Facing the side effects of sheltering in place

“Unfortunately, my social distancing practices did not include my refrigerator.”

— Overheard at the doctor’s office

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Hindsight is 20-20, but somebody’s timing on this pandemic thing was way off. Cooler temps lately are hinting that Fall is near which means Christmas will be here before we can find a mask to fit Santa and eight tiny reindeer.

It also means that I am ill-prepared for the holidays; a time that is very difficult for me without a virus, be it novel or run-of-the-mill. It’s not the holiday decorating. It’s not even Christmas shopping. It’s holiday meals. I love to eat and holiday food is nothing short of heavenly.

Not so divine are the significant side effects of coming off the summer season way behind in my healthy eating and exercise habits after being confined to home and the gym being closed. The timing was terrible because, at a time when I’m typically a few pounds lighter and dreaming of drumsticks and delightful desserts ahead, my annual checkup is coming up next week. I fear the report may not be pretty and that some new dieting habits will be forthcoming.

Habits, or so I once read, are easily modified in less than two weeks. Set goals for a new behavior to eat less and eat healthily, endure short-term pain while your body adjusts, (no pain—no gain), and the new way of eating becomes a new habit. I just want to know one thing. Who determined that eating is a bad habit?

And that word diet: it has a bad connotation. Maybe it’s just me, but I never could make one work. I don’t understand calories, carbs, sugars, and all of that label stuff. Besides, who can stay on a diet when there’s leftover banana pudding in the refrigerator. I’m just not one to make small talk at Thanksgiving dinner like, “Can you believe this dessert has only four grams of sugar?” I’m the one declaring, “Wow, that pecan pie was outstanding. I don’t know about you, but I’m going back for seconds.”

Hopefully my checkup will be better than the time new dietary habits called for cutting down on salt and something called MSG. Trying to exercise more caution in what I ate, the very next time I was dining out, I asked the waitress if their menu items included MSG.

“One moment,” she replied. “I’ll find out.” She was back in a flash to report, “The cook sends his sincere apologies that we do not have MSG but says he will attempt to locate some and have it on the menu soon.”

Then there was also the time a nutritionist tried to explain healthy to me. “Things that should be avoided for a long and healthy life,” she said, “include nitrites, MSG (there it is again), tyramine and phenylethlylamine. I had no issues with eliminating that last one, I’m not eating anything I can’t pronounce. That’s one more reason why I don’t read labels.

“What is tyramine?” I asked. “Produced by fermentation,” she said. “Foods that are aged, smoked, fermented, or marinated plus chocolate, most cheese, Chinese foods such as soy sauce …”

“Hold it right there,” I interrupted. “You lost me at chocolate and cheese. Not going to happen.” I had already learned enough to understand that healthy eating doesn’t necessarily enable you to live longer; life just seems longer having to eat all that boring, tasteless food. I left and went straight to the burger joint. “Double meat and cheese all the way,” I boldly proclaimed at the counter, “with jalapenos and a chocolate shake.”

I know healthy eating is wise, but for me, eating is one of life’s heavenly little pleasures—which reminds me of the story about the married couple that arrived in heaven on the same day. St. Peter was showing them around pointing out, “Here is your cottage, you’ll enjoy the lush gardens with every form of year-round fruit, the golf course is next door, and down the road is your own private tropical beach.”

Surveying the surroundings, the old gentleman said slowly to his spouse of many years, “See how nice this is. Just think, if you hadn’t been feeding us that awful-tasting healthy stuff all these years, we could have been here a long time ago.”

Maybe I’ll share that one with my doctor.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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