Thursday, November 29, 2007

Work: It will literally kill you

I watched the Oprah show on the extreme weight losers yesterday, and it got me thinking about how this issue has gotten so out of control in our society.

I think work is a big factor in the obesity epidemic in America, and it really is killing us. How many people do you know fall into this trap? You are so tired from your workday that you don't have time to cook or exercise. Instead, you pick up food from a fast food restaurant, then head home and plop yourselves in front of the TV until you get sleepy from your meal or an energy low, at which point you either doze off on the couch or go to bed (often without brushing and flossing your teeth, leading to dental problems down the road). You wake up at the sound of your alarm feeling tired and unrested, but drag yourself out of bed and stop by Starbucks for a caffeine fix to get you going for the day. Then, on the weekends, you cram all your household chores and shopping, leaving little time to recoup and re-energize. You go to work on Monday feeling tired and depressed, wondering why the weekend went by so quickly.

Year after year, your pant size increases, you develop bags under your eyes, and you get winded from simple tasks such as going up the stairs. You become unhappy with yourself, so you buy things or turn comfort foods to (temporarily) make you feel better. You might try a diet or two here and there, or buy a gym membership as part of a new year resolution, but after a little while you quit the diet and the gym because other things take priority.

I see this happening all around me, and I think it's becoming more and more difficult to avoid the work trap and the kind of lifestyle that it creates, especially as it becomes embraced by society as the accepted norm.

I don't want to fall into this trap. I want to quit work as soon as possible because:

  • It makes us inactive. We sit in a car getting to and from work, and once we get to work, we sit in front of a desk staring at a computer screen for most of the day.
  • It adds to our stress levels. We have to deal with artificial stress inducers such as office politics, deadlines, and pointless meetings, that sap our strength and energy, leaving us cranky and miserable.
  • It prevents us from developing healthy habits. We go out for lunch, and eat portions that are too large for us. Or we get vending machine food because we can't make time for a healthy meal break. Or we give into temptations in the form of cookies, cakes, and doughnuts left over from office functions. Work robs us of the most productive time of our day, when we have the most energy to do things that are good for us like working out and cooking meals from scratch. It keeps us from getting restful and sufficient sleep because we're trying to cram other things into what's left of our busy days.
My primary motivation for wanting to quit the rat race is not so I can pursue other interests (although that is certainly a big reason), but so that I have the time to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. My health is the number one priority in my life, and I find it sad that Americans have put it on the bottom of their list.

A lot of people say that they don't want to quit work because it gives meaning to their lives, and cite references to people who die shortly after retirement because they have nothing to do. My question is, have you thought about what work is taking away from you?

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