We used to hang out as a place called the Sky Room Lounge when I was a young Marine, learning to be a heavy equipment operator at Marine Corps Engineer School, at Courthouse Bay, Camp Lejeune (in North Carolina). The base commander at Camp Lejeune followed state drinking laws, and almost all of us going through training were under age, so we did not hang out on base. The Sky Room Lounge, on the other hand, served us. Beer was a little more expensive at The Sky Room than at other places, but the Sky Room had this neat little system in which, before the police showed up to look for underage drinking, the bar got a phone call. We would all move away from our tables, and would congregate around the video games and pool tables. The police would show up, ID the one or two people who were old enough to drink (the only ones still holding drinks), and then leave. We would then all go back to our tables, and start drinking again.
We had a curfew of 10:00 PM, and Courthouse Bay was as far from the front gate of Camp Lejeune as one could get. It took about 45 minutes to or from the bar, giving us a somewhat small drinking window.
At first we would load as many people as we could into taxis, and split the $35 cab fare each way. After a few weeks, one of our classmates had a special circumstance in his family, and got permission to bring his Chevy S-10 to base, and after that, we all piled into his pickup truck – most of us crammed into the back.
Every night, we would pile into that pickup truck, make the trek to The Sky Room Lounge, and drink as much as we could, before going back to the barracks for curfew. The only times our routine changed were on Wednesdays, when we had our rooms inspected (and had to stay in), and the weekends, when we had no curfew. Other than that, our days were a routine – get up at drunken dark early, do physical training (which always involved a run of anywhere from three to twelve miles), shower, have breakfast at the Chow Hall, go through the day’s training, have dinner at the Chow Hall, go to the Sky Room Lounge, drink as much as physically possible until 9:00 PM, and then head back to the barracks to sleep.
We had a trick, called Gatorade. We would each drink a quart of Gatorade every night before bed, another quart when we woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and a third quart as soon as we woke up in the morning to get ready for Physical Training. The Gatorade did the trick, ensuring that we were capable of running up to twelve miles for physical training each day, no matter how much we drank the night before. By the time the run was over, any sense of still being drunk, or of being hungover, was gone.
I also smoked at the time, and most of us used some form of tobacco. The healthiest food we ate was at the chow hall, and we were living what one might call reckless lives.
Somehow, not only did we all survive our training (which lasted ten months), but we all graduated. And, or course, being young Marines, we were all in great health, in spite of our recklessness.
I’m forty-seven now, which puts Camp Lejeune twenty-seven years into my rear-view mirror. Much has changed.
Eight years out of Camp Lejeune, as I took my first post-military job, I also got a case of bronchitis that I just could not kick. I went to see my doctor, and was told that I could expect to get bronchitis around the same time each year, and could expect it to go away in the spring. Furthermore, I was told that I could expect the bronchitis to come a little earlier each year, and to last a little later, until I had it all the time, at which point it would be called “Smoker’s Cough.” This was the very first indication I ever had that I was getting older. I asked my doctor what would happen if I quit smoking. She said my bronchitis would be gone in two weeks. I quit cold turkey, and my bronchitis went away within two weeks. I have not touched any form of tobacco since.
As a non-smoker, I had my second indication that I was getting older: I began to put on weight. Somewhere before thirty, I saw a picture of myself from the beach and thought, for the first time in my life, that I looked fat.
Being fat was a new thing for me. I was always the skinny kid growing up. I was 5′ 11”, and 127 lbs when I checked into Marine Corps Boot Camp, and though I left Boot Camp at 163 lbs (enough of a change that my parents did not recognize me), I could not eat enough to hold that weight, and hovered between 145 lbs and 150 lbs, right up to the point where I quit smoking. In the military, I had a fat-fold of four. Suddenly, here I was, just a few years out of the military, looking fat at 185 lbs.
To those who weigh more than 185 lbs and who are not fat, please keep in mind that we all have our own body styles. I looked fat at 185 lbs, but some people are not fat even though they may weigh a lot more than that.
I switched from drinking Coca Cola to Diet Coke, and it was like flipping a light switch. I had not exercised since leaving the military, and began at least flirting with exercise as well. A few months later I weighed 163 lbs (the same weight I left Boot Camp at), and stayed at that weight, with very little variation, until my mid 40s. Believe it or not, but other than having bad knees (a leftover from the military) and not being able to run as fast, or as often, as I could when I was younger, I was in the best shape of my life from my late 30s to my early 40s. I was going to the gym three to four times a week, and exercising for three to four hours each time. If I ran very often, I couldn’t climb stairs, so I used the Stair Master (not the one with actual stairs that move, but the one with foot pedals that go up and down with your feet). The Stair Master is a WONDERFUL piece of exercise equipment, providing a great cardiovascular workout, all while toning your lower body, and it does that without jarring the knees.
There was a Wendy’s restaurant between the gym I went to, and the main road, and if I worked out four times a week, I had a double baconater with a large chili for dinner, four times a week. I also still liked beer, and though I had a rule against drinking on work nights (which I usually followed), I could eat and drink whatever I wanted, and stay at a nice, toned, 163 lbs.. I felt like I would never get old.
I got married for the second time, at 39, to the love of my life. Everything was fine at first, but after a few years, we decided to fight for full custody of my children, and bought a house big enough for all of us to live in. We did not get full custody of my children (though we settled out of court with an agreement that alleviated most of our concerns), but we still had the house, and the house cost a lot more than our condominium had. One of the things we said goodbye to were our expensive gym memberships, and without the gym membership, I stopped working out.
