Why I floss but don’t diet

I recently started flossing regularly, partly because it’s good for my teeth but also partly because it’s potentially good for my heart. It seems utterly absurd to think that periodontal disease really causes heart disease, and I’m inclined to think that either the studies that found the association were flawed, that there’s a serious correlation/causation mixup going on, or that the causation actually runs the other way and heart disease causes unhealthy gums. But what the heck, right? I’ve got no illusions that healthy behaviors will make me immortal, but I’d like to put off dying as long as possible. Why not do something that might potentially keep me from getting sick?

Well, there are also flawed, correlation-and-causation-confusing studies out there saying that losing weight will lower my risk of heart disease. The research is no better than the gum research, the conclusions are no more solid, but they might not be a hell of a lot worse. If I’m willing to take one dubious approach to improving my heart health, why not another?

Here’s why: Because if flossing doesn’t prevent heart disease, what’s the worst that’s happened? I’ve got healthier teeth and gums and my dentist is happy with me. If I try to diet my way into weight loss, the consequences are a little more dire: I risk disordered eating, anxiety, depression, undernourishment, low self-esteem, immune suppression, metabolism changes, and weight cycling (not to mention becoming totally boring). Even in the unlikely case that it is as simple as that, that weight directly correlates with heart disease risk, it’s not clear that I’d come out ahead. Flossing means undertaking an immediately healthy behavior in the hopes that its ill-proven future health effects also turn out to be real. Dieting means undertaking an immediately unhealthy, unpleasant, and eventually counterproductive series of behaviors in the hopes that its ill-proven future effects might outweigh present misery. (Oh, and of course I would become totally pretty. But it’s all about health, dontcha know.)

Some stuff that’s healthy, or might be healthy, is worth doing. These things vary according to what’s healthy for your individual body — someone with a torn meniscus might not find it healthy to jog, for instance — but it’s a sure bet that some things will make you feel better over the long and short run, and might even make you less likely to get sick. But it’s also a sure bet that you’re not going to live forever, not even if you do every supposedly healthy thing you can think of — and you don’t have to do them all to benefit from some. What that means to me is that it’s a no-brainer to miss out on things some study says are potentially healthy if they’re also going to cause me immediate harm. If I’m worried about heart disease, I can floss (definitely helps teeth), exercise (definitely helps mood and sense of well-being), and eat foods high in antioxidants (definitely delicious). Or I can try desperately, painfully, and ultimately unsuccessfully to lose weight. Even if the disease-avoiding benefits of the latter are much higher, and there’s no good reason to believe they are, deciding to give it a miss because it’s horrible doesn’t cancel out the benefits of the first three. And if none of them keep me from getting heart disease, which is also quite possible? Well, then I’ll have clean teeth, a good mood, and tasty things to eat, and I’ll die just like the thinnest person alive.

It’s great to do stuff that you find is good for you — you deserve that kind of care. But be aware that there’s not a lot we know about the long-term effects of our daily choices, and what we know is changing all the time. Is it really worth it to ruin your “now” in the hopes of maybe possibly tacking a few years onto your “later”? You can find a version of “healthy” that works for you — that decreases pain rather than increases it, that improves mood rather than wrecking it, that contributes to your quality of life rather than considering “quality of life” an affront to Puritan virtue. Figuring out what will extend your life is a guessing game. Figuring out what will make it enjoyable? That’s not nearly as hard.

105 thoughts on “Why I floss but don’t diet

  1. The gums-heart disease connection is pretty logical, actually, given that certain types of bacteria seem to be associated with inflammatory responses elsewhere in the body (like the arteries), and chronic infections affect the immune system. Also, according to some natural medical thought, there are energy meridians connecting different tooth-positions to various bodily organs (hence the theory — a credible one, IMHO –that traditional root canal procedures predispose people to cancer and other diseases in the corresponding organs by allowing bacteria to remain in the tiny channels of the inner tooth.

  2. I once had a cat that developed heart trouble and the vet was like, “it’s because you didn’t clean her teeth.”! Apparently it’s common for gum cooties to become systemic and settle into the heart muscle in cats! Who knew?? And since we know that cats = people, I totally believe that flossing helps your heart.
    Plus, I had a super gross experience at the dentist once that turned me from a casual flosser into a flossing evangelist.

  3. As a cancer survivor I keep up to date on alot of research done on the type of cancer I had. It has a very high rate of recurrance. I believe that forwarned is forearmed. That being said, new studies are showing that there is a direct correlation between “bad teeth” and the type of cancer I had. I never had perfect teeth but I was vigilant about brushing, flossing and all that other stuff when it comes to teeth because I have an honest to goodness phobia about dentists. (bad experience when I was a kid). I would rather have open heart surgery than go to a DDS. (no joke). However, chemo did a major number on my teeth. They are now rotting from the inside out – the drugs attack the pith of the teeth instead of the enamel. So I face a huge dilemma – to have them fixed requires major surgery. Major surgery is very dangerous for me due to possible complications from my cancer surgery.
    So the moral of the story? Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you !

    KatesCousinNancy

  4. I recently came to an insight about long-term happiness. A lot of people do things *today* and *tomorrow*, things that they dislike, that wear them out, that make them unhappy, things that they hate. Why? Because they think that in the long term, it’ll make them happy. “If I stick to this crappy job right now, in 10 years, I’ll be happy”. “If I stop eating good food and doing exercise that I hate now, I will be thin and happy next year.”

    But what happens? People are unhappy all the time, and they never quite make it to the end.

    i had to make a decision in my life to put my present happiness above the possible future advantage of my epilepsy medication. I feel miserable *now*. The idea that in the long term it *might* help? Not very comforting.

    Same thing with the weight loss regime. Making yourself miserable in the present in the faint hope that in the future, you will be thin and therefore happy. (See: SP’s article about the ‘fantasy of being thin’.) You know what? It’s really not worth it. Sacrificing your happiness and joy and love in the present is not worth it just so you may be happier some time in the future.

    That’s not what happiness is. It’s not an achievement you get after completing society’s course of self-torture. It’s the way you look at the world and yourself. And you don’t have to suffer unhappiness to obtain it; you can get it, right now. Right now, you can enjoy life just as it is, in the present. Every day you spend punishing yourself, with the idea that someday in the future it will result in you being happier – that’s one day too many, and one day of your life spent not being happy.

  5. given that certain types of bacteria seem to be associated with inflammatory responses elsewhere in the body (like the arteries), and chronic infections affect the immune system.

    I don’t buy that proving causation, though (since it doesn’t, hence “associated”).

  6. Well, as you say, the cost: benefit ratio of flossing is negligible, so doing it is a win no matter what. (Why does “negligible” look like it’s misspelled when it’s spelled correctly?)

