Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It just doesn't matter what you eat (today)

This post has knocked on the door of my brain so many times recently, asking to be let out, but I hadn't figured out precisely what would happen if I just threw open the door and let it run around. Well, here goes....

I've talked before about how food and guilt just don't belong together.

But have I told you all the real secret: that it just doesn't matter what you eat today?

And by "matter," I am not talking about the predictable side effects of today's pizza/beer/cupcake bender.

What I mean is something a bit heavier. (Are you sitting down?)

Here's the thing: in 200 years, chances are that no one's ever going to know anything about you or even know that you were here. Yeah, there are going to be some notable exceptions -- politicians, world leaders and the like -- but think about it: how many people from 1814 can you even name? Now take out all the politicians, you history majors. How many "regular" people are on your list?

Without turning this into the paleo version of the Total Perspective Vortex, the point is.... Well, I think you get my point. Your trip on the planet is brief, and, more likely than not, is going to leave very few permanent marks.

More precisely, in 2214, no one's going to give a fuck whether you ate a bagel today.

So should you care?

I think you should care about anything that affects your happiness and the happiness of others. Because there are really only a couple strong motivators of human behavior: fear of the consequences, and happiness. But fear is a shitty emotion, let alone an awful motivation, and we should be striving to eliminate it, not basing our decisions on it more than necessary. Fear makes my stomach hurt.

So what about happiness?

That bagel (or, if you prefer, the pizza/beer/cupcake bender....this is Hypothetical Land, after all. It doesn't matter. Oh wait, very little matters... sigh....) is going to be delicious. So there's the positive effect on short-term happiness involved there. There's also the presumed negative effect on your slightly-longer-termed happiness. Or maybe we should switch to the pizza/beer/cupcake bender after all and cut to the chase: you are going to feel bloated and awful the next day. "Worth" it?

This is where it gets a little tricky, I guess. Answering that question is a careful balancing act between pain and pleasure. And you are just the adult to make that call.

Make it without guilt, but also make it understanding that this one decision really doesn't matter.

What matters is your long-term happiness.

I suspect that your long-term happiness is going to take a bit of a hit if you string together a bunch of dietary horror shows. But again, you're just the adult to make that call as well.

There's an old anti-anxiety mantra that goes something like: "Will it matter in a day? What about a week? What about a year? What about ten years?" You'll find that very few decisions in life register on the ten-year list. But I dare say that none of those -- not a single fucking one -- is a solitary food choice that you will make today.

Yes, your overall dietary approach affects your happiness. And your happiness affects the happiness of those around you. But let's not pretend for a moment that one dietary choice "matters." It's your mindset and your overall behavior that affects your long-term happiness.

And let's digress to make clear that if you think this is my way of saying 80/20 paleo sounds like a good plan to me, it's not.

But neither is stressing about an individual food choice. Have a plan. Deviate from the plan when you need to, or, more specifically, when you really want to. Get back on the plan.

Know what you want. Be an adult. Be happy.

Or as the single most wasted talent in rock and roll once sang back when he was still brilliant: "Make the best out of the bad; just laugh it off. You didn't have to come here anyway."

Because if anything really "matters," it's being happy and spreading a little of that around. Go do that.


  1. Love this.. and so true..
    I went from eating whatever I wanted to paleo to paleo-judgy-nazi.. and now in a happy place laying off the strict paleo and eating rice and potatoes and oats comfortably. But I will admit loosening my diet has led me to make more justifications, like consuming a row of girl scout cookies.. or half a bag of jellybeans.. oops.

    But it is done without guilt now; it used to make me anxious to go out to lunch with coworkers or have any food that wasn't prepped in my house because i didn't know what kind of oil was used or if the meat was grass-fed or free-range.. now it's a much more happy balance.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Anyone who can throw "Total Perspective Vortex" into conversation is OK in my book. Nicely done, Sir.

  3. So true. I ate half a bagel today and had a few pangs of guilt. Then thought who the hell cares, it's not going to matter in the long run

    I really enjoy your musings. And I love that song.

    1. Aw, thanks. I'm unclear sometimes whether anyone's reading, so it's good to know that someone's digging it.