Three things the government shutdown can teach us about healthy living

iStock_000020563722Small (1)Remember the game of “chicken,” portrayed in movies ranging from Grease to the Fast & Furious (all seven times), where two dudes pumped up on testosterone drive hot rods at each other at blinding speeds until one blinks first and swerves to avoid the collision? Unfortunately, it felt like politicians on both sides of the fence just did that with the well-being of our country with the government shut down. That 16-day pissing match finally ended yesterday, and in the tradition of making lemonade from lemons, or at least a better-for-you version that foregoes copious amounts of sugar, I’ve identified three things that the shut down can teach us about healthy living:

  1. Strive for long-term changes. One of the saddest things about the “compromise” is that it expires less than three months from now, potentially setting the scenario up to happen again per this analysis from Time Magazine. You know, kind of like when you decide to lose some extra weight, eat a ridiculously low amount of calories for five days, become surly from the intense deprivation and then blow it all on a large pizza out of frustration on day six? (Can you tell I went through that cycle a lot back in the day?) Taking a more measured, deliberate approach to healthy living for the long-term is going to increase your chances of success rather than a short-term fix.
  2. Be willing to make uncomfortable choices. Let’s say that you are not thrilled with your current wellness. If the closest you come to weight training is placing the extra large frozen lasagna dish from Costco into your grocery cart, and your nightly TV watching routine is incomplete without a heaping bowl of buttered popcorn, then you need to make some changes to your habits. And some, in fact many, might not be comfortable at first. But focusing on one shift at a time or keeping your motivation strong (through means like journaling, setting up a vision board or getting support from an expert or friends) can really help. I went cold turkey giving up caffeine in 1992 in light of my six to twelve pack a day diet coke habit at the time…and it sucked for a while. But the headaches passed and drinking water and adding in exercise helped wake me up in the morning better than a soda ever did, and after a week or two of being uncomfortable, I was fine.
  3. Do put yourself first. America politicians certainly focused on their self-preservation, albeit at the expense of the public they serve. But when it comes to your own wellness, taking care of yourself first can enhance the well-being of your entire family.  Think about it. Mom or dad adopts healthier eating habits, starts exercising moderately most days of the week and sheds 40 extra pounds that was causing knee pain and shortness of breath whenever they used to climb one flight of stairs. Chances are good that those closest around you, impressed by your increased energy and better self-esteem, will also be more interested in their wellness. Perhaps your spouse joins a gym or the family tradition of going out for ice cream after dinner is replaced with a vigorous walk around the neighborhood where you actually talk to each other for more than 10 minutes at a time. Caring for your health can have a really positive domino effect with those you love the most.

What other lessons do you think we can learn from the recent government shut-down? Have you or someone you know made healthier living changes recently that impacted others in a positive manner?




  1. Have a plan B. No matter how “certain” things seems, you never know when it’s going to go haywire. :)
    Pamela Hernandez recently posted…Guilt: Healthy Emotion or Not?My Profile

  2. Such an apt analogy, Shira. In the long term, putting yourself LAST only makes you angry and bitter, which ends up hurting the people you say you’re caring for. And don’t even get me started on our selfish, immature, obstinate Congress. We’re in deep manure until they pull their heads out of their you-know-what.
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted…How to Use the Six Stages of Behavioral ChangeMy Profile

  3. HAHAHA! Don’t hold back ladies :) I like the lessons learned that you have all shared here. I think that we need to use these times of frustration and learn from our mistakes as well (something I hope the politicians learn). Like you said we need long term change and if we learn from our mistakes we will be better off in being able to make that long term change. If I learn from mistakes it helps reduce the chances of relapse.
    Jenn Speer recently posted…I should be doing…My Profile

  4. Love the analogy clever one! And what an achievement to cut out soda when you had such an entrenched habit. I used to drink 5 sodas a week and was pretty darn proud of myself when i quit cold turkey one day. I had no symptoms, fortunately and tried sodas three times in the last 3 1/2 years since quitting them and found they no longer quenched my thirst nor tasted good. Now to get a long term solution to Congress and male egos.
    Kymberly recently posted…Walking for a CauseMy Profile

  5. I believe we need to put ourselves first in order to take care of everyone else. We always need to take care of ourselves first which is the one thing we can learn from politicians!
    Toni @ Runninglovingliving recently posted…2 Days, 3 Races, 22.4 miles #RWHalfMy Profile