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Ice Cream, Guilt and Aging Well

Posted May 03 2010 2:35am

category_bug_journal2.gif Among my favorite foods are lobster; Dungeness crab; big, fat, ripe blackberries; a blue cheese from Spain called Cabrales; maple-infused, grilled salmon; and gorilla salad, my own dinner invention involving 10 to 15 vegetables and fruits held together with a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Standing above them all, however – by magnitudes of pleasure – is ice cream. Occasionally, I indulge in chocolate chip or peanut butter cup but 95 percent of the time, I want plain vanilla with no accoutrements and Haagen Dazs, which must have been invented by a god, is the only one worth having. Its flavor, texture and creaminess surpass all other brands.

For reasons we all know, ice cream should be an occasional indulgence; it's not really good for you. According to the label of that Haagen Dazs vanilla, a pint contains 3.5 servings. Who are they trying to kid? A pint is a serving, all 875 calories of which 525 – 60 percent - are fat calories and half of those are saturated fat.

In my continuing dental saga, for two days last week I was without upper teeth while the new denture was being relined at a lab. In addition to arranging for the avoidance of all human contact during that 48 hour period, I loaded up on food that does not require chewing. There is not much to choose from but soup except – hurray! - ice cream.

I considered two-days of toothlessness a legitimate reason to purchase three pints of Haagen Dazs vanilla – half the number of meals I would eat in those two days - and health be damned. On the first day, I ate a pint for breakfast.

Then guilt set in, as it does every time I eat ice cream, which is probably more often than you do. As I had nothing more intellectually challenging to do that day than pack for my upcoming move to Oregon, I spent some time cogitating on that guilt.

Due to this blog, I read a lot about old age. Most of what is popularly written is about elder health and “aging well,” and I always fall short. According to the writers:

  1. My body and mind will fall apart because I sleep too little - only five, sometimes six hours a night.

  2. Both body and brain will further deteriorate because I get too little exercise, won't join a gym and don't play any sports.

  3. I am in danger of depression because I don't meet the requirement for the “proper” amount of socializing.

  4. My brain will atrophy because I don't stretch it by learning certain recommended new things, a language for example.

  5. I'll develop heart disease because I EAT A LOT OF ICE CREAM.

I feel guilty about one or more these things every day. I feel this guilt so frequently that it is as much a part of my being as loving Ollie the cat. Not that I take any of the recommended steps that would alleviate it.

So I decided, while sorting through clothing, kitchen equipment and other household goods, that I must find a way to rid myself of these uncomfortable daily thoughts, fleeting though they are. And since it is unlikely, as evidenced by all of the above, that I will suddenly (or even gradually) change my health habits, there isn't much else to do but make peace with them. It wasn't difficult to work out; a little logic and common sense help.

  1. I feel fine on five or six hours of sleep a night. My father never slept more than four hours a night and it never occurred to him to worry about it. That seven- or eight-hour recommendation is an average. I need less, so I can forget about that.

  2. I've been getting by without a gym or a sport all my life. I'm just less physically active than some people. I walk for an hour most days and when I wore a pedometer for awhile, I racked up a minimum of two miles a day in my normal routine around the house. I think the “experts” forget to take into account all the usual moving around we do.

  3. If I'm content with the amount of social life I have and don't feel lonely, I doubt depression will descend on me. If it does, I'm pretty sure I will seek out more companionship.

  4. I may not have any interest in learning another language and playing brain games, but as number 2 attests, I live primarily in my mind. It gets plenty of exercise even if I'm not formally involved in soduko.

  5. Since I otherwise easily maintain a well-balanced, healthy diet, undoubtedly ice cream accounts for the unwanted 15 pounds I haul around. So be it. Ice cream is way too large a pleasure to live without and I'll risk the heart problems.

I suspect I'm not alone in the guilt that invades my days. Egged on by a health industry and media that mostly scare the bejesus out of us, I think we spend way too much time thinking about our health and not enjoying what gives us pleasure. Guilt and worry can't be good for us either.

Most of us are probably doing just fine even with our indulgences. And with that in mind, I'm adding ice cream to my shopping list today. Pleasure is important to aging well too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda Chaput: The White Stag of the Mountains

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