Live healthy --but keep it quiet
September 27, 2010
BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA, Sun-Times Columnist
Add this to the twin pitfalls of religion and politics that lead the list of topics one should not bring up in polite conversation: healthy living.
Good, clean, healthy living gets a bad rap these days. Oh, not among the sort of people whose idea of fun is drinking raw milk directly from old Millie's wizened udder during a back-to-nature "hay-cation."
I mean among regular people. You know, the sort who generally don't feel they have the time, energy, money or need to work out or to make meals that require a lot of fresh food.
Bless their hearts! Everyone knows there have been generations upon generations of regular Joes and Joettes who never obsessed over a single calorie or laid eyes on an elliptical machine but had long, satisfying lives that even may have included the occasional cigar.
Yes, bless the naturally hardy and physically apathetic -- if only they didn't treat others like mental cases for making healthful lifestyle choices.
Who can blame them? Turn on the TV, open a newspaper or flip on the radio and there's a barrage of conflicting and confusing information that inspires the deep desire for a hot, delicious pizza and a glass of red wine followed by a nice nap.
For instance, everyone knows you're supposed to eat at least five fresh fruits and vegetables a day, right? Sure -- if you don't mind the insecticides your pears are bathed in, or the e. coli that might be lurking in your salad greens.
A few weeks ago, my dad leaned over and quietly warned me about the dangers of poisonous apple skins. I was still reeling from a recent Center for Disease Control warning: "Restau- rant salsa, guacamole can be risky."
"Nearly one out of every 25 restaurant-associated food-borne outbreaks with identified food sources can be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole, according to a new study," the Associated Press story said. It piled on the gory details of countless restaurant missteps with hot peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and too-warm refrigerators.
Don't think this didn't spring to mind when I was at Tacos El Norte chowing down my Saturday night pico-de-gallo and chips, but I emerged unscathed.
Amazingly, I also lived through the jogs I took in this summer's stinging heat and the ones I take now without meaning to get caught in the pounding rain. My mom fears the grippe, hail-induced lacerations etc., but I value my endurance too much to heed her warnings, nice as they are -- especially compared to hearing, "It's raining, stupid," yelled from a speeding car. But runners literally take that sort of thing in stride.
I, and the other health-conscious who walk among us, know well enough not to bring such wellness-related topics up at family parties, around the water cooler at work or at kids' school events. Rarely do these conversations end happily.
Our culture's heavily distorted view of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle has been caught in the crossfire between suggestions to get a minimum one hour of daily exercise and warnings about the ill-effects of obsessive exercise disorder.
The conversation about what to eat has been sucked into a distasteful vortex that includes good-for-you-bad-for-you-studies of chocolate and coffee, filthy egg/buggy infant formula food safety issues, and whether high-fructose corn syrup is "better or worse" for you than sugar.
The chatter is hastened by consumer advocacy groups, industry lobbyists, medical professionals, government officials and marketers each pushing their own eat-drink-live agendas.
Aristotle's golden rule -- "Everything in moderation, nothing to excess" -- seems a quaint notion in our on-24-hour-a-day, fleeting, Tweeting life, but we'll learn to cope. As Paul McCartney, another favorite philosopher, once sang: "We used to say live and let live, but when this ever changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry -- say 'live and let . . ." Well, you get the picture.
Take my advice: Whether maneuvering cocktail party chit-chat or family patter, keep the health talk tucked away with the politics and religion. And whether it be a frosty footrace, or taking our chances with a deliciously suspicious-looking spinach leaf, let us soldier on with our death-defying behavior.