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Davis Journal

We all have our own definitions of ‘healthy living’

Aug 19, 2021 10:47AM ● By Bryan Gray

Last year an obviously earnest reader suggested I address the idea of “healthy living,” a subject I found laughable.  First, I’m not a physician, a dietician, or a nurse – I’ve not portrayed one on television either.  Secondly, my lifestyle centers around enjoyment, not a stern health regime, and I’m the least likely person to scold someone for eating an éclair.

But it has now been 30 years since I smoked my last cigarette. I quit when a pack cost $1.25; today, one has to consider a reverse home mortgage before purchasing a carton of Marlboro Menthols.  

Smoking was always stupid. You knew it would end badly, much like being a passionate Utah Jazz fan who figures a 20th round draft pick will lead the team to the NBA’s promised land.  But it took me several decades to finally wad up the pack and declare myself tobacco-free.

The “cure” was when my family doctor told me I should quit while I was ahead, similar to leaving a blackjack table with $400 in house winnings. He said I should just quit cold-turkey. I thought he was mentally ill.  Both of us were correct.  I crumbled up the pack in my pocket – and the doctor passed away about 10 years later from a mental illness.

But aside from not smoking, healthy living is somewhat murky.  Studies show there are good and bad things in most foods; it’s how we ingest or savor them, not the food itself.

While still controversial in Utah, red wine, for instance, is considered a healthy part of a Mediterranean diet. One or two glasses a day is healthy; more than that (or less than that) is not. Heavy drinkers are most likely to die at a young age, but the next to depart are teetotalers.

I don’t know if the wine is the major factor in these studies. Could be that the non-drinkers have more anxiety while the casual wine drinker can relax with a glass of cabernet?  Again, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve never heard that substituting grape jelly for wine leads to increased age. On the other hand, a life insurance salesman would probably lean to giving a better rate to someone who guzzles grape juice instead of a six-pack of Bud Light.

It is yin and yang. Milk is a good source of bone-strengthening calcium, but overindulgence can add harmful fatty tissue…One study says coffee is good for the liver, but another says it is addictive and bad for the heart…Orange juice has great vitamins, but it’s acidity is bad for the stomach…Bananas are healthy, but if you eat them like a monkey your potassium level could harm your kidneys…Seafood is better for the heart than beef, but beware of mercury levels.

It’s a difficult choice. I enjoyed running for some seven years. It was good for my heart, but then I saw some long-term runners lining up for knee replacements.  Similarly, some people on diets seem to be dispirited and cranky; I want to perk them up with a piece of coconut cream pie.

And please don’t encourage me to become a vegan.  My first response is to buy a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse gift card.

So I’m not one to follow if you want strict recommendations for healthy living. I’m just one of those “everything in moderation” guys who figure the good Lord has a timetable for me. I’m more worried about the drunk driver barreling into me or a non-vaccinated person coughing in my face than I am about eating a cream cheese sweet roll.