How to Lead a Healthy Life

Jenny aka Ex-Studentin has been thinking about what she does (and doesn’t) do for her health and has asked everyone to write about their own efforts to live a healthy life in her latest blogging carnival. We have a bit of a dilemma here because Jenny wrote her contribution to our recent blogging carnival in English especially for us even though she normally blogs in German. So really, we owe it to her to write our contribution to her blogging carnival in German. The only snag is that while most of Jenny’s readers probably understand enough English to at least get the jist of her post, we’re pretty sure that a lot of you reading this don’t understand German. So here it is – our first ever bilingual post! Click here for the German version.

Mrs W and exercise

I admit it; I’m not really a very sporty person. To the extent that I can’t play team sports because I’m so rubbish that I ruin it for everyone else. Despite that there are some forms of exercise I don’t hate. In the past 10 years or so I’ve tried my hand at running, swimming, yoga, the gym and those horribly chirpy home exercise videos on YouTube. All with limited success. I’m too good at making excuses. It’s raining. I have to work late. The kids are ill. Etc. etc. etc. Fact is, I just don’t like exercising that much. I find the idea of gyms really weird – rows and rows of people pumping iron like crazy to make up for the fact that they don’t move very much in the rest of the time. And don’t get me started on the big hairy ape-like guys in the corner grunting at each other and downing protein shakes… But still, I’ve realised that I do actually feel better after I’ve done some exercise. The problem is that I haven’t done much sport recently so I need to get back on the wagon. Urgently.

Mr W and exercise

The idea of playing some kind of team sport outside (football, handball or whatever) once a week is great. I’d love to do something like that but in reality, for us it just simply doesn’t work. Some of my friends do play football every Sunday but for me, taking the time to go there…nahhh….either the weather is shit, or we want to do something with the kids at that time. That’s not regular, proper exercise. At most, it’s fun… but sometimes it’s a pain: the last time I went there I did something to my legs and couldn’t walk properly for two weeks.

Running: Also nice, but for me it can’t be my main form of exercise. If I run a lot, my knees hurt (no, not because of my shoes). It also takes a lot of time. I like to sprint though. Pushing your body as hard as you can for spurts of 20-30 seconds is good for you. High intensity training is a very interesting field and there are many studies and people out there who are convinced that it’s very effective (see BBC: The Truth About Exercise). For me though, although I’m interested in running and do it whenever I have the chance, I haven’t managed to make it into a habit. I’m convinced about one thing – proper exercise is only proper if you make a habit out of it.

Weight training: This is the only exercise I’ve managed to make a habit out of so far. I’ve been going to the gym for 7-8 years now, on average about twice a week. I don’t particularly like it, but I know it’s good for me. I know it makes me healthier and quite possibly will make a large contribution to me living a longer, healthier life, so I just do it! Plus I really do feel a lot better if do it. Whether this is psychological, physical or both I don’t care. It works!

Now, the most difficult part with the gym of course is to actually get up off your ass and go there! That’s why I planned it into my routine right from the beginning:

  • The gym I choose was between my office and home.
  • I planned the times I wanted to go to the gym and everything else was planned around it. Period. You have to set priorities!
  • I go there no matter what: -10 or 35 degrees, it doesn’t matter. This is where badassity kicks in.
  • There was a period when I went there in my lunch break. It worked really well! You have a lunch break every day, so why not use it?

Nowadays we are away from home for many months a year. In Romania or Scotland there is no gym I can visit (at least, I didn’t manage to make a habit out of it) so it doesn’t working out so well. At home in Germany it works. It works, but going to the gym takes up about 1.5 – 2 hours with preparation, actually getting there and back. Six hours a week for exercise that isn’t much fun is a bit too inefficient. Plus Mrs W just can’t be bothered to go to the gym at all (even though she paid for a year’s membership – not very Mustachian of her).

healthy life


So, how can this be optimised? The idea is to spend less time with the same or better effect. Also, we had to make it easier for Mrs W. That’s why we decided to buy a set of weights and pump some iron at home. The thing arrived a few weeks ago, and we each made a training plan.


