Your Life Expectancy

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” ~ Jim Rohn

I recently read a research brief published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College titled, How Will More Obesity and Less Smoking Affect Life Expectancy. In the piece, Dr. Samuel Preston and colleagues write that personal behaviors can have a major influence on how long people live. Two especially damaging behaviors are smoking and the poor nutrition and exercise habits that result in obesity. No surprise there, right?

Obesity is on the rise while smoking is on the decline.The question is whether the benefits from less smoking will outweigh the harm from rising obesity. The brief projects how changes in obesity and smoking will impact life expectancy in 2040.

Adults smoke for a variety of reasons. They may have stress and pressures because of economic and personal reasons. They may be unemployed or not working, homeless, or in bad relationships. Smoking may give them energy while going through a hard time. And then there are people who simply love to smoke; it gives them pleasure. After all, it is a choice.

Similarly, the idea of a tax on soda is being debated in New York and elsewhere. Will raising prices lower consumption, leading to better health among Americans? The fact is that the tax will fall more heavily on poorer people, for whom a few cents has a greater impact, and who (adults!) in fact drink far more soda. It is still their affordable pleasure yet poorer people are more likely to be obese and have diabetes.

In my work inspiring people to choose enlightened lifestyles, I’ve found that change is contagious. When people realize that lifestyle change is achievable, especially for them, they give greater thought to effecting change; not only for themselves but for their families, their wellness, and a healthy, longer life.

There is plenty of information for people interested in their longevity and what can be done to optimize it. Here are three considerations if you’re open to exploring healthy/healthier lifestyles:

  1. Join a group. Great things happen in groups. Consider joining a community outreach program, the Sierra Club, a book club, a hiking group or a neighborhood committee. Pursue your passions, share with like-minded people, let your voice be heard and step your physical activity up a notch.
  2. Remember to change more than your gym membership or what’s in your pantry/refrigerator. Be ready to change something about yourself or your life that will clear the way to reaching your goals and full potential. Keep an open mind and don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself permission to be imperfect and reward yourself for incremental achievements.
  3. What you may not know is that sugar is a far more dangerous influence to your health than cigarettes. It is important to stop both but not simultaneously. Taking on the task of quitting smoking ought to be done once you have an optimal diet in place and you are feeling good.

48 thoughts on “Your Life Expectancy

  1. What a heart warming post. I like that quote a lot. It’s so true. I suspect as one ages, things get more and more routine/set/habituated to the point that unless one consciously changes, things don’t change much. Our minds become less flexible and our bodies reflect that as well. Great food for thought.

    • Your view sums the matter well, Shakti. The more set we become in our ways (and age) the less inclined many are to effect change, even if the change can yield improved health, wellness and maybe even longevity. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      • I’m excited to share a movie I recently saw that will perk up your ears. πŸ™‚ I am TRYING to get my posts written. School started last week on Wed and I have 2 days with my younger son before he goes to preschool and I have appointments booked and then I turn around and have to pick him up and then the other! It’s going to happen. My book has a prelaunch happening soon because it’s here! And then I just need to write. I have so many things to share. I pray my readers haven’t given up on me. I have much to inspire.

  2. But I like soda!

    I have few vices (don’t smoke, hardly ever drink alcohol, don’t consume narcotics), but damn it’s hard to give up sugary stuff. I need a personal trainer who is willing to crush my spirit and rebuild me as someone with willpower.

  3. Here in the UK, there were talks of higher taxes on soft drinks (soda), sweets and junk food. Sure, it would make healthier alternatives a cheaper option, but hardly enough to dissuade those partial/addicted to that indulgence

  4. I am a sugar addict. It is so bad for me, yet I have such difficulty saying no to anything sweet. I literally crave sugary foods. An β€œintuitive” friend of mind gave me this little tip: She said every time I find myself reaching for a sweet treat, to tell myself, β€œI am sweet enough!” As silly as this may sound, it actually helps me!

    Great post Eric πŸ™‚

    • I think your friend’s tip is a great trigger/reminder! And I can see how, when aware, the simple expression would help many. And to your acknowledgment, it is a craving. Maybe find new, healthier cravings? Okay, I’m done. πŸ™‚

  5. Great post! Husband and I are making even more changes and it helps that we are doing them together. I have vowed to bake sweets less – if we have them we eat them. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • It sounds like you and hubby are mutual accountability partners. Bravo! It does help to have encouragement in the same house. πŸ™‚ I hear you re: baked sweets. I was once addicted to chocolate chip cookies, the kind made with cane sugar, brown sugar and real butter. I cannot tell you the last time I baked them. And I no longer go through withdrawal; I’m just in a protracted mourning phase. Thanks, JoNell, for adding your constructive views.

