Living a healthier lifestyle is something we all want. We know we’ll feel better. We know we’ll likely live longer. Heck, we’ll probably even look better!
And it’s not like reaching a healthier lifestyle is some complex formula that we just can’t understand. It’s a simple process and we’re all familiar with the gist of what needs to be done:
- Eat foods that are better for you
- Get off your butt and exercise more
- Drink less beer (it hurts just to say it!) or other alcohol
- Minimize high stress
- Get enough sleep each night
Unfortunately, for most of us, it just doesn’t happen.
Why not? What’s keeping us from following these simple guidelines?
It’s different for all of us, but I struggled with following the rules along the way as well.
Here are the biggest contributors that played a part in hindering some better health decisions in my life:
- I don’t have time.
- I hate exercise.
- I love beer.
Is the Mad Fientist right?
If you’re on the road to financial independence and you’re not familiar with Brandon (aka the Mad Fientist), you need to be. He retired at 34 in 2016 and is an inspiration to many in the personal finance community.
The Mad Fientist really is an evil genius when it comes to money. He read the tax code (who does that?) and leveraged that knowledge in strategies such as How to Access Retirement Funds Early and HSA – The Ultimate Retirement Account. He knows his stuff for sure!
But there is one thing that he discusses that I don’t think was in the cards for me. He talks about how he wishes he didn’t wait until reaching financial independence before focusing on his health.
I get it. Brandon’s been using a personal trainer remotely for a couple of years now and he’s seen the benefits. He says he feels better, sleeps better, and is just happier in general from working out.
That’s fantastic and I love it. And I also applaud that he’s getting the message out there that living a healthier lifestyle before early retirement is the right thing to do.
But I don’t think that would have worked very well for me personally while I was working. My time was just spread too thin. Between work, spending time with my family, this blog, and other projects, I was already struggling to breathe.
Yes, I get it – you can argue that it’s just a matter of priorities and deciding what’s most important. But, I spent a lot of my days just feeling like I was behind and something needed to give. And unfortunately, what “gave” was the extra time that I felt that had to be put in for a healthier lifestyle.
I did try to work out periodically, but anytime something came up… yeah, I’ll skip today. Choice between a couple slices of pizza or some avocado toast? Well, at least I’m picking the cheaper of the too, for what it’s worth!
Welcome early retirement!
But that was then and this is now. Early retirement isn’t for everyone, but it does carry a couple of great perks with it that I’m loving so far:
- Extra time – around 47.5 hours per week for me counting the commute
- Diminishing stress – uh, yeah – around 47.5 hours of it every week has disappeared!
It’s funny how the lack of work stress can give you a better night’s sleep as well. And guess what – if you can’t fall asleep, who cares? It’s not like you have to be at work in the morning!
Now, what to do with some of that extra time? Maybe use it in a positive way? Hmmm…
My workout toward a healthier lifestyle
I’ve always detested working out. You know how people say that they feel better after a good work-out? Yeah, that was never me.
I mean, I know it’s good for you, but I’ve always disliked knowing that I’m about to go exercise. Then when I get there, I don’t like doing the work. And then I leave just ready for a nap.
So, that about sums that one up.
But something changed when I left my job. I was actually excited to start working out. In fact, that was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing once I retired. Now, I’d suddenly have the time to take this a little more seriously.
Not only that, but I’m not alone this time around. Mrs. R2R and I are together pushing each other to go to the exercise room to work out.
It took a little bit, but I’ve fallen into a pretty good schedule. I’m now going about five days a week with one day off on the weekend and every Tuesday off (that’s become my “get @#$% done” day).
I started out just walking on the treadmill and doing some light dumbbells, but I’m increasing slowly.
Because I have another backpacking trip coming up this spring (here was the first one I did), I’m training for it. I added a backpack a the beginning of February with some small weights in it:
Since then I increased the weights slowly over time. I’m now rocking most of the stuff I plan to carry in the pack. So far it’s up to 25 pounds:
Hopefully, in the next week or so, I’ll add the rest of what I’ll be carrying (water, for instance). My goal is to keep this between 30 and 35 pounds. I don’t want to invest for the ultralight equipment (big bucks!) since this will be our last trip, so I just have to suck it up and carry more weight.
I’m also messing around with dumbbells (bicep curls and cross body hammer curls) and I’ve weight to 25 pounds each. Not that exciting for people who are regulars, but I’m happy with the progress. I’ll slowly slide that up as well over time.
And then I’m doing some other strength-building and leg exercises as well on the machines. Don’t ask me what the exercises are called though!
As an added bonus, sometimes we have a special guest joining us in our workouts…
Better food for the old belly!
