Monday, March 12, 2012

You Gonna Eat That?

So. A study has found that eating a diet rich in red meat (beef, pork or lamb), is riskier than cutting back.

To which most of us say: "What about this is new, precisely?"

The basic upshot is a familiar one - eating meats frequently raises your chances of heart disease, certain cancers, and so on and so on. Make that processed meats, like hot dogs (which somewhat stretch the definition of "meat," I think), and the chances jump even higher.

Of course, the meat industry weighs in with an attempt to debunk the numbers, vegans and vegetarians start crowing about the superiority of their lifestyles, the meat eaters shoot back and... well, you know the drill. But I think that something becomes lost in all of this, and it's a familiar idea. Everything is a trade off.

I, for my part, like meat. I find it tasty. I don't eat a lot of beef because I can't cook it very well, but lamb and pork are within reach of my abysmal culinary skills. And when someone else is doing the cooking, a well-cooked steak is wonderful, in my opinion. Will it shorten my lifespan? Probably. It is worth every forgone minute? Definitely.

I eat the foods that I do because I savor the pleasure of eating them. While I can go without meat when really want to, I find that I loose a lot of the enjoyment of eating, and I miss it, because I don't have anything near at hand to replace it with. Unless I'm traveling - being away from home with things to do is more enjoyable than eating, and so I find it much easier to eat better when I'm on vacation. Because while steaks are good, the British Museum, to name one thing, is MUCH better, and I can have steak when I get home.

But when my life is dull and boring, I good pork chop or lamb stir-fry goes a long way towards livening things up. And so I make the trade-off against my future health. Will I regret it? Maybe. But it's likely that if I get to the point that I'm an invalid, I'll regret a lot of things that I've done, and haven't done. And, in my estimation dying of something other than old age isn't the worst way to go. And I suppose that's what's always struck me as strange about these studies, and the reporting on them. The idea seems to be that we should always want to live as long as possible. Dying is always portrayed as something that you never want to have happen to you. Even when you're looking at spending the rest of days drooling on yourself or in an iron lung. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not in a hurry to start pushing up the daisies. The idea isn't that since I'm going to croak off anyway, I may as well go tomorrow and beat the rush. But I'm not on the bandwagon on doing whatever it takes to live a few more months or even years. Life's been good to me, but I don't need it to last forever.

And quite honestly, it seems that relatively few of us do. Okay, so I'm not risking shortening my life in return for a bigger paycheck, an adrenaline rush, being of service to my fellow man or for God, President and Country. Running an increased chance of not living to see your next birthday for those reasons seems somehow more acceptable than just because you like the taste of something. And that's okay - to each their own. And so if more people abandon meat to squeeze some more years out of life - well, that just makes savoring meals that much cheaper.

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