Friday, February 1, 2013


A politician's wife remarked to me at a party, “The maintenance effort is huge!”, describing what she was doing during a re-election campaign to look good. Teeth whitening, hair coloring, wrinkle-softening, weight-reducing, manicuring, pedicuring....her calendar was a juxtaposition of fund-raising events and appointments with stylists, aestheticians and personal trainers.

Maintenance: time-consuming and unexciting.  Maintenance was a department in a factory and the janitor's room in elementary school. As a younger person, I never thought about maintenance of anything other than my car, but as the years passed, my focus, like the political wife's, went to maintaining my external appearance --- my complexion, my latest five-pound weight loss, fewer jiggles in my wiggle. More time at the gym, more money at the cosmetic counter.

Now I'm at an age where the maintenance I desire is health, the kind of health I took for granted in my youth---strong limbs, a heart whose rhythm was regular and reliable, supple muscles, bones without brittleness. Frankly, the effort of maintenance is huge, greater and more important than keeping my looks. But years of ignoring the body's inner workings created habits that have been hard to break, so that getting my teeth bleached or my hair colored has sometimes taken precedence over doing yoga or going for a walk.

Here's the daily health maintenance check list in my life, and believe me, it requires personal organization:

Yoga (for flexibility, balance, and the inner ease it brings me)

Core-strengthening exercises (to heal my sacral injury, and prevent another one)

Weights (for osteopenia, likely from celiac but also ... aging)

Walking (for heart and soul, especially when I can be outside in nature)

Meditation (for mind, spirit, and body)

Taking vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes (to heal my celiac-damaged gut---and scheduling those before, during, and between meals, depending on the dosing requirements)

Meal planning and meal preparation (to live gluten-free takes work but it is so worth it)

Food and symptom-logging (part of my celiac recovery and healthy weight maintenance)

Aside from these daily tasks, there is work, family, pets, and all the other things most of have on our daily agendas.

I'm sure my list is less than some people's, those whose health has been more severely impacted by cancer, diabetes, and other serious conditions. Even so, there are days when I feel overwhelmed and burdened by my own HMO needs and wish to forget all of it, eat chocolate and pasta (the regular kind, the light and puffy ravioli of days gone by), and lie around reading---and there are days when I do (all but the ravioli---for that, the immediate price of my errant ways is too high to pay!).

But I know that if I want to optimize the rest of my life, however long it may be, that now is the time I must invest in my own health maintenance organization.  Riffing off a familiar saying, wisdom is accepting the things I cannot change (history, genes) and changing the things I can, and that's what my HMO is all about.

What about you? Have you created your own HMO? Any time is open enrollment---how about now?

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