Imagine you are standing in the middle of a round, muddy hole. It is deeper than you are tall and there are a few lumpy rocks set in the walls that might work for hand and foot holds if you decided you wanted to climb out. Weirdly, there is a shovel to your left, slowly but inexorably digging away at the floor of its own accord. You’re not entirely sure how you got there, but the mud is cool and squishy and not terribly uncomfortable, so it’s not too bad, really. Still, when you look up you can see soft green grass ringing the top of the pit and a glimmer of syrupy golden sunshine heralding the start of a gorgeous day above.
As you lean back, taking stock of your situation in a rare moment of quiet, you find that you have a choice. You can stay where you are, letting the shovel slowly dig you deeper into the cold dampness of the ground, or you can grab one of those holds and start the laborious process of hauling yourself up to that tantalizing day overhead. Tempting as sunshine and warmth sound, you’re a very busy person and you suspect the climb will be unpleasant and time-consuming and, well, you don’t have to decide now, do you? You can decide to climb out any time you want, right? So what’s the rush?
It’s a logical enough question to ask and, perhaps, like many people, you’ll decide there isn’t any rush at all and go back about your life, that pesky climb all but forgotten. Forgotten, at least, until that sneaky shovel hits a volcanic trench, spilling terrifying, blisteringly hot lava into your formerly decent little hole and sending you scrambling.
Only by then the hole will be so much deeper. The handholds fewer and farther between. What had been only a mildly strenuous trek the last time you looked will have become a complicated, grueling expedition, and not suffering is no longer an option. The only galling decision left is whether to accept the pain of the lava or endure the stress of the slow, steep climb out of the pit. To make matters worse, even if you make it out of the pit, you may spend the rest of your life with scars from where the lava has already splattered and burned you.
If you guessed this (ugly) little exercise in imagination was an allegory, give yourself a Scooby Snack! Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of allegories but this one is near and dear to my heart because I find myself (gently and empathetically) explaining it to people who have sought me out looking for nutrition advice all the time.
The longer you wait to invest in your health the costlier it becomes.
The longer you wait to invest in your health the costlier it becomes. We live in a toxic world that stealthily chips away at our health every day. If we don’t actively take steps to combat and compensate for that subtle but persistent erosion, we lose ground. The more ground we lose, the more time and energy it takes to repair the damage. Just to add insult to injury, if we push the envelope long enough, by the time we cave to the inevitable and start trying to remedy the problems there’s a very real chance we’ll have done damage that can’t be repaired at all.
The good news: small inputs over time lead to enormous gains.
There are no shortcuts or quick fixes when it comes to investing in our health, but there is good news. Just as seemingly inconsequential bits of damage can culminate into huge losses, little inputs over time can lead to enormous gains. (Imagine filling in the hole that imaginary shovel had dug at the end of every day. It might not get you closer to the grass and sunshine, but you wouldn’t get any further away, either – you’d effectively keep that climb relatively short and easy for yourself to tackle when you were ready. As a bonus, the exercise would build your muscles and make you that much stronger and readier to make the climb!)
It’s okay to start small – to start tiny, even, if that’s what you can do right now. But you need to start now, because the longer you wait the harder and costlier everything becomes.