How Good Health is a Financial Asset

Rick Emerson, author of "Zombie Economics," joined us to explain how good health is a financial asset:

Q: In Zombie Economics you talk about fitness as a financial asset. How is one connected to the other?
A: Zombie Economics has an entire chapter dedicated to personal fitness – that’s how much it affects your finances.
For example, medical bills are the single largest reason for personal bankruptcies. And the single largest reason for those medical bills? Preventable chronic disease.
So when you smoke, you're doing the zombie’s job for them. When you damage yourself with drugs or alcohol or a poor diet, you make yourself slower, and weaker, and easier to grab.

Q: People are surrounded by so much information about health and fitness and weight loss that just sorting the good advice from the bad can feel impossible. Where do you go for reliable info?
A: Here’s something that will make things easier and better, and it takes no additional work. Stop reading diet books...right now, today. If you feel you need more information regarding diet and nutrition, or if you have specific dietary needs (such as a vegan regimen), read health books . . . not diet books. When in doubt, ask a librarian, and be specific: say you want a book (preferably a textbook) on nutrition.

Q: People sometimes have the tendency to bite off more than they can chew (no pun intended). They aim for a big change, and then get discouraged and fall into old habits. What’s a good way to maintain the momentum?
A: Success breeds confidence; start with a small, specific change, and ramp up from there. Think of it like this: no one starts in the tenth level of a video game, because you’d get overwhelmed. You start with one step, one level...and before you know it, you’re past that, to the next level, and the next.

Some specific ways to begin:

•Take your vitamins. This doesn’t require joining a club or going to some giant vitamin store. Just buy a big bottle of multivitamins—generics are fine—and take one every day. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, add some additional B vitamins to the mix.

•Get more sleep. However much you’re getting, it’s probably not enough. Again, start small: go to bed fifteen minutes earlier every night for two weeks. Then 30 minutes. If you can. That one change can have a major (and positive) effect on your mood and your energy.
•Take care of your teeth. Brush at least twice a day. Yes, flossing sucks. Do it anyway. A tip: do it while watching TV at night. Don’t wait until you’re asleep on the couch and drooling, or it won’t get done.

Q: Cutting out certain behaviors or foods is one thing, but adding good habits, like exercise, can sometimes be even more difficult. How can people give themselves the best shot?
 

A: First, remember this simple fact: All weight loss comes down to calorie reduction—burning more calories than you consume. There are no exceptions to this. At all.

Another fact to keep in mind: you might hate exercising. Some people love it, and some don’t – that’s just the way it is. But while you may hate exercising, you will love having exercised. The first time you don’t pant going up stairs, or you go down a belt size, you’ll know why you’re doing it.

Remember that the world is your gymnasium, and it doesn’t require a $10,000 mountain bike. Again, start small and easy: walk for 30 minutes twice a week. Then, ramp it up to three times a week. Do this for at least a 90 days before you buy a single piece of exercise equipment – the world already has too many treadmills-turned-clothing-hangers.

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