If you’re anything like I was growing up, I hated both asparagus and Brussels sprouts. The latter still falls into the category of really bad food at my house. I only used them as Barbie lettuce as a child. Couldn’t stomach them. No matter what you slather on top of them to improve the flavor they still taste like self-flagellation. However I did finally come around to asparagus.
Some kids, like my best friend’s grandchildren, adore seaweed, and kimchee, and a host of foods that I can’t stomach. The more my parents shoved peas at me, the more I snuck them under the table to my dog. Having grown up in the Deep South, my favorites were grits with butter, pancakes, pecan pie, lard biscuits and fried chicken. Comfort foods. And foul for the body.
I eventually began eating salads, but only beneath a two-inch layer of Thousand Island dressing.
It wasn’t until I decided to beat an eighty-pound weight battle that I completely overhauled my eating habits and my body. It wasn’t because the Federal Government or my doctor was lecturing me about what to eat or what was good for me. I retooled my eating habits on my own. These days my biggest meal of the day often consists of a massive spinach salad loaded with nuts, fruits, bits of chicken and a whole lot less dressing. Dessert is berries or a banana or pineapple.
Here’s the point. I WANT to eat like this. I LIKE to eat like this. The benefits are far reaching. I’m in stupidly good health, my numbers are ridiculous, my vitality remarkable because I also exercise. Not because the Federal Government or my parents or my doctor is haranguing me but because I ENJOY working out and sports.
STOP HARANGUING ME
Americans- and most Westerners- tend to be an obtuse bunch. We don’t like being ordered around, told what to eat, what not to eat and abused verbally about the shape we’re in. First, we already know. If we’re carrying an extra eighty pounds of lard and it’s hurting our backs, nobody knows better than we do.
The problem is that the tack the government, our parents, clinics and everyone else has taken is, in my opinion, all wrong.
We like what we can’t have or what people tell us is bad for us: cigarettes, alcohol, Big Macs, sweet sodas, Snickers Bars. The more you tell us not to partake, the more we want to dig in. We are ornery. It doesn’t matter that in so many cases we pay the price. We don’t like to be bullied about what to eat or how to live.
The Soft Drink Industry Association notwithstanding, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did his best to limit sweet sodas in 2012. The backlash was considerable- often by those who were in the worst shape. It doesn’t matter that he was right. Nobody cared that he was right. People despise being ordered around.
Precisely my point.
NPR ran a story about a study about a bunch of oldies in the Chicago suburbs, average age 81. Among the most lively was a woman who, early in the morning, was already up for her exercise class. She was energetic and funny and full of life. And apparently, full of greens.
The study found that the most common denominator of good health among these seniors was that they consistently ate salad greens and plenty of them. I can just see the outcome: gerontologists ordering their elderly patients to chow down on greens. I have a two-word response to doctors who try to order me around, and you’d have to ask your children to leave the room, please. I think many, if not most of us, are a little like that.
I think that we ought to completely rethink our approach. Tell people NOT to eat healthy foods, to drink sweet sodas and pound down the sugar. People would flock to the green grocer in a wholesale statement of “I’ll show YOU,” and bingo, problem solved.
The moment we make healthy food the bad guy, plain water bad for you, and organic food the enemy, shelves will empty. Tell people not to exercise, and the streets will be full of joggers, runners, cyclists, hikers and skaters. Gym memberships would sell out and I would have to wait in line for the chest press. Fine by me.
Remember the Tea Party? We ended up winning a war against the Brits because we refused to be told what to do.
What part of the Western, and especially the American, psyche did we totally underestimate? We stand up to bullies. And our government, thank you very much, is clueless about what’s good for us (please see the FDA’s Food Pyramid, Part I). When the majority of folks at the FDA look like athletes and are extending their life span because they eat the way they tell everyone else to eat, perhaps we’ll listen. Meanwhile we prefer to misbehave, damn the consequences.
Psychology is a funny duck. However I frankly think that most Americans already know perfectly well what they need to do to be healthy. They just resent — not without good reason — being told repeatedly what to do about it.
Got youngsters? Try putting out a plate of tangerines or celery sticks with peanut or almond butter. Then tell your kids they are completely off limits. Absolutely positively DO NOT TOUCH.
And watch them disappear.
One of my cousins did this very successfully with my aging aunt who was at least one hundred pounds overweight and on multiple diabetic meds. It worked like a charm. She lost the hundred pounds and got off the meds. At 91, she was still a big kid.
She wanted to get away with something. In the process she got healthy.
I dunno. I may be onto something here.
So do NOT eat your greens. Or exercise. Or drink lots of water. It’s bad for ya.
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