Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Adding on vs. taking away

I think of myself as living a pretty healthy lifestyle, far from perfect but probably in the 90% percentile of Americans. But I just realized something about myself: I'm rarely willing to give something up, for health reasons alone, that brings me pleasure, but I'm perfectly willing to adopt new practices that might improve my health.

For example, take my diet. I eat very few processed foods -- stuff like packaged cookies and crackers, frozen meals, processed bread, even cereal -- partly because a lot of them make me sick, but also because, even when they're gluten-free, I genuinely don't enjoy them. So it's no chore to "give them up." If I want a cheap and quick meal, I'd much rather make a salad or some eggs. But then there's sugar. I know sugar is bad for you, but I get so much pleasure out of having a little sugar every day (always in my coffee, and usually a bit in some other form during the day, like a piece of candy) I'm unwilling to give it up. Same goes for alcohol, my only other real vice (unless you count rampant consumerism). A little alcohol is good for you, sure, but I regularly go past the one-glass-a-day required for added longevity. After being overweight, drinking regularly is the biggest single risk factor for breast cancer. But I get so much pleasure out of it, I'm unwilling to give it up. As for smoking and other drugs: I never had any desire to use them in the first place. So I can hardly be considered virtuous for abstaining.

On the other hand, I'll happily add new foods to my diet because I know they're good for me. I always buy the eggs with extra omega-3 now, and I try to buy some kind of super-green every week (as in kale and friends ... truth be told I think kale is a pain to prepare, but John loves it). I started taking vitamin D in the morning because I read that's when you get the most benefit out of it and that it helps you sleep. I even tried doing the standing-desk thing for a while, though I fell out of the habit when I changed desk setups. All in all, adding on seems like a better bet -- if it works, great, and if it doesn't, it didn't actually detract from my life in any significant way. (If it did, I'd stop doing it.) But when you give up things you love, you run the chance of dying young anyway. And what's the point of living to 100 if you're not having a good time?

I guess another way of saying this is, I'm pretty good at forming new habits, but bad at breaking old ones.

19 comments:

  1. i'm pretty much exactly the same. aloe juice? bring it on. probiotics? hell yes. herbal tinctures? sure! but i am completely unable to give up sugar at alll, as candy is a HUGE vice of mine. last night, in fact, i was jonesing for sugar so hard that i ate these really really old chocolate chips. like...they had a weird chalky residue on them and were crumbly, not at all like chocolate chips, but that's all i had so that's what i had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. High five sister. I just don't want to live without Sour Patch Kids and Campari. (This is not a sponsored message.)

      Delete
  2. What do you mean, kale is a pain to prepare?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Man, you've been argumentative lately. Greens are difficult to wash (because there are so many places for grit and dirt to hide), then you have to take the stems out, and then I find the leaves take a while to cook so they're to my liking, tenderness wise. It's just a lot of work for medium payoff, in my opinion. I like broccoli better and it's way easier to prepare, and more flexible I think.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, been really cranky lately. On the other hand, I was actually curious as to why you found kale difficult to prepare. I'm a big fan of cutting ingredients.

      Delete
    3. Why so cranky? Anything to do with the election?

      Chopping and washing aren't my favorite parts of the cooking process I must profess. I need a sous chef.

      Delete
    4. Send me an email. I don't really want to talk about this publicly. But to reassure you, it has nothing to do with the election. If anything, I'm very happy Romney wasn't elected.

      Delete
  3. This post just reminded me to take some Vitamin D, which: thanks! Also? Kale is my favorite favorite favorite vegetable, but if it weren't, I'm not sure I'd bother with it very often because it *is* so labor intensive in its preparation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you agree it's labor-intensive. Was kale always your fave veggie? I feel like it's sky-rocketed in popularity in the past couple years. My favorite remains broccoli.

      Delete
  4. It's been my fave since around the summer of 2008. Martin and I got a CSA box then and it always came with super-greens, and even though we stopped getting the boxes after that summer, it developed the greens habit for us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I made turnip greens for the first time the other night and really liked them.

      Delete
  5. We've never tried turnip greens--chard, bok choy, beet greens, collards, yes, but turnips, not yet. I'll add them to the list! What did you do to them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did the same thing I usually do with greens -- quick sautee and then braise. I added onion, garlic, bacon (sorry) and cider vinegar. They were closer to collards than kale. Never had beet greens. Bok choy is the worst! Death to bok choy.

      Delete
  6. We too detest bok choy. The only thing I hate more, veggie-wise, is baby corn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, baby corn and water chestnuts are pretty gross. I also hate "baby carrots" (the little nubs that come in a bag) which, thankfully, seem to sort of be on their way out.

      Delete
  7. Water chestnuts I can deal with, but yeah, baby carrots also--meh.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Those fortified eggs made a debut here in the Philippines and I have to tell you they must have been processed. I mean, how could they put selenium on those eggs? Food scientists, enlighten me.

    With smoking I already gave that up, with drugs, almost. I do have a lot of dieting problems: here in the Philippines I get so fat with rice, and the fact that broccoli and spinach are really pricey here. In New York I get really, really obese with cheap food (I mean, a whole chicken for $3 is just wow) and the Sundance channel... and the speedy Internet, and the weather.

    And obviously we don't have Vitamin D problems here.

    I've been wanting to do the standing-desk thing, too, but lately I've been into this chiropractor who can really work wonders on my spine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually think the omega-3 eggs are just fortified based on the diet of the chickens, but I could (very well) be wrong. Fortified cereal just has stuff literally sprayed onto the flakes, such that it leaches into the milk and you have to drink it to get the effect ... insofar as isolated vitamins do anything beneficial at all, which is debatable.

      Delete
  9. "But I get so much pleasure out of it, I'm unwilling to give it up."

    Yep, I'll drink to that!

    ReplyDelete