I told him that I'd been eating healthier for the past few months and I also was exercising daily on an elliptical machine attempting to lower my sugar.
"I'm trying to live to be 100," I said.
My friend chuckled and said, "I read an article recently about the secrets of living a long life and none of them had anything to do with eating right or getting exercise."
He couldn't remember the details of the article, but he said the important factors were keeping your brain active and staying social. Of course, I didn't believe him.
By that time, we had made our way to the checkout line. He purchased his salad and tomato, and admitted that he only eats healthy at lunchtime in front of his colleagues.
"We all took this challenge thing and agreed to eat healthy for two months,” he said. “Maybe it'll lower my cholesterol, maybe it won't. Honestly, I can't wait for the challenge to be over."
I said goodbye to my friend and said, "Don't eat that salad all in one sitting."
"Oh, I will," he said. "It's the only food I'll get until supper."
I went straight home and looked up the secrets to living a long life on the Internet. This is what I discovered in an article titled "10 Secrets to Live to 100," published by Reader's Digest in October 2010. It said that people who live to 100 and beyond tend to:
(1) Complain less suggesting that centenarians are better at adapting to what life hands them.
(2) Remain intellectually stimulated.
(3) Maintain satisfying social relationships.
(4) Keep interests in creative activities.
(5) Have few sleep problems.
(6) Become anxious or depressed rarely.
(7) Find great solace in their religious faith.
(8) Be financially secure.
(9) Believe they can be happy.
(10) Be extroverted.
This can't be true — because, if this were true, I'd be dead already.
I complain all the time about the slightest irritation. I hang out with guys from my car club, so I'm seldom intellectually stimulated. My social relationships are car club guys, so they're not very satisfying. My activities include hanging out in the garage with the car club guys — not very creative. I can hardly sleep because I'm always so anxious. I can't find solace in my religious faith because I'm always depressed. My wife is making sure that I'll never be financially secure. I believe I could be happy if I wasn't such an introvert.
After reading the article, I decided to take a few weeks off from my diet and workout routine. I went to my former place of employment one day and had lunch with the old gang. I had a few slices of pepperoni pizza dripping with grease.
I have to confess, that half-hour lunch with old friends felt better than a half-hour alone on the elliptical machine.
A few days later, I had the car club over for bratwurst, beef sticks and chicken wings. It was actually satisfying, but it fell short of intellectually stimulating, so I called my brother in Virginia and had a long conversation.
I visited my parents three times in a two-week span — and every time I visit them, my mom always feeds me something that spikes my sugar levels.
I took my wife to an outdoor concert and we ate barbecued ribs until our fingers and faces were sticky with sauce. I enjoyed a walk with my family on the boardwalk in Grand Haven, and we ate hot fudge sundaes and watched seagulls glide on the evening breeze. I even took my wife shopping one day, and felt good about it.
I'm not advocating that anyone should stop their workout routine or ignore their diets, because exercising and eating right are essential for good health, but I actually felt better when I took a little break and connected with people I care about.
I began sleeping better, and I felt less anxious and depressed. I even reconnected with my faith and began reading a daily devotional book that makes me feel closer to God. Certainly, I plan to resume my diet and exercise plan, but I don't want to do it at the expense of my personal relationships.
I no longer have a goal of living to 100. That would actually be a curse if I did it all by myself.
I'll never be what you would call an extrovert, but I do believe I can be happy. Therefore, my new goal is to stop complaining, and to love and enjoy the people in my life no matter how long I live.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist