How to Be Healthy, Fit, and Have No Friends

June 8, 2012

It just needs a finishing touch: meat.

Have I found that new and improved “me” yet?

As you may remember, a week ago I told you that I was launching, much like a church or a corporation, a new and improved “me.”  A complete “rebranding” if you will.  In other words, I want to get healthy.

I had a plan, or a “vision” (as plans are now referred to).  It started with the humble goal of doing a juice diet for longer than my brother (who broke down after 48 hours and went to McDonald’s.)

So, is the new me a success, or did we have a failure to launch?  Here’s what I’ve learned, ten days into this “health” thing.

Don’t Expect Encouragement

Apparently, it is socially unacceptable for a relatively healthy guy to try to get healthier.  You either have to already be super fit, or you have to be morbidly overweight before you tell friends or acquaintances that you are starting a health plan.  If you are built like my wife or I am, you can expect only one reaction to such an announcement:

“Why are you doing that?  You don’t need to go on a diet.  You’re skinny!”

I think this illustrates a simple fact of nature: every good thing you do will make someone else feel bad because they lack the skills or motivation to do the same thing.  When people say (between fistfuls of french fries) “You don’t need to diet,”  what they really mean is, “Please don’t go on a diet.  It makes me look bad.”

I’ll Take Whatever Motivation I Can Get

Yes, vanity is a completely valid and necessary motivator to stay on a health plan.  I’m not ashamed to admit that.  I mean, running?  Seriously?  Yeah, I’m not running just for my health.  I hate running.  But you have to pick something to do, right?

You’re Super Healthy…and You Have No Friends

No one ever made friends by bringing this to a potluck

I know now that I could never be a vegan.

Not because I think the philosophy is unnecessary.  I could never be a vegan because I am not prepared to be such a giant pain in the ass to all my friends.  Let me explain…

The juice diet was going strong as of the time you were reading this blog on Friday.  Then my wife left for work and reminded me we had a birthday party to go to…at a pizza place.

So there went the juicing.  I didn’t have any meat, and I filled up on salad first.  And I had juice when we got home, because I was hungry two hours later (which is what happens when you completely empty your system.)  But still, being on a strict diet would’ve meant sitting the night out, or being a whiny jerk, trying to make everyone else conform to my desires.

Then the other day, my wife wanted to go on a date.  And in our world that means let’s have dinner together, but not make it ourselves.  And being a health nut seriously limits your options.  It took long enough just to find a place that had a veggie burger.

I quickly realized that eating is a very social activity and virtually every American activity involves eating.  Baseball, the Fourth of July, or going to the beach, it’s all just a vehicle for eating, preferably copious amounts of meat.  So if you’re a vegan, or you have some other crazy weird diet that lets you feel morally superior to everyone, I suggest you just go ahead and renounce your American citizenship and move to Canada, because you can’t possibly have any friends here.

Okay, tell me if you’ve ever tried some super-crazy diet that ostracized you from all your friends.  Or tell me how you balance your social life with your health.

51 responses to How to Be Healthy, Fit, and Have No Friends

  1. The only dietary restrictions I have are that I don’t like to eat bananas or raw tomatoes or liver. And I can (and will) eat pretty much anything (except bananas) without you knowing that I don’t like them.

    Our former small group, however, had someone who was allergic to soy and someone who wouldn’t eat non-ethically-raised poultry. She didn’t care about any other animals (or people who might be practically enslaved to deliver our sugar or coffee or what-have-you). Just chickens. She wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, she’d just ask you prior to the meal if they were “happy chickens” (to which I wish I’d replied – “Nope, they’re dead chickens”), then eat around the meat if they weren’t, but since we were the hosts and wanted to be respectful of our guests, we’d go out of our way to get her “happy” chicken.

    But it was a constant mine field because soy is in EVERYTHING and chicken’s pretty much a go-to kind of meal. It was especially frustrating when I’d spend $30 on ethically-raised chicken, then at the last minute everyone would cancel that night. That happened on multiple occasions. (This is one of many reasons that this is our _former_ small group.)

