Monday, October 10, 2011

Exercise & Eat Fruits & Veggies All You Want: You're Still Going to Die

It is well known that eating fruits and vegetables and maintaining a regular exercise routine provides various health benefits to the body. It is also well known that this is not easy to do because there are so many other tasty food competitors out there and so many leisure activities that do not involve exercise. If it was easy or preferable to eat vegetables over other types of snacks, children’s books and TV shows these days would not be trying to convince children that eating a carrot tastes just as good as a chocolate chip cookie. Even Cookie Monster can’t say that with a straight face.

The reason why so many people need to listen to music on a jog, jog with a partner, watch TV on a treadmill, or read a book while on an exercise bike is because they are trying to distract themselves from an activity that is usually not that fun on it’s own. That being said, there are some people who enjoy running on it’s own due to their body being sensitive to the release of endorphins (pleasure producing chemicals) but this is an experience I have never had, despite doing my fair share of jogging and trying without success to get high from it (i.e., joggers high).

While I am all for exercising, try to get my fair share of it, enjoy eating fruit (in fact, I just had some grapes), and like some vegetables, I also like sitting in my reclining chair, eating pepperoni pizza, and eating fried food. I try to keep it in balance, not going too far to either extreme. This is consistent with my view that the ancient Greek philosophers got it right when they said that life is best lived when lived in moderation. In other words, don’t do too much in excess but also do not deprive yourself.
If you are reading this and absolutely love exercising every day and eating nothing but a vegetarian or vegan diet, then that’s great and this blog entry does not apply to you. But if you do not like it or do these activities under the false belief that they are going to cause you to live until you are 100, and/or automatically going prevent you from getting a serious disease such as cancer, then this blog entry does apply to you.  The fact is, life is short and no matter how many carrots or apples you eat or laps you run, you are still going to die. What’s worse is that you could die from a cause that has nothing to do with diet or exercise (e.g., a car accident). Also, following a strict diet and exercise routine may do nothing at all to stop a spontaneous cancer from developing or from dying before your natural life expectancy.

My dad was a good example of the above. He religiously ate a salad every night and exercised almost every night after working a grueling full-time schedule. When I asked him why, he stated he was trying to prevent cancer. At age 59, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer despite the fact that he never abused alcohol or had gastroesophageal reflux disease. He was dead within a year. I’m willing to bet that if he knew this was going to happen that he probably would have ate a few more junky snacks and watched a few more DVDs with a bowl of buttered popcorn. My maternal grandmother on the other hand, had the worst possible diet imaginable and smoked like a chimney, yet lived until age 78. I would never advocate the lifestyle she lived but the point is that while you have some control over your mortality, that control is limited and not absolute.

Famous exercise guru, Jack LaLane, is another good example. He avoided meat (except fish), avoided snacks, ate only two meals a day (skipping lunch), ate raw vegetables, egg whites and fish for dinner, ate hard-boiled egg whites, a cup of broth, oatmeal, and soy milk for breakfast, and he exercised for two hours a day. And after all of that…he still died of pneumonia.

Some will counter that LaLane would never have lived as long as he did (age 96) if it was not for his diet. Maybe. Maybe not. Unfortunately, genetics plays a major role. For example, many people do not know that his mother lived until age 89 and I am willing to bet she did not follow the same type of diet and exercise routine as her son. Sometimes, luck (or lack of it) also plays a role. For example, there are many people who go for a jog on a busy road, get hit by a vehicle, and either die or suffer a severe traumatic injury. And there have been a slew of people who have died from eating cantaloupes and other fruits and vegetables due to contamination with deadly bacteria (such as e. coli). The same can happen with other food products of course, but realize that fruits and veggies are also one of them.

My last point has to do with people who are either a) torturing themselves by eating bean sprout sandwiches, tofu burgers, and dry rice cakes when they would rather eat something tastier or b) working full-time and coming home to spend several hours exercising at the expense of some other activity they would rather do (e.g., family time, watching a movie, playing a game). Realize that life is short in the big scheme of things and that you should feel free to treat yourself once in a while and relax.

In the end, eat healthy for the most part and exercise, but don’t feel like you can never eat a piece of fried chicken or skip a day or two at the gym because you are afraid that it is going to kill you. It’s when unhealthy foods form the main part of your diet and a sedentary lifestyle becomes chronic that these pose a health risk. Be smart, live a balanced life, and enjoy the many tasty foods and leisure activities that life has to offer because you never know when it is going to end.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog entry should not be taken as medical advice but are personal opinions of the author. For medical advice, please seek that from your physician. 

Related Blog Entries:

1. When Fruits and Vegetables Kill
2. Michael Clarke Duncan Turns Vegetarian, Loses Weight, and Dies of a Heart Attack
3. How Fruits and Vegetables Killed Steve Jobs

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