  • Time: Instead of 1.5 – 2 hours per session, now, at home it takes me about  50-60 minutes. So it’s fair to say I save about 3 hours per week.
  • Mrs W is also starting to make a habit out of it. So far it looks very good! .
  • We’ll be able to exercise more often and find fewer excuses to not do it.
  • Mrs W allready lost a couple of kgs of fat.
  • It costs less than a gym membership

The downsides:

  • This animal takes up a huge amount space in our home! But, on the other hand, the health benefit we’ll possibly get from it makes it worth it.
  • You can’t do as many exercises with this machine as you can do at the gym.
  • If we move house, this is going to be another very heavy thing to transport. Or…we put it in the “Stuff Cloud“.

Anyway, we have it now. We’ll let you know whether it works for Mrs W in the long term and whether I’m happy with it.

Us and Food

Mrs W: At the moment I’m doing an elimination diet. It’s pretty hardcore and not that much fun. Basically I want to get to the bottom of what’s causing my skin problem, which has been getting worse and worse over the last year or so. The idea is that for three weeks you cut out all food groups that could potentially be triggering the problem and then gradually reintroduce them one at a time to see which ones aggravate the problem. So at the moment I’m off: alcohol, caffeine, gluten, meat, dairy, soy, nuts & seeds, oranges, most oils and most condiments – oh, and chocolate. I’m eating a lot of rice and lentils. Now it’s the middle of week 3 so next week I get to start reintroducing things. I’m looking forward to finding out what the hell is up with my skin.

Elimination diet aside, we’ve watched some scary documentaries recently about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Turns out it’s not that good. We’ve been thinking about reducing our meat consumption for a while now, but we never actually did much about it. Now I’m planning on going vegan (at least mostly) and Mr W has agreed to eat the vegan stuff I cook (on the condition that he can go out for a burger once in a while). So that’s progress at least. We’re not so into the whole “animals have feelings, poor animals” argument, although animal cruelty and factory farming are, quite obviously, totally wrong. Our main concerns are the hormones and antibiotics packed into factory-farmed meat and the environmental impact of raising so many animals. In Romania things are a bit different because when we’re there we eat the chickens Mr W’s parents raise. They’re fed on corn and table scraps, have enough room to run around, and don’t get pumped full of any nasty chemicals. You can definitely taste the difference. So our basic plan is to be pretty much vegetarian/vegan while we’re in Germany and only eat home-raised chicken when we’re in Romania. There will be the odd slip-up of course, but we’re not going to beat ourselves up about it – 80/20, remember?

Sport and life expectancy:

Mr W: I was playing with an age calculator I found online. They ask a number of lifestyle questions to calculate your statistically expected age. I did three calculations…

Here are the results with my current diet (eating meat every day):

  • No sport: 83.8 years
  • Sport 1-2 times a week, total 1-3 hours a week: 87.1 years
  • Sport 3-5 times a week, total 3-4 hours a week: 88.8 years

Then I played around with meat consumption and set sport to 3-5 times per week (3-4 hours a week):

  • Eating meat 3-5 times a week:  88.8 years
  • Eating meat once a week: 92.4 years

Now, these calculators cannot predict the future and the calculations are obviously oversimplified, but the calculator has to be based on some kind of statistical data and it definitely makes me think about the whole thing.

According to those figures, if I make one small change in my life – eating meat only once a week – I’ll live 3.6 years longer.

If you have my general lifestyle and age but don’t do any sport and are a regular meat eater, you could add about 8.6 years to your life by adopting a mostly vegetarian diet and starting to move your ass. Food for thought!


Basically, we don’t want to die of cancer or a heart attack in our 50s and while we can’t ever eliminate that possibility 100%, there are some easy lifestyle choices we can make to significantly reduce the chance of us dying prematurely. We’re already working on our diet and exercising regularly and we have pretty low levels of stress thanks to FI, so we’re probably doing ok so far. Now we just need to address Mr W’s caffeine addiction!