    Honestly, I don’t at all mind adjusting to the health/dietary restrictions of a guest in my home (or eating what’s placed in front of me in someone else’s), but it definitely gets my goat when someone makes it seem like they’re better than you for eating differently than you do.

    Fortunately for me, I’m the “whole foods” champion of our MOPS group, so I can look down my nose at all the moms who give their kids processed crap to eat.

    (That was a joke. I really try very hard not to be all judgy about it…but if they ask me, I’m not shy about explaining about all the nasty junk they’re putting into their bodies and their kids’ bodies! Drink whole milk, people! Healthy fat is good for you and you can’t absorb the calcium in milk without vitamin A – which is fat soluble…so if you take all the fat out, then you don’t absorb the Vitamin A, which means you don’t get the calcium either. Vitamin D is also fat-soluble. So non-fat milk is basically just bad-tasting water with more calories. And whole grains! Just do it! It’s better for you! And don’t get me started on food dyes or artificial sweeteners! And DEFINITELY don’t give them to my son! Not even a little! Yes it does hurt! You’re not there with him for the next two days while it gets out of his system!)

    (sorry…it’s 5:40 and I’ve been at work for four hours and will stay here for four more just watching telemetry come in from a spacecraft. It’s pretty boring and I’m pretty tired.)

    • Whole milk is cool but watch out for that raw milk business.

      • There are far fewer instances of illness or death caused by raw milk than by pasteurized, homogenized milk from cows shot up with antibiotics and hormones, fed a diet of grains and kept in cramped stalls. Raw milk is safe, and has far more nutrients than the junk one buys in the grocery store.

        Just because the government says something, doesn’t make it true. And the government scare-mongers and their SWAT teams who raid raw milk dairies are wrong …. they are acting only to protect the interest of commercial dairies against the competition from small, raw milk dairies.

        • I’m not going to go into it much so as not to hijack this thread, but I am going to say that pasteurization was invented for reasons that do not involve industrial farming or government mind control. (Brucellosis, listeria, and mycobacterial infections are just a few.)

          And please spare me the “jackbooted thugs from the government” paranoia–once upon a time, public health was something people actually cared about and voted for, believe it or not.

          • It’s not paranoia if it is really happening:

            And even government data shows raw milk is safe:

            And I have done the research. Raw milk is safe when obtained from responsible dairies Further, we should have the FREEDOM to CHOOSE FOR OURSELVES if we wish to purchase and consume raw milk if we so desire without the government telling us otherwise … especially not at gun point.

          • Lissa–

            I’m just going to say that I’m sure you’re a fine person in “real life” and that I wish you no ill will. However, unless you’re getting the milk from your own animal, I still consider this a very risky practice and I can’t in any way condone it. Sorry.

            As to whether or not the government is overinvolved, I think of it along the same lines as helmet laws–a guy may think it’s his “right” to ride a motorcycle without a helmet and that he’s “not hurting anyone else”. Well, when he gets into a wreck and winds up on life support for months on end, that expense gets passed on to me, the taxpayer. As such, I think it’s okay for the government to try to protect me from having to pay too much for other peoples’ recklessness.

            It’s great that you’ve researched this and it seems that you feel pretty safe with what your getting, but not everyone is going to be so careful.

    • I think you touched on something important though – you have to have a certain amount of money to eat truly healthy. Generations ago, obesity was a visual cue of wealth. Now it’s the opposite. A poor family that has to shop at Aldi and eat refined sugar and processed cheese will be fatter than the people who are able to spend $30 on chicken, just for the sake of their conscience. :)

      And I love how people are all protective about chickens, but they don’t give two craps about the people.

      • You nailed it here Matt. In the U.S. it is very costly to be a healthy eater. Down here in the developing nation it is a little cheaper. My raw milk comes cow belly warm and in a 2 liter Coke bottle. Many of the cheapest foods are less or un processed. We buy from neighbors and farmers because if we didn’t we would be hungry. BTW I have a whole flock of free ranging chickens in my yard everyday.

        • Are they happy chickens, Ken?

        • A house on our highway started free ranging chickens a year or two ago. The chickens, however, are rather literal with their interpretation of free ranging and portions of their flock are living in at least 3 yards in the area. :>

      • I am going to respectfully disagree about cost vs. eating healthy. What Americans like to do is have convenience, and that you’ll pay for. They’ll blow $15 on pizza and complain about the cost of asparagus.

        I eat very healthy and I spend a lot of time doing it. Just remember that farmer’s markets are your friend. I pass 5 of them on the way to church. I can buy grass feed beef and pork, free range chicken, eggs and veggies for the same process as the supermarket.

      • We’ve found a way to get ethically-raised meats for about what we’d pay in the store (by buying six months worth of stuff at a time), so it’s not as big a deal anymore. But like you said…the priorities were painful to me at times.

        My general rule of “doing good through my purchasing choices” is a) take care of my family first (so I’ll spend a little extra on organic and antibiotic/hormone free stuff when I can afford it – the flip side of that is that we’re also _growing_ our own which costs _WAY_ less than even conventionally-grown produce in stores), b) purchase locally (helps my neighbors), c) purchase fair-trade/ensure ethical treatment of the humans involved, and only then will I d) worry about how the animals are treated. People over poultry.

        Another 1st-world conundrum for you: do I give homeless people the food that I eat (whole foods – ingredients instead of prepackaged stuff) or do I give them the processed crap that they ask for? They want meals with a pop-top because it’s easier, never mind what it does to their health which I then I have to pay for with my tax dollars. In the 3rd world, beggars would be THRILLED with a bag of rice. Beggars here wouldn’t know what to do with it and would likely be resentful of you for even offering it to them.

        But if I were somehow thrust into the situation of needing assistance, _I_ would want the bag of rice and other whole ingredients. So do I “do unto others,” or do I do what’s on the list from the food pantry?

        • That’s a toughie. Most of the food pantries ask for the packaged stuff because it’s more shelf-stable. It’s unfortunate.

          • I posed that question on a “mommy blog” one time (literally asking “can beggars be choosers?”) and got answers ranging from “you helicopter parent, take your children out of their bubble and start living in the real world” to “give what _you_ have/use” to “give what they ask for/what you can get for free/cheap” to “just give money because then it’s not your responsibility what the food pantry buys.”

            There’s very little more shelf-stable than a bag of rice and a bag of dried beans, but someone who has a blog and is homeless (?) practically yelled at me in a comment about how inconvenient it was for him to have to cook something, so OF COURSE I should get (microwavable) pop-top stuff. Because homeless people in America apparently have greater access to microwaves than they do a pot of boiling water. I just don’t understand.

  2. Good luck with the juicing. I’m replacing one meal each day with juice. Do you have recipes?

    • That seems like a good way to ease into juicing, rather than going 100% and then quitting when you hit an (inevitable) bump in the road. Good idea!

    • Right now, my favorite is (I make it in bulk – a pitcher at a time) a few oranges, apples, a bag of frozen mango chunks, 2 pounds of carrots and a couple of sweet potatoes. Don’t like the green stuff – celery, spinach, cucumbers. Maybe toss in a box of strawberries or blueberries.

  3. Who says Canadians are any more accepting? 😛 They aren’t, really(I am one).

    Why not explain to these not-so-bright friends that a diet isn’t necessarily there just to lose weight? It’s about being more fit, feeling better in general, and maybe gaining some muscle.

    Anyway, I do think eating healthy is important, I don’t think it’s necessarily better to follow a “vegan diet” or any other diet. I’m not so rigid about my eating choices. You’ve got to break sometimes and enjoy dinner with friends and family, even if that means just making a lesser-of-two-evils approach to the menu.

  4. I started eating a diet consisting (mostly) only the foods humans are meant to eat – that is, what we ate before becoming an agricultural and industrial society. I eat no grains, sugars, very little fruit and only in-season, no root vegetables. I eat lots of colorful veggies, fish and animal protein and make sure that the majority of my caloric intake comes from natural fats and oils.

    The trendy names for this way of eating are “primal” or “paleo” but I just call it God’s plan for us.

    When eating with others – work lunches, family gatherings, parties, etc – it can become tiresome explaining how all starches, grains, carbs and the like break down into sugar, which causes the pancreas to release insulin, which causes the body to store fat as well as increasing inflammation and bad cholesterol which leads to heart disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and on and on. No one want to know that their beloved pasta, bread, rice and potatoes are making them sick. Ignorance is bliss.

    So I just eat what I know to be healthy, avoid the rest and carry on. I owe no one an explanation. I just let the loss of 35 pounds speak for itself.

    • Sounds a bit like the caveman diet my friend was doing, but yours sounds tougher. With him, it’s a simple rule. Whatever portion of meat he eats, he must eat an equal portion of vegetables.

      • It’s probably about the same … I don’t eat anything I can’t kill, milk or pick (hunt and gather). I don’t worry about proportions except to make sure I get plenty of good fats.

        • Lisa, are you doing the “GAPS” diet?
          Why no root veggies?
          What about sprouted grains, like Ezekiel bread?

  5. Meh. I’ve never tried any crazy diets (I like food too much) and I don’t have much of a social life–so, no one to alienate anyway. It’s a win-win.

  6. I don’t do crazy diet plans, at least not to lose weight. However, I did feel God leading me to do a “Daniel fast” to detox on sugar and to pray for my dad’s and brother’s salvation. The only problem was that part of the fast occurred during Thanksgiving while we were visiting my family. I tried not to be a pain and brought food with me AND explained it as best I could before we started. However, he was definitely annoyed with me and the timing, especially when I told him that I was trying to be obedient to what God was calling me to do.
    Oh, and I decided in college to be a vegetarian just to see if I could. And to save money on meat. And to be able to eat more ice cream. When I came home that summer, my decisions was NOT appreciated by my dad. BTW, I could definitely be a vegetarian, though not a vegan.

  7. Hannah (culture connoisseur) June 8, 2012 at 8:38 am

    As I mentioned in last Friday’s post, we went vegan for a month and then settled on being vegetarians. But we agreed that when out with friends we eat whatever we are served or whatever is available. People know what lifestyle choice we have chosen, but never feel obligated to cater to that…which I’m sure they appreciate. And I feel good knowing that I make the right choices wherever possible, and knowing that eating meet 15-20% of the time is still a great improvement and wonderful lifestyle choice compared with those who eat it on a regular basis.

    I also think that this kind of “diet” has inspired a lot of our friends because they recognize that you don’t have to be some hard-core veggie legalist to be a vegetarian. You can go plant based because you care about your health and still enjoy a gourmet steak from time to time. You can still experience life (and so much about enjoying life is enjoying good food with good people!)

    I think you can have your eggplant and eat it too…so to speak. :)

    • Love that – have your eggplant and eat it too. :) I think you hit the right balance. Kind of like being a Christian, but surprising your non-Christian acquaintances by not being all weird and in-your-face about it.

  8. I personally disagree with the first statement. I mean, if a person wants to go on a diet, I won’t hold it against them. Looking at my own belly, I would probably do well to lose some pounds – and I’m not even overweight! What irritates me is when people who are in fact quite skinny decide they need to go on diets. Perhaps I’m just biased, being a food lover.

    Case in point: a member of my youth group (yes, I’m that young) is quite skinny. She has little body fat. Once she complained that he had a “food baby” because her belly was a little round. Um. It’s healthy to have some body fat. People with that level of concern for self-image irk me when they get like that. On another occasion our church was having a church lunch and there was this delicious cake that made your cholesterol rise just looking at it. I had some. Her mom had some. I think one of her brothers had some. You could tell she wanted one.

    I watched as she eyed the piece of cake on her mother’s play contemplatively and anxiously. Her face said “I want that cake, but…” I think she was concerned it might ruin her perfectly delicate diet. And I was essentially thinking to myself, “Girl you have the body that women dream of having. One piece of cake won’t kill you.” She did eventually give in and have cake, but there was an uneasiness I recall.

    I suppose it bothers me when people in impeccable shape limit themselves unnecessarily. (There are a lot of I’s in this comment o.O)

    • Thanks for the comment, Shawn! But your last statement, “it bothers me when people in impeccable shape limit themselves unnecessarily” is exactly what I’m talking about. :) Your friend is in good shape. She can have a piece of cake if she wants, but she feels compelled to not. In the same way, I’m in pretty decent shape, and it baffles people when healthy people limit themselves unnecessarily. I could go ten more years without watching my diet, and I’d be fine. So a diet is unnecessary. But I feel compelled to limit myself.

      • skinny does NOT equal healthy! I think Shawn’s point is the obsessive nature of young women and girls to be un-naturally thin, to the point of death.

        • Basically. I’ve never really liked the contemporary demand for women to be rail thin. (I’m a big eater so I don’t think I could date/marry such a gal. I need someone who isn’t afraid of food, lol.)

  9. The moralizing here is the problem, not the diet. Your assumptions about what constitutes “healthy” are coming from a place of economic privilege and access to trendy information (notice how the trends change constantly — a sure sign that no one really knows what the hell they’re doing). I have a lot of vegan friends, gluten-free friends, and super healthy friends. I myself am a fat, exercise-avoidant foodie who enthusiastically eats anything that isn’t processed. We all get along fine because we don’t make assumptions about why someone is doing something to “get healthy” (hence no need to exclaim “you don’t need to go on a diet!” — no one announces that they’re on a food plan in the first place). Quite contrary to what you assume, people protesting your newfound ardor for the latest dietary restrictions aren’t guilty about their own choices, they may simply be expressing their dismay at what a pain in the ass you’re likely to become. As, apparently, you have become. Thank God you have enough self-awareness to realize how indulgent and narcissistic people can get when they attempt Salvation Through Food Choices.

  10. Aha – this is where the power of Ruby Tuesday comes in. The all you can eat salad bar is perfecto for situations like this!

  11. As I said before, I was a lot like you until I was 41, then skinny and I parted ways.

    I go to lots of functions where I don’t bring my own food. I control that pretty well at home and by preparing my lunches and snacks for work.

    I eat out on average 2 meals a week, and that is where I need to be more vigilant. I research the restaurants I go to make the best choices that I can.

    Parties and events are tougher, but again, armed with some nutritional info for hotdogs, burgers, and macaroni salad, I do the best I can to make good choices.

    So yeah, now that I have lost 65 pounds, people want to know when I can eat a whole pizza, and the answer is never.

    I still eat some of the bad choices, just less of them.

    Good luck with your running. I hated it to, but now I am an addict and went from walking a mile a few times a week to clocking in 20 miles per week at about 7.5 miles per hour. I run races to stay motivated.

    Good luck – I promise you it will all pay dividends later on in life.

  12. Matt, your comment about not being able to be a vegan because you’d (in essence) lose your friends had me chuckling, as so many of your columns do. (And this one, like so many others, wound up on my Facebook page.)

    I went mostly vegan/vegetarian at the beginning of this year in yet another attempt to lose weight and improve my health, and I take my figurative hat off to “true” vegans, since even following that route about 90-95% of the time is something of a challenge. As the year has progressed I’ve become a little less rigid and now eat meat once or twice a week. Dining out in particular is especially challenging for a vegan, as you noticed – practically impossible to have anything but a salad with no cheese or dressing added if you want to remain true to that conviction, unless you end up at a vegan restaurant, and I am both pleased and interested to see that their number is increasing. Good luck to you as you find your way through this complex maze!

  13. Good Job Matt! If you haven’t already, watch Food Matters and Fork over Knife to keep you inspired.
    I am so whiny about getting healthy – it’s hhhhaaaararrrrrrddddd. But I now realize as I walk throught the grocery store, I am surrounded by poison. Crazy right?
    Plus, you have shared about starting a family, someday, better to get your habits in line than try to retrain the whole family later (as we are in my house. Again, haaarrrrddd.)
    Best Wishes!