I hate cooking – like hate it. It’s not so much laziness, but more that I hate putting in time and energy for something that I know is going to be gone right after I make it. Not only that, but I’m not picky about what I eat. Whatever’s in front of me, I eat… end of story.
When I was working, I brought my lunch every day. And it stayed pretty consistent just for the sake of simplicity. Most days, here’s what I had:
- A peanut butter and jelly sandwich (yeah, that’s right – I’m just like 6-year-old!)
- An apple (and sometimes some grapes!)
- A bottle of water (which I just refilled every day)
Boring, right? But really not that unhealthy.
Bring in the healthier lifestyle! Now that I’m not working, I’m willing to put a little more effort into my lunch. Not a lot, but a little more.
The biggest change was my sandwich (yeah, I’m still not cooking!). I had a lot of cans of tuna fish leftover from my disaster prep storage at the house. But since we’re getting rid of everything before the move, I need to keep working on consuming the goods so it doesn’t go to waste.
I like tuna fish, but I also know that making it with mayo, although yummy, isn’t the best choice. After some Googling, I settled on avocado for the replacement.
Mashed avocado with tuna fish and a little bit of salt and pepper. Mix it all up and put it on whole wheat bread. Delicious and a lot healthier than my PB&J.
I’d like to say that I might have done this when I wasn’t working, but that’s not the case. I would always come up with excuses in my mind to just eat something simpler.
I now eat this a few times every week. Another reason early retirement equals a healthier lifestyle for me.
If you don’t start drinkin’… I’m gonna leave!
I’m not gonna lie, I was a little nervous about leaving work for one reason: I like beer.
I’m not a huge big drinker and, over the past couple of years, you’d probably see that I’d have around 5-6 beers total throughout the entire week. Maybe once a month, I’d go out with friends and have a few drinks as well.
Now, when I was at work and thought, “Boy, a beer would hit the spot right now”, I had something stopping me – um, I was at work.
So my worry was that I’d now be sitting at home thinking the same thing and there would be nothing stopping me. I’m not on the clock and the fridge is only about ten feet away from where I’m sitting.
But here’s what’s awesome – I’m not stressed out anymore. And, I’m sure by total coincidence, that craving for a beer is pretty rare. It’s usually the last thing on my mind.
In fact, I’ve found that I’m now drinking less than I was when I had 40+ hours taken away from me every week.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a good beer or two. And that’s about what I’ll drink on a Friday or Saturday, but that’s about it. Crazy, right?
But even with exceptions to the rule, healthier lifestyle in early retirement… you win again!!
Hey, just because I’m finally living a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m foolproof… far from it! I just don’t have the desire to aim to become a bodybuilder or participate in an Ironman triathlon.
My only goal is to have guns like Jim from Wallet Hacks. Look at this guy – how am I going to compete with this?
I do know my 25-pound dumbbells ain’t gonna cut it, that’s for sure! And here’s the problem – I enjoy my guilty pleasures:
- I still love a few beers over a weekend… and I’m Ok slipping a couple more in during the week if the occasion calls for it.
- There’s no way I can pass up the deal on the Filet-O-Fish every lent. It’s a square fish, people – and it’s delicious!
- I have a sweet tooth and need a piece of chocolate on a regular basis to keep me from going crazy.
- Some days I just don’t want to exercise. No real excuse – I just don’t want to do it and I’ll skip an extra day.
And that’s just some of my setbacks. So, Jim Wang, you win for now, but I’ll get there! My vices just make my path a little slower, but one day – BOOM – we’ll have a little over-the-top style arm wrestling match and see if you’ve still got it! 😉
Does early retirement equal a healthier lifestyle?
I don’t think early retirement is the cause of a healthier lifestyle, but I do think there’s a correlation. I mean, it’s easy to find articles that talk about early retirees living longer:
- Report: Retiring Early Could Help You Live Longer
- The Connection Between Retiring Early and Living Longer
- You can live longer if you retire early, research shows—here’s why
I didn’t read those articles because I don’t have time to do that now that I’m exercising and taking time to eat healthier. But I’d venture to guess that the reason why this might be true could be because early retirees have more time to exercise more, eat better, and have less stress (which likely leads to better sleep).
Although some folks are able to eat right and exercise regularly while working, it’s a lot tougher. Time is not on your side, especially if you have kids.
If you can do those right things while still employed, I commend you.
For me though, early retirement was what I needed to get excited about becoming more fit and healthy. And I hope that because I now have time on my side, it won’t be just a passing fad – this should be a regular part of our lives going forward.
If you’re already living a healthier lifestyle, what motivates you to keep going? Are you working?
If not, what’s stopping you? Do you think early retirement could play a part in fixing that?
Thanks for reading!!