Health vs. Wealth?

>> A never ending conflict <<


Most people worry about money. A common trap. Sometimes I fall into this trap myself, but I try not to as often as possible. Maybe you do too. It’s hard not to, I know that, especially if you can barely make the monthly expenses for food and rent.

Every time I think about this I ask myself what would happen if I just can’t make rent or can’t buy food. Flashes of the movie “Pursuit of happiness” come into mind, where I imagine homeless shelters and living on the street.

On the other hand, I don’t know how it is. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, I don’t know. In January, I did an experiment on this. I limited the amount of money I had available for food and all other expenses. I know this won’t come close to the feeling I would have when living on the street, but it was the first step.

Why would I do that in the first place? I like to see things from different angles and I thought this might help with that. Needless to say, it did.

While I did this experiment I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t an experiment. I didn’t check my bank account to see how much money was still in there and I tried not to think of it as an experiment.

First of all, I have to say that I usually don’t spend much money. Almost all my money is spent on food or books. Usually, I only buy new stuff when the old stuff isn’t working anymore.

Despite that, there are a few things that happened.

I got way more conscious on how I spend my money, especially when it comes to food. I normally have a rather simple heuristic. If I spend money on quality food it’s usually money well spent. Most of you would probably agree.

What I realised was that I paid, even more, attention to the foods I bought. “Is this really worth it? Is it a good price for this food? Is it high-quality food?”, were a few questions I caught myself asking more than usual.

I also found myself buying less food, as I thought of them as “luxuries”. I also thought more about the connection between money & time as well as health & wealth.

Money & Time

Money and time are probably the most common reasons for not getting healthy.

“I don’t have time to exercise or cook!”

“I don’t have money to buy organic food!”

How often did you hear or even say things like that? I sure heard and said both of them quite often. Unfortunately, they’re both BS. Here’s why.

First of all, if it were for us to decide we wouldn’t have time for anything. All of us are constantly busy or “have something to do”. Unless you make the time to read a book, prepare a meal, go for a run or anything else you simply won’t have the time.

Gladly, time is not a constraint you need to have when it comes to health. If you are honest, it’s more of an excuse. Yes, it does take time to prepare two meals every day, but how much time does it take to take the stairs instead of the elevator? Or how much time does it take to do 10 push-ups?

Stop lying to yourself and get rid of that excuse. 

The second reason for not getting healthy is having no money. I already addressed this problem here and I’m currently launching a new project called “Free Health Hacks” which you can find here.

It’s like starting a business. If you only have $5 to start a business limiting yourself by that money constraint will usually result in not finding a good idea. A better way is to get the constraint out of the picture.

When it comes to health there are so many things you can do that cost absolutely nothing. Go for a walk or take schedule breaks to sit less. There will come a point in time when you want or even need to invest in your health to improve it, but trust me, you can get healthier for a long time without spending any money.

It’s just another excuse.

Health vs. Wealth

When it comes to health and wealth there are two tendencies I noticed. There is a “positive-health-wealth-cycle” and a “negative-health-wealth-cycle”.

Let me explain.

In an ideal world, time and money would not be part of the equation that results in health, but unfortunately, they are, so this “model” I thought of, should let you realise why it’s important to let go of these constraints.

I’ll start with the negative cycle because I think that more people will relate to that. Hopefully, I’m wrong. It goes like this:

simplified health vs wealth

A person has money and time issues. They work a lot but barely make enough money to pay for their basic needs. (Not assuming they’re unnecessarily spending money). In order to make more money, they either have to cut their expenses or work more. Or both. Since we are assuming that they are only spending money on food and rent, they are likely to cut out food expenses.

They’re starting to eat junk food because it’s cheaper and even saves them money & time because they don’t have to cook. They also start to work more to make more money. After a while, the junk food will make them sick, which results in less productivity at work or even no work at all. This will result in less money earned and higher medical costs.

Continuing on this downward spiral they can only afford even lower quality food, which will result in an even worsened health until one point in time they end up with a major disease like diabetes, a heart attack or cancer.

