Sure, I know how to “make healthy choices” in my diet. Who doesn’t? We’re bombarded with books, podcasts and TV nutritionists telling us to load up on fruits and vegetables, forego the beef and ban white bread forever.
I know I should be throwing out my iceberg lettuce and opting for arugula. You think I don’t know that I should be eating quinoa? (BTW, I pronounced this word “kwin-oh-a” until my fit and fabulous colleague corrected it to “keen-wah” with a look of utter disbelief.) This is the same person who once caught me eating from a snack-size bag of Wise potato chips at my desk and screamed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” This alerted coworker #2 to my behavior, who virtually leapt from her desk to remove the bag from my hands saying, “This is for your own good.
Was I doing anything that unheard of? Don’t many people purchase bags of snacks with the intention of eating what’s inside? The fact is I love chips— all of them—the golden, folded-over Cape Cod variety with its signature crunch, the flavored, the unflavored, the ridges, the non-ridges, and even the old-school sticks, which still come in their classic blue and yellow cans.
My question is this. Why do people who choose to live an organic, ancient grain, steel-cut oats, no-sugar, salt or butter lifestyle feel they must save the rest of us? I am a cancer survivor and maybe that should have been a wake-up call for me to start doing all the right things—taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking miles away from my destination, and gagging on plain, unflavored Greek yogurt as a midday “treat.” I know those are the things I should be doing but I just don’t want to.
My aunt Gerty lived to be two months shy of her 100th birthday, and she did all the right things. She ate the same supper every day of her life— wild caught salmon, baked naked, with not even a speck of breadcrumbs for seasoning. Her green beans – another staple of her diet – were steamed and eaten as is – no salt or butter added. If she indulged in a baked potato, it too was bare of condiments. Her afternoon snack was a glass of skim milk and a boiled egg – no yolk, of course.
And truth be told, she was very healthy, but you know what? Not all that happy. Sometimes when we would go out together, I’d ask her if she wanted a piece of my Hershey bar or some caramel corn. “Oh no dear,” she’d say. “I couldn’t do that.” But I caught the glimmer of longing in her eyes. Once I asked her, “Aunt Gerty, do you enjoy that plain salmon you eat every day?” She looked at her lap and said, “Not at all, but I just hold my nose and get it down. It’s very good for you.”
That’s not to say that everyone who eats a meticulously healthy diet is going to live a long, sad life like my aunt. Of course they’re not. Most of them are happy, bouncing, gym-loving, thin and beautiful creatures. But the truth is—I wouldn’t be. I find joy in taking my grandkids out for an ice cream cone and getting one too. And when the teenaged clerk asks, “Do you want jimmies on that?” my answer is “Yes, by God, I do.”
My mother always told me, “Ree Ree, do everything in moderation, and you’ll be fine.” Of course, she weighed in at nearly 200 pounds because she couldn’t seem to moderate her love of Cheez-Its. She also liked chocolate (delicious milk chocolate—not the bitter-tasting dark variety touted today for its antioxidants), and together Mom and I could polish off the top layer of a Whitman’s Sampler in less than 10 minutes.
All of this being said—the gurus are right. My colleagues are right. And even Aunt Gerty was right. And to all my fellow cancer survivors – I mean this sincerely—do not follow my example. But I will rip into a fresh bag of Doritos tonight while watching Dancing with the Stars. And I know there’s some plain yogurt in the fridge, but I will shove past it to grab the chocolate pudding, and maybe even squirt a curl of Redi-Whip on top.
I realize I can’t always live this way, and I will change, but not quite yet. Maybe next year. Yes, that’s it; New Year’s resolution 2018—here it comes—I will consume kale. I will renew my gym membership and actually go there, I will take the stairs even if I die trying, and I won’t eat chips…not even the baked, low-salt, tastes-like-crap variety. Well, maybe a few on the weekends or holidays when it wouldn’t alarm my colleagues.
I will even imbibe in ancient grains. Just one question— are they “new” ancient grains, and if they are, how ancient can they be? This healthy eating plan is getting very confusing. Guess I’ll have to ease into it one step at a time.
Everything in moderation. Right, Ma?