I like to think that I’m a healthy guy. Oh sure, I’m someone who likes to partake in a slice of pizza (or 3) at times and make pit-stops at the drive thru on occasion.
The truth is, I’ve been lucky to have always been in somewhat reasonable shape. But shortly after I graduated high school it was a much different story. I weighed a measly 157 lbs soaking wet. I didn’t like how I looked and remember being obsessed with the guys I saw in the muscle magazines.
It wasn’t so much because they were these huge meat heads who did nothing all day but pick things up and put them down. My obsession with them was based on the notion that I wanted to look like them but on a much smaller scale.
I read “Robert Kennedy’s MuscleMag International” magazine religiously and learned that the only real way to get the body I wanted was to always eat “clean” (meaning absolutely no junk food) and exercising until I puked every day. The sound advice coming from guys who had ripped abs and tanned bodies sure was convincing.
Drinking weight gainer/protein shakes, eating only the freshest (and most expensive) organic foods and exercising ad nauseam worked well for me in the short run. But I always felt as if I was missing something. The strict regimen imposed by these chiseled abbed Adonis’ was something I just couldn’t stick with. I needed my carbs, particularly those of the bread and alcohol varieties. At least in moderation. As far as I was concerned, life was too short to deprive myself of such things.
I’ve since learned that using the advice in the magazine is important but the truth is, I’m never going to compete in bodybuilding. So although my weight had fluctuated over the years, by using modifications of what I had read, I was finally able to bring it under control. I am now in a regular exercise routine and eat good for the most part. (Bacon and Count Chocula aside of course).
So what’s my point?
Yesterday while standing in the Barnes and Noble bookstore I picked up the latest copy of “MuscleMag International”. With the alluring call of coffee and fatty pastries just a few feet from the magazine rack I read a letter written by Robert Kennedy. I had just discovered, by reading the letter, that Mr. Kennedy had passed away from an aggressive form of lung cancer back in April. Robert was the publisher of the magazine and is considered a titan in the world of bodybuilding and ironically, someone who before I picked up the periodical had absolutely no idea had died (bad news travels slow in these parts).
What was odd was that Mr. Kennedy had known since January that he was going to die and decided to write a final column to his beloved readers. I tried to imagine myself knowing that I had only a few months to live and writing a similar letter. What would I say?
Mr. Kennedy used his final column, with the knowledge of his impending demise wearing on him, to alert readers of the importance of regular checkups and avoiding excessive sun. You see, Robert Kennedy was an avid sunbather in his prime and had developed cancer. A cancer that, had it been caught earlier, been easily treated.
Although regular medical checkups and limited exposure to tanning is sound advice, the real message I took from his last letter is this: no matter how much we exercise or how clean we eat eventually we all have to face our own mortality.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t take care of ourselves. On the contrary, we should always strive to be the best we can be both physically and mentally. The fact is, not one of us knows if we have five years left or fifty so lets live every one of them to the fullest.
But if I had to write a final letter like Mr. Kennedy someday, I hope I’m able to sum it all up in just four words: “I lived for today”.
RIP Robert Kennedy.