Thursday, September 15, 2016

Staying Physically Fit is Important for Your Financial Fitness

I am no fitness buff, but I know one thing - if I am not physically healthy, chances are my finances will suffer. Not only medical issues make it harder to live a normal life, they also have a big impact on your wallet.


Healthcare cost is astronomically high and seems to be getting higher every year. Even with a good health insurance, the premiums and out-of-pocket cost continue to rise as the insurance companies have to charge higher premiums with high deductibles to cover their cost. If you have to end up going to a doctor often or need to get on expensive medication or worse surgery, it can really have a big impact on your finances and individual savings rate. Most good insurance plans have deductibles in the range of $3000-$5000 before insurance would pay for anything. This is the money that you could be saving and investing in your Health Savings Account tax free. It therefore literally pays to stay healthy and avoid serious medical issues by adopting good eating habits and active lifestyle.

Looking back upon my life, when I was young and going to college, I would eat whatever that was cheap including slices of cheap pizza and my favorite 69-cent fast food hamburgers with fries. Some days I would eat those inexpensive hamburgers for lunch and dinner. Being a student and not having any money, back then those were the affordable eating options.

Overtime, I started to eat a bit healthier, got married, and Mrs ATM introduced me to the green stuff what people call vegetables. But my love for eating fast food and other meaty and cheesy processed food continued. 

Life was good and I felt invincible throughout my 20s and even 30s. I used to look at people eating salad with pity and think exercising as waste of time. I would tell myself - look at me, I have been perfectly healthy all these years and I eat what I want and the only exercise I need is walking to my car and my work is too important to take time for exercise. 

And then came the dreaded 40s and bad things started to happen. I started receiving plenty of signs for impending health dangers:

  • Mrs. ATM started to complain about my snoring
  • Looking down I could only see my stomach
  • Old time friends and colleagues (I haven't seen in a while) tell me that I look different but they wouldn't elaborate why
  • I started to convince myself that I am relatively healthy by comparing to other unhealthy people - look they seem to be doing well despite being so overweight, I should be fine too as I am nowhere as overweight as they are. 
  • I would get tired and out of breath easily when taking stairs or walking fast
  • I started telling myself that I am happy with my body and I don't need to change
  • My blood test indicated high cholesterol and triglycerides levels
  • Started experiencing migraines and back pains
I am sure there were more signals that I ignored, but these were some of the big ones that I can easily remember. To make a long story short, I decided to change my life including eating habits by taking following steps to improve my health and overall well-being:

Eating Healthy - I have given up eating unhealthy fast food with the exception of Chipotle (no sour cream, no cheese, no sauce of any kind, or red meat). I have not had red meat in over two months now. My diet mainly includes lots of colorful vegetables, eggs, chicken, fish, fruits, and nuts. I am avoiding processed or junk foods. I also gave up drinking coffee and now only drink decaf. I used to drink coffee like water and it may have contributed to my migraines. Now I drink plenty of water all day and occasionally Green Tea.
My typical lunch of homemade grilled chicken salad
Exercise Regularly
I don't go to gym, but I exercise daily by taking long walks and using Elliptical at home. I also spend time stretching daily, it helps my back while improving joints and enhancing flexibility. I wanted to exercise in a manner that is sustainable for me and I would enjoy. I believe taking brisk walks is a best exercise that anyone can do. 

Standing vs. Sitting
I try to spend more time standing than sitting down. I bought a stand-up/sit-down desk from Costco and it has been a great help as it allows me to work on my computer standing-up while still having an option to sit down when I get tired. Many studies over the past years have concluded that too much sitting leads to disability as we age and doubles the risk of diabetes and heart problems. On the other hand, too much standing can also cause problems such as joint and back issues. Therefore, I like to be able to do both while working on my computer and bought this $300 adjustable table which sits on top of a regular table. It has been an excellent investment so far.
Stand-up desk
Sit-down desk


Keeping Stress Low
Stress can really mess up all that is good in life. It can make you eat more, especially unhealthy foods, it will make you tired easily and even prevent you from exercising, it can interfere with your sleep patterns, it can give you migraines or worst other serious illnesses. Stress is super bad. Therefore, for me lowering of stress was priority#1 and one of the key reasons why I quit my job. Now, I don't try to do more than what I can handle. I like to make only one important decision a day and no more. I like to keep my life as simple as possible. I try to do things that I enjoy and take my time rather than rushing through stuff and getting stressed about things. 

Sleeping Well
I go to bed early these days as I like to get a good night sleep and get up early in the morning all refreshed. When I was working, I used to stay up quite late and many times worries about work would keep me up at night. I don't have those worries anymore and that has been a big positive in my life and helps me sleep well at night.

I think with the exception of leaving my job most of the changes I have made are less drastic and anyone should be able to adapt to. The main thing is the changes need to be sustainable and something you will be able to stick with to see the results. Seeing positive changes to my health and life has been a big motivator and incentive for me to stay the course.

Getting old doesn't have to be a terrible thing; however, being unhealthy and getting old can be miserable and very costly. So start early and live longer, healthier, and happier life.

What would you do to better your health?

4 comments:

  1. Great post. Just like financial independence, the earlier someone starts caring about their health, the better it will be long-term. To better my health, I'm stretching my back out after my workouts and am more conscious of my posture when I'm at work sitting down. I try to walk very carefully with a straight posture (it doesn't always work out that way) cause I don't want back pains later down the road!

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    1. Yes, stretching is very important after workout. I am glad you are paying attention to your posture when walking. Back pain can be debilitating, I threw my back few months ago for the first time, it was quite scary. I am also very careful now and paying attention to my posture and stretching my back everyday.

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  2. Mr ATM, those are wonderful changes that you've made with your life - I'm really impressed. I'm starting to feel like a standing desk would also benefit more considerably - my back isn't in good shape and I'm only 25. :(

    The quicker FI can be achieved, the quicker I can also look after myself 100%.

    Tristan

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    1. Thank you. Yes standing desk is pretty awesome. You should look into it as it can really help with your back issues, and it's not that expensive. Don't wait for FI to take care of your health.

      I wish I had taken care of my health much earlier, now I am trying to reverse all the damage.

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