Monday, February 22, 2016

Making Perfect the Enemy of Good

I can't really say what kind of eating I'm doing these days.  I mean, certainly I eat, but I don't know if my eating patterns has a name per se.  Chad and I eat lots of meat, veggies, eggs, and dairy, plus some nuts, fruit and resistant starches, as much of which is organic as we can managed.  Are we paleo?  Low carb?  Primal?  WAPF?  I dunno, honestly, and I've pretty much given up caring what our title is. 

It was fun in the beginning there, when low carb and paleo were new to us.  We got really into the community, read lots of blogs, kept up with the latest health and diet news, bought lots of books.  It gave us the drive we needed to change our diets to improve our health and well being, plus it gave us that sense of community when everyone around us thought we were weird for eating the way we ate.  (It's amazing how much has changed in four years -- low carb and paleo were still "weird", whereas now you see it everywhere.  I just bought a paleo crock pot recipe book from the checkout line in Wegmans!)

The community started to feel really stifling to me after a while, though.  It stopped being supportive and started to feel restrictive.  Everyone had opinions of what's best, and they were very outspoken about it.  You had to be careful not to enrage someone by saying something that went against their beliefs.  And then it seemed like there was a new bit of information that came out about once or twice a month, some new way to be healthy and live forever.  Certain ways to exercise, certain new foods, sleep patterns, whatever it may be.  It felt so overwhelming, like I had to learn about every new piece of evidence and add it to my already restrictive eating patterns if I wanted to live into old age.

For a number of reasons, I stepped back for a while.  We started listening to our own bodies and our own cravings and what made us feel good (or bad), and tried to live by those rules. We don't always do well at it; we splurged megatime around Christmas, and I have my chocolate days, but for the most part we eat really well.

Yesterday I was on, reading the comments on an almond flour chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I wanted to know if anyone had any thoughts on how to make the recipe sugar free (except for the chocolate chips, of course).  That was the very first comment, actually.  The following comment suggested maple syrup, honey, or date paste.

Then the comments got interesting.  The next reply suggested ace K as a replacement, and BOOM, out come the crazies!  People were accusing one another of being ignorant, saying chemicals cause cancer, suggesting that if you didn't agree that you were really dumb and you were abusing your family and you were going to die a horrible death!  Haven't you read the literature?! 

It was shocking and disturbing to read that after being away from the community for a while now.  Why do people get like that?  Ok, so maybe ace K isn't the best sweeter in the whole world, but it's not up to you to decide what other people do with their lives. If you don't want to eat it, cool, but don't evangelize the point with threats of damnation.

And you know what else?  We're all going to die.  Eat as clean as you want to, but eventually it won't matter any more.  You'll die just like everyone else dies.  It seems to me that people heavy into the whole foods/healthy eating communities are striving to live forever through their diets, even though they'll deny it if you point it out.  I certainly felt that way when I was into it.  I wanted to eat well so I'd never get cancer/heart disease/diabetes/whatever disease.  Essentially, I wanted to die peacefully in my sleep at the ripe old age of 120, or possibly older.

Last year, my aunt died of pancreatic cancer.  At the time, I  was thinking to myself, "if only she had eaten a more clean diet she never would have gotten cancer!".  I look back at that now and think how silly that sounds.  She was in her 80s when she died.  If she hadn't died of cancer, she probably would have died of something else in short order.  And why is it so bad to go that way?  Yes, it was sudden, and it was scary, and she left us before we were ready, but it was her time to go and at least she had a chance to say goodbye.

If you're going to eat well and take care of yourself, do it for how it makes you feel right now.  Don't do it because it  will make you live longer, because no one knows what the future holds.  Scientists have recently started switching over to the idea that the number one factor in how long we'll live is genetics.  Even smoking, one of the deadliest things you can do to your body, only shortens your life by 10 years. 

Certainly eating pounds of sugar a day if you're a diabetic is going to shorten your life, but how much time do you lose on this earth by eating ace K?  Or by eating a cookie once in a while?  Once you've changed your life for the better and started eating well and exercising your body, what significance do the small changes have, really? 

We can live healthy lives without obsessing about the little stuff.  I bet being obsessed about health has a big impact on your well being anyway. 

I guess my point is, don't make perfect the enemy of good.  Or as Shakespear said:

Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?

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