It’s Time (Now) For Your Body’s Oil Change

Chances are, like most other Americans, you take pretty good care of your car. I do: I regularly take it in for washes when the pollen (or just plain dirt) starts marring its shiny black surface. Every 7,500 miles, like clockwork, I take it in for an oil change (after all, this is critical to keep its engine humming along). And most important: I fill it up with premium unleaded. Inferior gas just won’t do.

But when was the last time you took this kind of care of your body? Think about it: most of us are running on empty most of the time — shuttling ourselves between work and family/friends without ever giving our own engines (our bodies) a second thought. No time for that when there are meetings to rush to, email messages to check, social events to attend, kids to take to various activities, and the list of must-do-now! activities goes on. An oil change, to refer back to this very simple metaphor, is like a personal “regrouping” every 7,500 miles or every month: a day (or afternoon) off, a massage, a solitary hike, an extra few hours alone — no iPhone, no music, no people around — to read, paint, dance, sing, or do anything you love to recharge your batteries. It’s not optional, it’s essential: Put a sticker on your refrigerator (similar to what’s on your car’s window) as a reminder: NEXT OIL CHANGE DUE FOR YOUR BODY IN ONE MONTH!

And then there’s the food we put into our mouths to make our engines go: healthier food (fresh fruits and veggies; lean meats; healthy fats like avocados and olive oil; and whole grains) results in a body that works, and just feels better. This is nothing new; researchers and the media continually prove this point. But we so often ignore what we know: junk food and junk ingredients are just plain junk for our bodies.

If you’ve ever taken the time to watch what Americans put in their grocery carts, try it sometime. I’ve done this and the picture is not pretty: artificially colored and flavored soda by the jugs; deep-fried chips and dip; canned veggies (full of sodium); and processed foods galore. Nary a fresh fruit or vegetable in sight. No wonder obesity is at an all-time high and illnesses (essentially a breakdown of the way our own engines run) like heart disease and diabetes, to name just two, are at an all-time high.

A childhood acquaintance of mine died just recently of heart failure and was buried with two packs of Lark cigarettes in his coffin: “He really loved those Larks,” said one person at his wake. And those Larks, plus a diet rich in fried food (he was heavy) and a lack of exercise, most likely contributed to his premature death in his early 40s. It’s sad, but this is the reality for so many people. And it does not have to be this way!

I had the opportunity to hear a truly inspiring woman and actress, Cecily Tyson, speak at a National Institutes of Health conference last year—and her words are engrained in my mind: “You wouldn’t put inferior gas into a Rolls Royce; don’t do that to your temple.” Her very simple and important message was to treat your body as the most expensive treasure that you could possibly own, as sacred, as a temple: take care of it every single day as it’s all you’ve got in this lifetime. You won’t even have your car, no matter what condition you keep it in, a fraction of that time.

About the Author

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Valerie Latona is the former editor in chief of Shape—and one of the leading writers/editors on the topic of living healthy with confidence. Find more about Valerie, and read more of her blogs, at

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