  7. I’m not sure how this exactly relates to flossing or not flossing (I didn’t follow the link to the study), but I do know that when I get my teeth cleaned at the dentist, I have to take antibiotics an hour beforehand in the event that my gums bleed and plaque gets into my bloodstream and would cause significant heart damage. It’s called (if I remember correctly – with no medical benefits, I haven’t had my teeth done in ages) “bacterial endocarditis.”

    (Then again, my gums always bleed when I floss, so I don’t know why I don’t take antibiotics for that, as well.)

    On a completely different note, the joy of clean teeth is one of life’s unsung pleasures. (Or, I’m just obsessed wtih my teeth.) :)

  8. Danielle,

    I think it’s about balance, goals, and watching the results you’re getting. Kinda like when I tried Prozac; my moods stayed the same, I got a headache within 30 minutes of taking it, and I lost all interest in sex. The results had nothing to do with the long-term goals of improving my depression, so we tried something else…

    It also reminds me of when I was trying to pay of credit cards and student loans. If I threw ALL my money at debtors then I’d feel too frustrated and would splurge at the mall just to prove to myself that I could. I needed better balance to make it work.

  9. JupiterPluvius: Because your eyes are wanting to see a negligee? (a similar word that always looks misspelled to me)

  10. I floss because I have two fake teeth on Maryland bridges and a retainer left over from my braces, and I literally have no other way of cleaning those teeth. Plus my dad has gum disease and after seeing what he has to go through with it, I’d really rather floss. XP

  11. I floss every day :) But that’s because of the following…

    I actually have great teeth but have an over-active immune response in my gums. So my gums become red and inflamed at a rate about 10x as fast as normal people. That means that I have the amount of inflammation equivalent to somebody with 10x as much tartar/plaque as I have. (all per my dentist… I’m not a dentist, so all I know is I have a top notch smile but my gums bleed all the time)

    Sooo… it would not be too hard to believe that if my gums react to a perceived threat with an overabundance of inflammation that the rest of my body may as well, right?

    Although, honestly the bad gums runs really deep in my family but heart disease does not… so who knows.

  12. Great post – I agree with you 110%! :)

    And the other thing about doing things that make you miserable today in hopes of adding a few years to your future is that the future isn’t garunteed to any of us.

    I was watching 60 Minutes last Sunday and they were interviewing some of those folks who are on a super-low calorie diet because super-low calorie diets make monkeys live longer (did anyone else see this?). My 1st thought was – how will a low calorie diet protect you if you get hit by a bus?

    People can do all of the “right” and “healthy” things and die anyway. Not trying to be a downer or scare anyone, but that’s how life is.

  13. Pfizer Animal Health did some serious & lengthy studies on the connection between animal gum health and heart disease. I’m not sure if the studies are as valid as we would like them to be, but the connection between periodontal disease and animal health has been established. My new (& awesome) vet thinks it is important to clean my cats’ teeth — and she believes in it so strongly that she offers discounts and grants to those pet owners who can’t afford it.

  14. Miss Minx: some people who already have a problem with one of the valves in their heart are more susceptible to the valve becoming infected. At some point, people with even mild heart murmurs (extra/different sounds that don’t always indicate a real valvular problem) were told to always take antibiotics before going to the dentist.

    The list of reasons to take antibiotics before routine dental work has recently been shortened to only the most serious valve problems, because with further studies they’ve realized that a)the risk isn’t really that big and b)as you’ve guessed, even brushing your own teeth puts some bacteria in your bloodstream, and clearly people aren’t getting endocarditis every time they brush.

  15. Fillyjonk- you have a wide audience here, and I would caution you to be careful with your skepticism. People respect your insights and if you’re wrong (and those researchers who have spent years studying this problem are right) you may be encouraging people to disregard health information.

    I’ve got a PhD in Molecular Biology- I often provide lay interpretations of medical stuff for my family. I know that a lot of studies (while not necessarily wrong) are grossly overstated and misrepresented in the press. Most scientists are well versed in the difference between correlation and causation- most often it’s the press that gets confused.

    As a biologist, I don’t find it peculiar that there would be a link between flossing and heart disease. Just because the exact mechanism is unknown (at this time) doesn’t mean that there is no link.

    From an article on WebMD (http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/periodontal-disease-heart-health?page=2)

    “Experts know that bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through the gums. These same bacteria have been found clumped in artery plaques. So one theory is that these bacteria stick to the fatty plaques in the bloodstream, directly contributing to blockages.

    Other possibilities lie in the body’s own defense mechanisms against bacteria. One of the body’s natural responses to infection is inflammation (swelling). It’s possible that as these oral bacteria travel through your body, they trigger a similar response, causing the blood cells to swell. This swelling could then narrow an artery and increase the risk of clots.

    That inflammation could be the root of the problem adds to data researchers are gathering that suggest more and more diseases, including periodontal disease, heart disease, and arthritis, are partially caused by the body’s own inflammatory response.”

  16. Oh, FFS, people. I provided a link to information about flossing and heart disease so people could draw their own conclusions; that’s actually not the point, as you might notice if you read beyond the first paragraph. The fact that a link between your mouth and your heart seems absurd is obviously just an opinion, but FYI, nothing anyone’s said proves a causal link — you are basically just doing what commenters in other threads do with “but fat is associated with heart disease!” Nobody has convinced me of a causal link, the idea seems prima facie absurd, I floss anyway, READ ON PLEASE.

  17. I’d say that FJ’s skepticism is just about right, Courtney – she’s doing the flossing because the cost to her is minimal, and although on the surface it seems less common sense logical — that insufficient circulation and or immune response could be helping the progression of gum disease — she’s open to the idea it could go the other way. Because the truth isn’t common sensical, sometimes.

    Science flourishes on a petri dish of skepticism, and I don’t see FJ going any non-scientific route here. Like “flossing is a conspiracy of nylon manufacturers and you should never do it”. She’s done quite the opposite of dismissing science; she’s evaluating it in the current almost religious environment of healthism. Science feeds that – doctrine bought by media reports out of labs – and so does the un-scientific world of … well, I don’t know what they’re selling. Liver detoxes and whatever.

    Anyway. Critical thinking, good. Scientific return on risk profiles moderated by individual circumstance, good. Flossing teeth, good.

    FJ’s not threatened our health by questioning.

    On the other hand, her actions have meant that a coconut crab has eaten a puppy…. But unfortunately, all the writers on this blog seem to be callous in that regard. They never THINK OF THE PUPPIES.

  18. On the other hand, her actions have meant that a coconut crab has eaten a puppy…. But unfortunately, all the writers on this blog seem to be callous in that regard. They never THINK OF THE PUPPIES.

    PETA will be after us next, no doubt.

  19. “People can do all of the “right” and “healthy” things and die anyway. Not trying to be a downer or scare anyone, but that’s how life is.”