    • I tried watching Food Matters, but I loved Food Inc. I felt the latter was eye-opening, while the former was quite a lot of preaching at me. And I know what they’re trying to say, but at some point, you just have to pick your poison. :)

  14. I started having some health issues a little over a year ago. One thing that I heard repeatedly that would help me, besides medication for the rest of my life, was the vegan diet. That will throw your cowboy for a loop! It’s hard. No one understands. My family sabotages me on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it pisses me off. It’s helpful that I now live in Colorado. There are lots of health nuts here! :) Good luck on your healthy journey with you, yourself, and…well…you…

  15. Trust me, I know exactly how you feel. I am allergic to gluten (wheat, barley, rye) and lactose intolerant. I’m a senior in hs and I found out three years ago, so it’s not like I’ve never known what wheat tastes like and I really don’t have the hang of this still. so i I always feel like I’m being a jerk even though I try so hard to be nice to people;it just comes off jerkish when, after your Girlscouts leader makes an entire gluten free meal for you, you have to tell her you can’t eat it because all her pots and spoons and plates have residual gluten on them. Or you do what I did and eat it anyway and deal with the weeks of constipation and mood swings and headaches and acne. A lot of times I do the same thing at restaurants where, even when ordering a gluten free dish, it’s probably contaminated, just so I can socialize with friends. So at this point in my life the whole gluten free diet thing isn’t helping nearly as much as it could (I still deal almost daily with moderate symptoms). That first year when we bought all new pots and when I took my lunch everywhere I felt amazing, but I had no social life. At all. Food is such a huge chunk of our lives. But I have figured a few things out that are helpful (and probably are for people on other diets too) and that, if i make more of an effort, will make my life happier too.
    1) Learn how to make delicious equivalents to just about everything. (in your case, healthy equivalents, in mine, gluten free.) Then, when your friends invite you over for dinner, ask them what they’re having and tell them that you’ll bring your own equivalent. You can do this when you meet friends at restaurants too (don’t worry about coming off as a jerk–buy a drink from them or something.)
    2) Your first stabs at cooking for any radical diet are going to suck. Do not be discouraged! Your muffins will be gummy, your burgers dry, and your meatloaf bland. Accept this. Then move on and find a new recipe.
    3) You can’t be afraid of strange ingredients. Usually, the things that taste the closest to “normal” food have strange things in them. (xanthum gum? What?) Health food stores are your best friend.
    4) Never cook two meals. Before you start a new diet, make sure your spouse or family is willing to eat all the strange foods with you. Cooking two meals every night, one for them and one for you, is ridiculous and a waste of money. It will make you more likely to fudge your diet or quit. If they are absolutely unwilling to be helpful, find recipes that you can secretively reproduce according to your diet that they already love and don’t tell them for a while what they’re eating. Then use it as proof that they can and will eat with your diet at dinnertime. You can also make one dish with each meal that you can’t have, if you must. But make it more of a bonus than an integral part of the meal.
    5) Indulge in the things you already *can* have. Try new fruits, eat lots of chips and bean dip, or make peanut butter and celery your new favorite snack. Find something you love that you can have on your diet and don’t be afraid to enjoy it. A lot.

  16. Oh, and Matt! You must try spaghetti squash! It’s the most delicious spaghetti alternative ever! You shred up some squash, put some home made marinara on it, and wala! Spaghetti! Not only is it gluten free for me, it’s also healthier for anyone. Ruby Tuesday’s even has it on their low cal list.

  17. Back to your original question… I’m compelled (by my doctor and a desire to outlive my 50s) to avoid sugars and refined carbs, and I’m allergic to apples and spinach (sigh). I’ve been a guest to dinners where the only thing on the table I could eat was the mixed greens salad with the spinach picked out.

    I am very much a “don’t rock the boat” person, so I hate having to be a pain. I try very hard not to draw attention to my dietary restrictions. Sometimes, I just bring something with me that I can munch on in a pinch.

    On the other hand, eating this way has eliminated my headaches, stabilized my blood sugars, lowered my triglycerides, and given me much more energy. And I lost weight.

  18. Each person should choose to eat however they want to eat. No government or liberal/conservative pawn should have a say in the matter. Just shut up and stuff your face and be lucky. My Compassion International children and those like them are just damn happy to be able to have SOMETHING to eat.

    • You make a great point. In all of this, it is so easy to just be negative about all the “toxins” we are being “fed” (as if we don’t have a choice) and forget to be thankful that we have so much in abundance that we have to make choices about how we will not eat too much!

      • Glad my statement was well received. I did not want to sound like a jerk. I have been seeing these chats all over the internet lately, and I am like “Dude just be glad you get to have such choices!!”.

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