What will it take for you to invest time in your health?

When I was 13-years-old my dad died of cancer, only seven months after he was diagnosed. The summer break after grade 7 was the last time that my parents along with my one-year-old sister, and I would visit my dad’s family in California together.

I’ll never forget the feelings of fear, disbelief, and sadness that crushed me the day I saw my dad die in my mom’s arms at the airport when we were supposed to fly back home from that trip. Everything changed from that day forward. The responsibilities and roles that my mom and I had to take on were immediate and overwhelming.

Over the next several years cancer and death would visit my dad’s family a few more times. In 2008 my oldest cousin died from cancer at age 25. A few years later my grandma died from old age but not without first becoming hemiplegic after surviving several strokes. Most recently in February 2018 my uncle, father to my cousin who passed in 2008, died from a similar cancer that took my dad.

Cancer wasn’t a stranger to my mom’s family either. My maternal grandma had a double mastectomy to remove tumors and is fortunately still alive. Unfortunately, my maternal grandfather passed away from bone cancer two days ago (April 9, 2018).

When I learned about my uncle’s diagnosis, I started making irrational parallels between myself, my dad, cousin, and uncle. The correlations of father and son, fathers dying from the similar cancers, both sons being the eldest to sisters, and coming from the same bloodline was enough coincidence for me to become consumed with inordinate worries about potentially developing some serious illness.

How did I allow myself to go from exercising 4-6 times a week, eating a mostly healthy diet still occasionally enjoying treats, and being active outdoors to completely devaluing my health and becoming mostly sedentary?

I was a full-time student working full-time hours managing a gym, and working part-time earning hours for my massage practicum. I had never been so busy in my life and my health was no longer a priority. I had to make financial sacrifices to be able to afford to pay for school, and all the courses I took during the massage diploma. The quality and especially the amount of the food I ate decreased drastically. Within 4 months of high stress, zero exercise, and hours of studying I lost 12 lbs. I went from a healthy and lean 151 lbs to a sickly and tired 139 lbs.

Today I own the gym, a massage therapy practice, and a few other ventures that demand even more hours than before. I still work part-time at the same chiropractic clinic where I did my practicum because I want to be around mentors and teachers. Even after graduating at the top of my class for massage therapy, I’m still in school but now part-time working on obtaining my undergrad because I love learning and want to eventually realize an ambition.

How can I preach health, wellness, and teach fitness when I don’t exemplify every aspect of it myself?

I can because I get it. Other than for having kids or dependents, I get that life is busy and only gets busier. I get that time is a rare and depleting resource. The time we have daily is mostly accounted for so the few remaining hours are precious. We choose to spend those hours on what’s most important to us. Whether we allocate those precious hours towards family, friends, passions, or dreams we need to remember that a small portion of that time has to be spent on ourselves for self-care. We can’t give our best to others when we aren’t our best.

“Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.”
-Denis Waitley

What did it take for me to invest time in my health?

Despite knowing better, it took my uncle’s passing due to cancer that may have been preventable with healthier lifestyle choices. It took my cousin losing her brother and father and having to again show her strength in the face of repeated sorrow, and it took the anguish of my aunt losing her son and her husband. It took all of this to make me think about my mom, sister, and about how selfish it would be for me to not become my healthiest and best self.

No longer will I live with the delusion of health because I’ve been able to keep high percentages of my strength in maximal lifts without exercise; because I can eat almost any amount of junk food and stay lean; and because I’ve consistently slept about 4 hours a night, depriving myself of sleep for the last 3 years and remain relatively functional. None of this makes sense and is definitely not sustainable. If I choose to continue living this way, I won’t be living much longer.

Not having time is a bad excuse. The time is there it just needs to be managed better. If time is money than just like any investment, the compounding interest from investing early with regular contributions over a long period of time will yield the highest returns. Time and health are both depleting assets, and the time spent on health has a direct effect on the amount and duration of health.

Health and fitness are the only low-risk investments with guaranteed high returns. The return of investing time in our health and fitness are paid in dividends as improved quality of life, and paid in interest as more time. More time to spend with family and friends. More time to spend doing the things we love. More time to realize our dreams. More time to live.

Our health and fitness have to become a priority, and we have to invest time into them if we want more time in return. If you value your time but not your health, you don’t truly value your time.

Chris Luu, SMT(cc), RMT, SFMA, CFSC, FRCms