Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:
Healthy Aging

Health Non-Negotiables

By Sheryl Kraft

Share on:

My days have gotten so busy lately, with mounting work responsibilities colliding with ever-present personal responsibilities. And since I'm one of those people who gets easily distracted, once I sit down at my desk I know I'd better stay put, lest I lose my train of thought. (I know. This is counter to what I wrote about how bad sitting is for your health. I’m trying to change that; it's on my list.)

All the busyness and the consequent sitting brought me to my low point the other day. I sat down at my desk to work at around 8:00 AM, and the next thing I knew, it was 2:00 PM. Yikes. I hadn't eaten lunch, but strangely I wasn't hungry. Instead, I was driven to finish up one project so I could move onto the next, yet I realized in order the proverbial car running, I had to stop and refuel.

But I still didn’t want to move; instead, I wished for a genie to appear with  a glass of water and a capsule to swallow; a capsule packed with all the good nutrients to last me until dinner.

Alas, it was not to be. Instead I headed into the kitchen in search of something to keep my energy up; something that didn't require me to stop, and actually prepare. What I ended up with was some store-roasted sliced turkey I had purchased a few days before in an attempt (albeit an ill-fated one) to be able to make some easy and quick turkey sandwiches for lunch. But a sandwich would require work – too much work that day - so I just grabbed the turkey and headed back to my desk, lonely dry slices on the plate.

You can guess what happened next (or maybe you can't). The dog followed me in, sat by my feet, whimpering, and as I tried to type and eat the turkey, it broke into tiny little pieces, its remnants scattered along my keyboard and on my floor. It was the highlight of my dog's day no doubt, but certainly not mine.

It was at that moment that I made myself a promise: Never again would I try to eat lunch at my desk. I'd stop long enough to eat something nutritious; and I'd eat it in my kitchen. Lunch, which I need to keep up my energy and keep my brain sharp, is now a health non-negotiable.

This Matters> I kind of like that term, health non-negotiable. It puts everything it its place, neatly prioritizing the necessary things and allowing you to be your own boss, in a sense. It's those things you don't let anything get in the way of. It takes a real emergency or disaster to fool with a health non-negotiable. (One thing that helps secure the non-negotiable status is to write it down on your calendar as if it was a 'real' appointment. I try to do this with exercise, thinking of it as a "meeting outside the office.")

Along exercise and now, lunch, I have my other health non-negotiables: Breakfast, flossing and brushing my teeth, enough sleep and of course, a little bit of dark chocolate each day. The big health benefits -  both physically and psychologically - make these real, true priorities.

And then there are those health non-negotiable wannabes, things that are important that I wish I could figure out a way to a). make time for and/or b). learn to do better:  More vacation, less stress, more time for family, gardening, crafts, movies, friends and reading… the list is simply too long.

So, I'm wondering: What are your health non-negotiables or wannabes? Maybe putting it down in writing will make them more of a reality!

Subscribe to Midlife Matters by Email


One of mine is exercise. I walk almost every morning, no matter what work is waiting for me. That is how I start my day.

A great way to start your day, I agree...and I'd think, too, that if you do it first thing, it'll be impossible to get too busy to fit it in.

This is so great. I, alas, don't feel like I have any health non-negotiables. My standards on everything have slipped this past year as I wrestle with my very hectic life. But your post inspires me to get started on some. A healthy breakfast, a bit of daily exercise, plenty of water, and more produce than meat (and cutting out processed foods as completely as I can...).....these are the things I aspire to. But some time to myself, to rejuvenate, seems necessary as well.

Hope you find what you are looking for, Christine, to get back on track!

Great post and I love the idea of a healthy non negotiable. My latest HNN is to attend yoga classes at least twice a week. I don't care what my week looks like, I need it for my body and soul.

Great that you are able to fit in yoga, and find it so helpful. That is definitely on my wannabe list!

Dental care. I floss daily, brush several times a day, and kill germs with Listerine. I got my crowns in my 20s, after the birth of my children. Now I have to redo all my crowns, which apparently is normal after 30 to 40 years, so I have learned dental care must be one non-negotiable health issue for me.

Couldn't agree more on the dental care...as you see, it's on my list, too. And my teeth suffered, too, after I had my children.

How about doing something simply because you enjoy it and it will make you happy? Otherwise, life can become an endless to-do list.

Of course, Ruth, I agree. Doing things that make you happy is the best there is. Those are all my 'wannabes' and it just so happens that they're also good for your health (probably because they're not just items to be checked off, but things that come from the heart).

One that is becoming more and more of necessity is a good solid night's sleep. I am always so much happier when I go to bed earlier.

Yes, Meredith, I agree on the sleep-and-feeling-happy connection. So important.

Sleep is my nonnegotiable! Exercise in my wannabe, but I do squeeze in workouts at least 3-4 times per week. (Don't know if you saw it, but there was a new study recently that said women need to exercise for 60 minutes daily in order to maintain their weight without dieting. Who has time for that?)

Yes, Susan, I did see that study. Can't even write about it because, as you say, who has time for THAT?? My feeling is whatever we do is better than doing nothing, right?

Same: exercise, sleep, lots of greens. But given a slew of ailments of late, I've put preventive maintenance and regular check ups on the list too.

That said, I just missed an appointment to see a doc because I was engrossed -- in writing a blog post! -- and spaced out on the time. And she's booked until June!!! My bad.

But at least the right intention is there...Sometimes it feels like a part-time job just looking after yourself.

Preventive maintenance...tuneups...sounds like a car, doesn't it? But I guess our bodies are like that, in a way. To keep them running smooth, we have to stay ahead of the game before we end up broken, by the side of the road :)

I have some health non negotiables that I'm really good at keeping consistent. I exercise without fail. But I don't strength train consistently because I hate it. So strength training is one of those things that is always on my to-do list for when "I get on top of things." Recently it was the same with meditation. Then one day I was like: well, how will I ever get on top of things if I don't meditate? Isn't that the thing that's supposed to fix everything else? So I did it today. At least that's a start. The problem with health is that there are so many aspects to it: eating, exercising, relaxing, sleeping, having fun, etc. It's hard to be on top of all of them at the same time. But it's a good goal.

I agree, Alisa. There are a dizzying number of things to keep on top of with our health. That's why you need to prioritize, I think, and get to the most important things first. I wish there was enough time to fit everything in, like everyone else!

I agree, Alisa. There are a dizzying number of things to keep on top of with our health. That's why you need to prioritize, I think, and get to the most important things first. I wish there was enough time to fit everything in, like everyone else!

I like that term too: health non-negotiables. I think I will make a list of ones for myself!

Jennifer, hope your list yields good results!

I have several wannabes that I'm trying to change into non-negotiables. And I did read the about the study on women needing even more exercise per day so I'm trying to work toward that. Right now I'm working toward eating healthier in general to up my energy and just be better all around. So far, so good.

Yes...that new study. While it now says we need ONE HOUR each day, I think that's kind of difficult to adhere to. (I'm glad that didn't discourage, but instead, encouraged you).Good for you for trying to fit more in and succeeding!

Don't forget stretching. My body is now paying for a lifetime of not doing any stretching. Did you know that tight muscles exacerbate back pain? I'm now exercising, seeing a chiropractor and a massage specialist who specializes in deep tissue work to keep my body moving relatively pain-free.

Stretching is definitely a good one! I went for a very long walk the other day, and forgot to stretch. Hence, my (very) sore lower back...


Add new comment