    I once saw a show where an 83 year old woman was bungee junping off the Cappilano Bridge in Vancouver B.C. She had a tshirt on that said “Live well, Eat Healthy, DIE ANYWAY”.
    She had a point.

  20. Fillyjonk- you have a wide audience here, and I would caution you to be careful with your skepticism. People respect your insights and if you’re wrong (and those researchers who have spent years studying this problem are right) you may be encouraging people to disregard health information.

    Seriously, be careful with your skepticism? Skepticism is practically the raison d’etre of this blog. And because of that, we expect that our readers will be just as skeptical of our reasoning as anyone else’s.

    NOTE TO READERS: IF SOMETHING WE SAY RINGS FALSE TO YOU, YOU ARE 100% PERMITTED AND INDEED ENCOURAGED TO DECIDE FOR YOURSELVES THAT WE ARE FULL OF SHIT. (You may or may not be permitted to leave a comment to that effect.)

    Sure, a coconut crab will eat a puppy every time you do that, but it’s worth it in the long run.

  21. But unfortunately, all the writers on this blog seem to be callous in that regard. They never THINK OF THE PUPPIES.

    I am secretly feeding them Tofuppies.

  22. I trust the gums/heart disease correlation a lot more than the weight/heart disease one. It’s counterintuitive and doesn’t conveniently happen to provide a scientific justification for popular prejudices. At least I’ve never heard of anyone being barred from adopting children because of gingivitis.

  23. Where do you get these Tofuppies? I haven’t seen them at my local farmer’s market, WHICH IS THE ONLY PLACE I BUY (LOCAL, ORGANIC) FOODS.

    But srsly, isn’t this exactly what we *all* should be doing with health information? Thinking critically about it, pursuing it/acting upon it if and only if the potential benefits far outweight the real risks?

    I’d love to see *true* moderation recommended in supposedly “healthy” forums, but too often healthy is interpreted as punishing. This is why I walk 40 minutes a day instead of running. The truth is, I’m probably not getting my heart rate up to the recommended levels, but I am getting exercise, and I’m not irritating my bum knee. But whatevs, I’m also “overweight.”

  24. @shyvixen- OMG I saw that and it was THE MOST FUCKED UP TELEVISION PROGRAMMING. the “calorie restriction alliance” or something. a bunch of skeletal-looking (and old-looking. yes, they looked old) people saying things like:
    “If i feel hungry all the time, I know I am doing what i need to do to prolong my life.”
    “You can’t see her with her clothes off, but, you know, she looks so great” (said with astonishingly foul leer).
    As i said to my young man, the only way these people would serve as physical proof of anything were if you told me that they were all two hundred years old. they looked so hungry. and it’s okay to say that because THEY WERE HUNGRY BECAUSE THAT IS THEIR GOAL IN LIFE AND THIS WAS ON A MAJOR NETWORK WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

    sorry about the rant and threadjack but it was really terrifying.

  25. It seems like there could be a correlation, especially with class. I’m certain that poor people in this country don’t have the same access to dentistry, leaving them with untreated gum disease and probably leaving them with less education about how to take care of their teeth and gums. Poverty, for a number of reasons (stress, diet, lack of exercise, lack of access to medical treatment), is often strongly correlated with chronic disease.

    However, studies do show that bad gums are associated with vascular problems in other animals, so I’m inclined to believe the claim holds water.

  26. If you mix Tofuppies and Sea Kittens do you get a kind of Miso soup? ;)

    I really should floss more often, thanks for the unintentional reminder! And for engaging our brains in critical thinking *warily stands before cocunut crab with tofuppy offering*

  27. Oh, so glad you posted this today…. I’m expecting something of a fight soon at work about why dieting in groups led by your boss, with public weigh-ins, in front of the students (I work at a uni) isn’t ok. And I’m expecting, “But it’snot to be thin and promote weird body image, it’s FOR MY HEALTH,” in return. So, lots of links about how it ISN’T will be useful.

    Which was not entirely the point of this post, but, y’know, just where my mind went.

    The point of this post actually is helpful, as well. Sometimes, I worry about certain healthful behaviors (especially around food, but others, as well), just because I wonder sometimes if they come from the same place as dieting. Because so many of them (asking for water instead of soda, taking the stairs, etc.) come from diet-think. But I think there’s a difference between, “Gee, I don’t really want soda, and water is healthier and cheaper,” and “OMG the sugar will kill me and make me fat!!!!!!! Oh Noes!!!!” Finding the balance of what I need to be healthy and what I need to be happy is a sort of constant highwire act.

  28. I think the real question is does Chili’s serve Tofuppies and Sea Kittens?

    And, FJ, I *really* like this post. There is such a huge difference between practicing small behaviors that definitely provide small benefits which could potentially prolong health and abusing our bodies to achieve…um, abused bodies. I think my logic fell apart. Sorry. This is why you guys are the thinky writers :)

  29. Flossing is known to be good for tooth and gum health, if it’s good for my heart too, well that’s nice.

    Like comedy is supposed to be good for your health too, but who really cares about that, it’s fun to watch!

  30. I floss because I’m a masochist, and also sometimes popcorn and stuff gets stuck between my teeth. I’m not as religious about it as my dentist wishes I was, but so far I’ve still got all my own teeth, even if they are coffee stained and a wee bit crooked in the front. *knock on wood*

    I’m fearfully close to dieting (by “dieting” I of course mean “food restricting because I feel out of control and crazy and need to punish myself and feel righteous by trying not to eat and gloating to myself about my pants falling off, which actually is really inconvenient aside from being meaningless”) but have remained strong. My mother, who is starting another diet and exercise program, talks about little else lately but the moral and health benefits of foods and exercises (she keeps pressing me to work out with her and I flatly refuse because I would NEVER subject myself to the absolute killjoy self-hating suffering attitude that permeates every workout she undertakes). A little while back she mentioned that if I am, indeed, going to break up with my boyfriend, I might want to do something about my appearance if I want to date again.

    BLARGH.

    Thankfully, pets are really really good for you, and I have a faithful and awesome dog, a quirky adorable cat, a pair of cute dwarf frogs and two entertaining and cuddly mice. So, if they each add ten years to my existence, I’ll live to be at least 80 years old, and I’m cool with that.

    Then again, the whole “doing stuff for longevity” bit mostly doesn’t mean squat to me anyway, since my little sister was in such great shape she won the junior olympics in vault, but I still outlived her because she got hit by a car at the ripe old age of 16. So. Yeah. And there are still those coconut crabs and manticores, you know? And I’m hoping to be a folklorist, and most of my studies involve creepy stuff, so you just KNOW when I bite it one day it’s going to be because I accidentally called up some crazy demon a la Evil Dead.

