We Eat to Live, Not Vice Versa

I'm off on another trip this morning, and I'm headed to where I know the food won't always be ideal. Of course, I'm taking all the necessary steps to eat as healthy as I can while I'm gone, but I know it won't always be possible. For one thing, there's a birthday celebration involved and the birthday dinner party is not at a place that has a lot of healthy options. There are also other places involved that are the same.

I'm also in the midst of planning a two week trip to Costa Rica, and I was asked in my planning, "What about the food?" Fortunately, staples in Costa Rica are rice and beans. In fact, one of the Blue Zones is in Costa Rica. But even if that weren't the case, I would still be going. I want to go there to hike and to do photography. And I'm going in a program that will allow me to do those things. Food is not the main criteria.

That's because I don't believe it's healthy for us when we let food restrict us from doing things we might really want to do. We eat to live; we don't live to eat. And as far as I know, we only get one opportunity at life on this planet. So, what good does it do to eat for a longer life if we don't use that life to do the things we want to do?

I think when others look at us, this becomes a major reason for why they don't join us on the path to a healthier lifestyle. People are afraid they'll have to give up their social lives. And some have in fact lost friends over converting to this lifestyle. People are afraid they won't be able to do the things they want to do. People are afraid their travel will be restricted to only those few things where whole plant-based foods are the only thing on the menu.

Yet that isn't true. Dr. Michael Greger published his stoplight in How Not to Die a couple of years ago, where he showed processed plant-based foods and unprocessed animal products as being yellow light foods. That is, they are foods to eat occasionally, and ideally they help us to stay WFPB-focused. In his latest publication, an Evidence-Based Guide that he released yesterday, he took that further and gave two examples of what a yellow light food is: bread and steak.

That's interesting because I doubt that many of us ever equated steak and bread as being in the same category, although I've been making that point myself (in more subtle ways) for years now. Many may be surprised to learn they shouldn't be eating bread as often as they do, but many others will be surprised to learn that the occasional steak is okay too. And some will try to justify their bread habits by saying, "I only eat whole grain bread" or "I only eat Ezekial bread." But that doesn't change the fact that they are processed plant-based foods in the yellow light category.

I save those yellow light foods for those times when I really have no choice, like when I'm traveling. Or when I'm celebrating a holiday at someone else's house (note: there is usually is a choice to bring something, but sometimes there is not). They help me to stay on the diet the rest of the time. But if I had to restrict my travel or restrict my major celebrations with friends and family, then I would find doing this a whole lot harder.

There are things that are more important than our diets for short periods of time. But as all the doctors will tell us, our bodies have incredible abilities to heal. We need to eat right, but we also need to remember to live too. If I ever found myself not taking a trip or enjoying time with my family because of the food involved, then I think I would not want to do this anymore. For me, eating this way is a way to give ourselves life. It's not a way for us to live so that we can eat certain foods.

J Lanning Smith
Twice the Man, Half the Weight
January 25, 2019