My wife believes in eating healthy foods, so the Baconater diet ended when I remarried, but it was replaced with a mug-club membership at a local brewery. I work from home, and I like to go to the brewery for a little while most days after work… Now, here I am at 47, weighing in at just over 200 lbs. I am by far the fattest I have ever been in my life.
Being fat isn’t my primary concern. I’m not that far gone, and my wife still loves me. What are my primary concerns include my heart, my cholesterol, and my blood pressure.
We libertarians like to do whatever we want to do. We don’t like having others tell us how to live our lives. I like beer, and I like discussing all matters related to sports, religion, and politics, while playing trivia, with my friends at the brewery. I also like debating online, and of course I am passionate about my blog, and my column on Global Liberty Media. As a libertarian, I believe I have complete authority over my own life, as long as I live in a way that does not interfere with the freedoms of other people. I’m am learning, however, that even a libertarian has one master he or she cannot shed: my body.
When you are young, a little exercise fixes everything. I suffer no consequences from smoking for 12 years, or from drinking excessively, while a single man in the Marine Corps (during my time at Courthouse Bay, I was the ‘Frank the Tank’ of the group). If you are one of my younger libertarian friends, my advice is to enjoy your youth to its fullest. I would strongly advise against smoking, given that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man, to stay away harmful substances in general, and to remember the word, ‘moderation’, but other than that, enjoy your youth as much as you can. Be smart about it (in the military we used to have safety briefings that could be summed up with the sentence: “Don’t do anything stupid.”), but understand that youth is fleeting, and that being young is a wonderful thing. Be smart about the future, but live large and worry free. Enjoy your youth while it lasts – because it won’t.
As you get older, you have to be willing to modify your diet, and your behavior, to stay healthy. Don’t wait to make those modifications until the modifications you have to make are extreme. You are in charge of every aspect of your life except your body, but when it comes to your health, at some point in life, your body is in charge of you, just as my body is rearing its control over me, today.
I’ll always have bad knees. That’s chronic. I have back pain fairly regularly now too, and that is new. The back pain, it turns out, is related to my knees, and can be fixed by improving the flexibility in my hips. Last December, I ended up in the emergency room twice with blood pressure issues, and was briefly admitted the second time for showing symptoms of a heart attack (which turned out just to be vertigo, which the blood pressure contributed to). I’m overweight, and I drink too much beer (which is largely how I became overweight). On top of that, online debates are starting to send my blood pressure through the roof.
I’m not going to become a total health nut, and I’m not going to start blogging about health issues all the time. The outpouring of support, and interest in my health, has, on the other hand, been overwhelming. I am touched that so many people are interested in my well being, so I am going to blog about every once in a while.
I’m going to make changes to my lifestyle starting Monday, to improve my health, such that as I get older I can stay as healthy as I was just a few years ago. It is, of course, impossible to stay young forever, but, as Dylan Thomas wrote, “I shall not go quietly into the night.” I shall instead go down kicking and screaming, making age fight tooth and nail, every step of the way. As I begin this journey toward renewed health, I will, periodically, blog about my progress, sharing the changes to my health, and encouraging others to live as large as their health will allow, while gradually improving their lifestyles as they get older. The goal is to live as large as possible, for as long as possible under the belief that while getting older sucks, it sucks less than the alternative.
I made the first change yesterday. Over the past few days, the lower number in my blood pressure was running in the 60s and 70s in the mornings, but if I started debating on Facebook, it would shoot up into the 80s and 90s and stay there. That’s way too high.
Ben Shapiro says that if you want to get engaged politically, you have to be willing to run toward the fight, and that’s always been something I’ve believed in as well. As a consequence, I was always more than happy to engage the very worst leftism had to offer, toe to toe. Rather than getting defensive when called terrible things, I’d go after the person calling me those things. I would compare and contrast my beliefs to theirs to throw them back on their heels. I would expose them to anyone watching as the wretched human beings they were. Leftist ideology really is wretched, so exposing the wretchedness of the left is very easy to do, and particularly when dealing with the worst people on the left.
I doubt Ben Shapiro will read this, but if he does, I would encourage him to continue running toward the fight for as long as his body will allow. My blood pressure is screaming at me to leave that game for younger people, such as Ben Shapiro, and though I’ll still debate those who debate respectfully, when I see the worst leftism has to offer, I’ll do what I did yesterday and use the block feature.
As I get older, my job is becoming more and more to provide content others can use to run to the fight, and less to run into the fight myself. Perhaps, as my blood pressure becomes less of an issue, I’ll resume those fights, but for the time being I have to show restraint. Andrew Breitbart died of a massive heart attack at 42. There are many things about Andrew Breitbart conservatives should emulate today, but that is not one of them.
Starting Monday, I’m going to the gym three times a week. Depending on whether or not I have to pick up my son on Fridays, I’ll either go to the gym on Fridays after work, or in the morning on Saturdays. That also necessarily means I won’t be going to the brewery as often. My favorite beers are IPAs, which are also the heaviest beers available. I need to look at IPAs as a treat, and to drink lighter beers the majority of the time, when I do go to the brewery. On days where I don’t go to the gym, I’ll either go for a bike ride, or for a walk, so that I am getting some form of physical activity every day. Other than beer, I already have a fairly healthy diet, so I think I’m OK on the diet front.
Occasionally, I’ll post a progress report, listing both my successes, and my failures. You’ll know it’s a post about the improvements to my lifestyle by the title, which will start with the phrase, “Libertarian Living”.
Wish me luck! I still have the discipline of a Marine, so I’m confident things will improve!