    “What do you mean that incantation was Latin for ‘Oh Zombie Coconut Crab, I taste just like a puppy?’ I thought it was about fat causing cancer… oh, ‘cancer’ means ‘crab?’ well…. crap.”

  31. I love this article. You always seem to be able to express ways to say things that I think but can’t quite articulate. Especially to the well meaning people in my life who think I’ve given up by getting off the diet train.

    It’s so hard for me to articulate why I’m listening to myself this time around, especially when they start using scientific research to bully me. I know I can throw studies back at them, but the bottom line is that I am searching for truth and joy from the inside out, not the other way around.

  32. Well great, now I’m paranoid about cancer and heart disease because I’m too poor to have my bad teeth extracted.

  33. SugarLeigh: What do you mean that incantation was Latin for ‘Oh Zombie Coconut Crab, I taste just like a puppy?’ I thought it was about fat causing cancer… oh, ‘cancer’ means ‘crab?’ well…. crap.”

    Some serious time-release cleverness, that. I read it, got up, got my coffee and toast and was halfway across the kitchen again when I went, “Oh, CANCER! Ha!” Which hm, I feel a little bad about now that I write it.

    I think what I like best about this post is the sensible idea of finding a version of health that works for you. It’s so easy for me to lapse into thinking of health as I’d previously thought (and sometimes still think) of acceptability and beauty… as things out there for me to achieve by means of having some completely different life or being some completely different person. When really, “healthy,” if it’s going to be a useful concept for me at all, will eventually have to be a descriptor of *my* actual life, not some theoretically-perfectly-healthy-person’s ideal life.

  34. I floss religiously because it seems to cut down on the frequency of the terrifying dreams where my teeth turn into styrofoam and fall out.

    But I have to be completely honest, if dieting helped those dreams I would probably do that too. We’ll just add it to the long list of things dieting fails to fix.

  35. I was watching 60 Minutes last Sunday and they were interviewing some of those folks who are on a super-low calorie diet because super-low calorie diets make monkeys live longer

    I realise this has been said many times, but for serious, did they live longer or did it just seem longer? Also, monkeys do make art or pay bills or have jobs or try to make society better or any of the billion and one things humans do every day and need mental and physical energy for, so thanks, but in this case I reject them as a useful experimental model.

    It’s so easy for me to lapse into thinking of health as I’d previously thought (and sometimes still think) of acceptability and beauty… as things out there for me to achieve by means of having some completely different life or being some completely different person. When really, “healthy,” if it’s going to be a useful concept for me at all, will eventually have to be a descriptor of *my* actual life, not some theoretically-perfectly-healthy-person’s ideal life.

    Yes. Exactly this.

  36. Really good point!

    When I was in the diet mindset, I would often put off adopting certain healthy behaviors for “when I’m thin.”

    Like: meditating/yoga, my diet-mind said, “If I’m going to do some exercise, it should either be intense cardio to burn calories or toning in order to burn more calories when sitting.”

    Now: meditating/yoga is enjoyable, good for me and I like it.

    Diet Mind: Food
    I’d like to try to do more vegetarian cooking and ethnic cooking, but I should just have chicken breast or fish and veggies, because that’s the only way to lose weight.

    Now: Chicken/Fish and veggies can be yummy when I want them, but I want to try to eat my locally and ethically and that means more vegetarian/ethnic foods. Also, vegetarian/ethnic food is yummy.

    Its amazing how diet thinking really can paralyze people from doing what is healthy, ethical, and give little to no results, yet still be like gospel to some.

    peace

  37. I’m just wondering, am I allowed to admit that I buy local organic foods if I make sure to say that I use the local organic food to make fatty greasy sugary “junk”, which is to say, stuff we like to eat? Because I do, and I am beginning to feel like I’m betraying the cause of fuck-you cynicism by not buying cheap food in a supermarket. But I fucking HATE supermarkets because they confuse me and are too loud and too bright and also make my favourite small local shops and cafes when they open megamultimarts or whatever they’re called right on the site of the old local hospital because who needs a hospital when you can have another TESCO?

  38. I think part of the fear people have of the idea of doing what makes you feel good *now*, rather than what will theoretically make you feel good at 80, is that they truly believe that what would make them feel good now is indeed doing nothing but sitting on the couch eating dozens of baby donuts. But that’s just not what focusing on feeling good in the short-term means. I don’t feel particularly good, I admit, when I drag myself out of bed at 6 a.m. to exercise. But, by 6:15, when I’m into my workout, I feel really good, and when I feel more calm and energized the rest of the day, I definitely feel good. I don’t exercise so that I can feel good at 80 or so that I can never get sick, but because I’m better able to do the things I need to do during the day (and do them with a somewhat positive attitude) if I exercise in the morning.

    On the other hand, I’ve found that there are things that, while they are enjoyable in the immediate short term, soon make me feel crappy. Even small amounts of caffeine give me heart palpitations and make me uncomfortably wired, so while a big piece of chocolate cake is fun to eat while I’m eating it, half an hour later I’m going to feel awful. For me (and I know a lot of people don’t react this way), sodas made with HFCS, even if they are caffeine-free, make me feel terrible. I just feel a yucky combination of wired but sluggish about half an hour after I drink it. So, I avoid caffeine and I avoid stuff with loads of HFCS, not because it’s abstractly unhealthy or will make me fat, but because my body doesn’t feel good after I eat them in the short term.

    I think we’ve gotten so far off by making “being healthy” into a matter of doing whatever you can to theoretically extend your lifespan, rather than doing what you can to feel good doing the things you need to do right now, today. I think if we did focus on that, so many less people would diet. I still feel tempted to diet at times, then remember how cranky, anxious, headachey, moody, tired, and sluggish it makes me. Even if it were true that I’d live two or three or five years longer if I weighed twenty or thirty pounds less, right now, today, I’d be a worse mother, a worse teacher, a worse partner, a worse friend. When it comes right down to it, to me it seems disturbingly self-centered to put the theoretical possibility of “health” in the future ahead of actually being as healthy–positive, energetic, active, present–as possible today.

    For all I know (although I hope it doesn’t happen), I might get hit by a bus crossing the street tomorrow. I might develop terminal cancer when I’m 40. The world might really end in 2012. Who knows? If all we know for sure is that we’re alive today, it makes sense to me that we’d focus on doing what we can to feel good doing the things we need to do today. And I fail to see how self-starvation in the hope of long-term health benefits is going to help anybody get through their day with more energy, positivity, and awareness.

  39. Whenever people start in with the “it’ll make you live longer” bit I just start chanting “December 12, 2012″ which is, last time I checked, the date the Mayans predicted this age of the world would end.

    Also there’s the whole Nostradamus thing about the last pope and the fall of Rome being imminent, etc.

    If the ravens leave the Tower of London, dude, we’re fucked.

