How to cheat death one pill at a time

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Amid pills and various clean-living routines, is there a fine line between effort and taking the easy way out, as well as acceptance and complacence? Illustration by CARINA SANTOS

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — If 2016 has earned any kind of reputation for itself so far, it could be the year people scared themselves healthy after several unexpected celebrity deaths. One after the other, stars and icons have been meeting untimely ends from various health complications, the results of unfortunate happenstance or of years spent “living it up” that had finally caught up to them.

I am one of these people. After every well-publicized celebrity-related tragedy, I sit and quietly declare to myself, “It’s time to get your sh*t together!” — scared to my core that I’ll drop dead at 70 without having actualized because, like most millennials, I still would have been dragging my feet and taking my sweet time enjoying the finer things in life.

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t completely been the poster child of clean living. I still drink enough coffee to stop the heart of a small child, and I still make the most of any alcohol buffet. Becoming the healthier, Toyota Prius version of myself is a day-to-day struggle where battles are won, not wars. I tried to quit smoking and sugar, and I started taking the pill all at the same time in a grand effort to avoid dying young. My body, unable to handle these abrupt changes, threw all my hormones in disarray, causing my body to slowly balloon to 185 pounds. Looking at the big picture, I realized this wasn’t the worst outcome, but I still wanted to find a way to become a bit more respectful to my body. After all, it’s God’s Temple, and I’ve treated it more like a super mall.

As of this writing, I’ve been leading what might be considered a healthy lifestyle. I’ve cut rice and soda from my daily intake. I wake up and take a small shot of L-Carnitine to allow my metabolism to continue functioning while I stay sedentary for hours working my agency day job. I wash my face with soap consciously made from local lemongrass and moisturize with organic malunggay oil, whose healing powers I first encountered in mass-produced tubs marketed under its international moniker, moringa body butter. While all this is happening, I swish a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil in my mouth to rid myself of toxins from the day before and to prep my teeth for a once-over with my toothbrush to get that fine detail. After my first meal, I treat myself to a trio of supplements: chlorophyll for my skin, spirulina for my immune system, and senna tablets to make sure my internal digestive logistics remain sound.

It may sound like a lot, but what I am doing is the healthy-living equivalent of saying you helped your child study for school when all you really did was hire a tutor. All I’m really doing is buying my way into health using a lot of dubious research, social-media crowdsourcing, and testimonials from close friends who would also like to avoid dying young. It’s ridiculously expensive, but I am seeing results. My teeth have never been whiter. I have little to no morning breath. My hair feels great and I don’t wake up every morning looking like I’m seeking the sweet release of death. But for every day I lapse, all my progress goes away. In this way, it becomes habit-forming — it is a very expensive habit at that. Is it worth it? I remain undecided.

Body-wise, I’m far from being the healthiest I’ve ever been. But given how great I feel even by just doing the bare minimum, I start thinking: How much harder do I really have to work to know what it feels like to be at the optimum level of being alive? My lack of effort in getting myself physically fit becomes so apparent that this “lifestyle change” I’ve undergone is more of a capitalist-driven shift in ideology in the manner of “I buy, therefore I am” than actual progress for the better. I put a tablespoon of clear oil in my mouth for the length of a sitcom episode, only to spit out white, toxic sludge in the bin, supposedly a lot healthier than twenty minutes prior. In a way, it has made me carefully examine if my laziness is learned or pathological and if my acceptance of my body is fueled by self-love or complacence. I remain undecided, still.

On the other hand, I may not be giving myself enough credit for all my work thus far. The more holistic, natural approach to health has allowed me to become more in tune with my body and what it needs to stay OK. Though I am not at the level of being able to anticipate and preempt a cold or be motivated enough to take myself on a jog to shed some weight, I do wake up every morning feeling well-rested and ready to go. I no longer dismiss the idea of routines as the squarest thing I could ever do. Here I am now, welcoming it with open arms every single day — two months strong, swigging half-melted coconut oil and applying tinola-scented nighttime skin recovery on my face, hoping that soon enough I’d figure out what level two is on my journey of living healthily.