Caring for Yourself Physically
Helpful facts that young people want to know
THE wise man Solomon likened it to a house with windows and doors. Centuries later, the apostle Paul called it “this dwelling house.” To what did they refer? To the human body. (Eccl. 12:3-7; 2 Cor. 5:1, 2) And like a house, the body needs proper care if one is to get full benefit from it.
What kind of housekeeper are you when it comes to caring for yourself physically? Do you appreciate the body you have?
You should, for the human body is truly a masterpiece among all earth’s creations. Your body is more complex than any computer or mechanical device ever invented. Yet it is smooth working, wonderfully efficient and extremely flexible. It is staggering to think how the 206 bones (some strong enough to stand 20,000 pounds of pressure per square inch), the more than 600 muscles, the 60,000 miles of blood vessels, and a network of nerve systems that can relay impulses to and from the brain at a speed of 350 feet a second, plus all the other organs and parts of the human organism—how all these function together harmoniously as one unit. As the apostle wrote, though having many members, “the body is one.” We do well to remember that and to realize also the truth of his statement that “if one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it.” Yes, despite its billions of cells, the body is a unit. If we want to get the most out of our life in it, we cannot afford to neglect any part of our body.—1 Cor. 12:12, 14-26.
There is a better, higher reason for wanting to give your body the best care you can. That is so that you can use it to bring honor to your Creator, as well as to your parents, and to bring good to your neighbor. A house poorly cared for brings no credit to the architect or builder. A house that is run-down, unclean or that gives off offensive odors adversely affects all the surrounding neighborhood. The same is true with us if we fail to care properly for ourselves physically.
Your body is, of course, amazingly adapted to care for itself in many respects. With no conscious thought on your part, it digests food and converts it into energy; it often heals itself of some minor wound or ailment without any doctoring on your part. It will take a surprising amount of mistreatment without complaining.
Nonetheless, the Bible principle that ‘we reap what we sow’ is unavoidably true in our care of the body. The ‘harvest’ can be good or bad, depending on us. And a person does not have to wait until he or she is aged to begin reaping—it starts much, much sooner, sometimes very early in life.
It is not just a matter of trying to avoid “getting sick.” You should want to get “peak performance” from your body, to enjoy that feeling of well-being that contributes to happiness, to good work, clear thinking, and that helps to make one an agreeable person to be around. What, then, are some of the things that merit regular attention?
THE VALUE OF A BALANCED DIET
The food you eat does much more than just provide energy. It provides the building materials your body needs to maintain itself. Carbohydrates, such as are found in sugar, bread and potatoes, give you energy. But what if your diet is almost entirely of such things? What if you were to try to get by on soft drinks and candy? Your body would begin to suffer from lack of the materials needed to make daily repairs.
You regularly need proteins, such as are found in milk, cheese, meat and fish. Without them your muscles soon become soft and flabby and growth is retarded. You need minerals, for without them your teeth will soon deteriorate, your bones will weaken. Leafy vegetables are rich in minerals. You need vitamins, because these are chemical regulators of the body and they protect the body against certain diseases. Fruits and cereals are major sources of vitamins. And you need plenty of water, for it forms the basis for your blood and all your tissue fluids.
Not just when you are sixty or seventy, but right in your teens you can reap the results of good or bad diet. Research has shown, for example, that when students were given improved diet their learning capacity also improved. Poor diet generally results in poor work, makes people more accident-prone. It quickly robs the body of a healthy appearance and natural beauty.
CLEANLINESS CONTRIBUTES TO HEALTH
Just as we get far more enjoyment out of living in a clean house, so too, we get more enjoyment out of life if we keep our bodies clean. Regular bathing is refreshing and healthful. Your body comes in constant contact with microscopic germs, in the air and in the things you handle. Some of these can bring disease. Soap acts as a germicide to kill these, while water serves to wash them away. Your hands especially need frequent attention, for they handle your food and with them you may touch other persons or handle things they use.
