How are you investing for your retirement?

With any luck, you're taking at least some basic steps to invest for your retirement. Maybe you're contributing enough to your employer's 401(k) to collect the full match. Maybe you're contributing even more than that. Or maybe you've taken the time to set up an asset allocation plan, or research investments that go beyond the no-brainer broad-based index fund choices.

If so, good for you! It's incredibly important to plan for your financial needs (and wants) in later life. The difference between $1,200 or so a month from Social Security, and $1,200 plus a few million in the bank, is huge. Thankfully, the U.S. government has made it pretty easy for most of us to take the basic steps we need to take to build a handsome retirement nest egg.

But something my fellow Fool Robert Brokamp wrote recently, together with several recent events in my own life, led me to start thinking about "retirement investing" a bit differently.

It's not just your 401(k) … or your IRA, either
Robert is the advisor of the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service, and in the service's most recent issue, he wrote a series of articles on ways to secure your future that go well beyond "put 5% in your 401(k)." The whole series is worth taking the time to read, but one of those ways really hit home for me: Get healthier and stronger.

It's obvious why good health is critical for a good retirement, and getting healthier has been on my mind a lot lately. Last year, out of the blue, my dad had a heart attack. He's recovering well, but it definitely put a crimp in his near-term plans for an active retirement -- and provided me with a shining example of why it's important to invest in health as well as wealth.

It's no secret that obesity, diabetes, heart disease -- the illnesses that arise from what experts now call "metabolic syndrome" -- have become epidemic in the developed world in recent years. Last year, I learned that I was on my own fast track to metabolic syndrome, and I decided to head it off with some major dietary changes.

Long story short, I lost 25 pounds in about 10 weeks, kept it off, and dramatically improved my various bloodwork-related risk scores -- all by eating better. I feel great, and more to the point, I feel like this is as much an investment in my retirement as the check I recently deposited into my IRA.

(If you're curious about the approach I took -- and about the problems with most contemporary approaches to nutrition and health -- check out Why We Get Fat, an excellent new book by award-winning science journalist Gary Taubes.)

Putting the Fool's cap on
Problems like obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are likely to continue to spread. As the last quarter-century has made clear, the current approaches taken by the medical establishment and government regulators aren't exactly containing these epidemics.

So to get back to thinking about money for a moment, how might we approach this as an investment idea? One could take a look at a company like Weight Watchers International (NYSE: WTW), which recently updated its famous "points" system to reflect recent research. Or maybe check out Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI), many consumers' go-to source for things like grass-fed beef and organic vegetables, or healthy (and seriously tasty) fast-food purveyor Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG), both of which are committed to healthier farms and food.

Or maybe treatment is a more promising place to look than prevention. The first company to come up with a magic weight-loss pill will make billions, of course. But meanwhile, pharmaceutical firms like diabetes specialist Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) and Merck (NYSE: MRK), maker of the diabetes drug Januvia, could be good investments as the diabetes epidemic continues.

Any of those companies might be worth a look for your IRA. But at least for me, a sound retirement plan includes doing all I can to avoid these sorts of health problems, while keeping my mind and body sharp so that I can enjoy active health in my retirement years. 

If you'd like to learn more about all aspects of planning for an amazing retirement, check out the rest of the new issue of Rule Your Retirement, which is completely devoted to thoughtful ways to help secure your future -- financially and otherwise. It's a paid service, but you can get 30 days of full access with a no-obligation free trial. Just click here to get started.