    So either the global zombie apocalypse is going to happen or the evangelicals are right and this really is the end times or global warming is way worse than we thought and the polar bears are going to attack Italy after floating down from the Arctic. In any case, if I’ve got only 4 years left to live? I am not wasting any opportunity for chocolate.

    DRST

  40. Don’t forget the beeeeees!

    Einstein (I think) predicted that when the last honeybee dies, humans will only have 4 years left to live, and bee populations are declining everywhere.

    SO WHY DO I HAVE TO SPEND THIS TIME WRITING A LAB REPORT? *hffff*

  41. It seems like there could be a correlation, especially with class. I’m certain that poor people in this country don’t have the same access to dentistry, leaving them with untreated gum disease and probably leaving them with less education about how to take care of their teeth and gums. Poverty, for a number of reasons (stress, diet, lack of exercise, lack of access to medical treatment), is often strongly correlated with chronic disease.

    This reminds me of an entry a few years ago at One Good Thing — buggydoo.blogspot.com. Flea wrote about how when she was middle class, her dentist always chided her for the state of her sons’ teeth. Once her family fell a few rungs down the economic ladder and she went to a dentist who served a poorer population the staff there was ecstatic about the condition of their teeth. Perceptions!

  42. re: those super calorie-restrictive diets that make people live longer.
    The university at which I am a student and for which I work spent a crapload of money last year trying to recruit people for a study about long-term calorie restriction. They’ve ALREADY published a journal article about how the slowed metabolism they saw in rats that were calorie restricted ISN’T translating into their human studies.
    Huh. (head tilt)
    I wonder if those folks in the study have to continue their calorie restriction diets. It’s a 5-year study.
    Here’s the link to the article they published in our little campus newspaper-dealie:

    http://record.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/12662.html

  43. Flea wrote about how when she was middle class, her dentist always chided her for the state of her sons’ teeth. Once her family fell a few rungs down the economic ladder and she went to a dentist who served a poorer population the staff there was ecstatic about the condition of their teeth. Perceptions!

    Dude, yes. Not to mention, although I’m actually not as skeptical as Fillyjonk on this one, I have been to a dentist who just flat-out tried to scare me into spending money, with no regard to how big or urgent the problems he played up actually were. So I’m definitely skeptical of claims that my teeth/gums are fucked up, period.

    I went to that guy for check-ups and a filling or two over a couple of years. My bf at the time had recommended him as good — he had, after all, done gum surgery on the bf twice, and it wasn’t all that awful.

    Then comes the day when he tells me I need gum surgery, based on that test where they stick a pokey thing between your gums and your teeth, and rate the size of the pocket there between 1 and 5. (The higher number means you’ve got more space between gum and tooth, which is problematic.) They ram that thing down behind my gums so hard I’m almost crying from the pain, and my score on all my back teeth is 4 or 5. OMG YOU NEED GUM SURGERY NOW BEFORE YOUR TEETH FALL OUT! Oh, and P.S., you have a cavity that needs to be filled.

    I had a gut feeling that the gum bit was horseshit, and this dude just made a lot of money on arguably unnecessary gum surgery. So I got a second opinion — from the father of a friend-of-a-friend, who knew I was a student and didn’t want to burden me financially.

    Well. He does the same test, and the way he does it — i.e., not ramming the pokey thing down until it just about comes out the bottom of my jaw — I get 1 or 2 on every tooth. Definitely no need for gum surgery. Furthermore, based on an exam and the same X-Rays the last guy took a few weeks prior (which new guy fought to have sent over so he wouldn’t have to charge me for another set, bless him), THERE WAS NO CAVITY. OTHER DUDE JUST MADE THAT UP. (It’s possible that I had some kind of little divot that had the potential to become a cavity, but new dentist was like, “You have nothing that will require a filling any time soon, period.”)

    So. While I’m perfectly willing to entertain the possibility of a link between gum and heart disease, I am definitely skeptical of what any given dentist tells me. I went to one about 2 years ago who found nothing wrong with my teeth, but zeroed in on my Maryland bridge and was all, “That’s been in there for too long! You have to replace it with something more permanent. Make an appointment!” The bridge is like my secret tests for whether new dentists are mercenary fucks, because I’ve had enough other ones say, “Well, if it’s still holding, don’t worry about it.” So I never went back to her.

    Just started with a new one, who noted that the bridge would have to be replaced someday — but was like, “Look, this is not a high priority, let’s just leave it and see what happens, and when the time comes, we can talk about a proper bridge vs. an implant.” Fair enough. He also told me I needed a filling, and two crowns to replace deteriorating fillings. When I said, “Okay, I promise not to put this off forever, but realistically, how soon do I REALLY need to get the crowns done?” he said, “6 months.”

    And all that means that I’m going to go back within 6 months to get the crowns done, and I’m going to take him seriously if he ever says it’s time to replace the bridge, and I’m going to keep going there and giving him money for cleanings every six months, because HE IS NOT AN ASSHOLE who’s clearly just trying to soak me for as much as possible, as soon as possible.

    So, yeah… that was a VERY long way of saying yes indeed, perception differs. And sometimes, it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual state of your teeth.

  44. although I’m actually not as skeptical as Fillyjonk on this one

    It’s not like I’m generally skeptical of periodontal health! (Ask me another time about orthodonture.) It’s just that the initial reading I did on the gum/heart connection said that the correlation had been found in several small studies but not replicated in several big ones, and proposed a number of explanations for the association not all of which were directly causal.

  45. Ailbhe: Of course! HAES is not about “you must eat crap!” or “you can’t eat crap!” It’s about finding what’s right for you, and not feeling bad about that. Buying everything at a local market sounds *lovely*. My farmer’s markets are closed until spring, and I miss them terribly. I care a lot about local foods, and tend to buy organic when I can. I feel lucky to have access to that, and money to afford it.

    The point is more that enjoying local, organic veggie doesn’t make me “better” than people who enjoy megasupermarkets, or “better” than folks who eat a lot of fast food (hell, I eat a lot of fast food, too). Which you in no way suggested.

  46. Ailbhe, no, this blog is all about dictating exactly what people can eat and ridiculing all other choices. Haven’t you noticed?

  47. Karen, about the public weigh-ins – isn’t your weight health information protected by HIPPA?

    Tell them to go f*ck themselves, they can’t require you to do that.

  48. Rosa: oh, it’s not required, and I’m not participating. It’s a group who have chosen to diet together. Which, normally, I would say is none of my business, however distasteful I might find it.