You not only feel better when you keep yourself clean; you also make life more pleasant for those who see you or come near you. If you see a house that is dirty and unkempt, what opinion do you form of the people living in it? So, too, people tend to judge you by your appearance. Dirt on your face, in your ears, on your neck, in your hair, on your hands or under your fingernails can hinder you in gaining others’ friendship and esteem. You will have more self-respect as well if you keep yourself clean.
The body perspires, even when one does not do a lot of exercising or work. If perspiration accumulates, it can cause your body to have an unpleasant odor. Regular bathing, washing under the arms and similar places, helps to make you a more enjoyable person to be around. Cleanness, along with good diet, also contributes toward a better, clearer complexion.
The teeth are a particular area needing attention. Food particles may lodge between them or on them. The acids these particles give off attack the enamel of your teeth. After sufficient attacks, sometimes within a matter of months, the hard enamel is penetrated and tooth decay sets in. Or you may develop gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that can, in time, cause the teeth to loosen. You may lose some of them. Decayed or missing teeth contribute nothing to your smile.—Compare Song of Solomon 4:2.
Just because you have not felt any pain in your teeth, do not think you can afford to neglect cleaning them. Research shows that almost nine out of ten students in school have tooth decay. This is generally due to lack of regular brushing of the teeth, or to poor diet, or both.
A clean mouth is also a safeguard against offensive breath. Drinking several glasses of water daily likewise helps. Remember, your mouth is somewhat like the door or entrance of a house. (Eccl. 12:4) If the appearance and odors coming from the door are not good, people will tend to stay away.
While not going to extremes (as some persons do in this matter), God’s Word the Bible encourages and teaches cleanliness. Clean hands and freshly bathed bodies are often used to stand for one’s being spiritually clean and pure. (Ps. 26:6; Isa. 1:16; Heb. 10:22) The apostle Paul exhorted: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (2 Cor. 7:1) Are we clean inside, in our hearts and minds? Then should we not also strive to be clean outside as well?
NEED FOR PROPER REST
During each day millions of the body’s cells break down and need to be replaced. Your body builds up certain wastes that collect in the muscles, especially as the result of work and exercise. These wastes are what give you a tired feeling. Your body must have sufficient rest if it is to rid itself of the accumulated wastes and also be able to produce new cells to keep your body in good shape and repair. Your central nervous system and your brain, too, need rest. These simply cannot relax unless you sleep.
Being young, you may feel you can get along with little sleep. But youthful vigor and energy can be deceptive. They can mask the symptoms of serious damage that may be developing due to insufficient rest. Actually, a young person’s growing body needs more, not less, sleep than that of an adult. Lack of sleep impairs thinking and increases forgetfulness, it slows down one’s alertness and the body reflexes. It can make you tense, restless, irritable and hard to get along with. This is especially true under conditions of pressure and stress.
So, cooperate with your body by giving it the rest it must have. When your parents instruct you to be in bed at a certain hour, realize the rightness of their guidance. By getting sufficient sleep each night, the quality and speed of your work will improve. You will find life more pleasant, have fewer complaints.
SHOWING APPRECIATION FOR THE CREATOR’S PROVISION
Yes, we can each say with the psalmist: “I shall laud you [Jehovah] because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, as my soul is very well aware.” Our bodies are testimony to the wisdom and also the love of our heavenly Father.—Ps. 139:14-16.
If we appreciate the gift of life we enjoy in our bodies, then we should use them to the honor of our Maker and also to that of his Son who gave his life that we might gain life. Follow the example of the apostle Paul, who expressed the desire that “Christ will, as always before, so now be magnified by means of my body.”—Phil. 1:20; 1 Cor. 6:13.
Like Paul, and like Jesus, whom Paul followed, we may sometimes be forced to go without sufficient food or rest due to our willingness to suffer hardships in God’s service. (2 Cor. 6:4, 5) But we should never misuse or neglect our bodies due to mere carelessness or for selfish reasons or stupidity. This would show lack of respect for the One to whom we owe our lives.
“Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” He will richly reward and bless you for the appreciation you show for his loving provisions.—1 Cor. 10:31.