  6. l have become a pescetarian, (I do not eat any beef, pork chicken or turkey, only seafood and fish) and although I don’t exercise as much as I should, the small amount of exercise has greatly increase my energy levels along with providing me with a great feeling of health.
    Changing my eating habits along with moderate exercise has provided me a better life experience with my active lifestyle.

    • It’s a controversial matter. While some support the initiative for understandable reasons, others feel their right to choose is being infringed upon. There is likely a solution agreeable to all parties yet those compromises don’t always prevail.

  7. A great post, Eric! Everything you say, and your advice, I agree with. As you say, obesity and maybe smoking to some degree too, are issues with complex societal ties. Eating really healthy is not cheap and exercising requires time investment….taxing the unhealthy alternatives will not do enough to change the trends. In my humble view, much more education about affordable options, and dialogue, is needed.

    • From a personal perspective, I agree with your views here, Tiny. At the same time, I’m a staunch advocate for an individual’s right to choice, even if it is harmful to them and costly (in taxpayer dollars) to others. It’s a fine line to walk. I applaud your view on more education and dialogue. That may appeal to some more rational minds.

  8. The push for tax on sugary drinks is gaining momentum all over the “developed” world and is heading to the same levels as the clampdown on smoking – while there’s no doubt that both are damaging to one’s health, one cannot but frown as it all looks like the next selective target for tax revenue and not much of it spent on education. Oh dear, my life is sure to turn into a big struggle :): was a smoker now at the tail end of successful quitting, absolutely love my sweets although sweet drinks and various sodas don’t really factor much in my consumption. I guess I will need to start counting the sugar granules that make it into my system just as I did with cigarettes πŸ™‚ Oh dear!

    • Snickering here, Ina, as I too am a reformed smoker, though I last inhaled in 1988. It is a shame that governments, be they local, state or federal, are always looking for the next tax source. I suspect that if they did channel some of those new found revenues toward services that taxpayers need and want, they might meet with less resistance to their ongoing impositions. But if they ever go after my beloved 72% cocoa chocolate, I’ll lead the mutiny. πŸ™‚

  9. I do not have these flaws are anti-tobacco, anti-alcohol. I love fruits and vegetables. I have an active job. But, I think we should make a change in the eating. To have a program set to take lunch and to respect. I made ​​a mistake that does not give great importance to the respect of eating. Most times I jump over them and sometimes stomach pain.

    Have a wonderful Sunday, Eric! πŸ™‚

    • Bravo for the fruits and vegetables, Stefania! I hear and agree with you about creating more thoughtful time and an intentional focus when we eat. Heightening our awareness of the act of eating — when we’re ingesting nourishment — is proven to yield physiological benefits. Most, however, race through the habit of eating and well, you know the potential outcome of that action. πŸ™‚ Wishing you a great, new week ahead!

  10. I worked my way down – I started out addicted to alcohol, I kicked that and started smoking, I kicked that and started eating masses of chocolate every day, then I finally kicked that, lost 4 inches round my waist and feel much better!
    There was an overlap for all of these, but as you mentioned in your third point I made sure I was stable after the last one before kicking the next.

    • You seem to know what it takes to redirect your cravings and addictions. Good for you! Glad you were able to focus on one choice at a time, succeed with it, and then move on to your next goal. Nicely done! Thank you for sharing your personal, relevant choices and experiences.

  11. I so agree with you. Change is contagious. We need to remember this for ourselves and others. Too often, we can bind over negativity and a sense of “hopelessness”. How trasformative would it be if we bonded over the sense of change and possibility?

    • I love the word transformative, Kim. I am privileged to see it in action with clients — at least those people who choose to shift their focus, intentions, and lifestyles toward change and possibility. Thanks for your reinforcing reminder. To your question: it would be AMAZING!

