I like food. I like a great, great variety of foods. Meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, fish, birds, breads, grains, sweets, cakes… there are few things that I don’t enjoy eating.
That said, I try to be conscious of my health as regards what I eat, especially now that I’m 30 and I feel the consequences of my decisions more and more (and don’t shed the extra weight as easily when it comes). It’s a difficult thing to do in Houston, where the culture still regards things like veganism with suspicion and considers food a pleasure to be savored, preferably at one of its many restaurants (which you can easily reach by car!). It’s not impossible, of course, but I have to make more effort and I’m always going against the grain– there’s no such thing as my friends getting together for a big health food party, but barbecues with plenty of beef and pork are in ample supply– which means if I stuck to a health-food regimen religiously, I would miss out on doing a lot of things with my friends. (Of course, I still make the effort: I’m far too old to be coming up with excuses for not setting my own directions.)
My friends don’t judge me for wanting to live healthier (although there are some people who do– two friends of mine who are dating recently recounted a first meeting between a friend of each of theirs, where one called the other an idiot for being a vegetarian*), but again, that’s as much because I don’t stay friends with people who use my choices an an excuse to label me beneath them.
(* – I also don’t like labels. They suggest limitations, a permanence I’m not comfortable with. I like being fluid. I do things; I simply am. I’m not a vegetarian; I eat vegetables. I have another friend who has “Vegetarian” tattooed on her inner lip– what if she changes her mind one day?)
It really bugs me that there’s a certain culture that just says “You’re going to die anyway, so why not eat whatever the hell you want and enjoy the ride?” While on the surface this statement seems to make sense, I think it also stems from an underlying difference of philosophy about what constitutes quality of life. I would express it this way:
Some people measure their quality of life by what they consume. Others measure it by what they’re made of.
The reason I try to eat healthy as much as possible and exercise regularly isn’t just about living longer, it’s about living better. It’s about low internal stress levels. It’s about not having the baggage of extra weight on me. It’s about not enjoying the feeling of my chest tightening after a big meal full of red meat, even if I’m years away from any threats of a heart attack. It’s so that I can be more relaxed and feel better as a matter of course.
It’s about what I’m made of. Being healthy makes my ordinary life much better. Foods are enjoyable, but they last briefly before being consumed; meanwhile, I have to live with what I put in my body for a long, long time.
I wonder if people who think otherwise just don’t care about anything but the stimulation and pleasure derived from consumption, or if they don’t even put together that they could feel better if they change their diets. I think of the lady from Parks and Recreation who at a public health forum said, “Isn’t it true that it doesn’t matter what you eat? I’ve been eating nothing but muffins and lasagna for forty years and I feel awful!”
I hope that didn’t sound condescending. I can’t account for how other people perceive the world. But I’ve tried the options, and in the end, feeling good won out for me.
Besides, you can make plenty of tasty, healthy food. You should try my salmon sometime.