Let’s listen to Mr. Twain: Moderation matters

I love food.

You name it, I’ll eat it. I’m not overly concerned if it’s supposed to be good or bad for me. Like most people, I just like to eat. Doesn’t matter if I’m hungry. Doesn’t matter if it’s lunch, dinner or late night. Doesn’t matter if I’m at home, at work, at the beach. If there is food around, pretty much I will devour it. Just ask my fellow employees at The Garden Island. Not even a Costco pizza lasts long in the newsroom when I’m around. At a recent dessert gathering, a friend watched me return to the table for extra helpings. “My, you certainly have a sweet tooth, don’t you,” she said. Yes, I do. I’m convinced I could eat 100 Peeps in 10 minutes and would gladly try for the right reasons.

Whether I’m watching a movie, typing a story, cleaning the living room or washing the car, food and drink are usually part of the equation. The first sight of baked goods will end my vow to fast for the day. They say you can’t outrun a lousy diet, but I’m trying to prove them wrong.

My excuse for my zero willpower when it comes to food, or maybe my defense for it, is simple. I run a lot of miles. I’m undisciplined in many areas, but my morning routine is not one of them. Drink coffee, read Bible, say prayers, work out for 30 minutes, run. Head out the door to Ke Ala Hele Makalae and go anywhere from four to 15 miles or so, depending on the day and what race I’m training for. The hotter, the more humid, the better because it sweats out the toxins.

(I might add that on Tuesday morning, about a half mile past Kealia Beach, I spotted my first whale spout of the year. I have a nice 5k measured out from Kapaa Beach Park to the pavilion just before Paliku Beach, more commonly referred to as Donkey Beach. Out and back is a terrific run with views of the ocean, beaches and people. Mix in the whales and it can’t get much better — unless the Rock jogs past, as I hear he’s on island for his latest movie.)

But as usual, I digress.

I’m of the mind that because I go through a daily exercise routine and run, I can eat and drink whatever and whenever I like. I’ll burn it off, goes the argument. This worked perfectly well when I was younger and still kind of works. But now, in my older years, not as well. I noticed the belly fat doesn’t melt away like magic anymore. The love handles are hanging around. The scale no longer automatically reads under 150.

So, all that said, a recent report about the world needing a new diet caught my attention — because I need a new diet, too.

The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based nonprofit seeking to improve the food system, and published last Wednesday by the medical journal Lancet, according to an Associated Press report. The panel of experts who wrote it says a “Great Food Transformation” is urgently needed by 2050, and that the optimal diet they outline is flexible enough to accommodate food cultures around the world.

Overall, the diet encourages what has long been the mantra in the health field: whole grains, beans, fruits and most vegetables. Limit added sugars, refined grains such as white rice and starches like potatoes and cassava. It says red meat consumption on average needs to be slashed by half globally, though the necessary changes vary by region and reductions would need to be more dramatic in richer countries like the United States.

Convincing people like me to limit meat, cheese and eggs won’t be easy because I enjoy them. I’m also one of those people who, if not shown the immediate consequences of an action, doesn’t think about things too hard. It’s why I love to vacuum. Instant results.

Now, I do have some brains about diet. I drink lots of water. My morning smoothie after my run is something like blueberries, strawberries, almond milk, orange juice, acai, protein powder, spinach and coconut water. I eat apples, bananas and oranges. But if there’s a box of chocolates within sight, it will soon be empty. The later in the day, the weaker my resolve.

Back to this new report.

Before even factoring in the environmental implications, the report sought to sketch out what the healthiest diet for people would look like, said Walter Willett, one of its authors and a nutrition researcher at Harvard University. While eggs are no longer thought to increase risk of heart disease, Willett said the report recommends limiting them because studies indicate a breakfast of whole grains, nuts and fruit would be healthier.

He said everybody doesn’t need to become a vegan, and that many are already limiting how much meat they eat. “Think of it like lobster — something that I really like, but have a few times a year,” Willett said in the AP story.

There, I believe, is the key, the same one we’ve heard preached for centuries when it comes to diet, to exercise, to work, to family, to love (maybe not love): Moderation.

Everything in moderation is sound advice. If you don’t believe me, here’s what our good friend and author, Mark Twain, had to say on the subject:

w “Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.”

w “I never smoke to excess — that is, I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time.”

w “Everything in moderation except whiskey, and sometimes, too much whiskey is just enough.”

So, yes, bottom line is this: We must be more cognizant of food that is bad for us, and then not eat so much of it.

Some day, I hope that will be as easy as it sounds.

Until that day, I’ll keep running.

In moderation.

•••

Bill Buley is the editor of The Garden Island. He can be reached at bbuley@thegardenisland.com

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