    But since some of our division works to promote positive body image, healthy habits, and to discourage eating disorders, I find it antithetical to our mission and programs. Since it happens in the middle of a public lounge (why is there a scale there?), I think it’s a bad example for our students. Since the woman leading it is the boss of everyone else in it, I find it morally dubious. I suspect they’re doing a “Biggest Loser” kind of thing (since the woman leading it once asked me if I thought that would be fun). And I don’t like that this is becoming part of our work culture and environment. So, I’m making noise, and I’ve got all the people who work on health issues on my side, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

  49. I think the real question is does Chili’s serve Tofuppies and Sea Kittens? …this sounds a lot like Mr. Stephen Colbert….

    And, this makes me want to really make a committment to mouthwash every day. I can’t floss, it seriously gags and grosses me out simultaneously. But, I have noticed my mouth just isn’t as healthy as it used to be ie. bleeding sometimes when I brush hard, and just a general feeling of uck. Thanks FJ.

  50. If I thought it would result in anything other than more diet talk, I would send this post to my boss, who is now framing her diet talk with concerns for heart health. She knows how I feel about it, so she is trying to cut back, but it really is a compulsion with her. The woman’s almost 70. Why can’t she just enjoy herself!?!

  51. iheartchocolat, I have a Sonicare, and even though I also floss, I’ve noticed that my mouth is so much cleaner using an electric tb. They are def. costly, but if you can fit it in your budget, you might find that it helps.

    As to the whole flossing/heart thing, I think the idea of “it may or may not actually help your heart but it has other benefits and doesn’t weigh (heh) on you” is a really smart way to approach the health effluvia that seems to emanate from every corner. I floss because my teeth don’t get as stained and my gums are less red and inflamed when I do. If it is actually helping my heart, excellent, but it’s not my primary reason for doing it.

    It’s the same reason i don’t eat dairy. Has nothing to do with health/milk is bad/good/weight-loss inducing. I don’t consume dairy, because no one would want to be around me and my…bovine-like emissions if I did. My sis could eat cheese with every meal and be happy. And she’s a doc and tells me that she I “should” drink milk and eat yogurt. Yeah, should means nothing when your body is saying NO.

  52. fillyjonk: But ridiculing ethical consumerism is the Last Acceptable Prejudice!

    (Actually, I feel a lot better now. Perhaps only I could feel guilty for being too ethically consumerist).

  53. But ridiculing ethical consumerism is the Last Acceptable Prejudice!

    Hah!

    Man, I read an article the other day about how redheads are the Last Acceptable Prejudice. I should blog about it, it really makes the ridiculousness of that trope shine through.

  54. Man, I read an article the other day about how redheads are the Last Acceptable Prejudice. I should blog about it, it really makes the ridiculousness of that trope shine through.

    I saw that, and I was so baffled because it didn’t seem to be sarcastic at all and I couldn’t fathom it.

  55. Every time I see a new article about What’s Going To Make Us Live Forever vs What’s Going To Kill Us In Seconds Flat, all I can think of is the scene where Woody Allen’s character is revived after two hundred years in Sleeper. The first thing they do is give him a cigarette and tell him ‘it’s tobacco, it’s the healthiest thing in the world for you!’ and when they read up on the health food store he ran in the seventies, one doctor asks incredulously ‘Had they no deep frying? No hot fudge?’

    Today’s demon is tomorrow’s angel and vice versa…er…not that I really think tobacco is going to be found to be healthy. Still, doing what has clear, immediate positive results today does seem like the smart approach. After all, just think of all those people who gave up all chocolate in a search for health only to find recently that it has heart benefits and mood-stabalizing qualities.

    Of course, next week all that could be found to be Wrong.

    Today blueberries are going to Save Us All, tomorrow it could be Cheetos for all I know. I’ve been eating blueberries for decades because they’re sweet and delicious. I don’t eat Cheetos because I feel bilious after a handful.

    I find I feel much better if I don’t go chasing randomly after every new health trend, but do what feels good now and leave myself open to trying something different if my results change.

  56. From the article FJ linked: In some societies, the term “redhead” is synonymous with hard-headedness, even being mentally challenged. And all this is considered politically correct.

    “Prejudice against redheads is SO BAD that people associate us with DISABLED PEOPLE! Truly redheadphobia is the last acceptable prejudice!

  57. SugarLeigh, I refuse to eat popcorn, corn-on-the-cob, or poppyseed anything unless I have floss with me. I just don’t.

    Kate, I totally hear you on the dentist thing. I first went to my dentist after not going for, like, 4 years, and she said, “So, are you planning to start seeing a dentist – any dentist – regularly? Or is this your once-a-decade shot? Because you have lots of old fillings. Two are loose – see, watch in the mirror, I’ll let you see them move – so I’d LIKE to replace them soon, and keep watch on the rest. But if this is your one shot in a decade, then I’d recommend you replace ALL your 15-20-year-old fillings with new ones. Then I can send you off with a mouth that will last 10 years.”

    I’ve been seeing her twice a year nearly 15 years now … all but one of the old fillings have been replaced, I have two crowns, and a bite guard which I grind down so the crowns have stayed nice :)

  58. Ailbhe, on January 28th, 2009 at 1:47 pm Said:

    I’m just wondering, am I allowed to admit that I buy local organic foods if I make sure to say that I use the local organic food to make fatty greasy sugary “junk”, which is to say, stuff we like to eat? Because I do, and I am beginning to feel like I’m betraying the cause of fuck-you cynicism by not buying cheap food in a supermarket.

    See, the way I see this is if you buy local organic foods, that’s cool. I try to do so when they’re available. But our local farmer’s market is only open on Thursday, and sometimes I have to work or Thursday, so those weeks, I have to go to a regular grocery store. I happen to prefer the smaller, locally owned one, because they have really neat stuff, like brussels sprouts on the stalk, and an olive bar. And some of their produce is local and/or organic.

    If you only buy local organic foods, or go to the small local market where they have organics and act like everyone who doesn’t is a bad evil person who is killing their whole family OMFG! that’s not so cool. Do your thing, but don’t moralize to others that they have to do exactly the same thing right fucking now or the world will end.

    So, sounds like you’re cool.

  59. Ugh, this thread inspired me to make a dentist appointment for the first time in quite a while. Wish me luck.

  60. Me too, LilahMorgan.

    I didn’t have dental coverage for several years. I hope I don’t get scolded too badly. My impacted wisdom teeth (had those out right before the coverage ended) seem to have outdone the World O’ Orthodontia I had as a teen, and I have two teeth that overlap so badly they can’t be flossed.

    Fingers crossed for us both.

  61. bellacoker: “I floss religiously because it seems to cut down on the frequency of the terrifying dreams where my teeth turn into styrofoam and fall out.”

    Seriously? Me too! Well, not with the styrofoam part. But toward the tail end of 7 years without dental coverage, I had nightmares at least once a week of having a rotten tooth just fall right out in the middle of a conversation with someone. Thank goodness that’s over.

