This is a good one, broh.
Health is Dynamic
If you feel like you’re not as healthy as you’d like to be, give yourself a break.
I’ve never done it.
Despite what I myself have said on this very blog - what is “healthy” is so incredibly dynamic that it is pretty forgivable to be overwhelmed by or confused by what the “right” thing to do is. Everything (EVERYTHING) is situation-dependent, and no one thing works best in all situations.
As they say:
There is no ‘best move’ in chess.
Short of cyanide1, the health impact of every single thing you consume looks like this:
The height, width, and offset-from the Y axis of that distribution varies immensely from food-to-food, drink-to-drink, person-to-person, and is confounded by seemingly infinitely many other factors that you cannot pull out in any real-world setting. What’s more - this curve isn’t unique to the things you put into your body, it also perfectly describes what you do with it.
- No exercise leads to bad health outcomes, and so does constant exercise without rest.
- No water kills you, but people have also died from drinking too much.
- One M&M is fine. M&Ms for dinner - not so much.
As they say:
The dose makes the poison.
Applied to Meals
All of that was preamble to what I wanted to say here - it sucks there is no such thing as an infinitely repeatable recipe that scores well along these dimensions.
If things were easy, there would be some sort of miracle Goldilocks food that maxes out every single dimension:
But no such food exists. Worse, because health is dynamic, things aren’t always consistent:
As you move across the consumption curve, you cross the critical point where additional consumption produces less healthy results. As you saturate the palate they get less tasty, too.
So this puts us in a state where we need to constantly vary what we eat, which is not easy if you’re cooking for yourself and not cheap if you’re eating out.
It’s an impossible task to maintain high marks across all four dimensions over time. The best thing you can do is try to balance which dimension(s) you’re sacrificing for any given meal or snack. Eat at an expensive but healthy restaurant one day, then have bagged popcorn the next. Make yourself a full meal from scratch later. Then eat a simple but bland salad.
As they2 say:
Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
Embrace the Struggle
So it’s impossible to win all the time, and no one approach will get you there. Is that depressing? No. It’s just complicated. Finding your way through those complications and achieving intermittent success is rewarding.
It’s satisfying to cook a great, healthy meal. It’s fulfilling to complete a good, hard workout. It’s exciting to find a new recipe that produces tasty results quickly. It’s delightful when you discover some new thing that saves time or money on food. It’s thrilling to set a new PR.
If healthy living was a “solved” problem, then we’d get bored with it.
Life’s a struggle, but there’s meaning in the struggle. Everything that exists can have some level of appreciation if you’re willing to put in the work to appreciate it.
As they3 say:
To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.
The Best Kids Show
I’m not about to blaze4 a new trail, this is a common opinion. The best kids show, bar none is Bluey.
This fictional family of blue heelers from Australia have taught me and my family real-world, real valuable lessons - and made us laugh while it was doing it. My kids see themselves in Bluey and Bingo and the fantastical games they come up with. My wife and I see ourselves in Bandit and Chilli and how they support their children and each other.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from Bluey is that it’s not only possible but also my obligation as a father to put in the effort to find the fun in time I spend with my kids. Often times, that’s easy. Being around them and simply observing what they’re doing can be quite fun; but simply observing them and tending to their obvious needs is not enough. There is a deeper level of happiness and satisfaction that you can get to as a parent, one that will strengthen your relationship with your kids and give them the chance to experience the magic of childhood - if only you’re willing to put in the work.
As they say:
…Mom! …Dad! …Bingo! …Bluey!
Effortless vs Effortful Fun
Some things in life are simply fun. Eating ice cream, going real fast on a ride. These are pleasurable.
Some things in life take a lot of effort to make fun, or only become fun after the fact. Doing a hard workout, solving a problem. These are enjoyable.
There’s a difference between “pleasure” and “enjoyment”. We typically enjoy pleasure, but not everything we enjoy is pleasurable - nor is every pleasure enjoyed. A hard night’s work producing a new piece of art may not be very pleasure-filled, but it could be quite enjoyable. Meanwhile a beer, drunken hastily while we focus on problems at work or the bad call a ref just made - although pleasurable, may not be enjoyed at all. We are predisposed to seeking pleasure, even when it doesn’t bring about enjoyment. It’s a flaw in the human condition.
Bluey has made me realize this in practice. I have put in the work. I have gotten off my phone and played games where I was controlled by a magic asparagus, or I was the claw machine grabbing them their own stuffed animals from off my lap, or I rolled balls after them as they jumped out of the way just in time, Raiders of the Lost Ark style.
Every time I do it, it’s work.
Every time I manage to do it, I’m so glad I did.
As they5 say:
Enjoyment is cultivated. It’s more difficult, but infinitely more worth your while.
Even if Bluey didn’t offer up life lessons, it would be worth the price of admission simply because it’s funny. My 2 and 5 year old laugh at parts. I laugh at other parts. Often we’re all laughing together.
Who cares if it’s the popular opinion - Bluey is incredible. I will fight you about this.
Specifically you, Nick.
You’re wrong and you should feel bad about your wrong opinion.
Top 5: Headline Tropes I Refuse to Click On
5. The BIZARRELY PERFECT recipe for…
4. Dietitian Claims the One Thing You Should Eat Every Day is THIS
3. …you’ll be AMAZED/OUTRAGED/WHATEVER when you see…
2. Upcoming Marvel project cancelled!
…Where the “Marvel project” is some obscure comic story line. Headline usually accompanied by an image that suggests it’s one of the mainline movies.
1. Celebrity SLAMMED by rival celebrity who…
On principle alone I will never open an article whose title contains the word “slammed”.
Critics Slam Trump Co-Defendant Jeffrey Clark Over Bizarre Burning Man Attack. Actual headline in my Google News feed
They = Thanos, specifically. ↩
They = An equally talented philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche ↩
Blaze and the Monster Machines is also a good show. Shout out to my main man Pickles. ↩
They = me. My Notes say this. Source: the book “Flow”. ↩
Actually don’t. ↩