(posted by guest-blogger Casey Malone)
If you could go back to being 21, with what you know now, what could you do? What would you be willing to do to get that chance?
This segment of the show begins with Dr. Huizenga reading a list of risk factors that put the contestants at higher risk of death. The contestants nod along but aren’t sincerely moved. Then Dr. H might run his hand through that beautiful mane before saying, “let’s take a look at your real internal age.”
We find that the 45 year old mother of 3 actually has a real age of 72. Or we may see that the teenage boy is actually 40 years old on the inside. Without fail, this brings the contestants (and my wife) to tears.
What does Dr. H mean when he says that the 45 year old has a real age of 72? He means that she has the mortality of a normal 72 year old. A healthy 72 year old woman can expect to live for about 16 years. The same thing can be said of the 45 year old woman on the Biggest Loser. That is, we can only expect her to live to 61. The 45 year old woman had never faced the reality of being that close to death.
When Dr. H delivered her real age, he was simply and succinctly repeating the exact same information that was on her list of risk factors. Hearing all of the things that we should be doing better for our health might as well be the whirring of the air conditioning. We’ve trained ourselves to tune it out.
But an assault on our age is a complete shock to the system. It reveals this paradox. You have plenty of time to do something about it, but only if you do something about it.
At the end of 2004, I was 35 lbs overweight, a heavy drinker, a moderate to heavy smoker and in the middle of a divorce from my first wife. I was beginning to have regular epileptic seizures. Oh, and I thought I was 25 years old.
By the end of 2005, I had lost the 35 lbs through diet and strength training (cosmetic fitness), began treating my epilepsy effectively, and was beginning a relationship with a girl I had met in November (her name was Emily). I was still a heavy drinker and smoker, and my finances had started to take a dive. I thought I was 26.
By the end of 2006, my relationship with the previously mentioned girl continued to solidify. However, I was still a heavy drinker and smoker, and my finances were still in free fall. I thought I was 27.
By the end of 2007, I was a former smoker and I’d added distance running to my fitness regimen. Who got me into the running? My new roommate, Emily. I began a plan to completely retire my debt and create savings. I thought I was 28.
2008 would be the most transformative year of my life. In 2008, I ran 2 marathons, got engaged, and quit drinking (along with the dangerous behavior that accompanies it). I finished paying my debt. I thought I was 29.
In 2009, I got married and ran 3 marathons. I quit eating meat. I became a slow driver who very nearly never uses a cell phone. I began building savings while paying for two people in college, most of our wedding, and a long distance move. At the end of the year, I thought I was 30.
I set up real age tests for the 6 men listed above (myself in 2004-2009). It takes into account not only physical, but relationship and financial stress as well.
Here are the results.
When I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a movie about a man born into the degenerated body of a dying man who physically grew younger with time, I said to Emily afterwards, “that’s how I’ve felt for the last couple of years.”
In the previous 5 years, I have gotten 14 years younger. If I hadn’t turned things around beginning in 2005, I’d have a real age of over 40 today, which is fine if you were born in 1969, but I was born in 1979.
A healthy 21 year old male can expect to live another 58 years or so. For a 40 year old male, expect another 41 years. So today, I
can expect to live to 88 instead of 71.
For people who ask me why I do what I do, all that I do, and never cheat. It’s about much more than the extra years. I’m not scared to chase my dreams now because 21 year olds aren’t supposed to have that fear. I’m not afraid to sound ridiculous by saying cliché things like “chase my dreams.” Twenty one year olds don’t care about sounding ridiculous.
Maybe I’ll get older in 2010. Time eventually wins. But time doesn’t scare me. Twenty one year olds aren’t scared of that either.