Monday, September 25, 2006

Where is My Instruction Manual?

I was thinking about how - and why - I find food and healthy living to be such a complicated ordeal. Then, staring into my lowfat, artifically-sweetened yogurt, it hit me that I have been given a ridiculous number of rules in the past 30 years about how I am “supposed” to eat, exercize and generally be a healthy person.

In no particular order, here are some of the things I have read, overheard or been instructed to do:

1. Dedicate yourself to diet and exercize because this will make anyone healthy and thin.

2. Exercize 3 times a week.

3. Exercize 5 days a week.

4. I must do weight training or else I may as well not bother.

5. It doesn’t matter what I do as long as I am more active.

6. Fat is the enemy.

7. Carbohydrates are the enemy.

8. Simple carbohydrates are the enemy, but you actually must eat complex carbohydrates or you will muck up your body, cease to digest properly due to complete lack of fiber and probably smell funny because you eat too much meat.

9. Some fats are actually good and you need Omega 3 fatty acids and should eat fish, particularly the occasional fatty fish ...and nuts.

10. Olive oil is good for you.

11. Ok, not a lot of olive oil. But if you HAVE to eat oil, make it olive oil.

12. Yogurt is good for your digestive system... But Dairy is bad (and creates mucus) which may or may not cancel out the positive benefits of yogurt.

13. Red meat is bad for you.

14. Lean red meat is good for you.

15. Meat in general is a bad idea.

16. Eat lots of leafy greens (mother called it "roughage").

17. Not spinach. Spinach is dangerous right now. But next week it will be lovely and there will be all sorts of safeguards and something ELSE will be dangerous.

18. Eat fresh fruit.

19. Scrub your fruit because it is covered in pesticides and will damage you in some yet-unforeseen way. But it will be bad.

20. Eat only organic foods because it’s the only safe option. And nothing packaged or processed.

21. No white sugar. In fact, stop eating sweets.

22. Eat sweets now and then because if you don’t you will suddenly HAVE to have sugar and will eat the entire contents of a Little Debbie snack cake display.

22. Drink Diet Cola instead of regular to stop all that sugar intake.

23. Diet Cola is bad because of the imitation sweetener which causes cancer and will also probably make your nose drop off (Ok, I made up the nose part).

24. Diet Cola is bad because it fools your body into thinking it is getting sugar and therefore makes you binge because it is craving that rush of sugar-energy (this really was in an article I read recently).

25. Regular Cola is better because you can regulate how much sugar you are taking in and it’s more natural.

26. Colas aren’t ok AT ALL because of the CARBONATION, which is secretly the REAL problem so nevermind, forget the previous revelations and just don’t drink it at all.

27. 100% real fruit juice is a healthy option.

28. Fruit juice is full of calories, drink water.

29. Drink 8 glasses of water a day... “8 glasses” means “8 glasses consisting of 8 ounces of water each”, NOT 8 of those 20 oz. sports bottles that I tried to drink every day when I first heard this revelation.

30. Moderation in all things, everyone’s body is different. Even with diet and exercize some people are a size 2 and some are a size 16.

That’s not all of them (as you know) but I figured 30 was a good place to stop. So... Is it any wonder that we have a complicated relationship with our bodies? Maybe that’s why I find books in which people learn to live off the land and grow their own food so appealing (for example, Jean Hegland’s “Into the Forest”) - the idea of food and physical exertion being simplified to doing what needs to be done in order to survive is the only way I can imagine this process being simplified.

After a long day of tilling soil and planting seeds so that I have food to eat, I think I’d happily tell anyone who instructed me that I wasn’t getting “the right kind” of exercize to take long walk off a short pier. Until then, I still find myself on a walk thinking, “Am I doing this right? Should I be tensing my muscles as I walk? Maybe I should walk faster? What about my shoes....”



  1. LOLOLOL! This was great. I just read your list to my mother and we were both cracking up, especially since we, too, have heard or been told every single thing on your list. Thanks for the laugh.

    P.S. So does this mean if it's a planting day in the garden that I don't have to go for my walk?

  2. I made farmgirl laugh! I still can't figure out what I'm "supposed" to eat, but it's good to know I'm not the only one hearing all these lines.