by Christel Swasey

The Distracted Diet Is Not Healthy

“He does not believe that does not live according to his belief.”

I’m thinking about that quote from Thomas Fuller, the 17th-century historian, in terms of my beliefs about health.  I’m thinking about it in terms of being a slightly repentant, very easily diet-distracted, health hypocrite.

For example, I know that oats lower cholesterol, so I have oats most mornings for breakfast.  But I often also have a high-cholesterol cookie (or two, or three if they are really good)  by 8 a.m., during the packing-lunch event for my third grader.

Another great example is in salad making.  Although I love the baby argula, the cherry tomatoes and sprouts, all of which are fantastic for my health, I like to add a high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt dressing to it.  I am not all that certain the salad qualifies as health food after it’s totally drenched in sugar and oil.

Or I’ll work on portion control, by taking only half an enchilada and filling up on mostly the side veggies.  But by the end of the meal and the dish duty, I’ve finished not only the veggies and my half of an enchilada, but also the other half of my enchilada –and most of the enchilada that my daughter left on her plate.

I call this distracted dieting.

But at its core, I think it’s about beliefs.  If I truly believed the experts who say that a little overweight, combined with too little exercise, creates a path toward heart disease and death, would I ever get distracted?  (I mean, do people get distracted on their way out of a burning building, or do they find the door directly?)

I think I must not believe the experts.  I think that I might believe that I am somehow above the rules.  In my case, a high-sugar diet won’t lead to diabetes; a high-cholesterol diet won’t lead to heart failure; a little cheating, as long as I can still fit into my cute jeans, is okay.   You can hide the jiggling tummy under a cute blouse, anyway, right?

Maybe our collective obsession with beauty and thinness has obscured the importance of health above beauty.  We all know that there are some very unhealthy beauties out there, as well as some very healthy ones.  Sometimes an individual’s health, or lack of it, isn’t obvious from appearance only.  But do we believe that health is visible ?  Do we believe that if we just fit into our smallest jeans, we must be not only beautiful but also healthy?

Studies on exercise have found that obese individuals, if they are consistent exercisers, will outlive equally obese individuals who do not exercise.   And people who follow fast crash diets (such as high protein, low carb diets) run the risk of diseases caused by too much protein.  And then there are the anorexics and the bulemics, who might look fine, but are killing themseles gradually. So, who really wants to be picture perfect, and ill?  Really.

I guess it comes down to honesty with myself, and long-term kindness:  do I really want to be alive and energetic for the future grandkids, or not?  Where do today’s exercise and diet choices lead me?

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