      On an unrelated note, I have an interesting anatomy and physiology story to share with you sometime. It’s rather amusing. πŸ™‚

  12. Good post Eric. However I believe life expectancy is a bad measure of the way we either continue with or adapt our lifestyles. It’s surely the quality of the years we have left to us that count. No one wants to live to be 100 living a life as portrayed in your opening pic there. Increased life expectancy might indeed be a side product of living healthily but there’s no telling when our number will be called. Instead I would encourage anybody (especially those of us getting on in years) to live whatever time we have left in the best physical and mental state possible.

    • Thank you, Roy and welcome! Recognizing that you are a new follower to this blog, I can see how one post might suggest that the focus here is largely on longevity. It isn’t. Over time the blog is much more about possibilities, choice, and qualitative over quantitative opportunities. But how would you know this? πŸ™‚ The intent here is to create awareness around what one could do to enable a healthier lifestyle than what it takes to live longer than (probably) most of us want to — even if we were to continue to be of sound mind and body. πŸ™‚

      I appreciate your creating time to read and share your thoughtful comment.

  13. Very informative. So glad I never caught on the habit of smoking. I do need to be more active though. I walk a lot at work but I could do better. The sofa is so inviting on the weekends after working so hard and all.

  14. Eric great post, we humans know what we have to do, but it is so hard to keep on track in a stressful world. I have never smoked, nor had a problem with weight, yet I struggle to take my much need walk every morning. At least I keep trying. My mother always says its everything in moderation. If you have that piece of cake enjoy it, and then balance it out with a piece of fruit and a daily walk.

    • I often subscribe to the ‘motherism’ you cite; my mom instilled that in her children, too. To your excellent point, the challenge, even with keeping things in some manageable mix, is with intentionally creating the space in which we can do those things we want to do and value. Kudos — you keep trying. Many don’t and wonder why time and life experiences pass by. We do know what we have to do. It almost always down to what are we choosing? πŸ™‚ Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  15. As a certified personal trainer and fitness intructor, I have often said many of the things you mentioned in this post to my clients. If you want to change your life for the better, you need to change your lifestyle, not just go on a fad diet or crazy workout plan that you can’t keep up in your life. Thanks for this post – will pass it on to my clients!

    • Bravo, Lyn! Thanks for echoing and reinforcing the matter of lifestyle. It really is essential, yet, many don’t have or adhere to a lifestyle plan. Appreciate your adding important points to this online thread.

    • Give it time, Silvia — we’ll all have personal drones to transport us around. Think: The Jetsons. That’ll help in SoCal won’t it? Kidding aside, I used to live in SoCal and I know the traffic nightmares. They carve so much time out of people’s lives that it adds complexity to the challenges of planning and living healthy lifestyles. Thanks for adding to the exchange!

  16. A very inspiring post, Eric. Two years ago I gave up sat. fat, sugar, and most meat. I also stopped eating any grain that isn’t who grain. Still working on the smokes but have reduced them to a third of what I was doing. I believe diet relates to sleeping well. I used to be lucky to get 3 hours of poor sleep a night and now sleep around seven, which makes a great difference in my energy level. As for being poor and obese, it would be more beneficial if the gov. would forget the tax on unhealthy foods and come up with a plan to lower the cost of healthy foods. It seems the more healthy alternatives are the most expensive. And why must every single item that isn’t fresh from the farm or produce aisle have added sugar??? There should be a law. LOL.

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. You and I are on a similar nutritional path. I’ve been modifying mine (for the better, of course) for the past 11+ years. Not where I’d like to be yet but it’s progress nonetheless. I’m one who has never compromised my sleep, much to the chagrin of others.

      I have a niece who just returned from her second multi-month stint in India (she’s a college undergrad). She’s a stickler for eating well and is health conscious. She manages to do quite well in India with low-cost yet healthy foods. It’s when she gets back to the states that the abundant temptations lure at ridiculous cost.

      The added sugar is processed/pre-packaged foods ought to be banned. It really is contributing to people’s ability and desire to eat healthier. Absolutely to a law!

  17. If there is one question I often wonder (and hope for), and one I think we all know the answer to it is the quote you use: β€œYour life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” And while it is so difficult to bring about, it just takes that first step which you outline so well in your re-cap and advice. Well done and a never ending question/answer we should often ask. Thank you!

  18. Change and choice… two of my favorite “c” words. The quote is equal parts simple and powerful and to your astute point, it just takes that first step — which as we know, is what many dread doing. If people would simply match past results and outcomes with what action they took to manifest a change, they’d see countless times when they chose change without even realizing it. πŸ™‚ Sigh.

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