  62. I actually like FJ’s post and Courtney’s thoughts on balance.

    I have recently come to the end of a grueling, two-year project of re-building bone in my mouth for two dental implants. In the end, I will pay $12,000 out of my own, insured pocket for the procedures.

    I have never had a cavity. But periodontal disease and heart disease run in my family. (This just in: A troupe of coconut crabs were seen on East Hickory Street in a North Texas town, slaughtering a box of puppies.)

    I floss twice a day. I brush with a NASA-style toothbrush (rocket boosters!) I do “all the right things” to have perfect teeth.

    And yet I have to go to the dentist for scaling and replaning every three months. Because periodontal disease sucks.

    Behaviors might only ensure you so much health, correlations and causations be damned. With all this flossing and brushing and blood-letting dental cleaning, I still might lose all of my pristine, cavity-free teeth.

    Just like I will continue to eat well and exercise and still be killed by a “preventable” heart attack.

    The difference? The size of my ass seems to be a sort of public contract. My ass apparently tells people how well I’m honoring “healthful” behavior dogmas. And breaking this contract means my “bosses” in the public can shame me, discriminate against me and even deny me competent, compassionate healthcare.

    Not one person or dental worker has ever behaved that way.

  63. “Today’s demon is tomorrow’s angel and vice versa”

    This was illustrated most hilariously in an issue of _Eating Well_ from back in the early nineties, which featured an article on making low-fat ice cream with–

    wait for it! –

    Marshmallow Fluff!! (Because it’s fat-free.) I laughed myself boneless at the junk food of the 70s becoming the health food of the 90s.

  64. All you people with your wisdom tooth problems and dental surgeries are raising my health insurance premiums, because my teeth are straight and my third molars came in just fine. You should change your lifestyles so that you don’t cost me so much.

    (Actually, my ARE straight with the third molars, but I am so prone to cavities that I have to floss religiously because otherwise I’ll need MORE fillings! So prone that I’ve already had one root canal from a deep cavity. Ugh.)

  65. Ok, I’m nursing a headache, so this is a TINY bit of a tangent, but I have to say that re: the “dieting is unhealthy in the short term, and weight only MIGHT be a contributor to heart disease in the long term” – I have noticed that when I have dieted, I tend to eat WORSE food, nutritionally speaking, than when I’m NOT dieting. Because dieting for me has often meant tons of frozen dinners, which are high in salt and chemicals, and not so high in actual ya know, VITAMINS.

    But when I just eat and don’t worry about it? I cook almost every night. And I cook real food, not “diet” food. Food with actual *gasp* NUTRIENTS. So one more score for the “diets are not good for you” side.

  66. serinlea: Yeah, they say it’s a pretty common dream about feeling out of control. Whatever the cause it’s pretty horrendous.

    Cindy: don’t even joke, that is the town in which I live!!!!

  67. All you people with your wisdom tooth problems and dental surgeries are raising my health insurance premiums, because my teeth are straight and my third molars came in just fine. You should change your lifestyles so that you don’t cost me so much.

    MY wisdom teeth came in just fine, so I don’t see what all you lazy whiners are whining so lazily about!

  68. I’ve never had a cavity, and all I had to do was brush my teeth and go to the dentist every couple of years. Therefore, anyone who’s ever had a cavity must be too stupid to know that they’re supposed to brush their teeth! If they say they do, they are lying. God, you stupid liars, it’s SO EASY.

  69. OMG, FJ, you just blew my mind! I swear to g-d the next time someone tells me everyone could be slim or thin (if only they ate less and exercised more!!), I’m going to quote you.

  70. I had all four wisdom teeth removed in 2002, at the same time. Those suckers were causing so much pain I couldn’t even go to work. And I had to do a soft cold diet which consisted of jello, ice cream and milkshakes. I probably did lose weight with that—so for a few weeks, I didn’t drive up anybody’s health care costs HA! *evilgrin*

    Oh, and I found a recipe that should be the official dessert of SP:

    Jelly-Doughnut Pudding

    3 1/2 cups heavy cream, at room temperature

    1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature

    1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

    8 large eggs

    4 large egg yolks

    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    14 jelly doughnuts, preferably filled with raspberry jam (this would be a great time to use those abortion baby-flavored doughnuts from Krispy Kreme)!

    Butter, for greasing pan.

    1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Fill a kettle with water and place over high heat to bring to a boil. In a large mixing bowl, combine cream, milk, 1 1/2 cups sugar, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. Whisk to blend.

    2. Using a serrated knife, gently slice doughnuts from top to bottom in 1/4-inch slices. Butter a 9-by-12-inch baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Pour about 1/2 inch of the cream mixture into pan. Arrange a layer of sliced doughnuts in pan, overlapping them slightly. Top with another layer, pressing them down slightly to moisten them. Top with a small amount of cream mixture.

    3. Arrange 2 more layers of sliced doughnuts, and pour remaining liquid evenly over top. Press down gently to moisten. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Cover pan tightly with foil, and place in a larger pan. Fill larger pan with boiling water until three-quarters up the side of pudding pan.

    4. Bake for 1 hour 50 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Turn off oven, open door slightly, and leave in oven for an additional 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

    This fat chick would never touch that stuff, but I’d love it if someone else made it and reported how it tasted!

  71. Absolutely, power toothbrushes clean your teeth SO MUCH BETTER than a manual one ever could. Even an inexpensive Braun one is going to be leaps and bounds ahead in performance; the one I’m currently using is a rechargeable one I bought for about $20. I will never, ever go back to a manual.

    As for flossing, I always, always had trouble getting my fingers into my mouth to do it; ironically, my mouth is very small. So I use a Y-shaped doohickey that makes it a helluva lot easier and quicker. The one I use is a GUM Flossmate Floss Holder, and is very cheap.

  72. Oh – she doesn’t diet and neither do I. I told my husband today, “you know what? I’m fat. And that’s okay.” And he hugged me and kissed me and tried to get in my pants. Then we flossed, together. It was AWESOME.

  73. “Fillyjonk- you have a wide audience here, and I would caution you to be careful with your skepticism. People respect your insights and if you’re wrong (and those researchers who have spent years studying this problem are right) you may be encouraging people to disregard health information”

    As my PhD Nursing Professor sister has told me many many times….”Medicine is not an exact science”. Truth be told, all the health information out there is constantly evolving and switching back and forth.

    My mom had a medical book from the 40’s that actually stated in black and white that period-related cramps and pain was all in women’s minds, as were labor pains. Doctor’s used to PRESCRIBE menthol cigarettes for asthmatics as well. I think we would all agree today that cigarettes can pretty much be called Devil Weed from all the causation studies…and just cuz…yea it makes sense that smoking harms at least your lung capacity….especially with the multitudinous amounts of unlisted chemicals added to them.

