bring this up as an excuse to eat bad food or to get lazy about our health, but I bring it up to challenge us to reflect on what defines good health and what trends to which we ascribe.

Ask yourself how you currently define health. If it helps to put things in perspective, ask yourself what your 100-year-old self would want you to prioritize when it comes to health. It’s likely not this fad diet or that gym routine, but rather, time well-spent with family and friends, dwelling on what’s good rather than worrying about what’s not, spending energy on making yourself and those around you happy, and letting your heart be at peace.

God doesn’t give us these 30 day diets or check in on how much we weigh. He doesn’t give what the world gives. He offers us so much more that we so often let pass us by.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

P.S. I was connected to Adelle through an organization called Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly (check them out, they are doing wonderful things!).


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