I acknowledge that it probably takes more time to develop these severe diseases, but the effects of eating low-quality food are noticeable almost immediately. If you’re not convinced I recommend watching the movie “Supersize Me”. This is not only true for bad food, but also for too little sleep and too little movement.

Now let’s look at the opposite, the “positive-health-wealth-cycle”. If somebody is making enough money they are less stressed, which is a good thing to begin with.

Positive Health Wealth cycle

It’s likely that the person can afford high-quality food, maybe even a chef. Eating out is done at high-quality restaurants, where the food will benefit their health instead of worsening it. Since they are earning enough money, it’s likely that the are able to take an hour off to do some exercise, maybe they can do it before work, which is even better.

They start to realise that eating good food and exercise will make them more productive, resulting in more work done and more money earned. They are able to take off additional hours to prepare their own food while optimising their nutrient intake and their exercise program.

Maybe they’ll even start a meditation course or get involved in other relaxing activities. Additionally, they are also able to sleep more and wake up refreshed every morning.

All in all, they will get healthier and stay healthier. 

I know, both of those scenarios are highly idealistic. Eating junk food won’t make you sick within a few days, but after watching “Supersize Me”, I’m convinced that it goes faster than most people like to admit.

At the same time, earning more money will not result in starting to cook, but rather working more to make more money. Despite that, I guess you got my point.

Being trapped in the negative cycle is really bad, because the deeper you get in there, the harder it is to get out of there. It’s possible, no question, but the sooner you start, the easier it is.

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small” – Lao Tzu

Think about the person in the first example and imagine this:

The person has money and time issues and starts to think of ways out of it. He starts his research online and thinks about how he could earn money on the side or be more productive at work. He comes across and article that says “Healthy and rested workers are more productive.”

He thinks about it and starts to do more research, where he finds several articles stating that 20-30 minutes of exercise in the morning are enough to increase mood for the following twelve hours, to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance as well as probably improving mental performance.

Although this is already a rather big change, he decides to go for it. He changes nothing else, he just does some light exercise every morning.

Here’s what happens: After exercising he is in a better mood all day long, improving his social connections, meeting new people and feeling less stressed. He improve the relationship with his boss and tells him about his exercise routine in the morning and how good he feels afterwards.

He also notices that he lost some weight, which is odd since he didn’t change his diet. Besides that, he also experiences more focus and is more productive at work. He starts to have great ideas for work, as well as for other things besides work.

Due to his increased productivity, he is able to stop doing overtime and gets home early, where he decides to cook once a week. In his spare time at home, he is also able to read more articles on health and finds more things he can do.

He tries the Pomodoro technique and takes scheduled 5-minute breaks, where he gets out of his chair because he read that sitting is really bad. Since his work output increased (and his boss is feeling great because of the exercise tip) he gets promoted and starts to earn more money. Although he is still a little tense he doesn’t stress himself about money issues anymore.

He continues to replace his old habits with new healthy ones, getting healthier, more relaxed and happier.

I know this is an idealistic scenario, but I’ve seen it happen in people, and I’ve seen it happen in myself. I can only speak for myself, but I bet that you can do it too.

I have to admit that I had the advantage, already realising the importance of health in college when I didn’t have to worry that much about money.

But today, when I am working more, I’m really happy I invested in my health back then. It makes me so much more productive. Sometimes I fall back into the mindset that doing something for my health is wasted time, as I could work more instead.

If it happens, I pause and remind myself that my health is the most important thing there is and that I will be more productive when I go for a walk or meditate for 10 minutes.

Sometimes I ask myself if this was the best way to do it, first health, than wealth, but I’m not sure. It depends on so many other external factors.

What I do know is that everybody can get out of the negative health-wealth cycle. Maybe not as smooth as in the example above, but it is possible.

At the end of the month, I ended up with a little over $10 and still 3 or 4 days to go. That was the first time I thought to myself: “Man, you don’t have enough money to buy food anymore, what are you going to do?”

Well, I’m going to work hard while staying healthy and never let this happen.

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