    I think if you try to change your behavior based on the latest study or research you will find yourself curled up in the fetal position sucking your thumb. The goal for me is to stay in tune with my body’s signals, as many of you fine posters have stated here, as well as finding balance in my life. In regards to my health, that for me means eating foods I like-including fresh fruits and veggies-getting fresh air everyday walking the dog, yoga-like stretching, reading, volunteering, being a momma/wife and engaging in rich and fulfilling relationships with people and matters I care about. If that makes me immoral or somehow less valuable as a human being because I don’t stay up on the latest and greatest health suggestions..FEH.

  74. RE: the sexiness of flossing

    So, wait. According to Herbal Essences, I should orgasm when I was my hair. According to Sarah Haskins (and Mr Clean, ooooh he’s so big and strong!), I should orgasm when I’m cleaning. Now I am also missing out on flossing orgasms?

    Good heavens. No wonder women aren’t expected to want sex. All that cleaning and hygiene, and then we’re expected to have at least three more with our partners to prove their virility. It’s gotta be exhausting on our poor vaginas to orgasm so many times a day.

    Also, I’m pissed because why in the HELL am I not having that many orgasms a day?!

    (then maybe I’d be thin and hawt too, everyone knows orgasms burn calories)

  75. Last Acceptable Prejudice = LAP, therefore we must all run lots of laps until we get to the last LAP and then we will truely know which one it is. Except… ovals, like circles never end…

    Now my head is spinning.

  76. You know, speaking of healthy habits, don’t you hate it when you normally have habits that the population at large considers “healthy”, and you engage in said habits because they make you feel better or are something you just do, but EVERYONE in the world assumes it’s because you’re dieting, since you’re fat, so of course you’re trying to lose weight because if you really did “healthy” things, you’d be thin amirite?

    For example, my bf and I don’t drink pop. In addition to trying to avoid sodium benzoate (gives bf migraines) and caffeine (gives me acid reflux), we just don’t like it. Water is just our beverage of choice, no big deal. We’ll order water in a restaurant and people sometimes look at us like, wtf? Or they’re all like, OMG UR DRINKING WATERS GOOD FOR YOU LOLZ. LIke we’re controlling our fat selves for a second today, but we normally drink…I dunno, sugar water? Or liquid cake? (Mmm. Cake.)

    It’s annoying. Also, there was one time we were at a gathering, and our host offered bf some pie, and he said no thank you, because he just didn’t feel like having any. Our host was like, “Are you on a diet?” Bf was like, no, I just don’t feel like pie right now.

    I mean, sweet juicy jesus, can’t a fat man turn down a piece of pie in this town?

  77. Melena, I definitely hear you on that one! I get skim milk in my Starbucks/other coffeehouse drinks due to mild lactose issues, and always feel the urge to announce that I’m not on a diet, I just can’t drink fat-containing milk without gastrointestinal repercussions.

  78. Dude, right? Also, for fuck’s sake people, quit goggling at me because I don’t put sugar in my coffee (decaf, le sigh) or tea. I DON’T LIKE SWEET COFFEE OR TEA GET OVER IT KTHNX.

  79. I am so sick of people talking about being “good” because they skipped dessert. I skip dessert because I’m usually too full from my meal. But if I have room and I want something sweet, why yes, a brownie would be lovely thank you.

    I have so many issues at work with this, because when I cook, I tend to cook very veg-heavy meals. It’s not because I’m trying to lose weight. it’s because meat doesn’t sit well with me, and the meals I prepare myself make me feel better. However, the number of comments I get about how good I am and how impressed people are drive me wild. It’s a stir-fry not the formula for cold fusion. For fuck’s sake.

  80. Beth, I can’t stand that attitude about dessert either. 95% of the time when I’m out to eat, I don’t have dessert because I’m full. The exceptions are birthdays (we bring the cake) and when I go to a buffet, because it’s included in the price, so getting a cup of ice cream or a few cookies or pieces of fudge is worth it. Desserts can be just as expensive as appetizers at ala carte places, so economics plays a part of that too. Not being a good fatty and turning that “bad food” down.

  81. Bree, I totally forgot to mention the fact that dessert can tack on another 6-10 bucks to a meal. I may not worry about saving calories (for what, the Armageddon??), but I def. think about saving money.

  82. I am so sick of people talking about being “good” because they skipped dessert. I skip dessert because I’m usually too full from my meal. But if I have room and I want something sweet, why yes, a brownie would be lovely thank you.

    It’s funny, because we almost never eat dessert here–we’re usually full from dinner, and my husband and I aren’t big on eating late at night–but I’ve decided that I’m going to start doing desserts, as a way to improve our eating habits. (We eat out at sit-down restaurants about twice a year, maybe, so it’s more of an at-home issue for us.) I feel like it would help my son and any other kids we have to be healthier, more “competent” eaters as adults if they regularly have dessert. Many of the people I know with the healthiest attitudes about food grew up in homes where “bad” foods–cakes, ice cream, cookies, etc.–were eaten in moderation on a regular basis.

  83. Is it really worth it to ruin your “now” in the hopes of maybe possibly tacking a few years onto your “later”?

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking for, I don’t know, five years and never figured out how to say succintly.

    (I totally don’t floss, though. For a while I thought up excuses, but it turns out I’m just kinda lazy.)

  84. I come to the whole “longevity = health” thing from a slightly different perspective – I’m pretty certain I’ve at least a 50% chance of having inherited the genetics to gain a long lifespan (three out of my four grandparents lived past ninety). So for me, the notion of adding extra years to my lifespan seems a bit of an own goal, since by the time I reach 65 or 70, I’ll be expected to be a self-funded retiree, and have to make my pathetic amount of superannuation stretch to cover 25 to 30 years. I’d much rather enjoy the fruits of my labours now, while I’m still comparatively young.

    There’s also the other issue of what longevity means in my family: I have at least a 50% chance of spending my declining years in senility (both grandmothers were senile when they died). I live largely inside my own head, so the notion of not being at home there scares me witless. Again, another reason not to be too keen on adding extra years to my life, if it’s not going to be, strictly speaking, *my* life at all.

    Finally, one other thing which keeps me enjoying the life I have now, rather than saving up my enjoyment for “when I’m thin” or “when I’m retired” or “when I’m [insert conditional variable here]” – I figure finding enjoyment in life is a skill, just like so many other things. If you don’t do it often enough, you lose that skill, and become a miserable old coot who isn’t able to be pleased by anything. The world already has an oversupply of these. I don’t need to train to become another.

  85. Meg Thornton: I figure finding enjoyment in life is a skill, just like so many other things.

    This. I know, for various reasons, my ability to enjoy things is kinda broken. Or rather, I’m still trying to break my self-preservation measure of stuffing any recognised feeling of enjoyment deep into obscurity. And part of it’s about breaking down the idea that I don’t deserve to have things that I want.

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