Got a comment from longtime reader, commenter and fellow pilot, Bill Strahan.
…Have you considered looking at or writing about why you pursue what you do in regards to diet, exercise, and health?
For me I consider it a triple point optimization: I want to feel great, I want to perform well, and I want to live a long time. If I have any bias amongst the three, it’s for performance. I enjoy competing physically.
So, would you trade performance (let’s lump sports and sex together) for longevity or vice versa? Healthy, active sex life until 78 at which point you drop dead, or sex until 70, and then just kinda hanging around till 85?
There are many points at which all three points benefit from the same choice. Take hydrogenated oil as an example. Eliminating it will result in longer life, better performance, and better health. But what happens when you’ve taken all the low hanging fruit and what’s left is to either just take what you’re getting, or specifically choose options that will favor one value over another.
Obviously you see where my head is these days. I’m your junior by many years at 44, but I do wonder how a triple point optimization like this resonates with you. And if it does, what are your biases?
It’s an interesting set of interconnected questions. I don’t have any sure answers and even if I did, who’s to say my priorities—and hence answers to the questions—don’t change over time? I turn 51 on Sunday. My dad turned 74 this last Saturday. …He’s spent the last 10 days doing the painting cost estimate for the new San Francisco 49ers Stadium in Santa Clara, and tells me he probably has another 9 or 10 days to go. He keeps active and working, and he has to meticulously go over complex, large project blueprints and specifications (he can bid painting on any project, no matter size & scope, and has been for 40 years). …Don’t get him started an architects who use boilerplate specs. Especially after a couple of drinks around a campfire…
Considering these questions requires in some sense, at least to me, taking a look back at my ancestry. I had the rare privilege of growing up not only with 4 grandparents alive until well into my 30s, but having all of them living in the same city: Reno, NV. And I even had a great grandmother who didn’t die until I was 28! Yea…Depression era…she left home with a guy, and got knocked up young with my grandmother (14 yrs old, if I recall). Of course, in these days today, my great grandfather—whom I never knew—would have been a “molester” felon serving a prison sentence. …And how might that have effected lives & legacies downstream?
But we’re so “progressive.”
At any rate, they were all lovers of life…good food, parties—and most were smokers and drinkers. My maternal grandfather and grandmother were avid fishermen, and deer & bird hunters. My childhood focussed substantially on hunting and fishing trips and often, just day trips…like to Pyramid Lake. And we lived right alongside the Truckee River where my grandfather taught me to tie my own flies and then use them to catch fish. I saw him many times catch dozens of trout on a summer afternoon after a long day in his on-site workshop where, as a lifelong artist—but needing to make a living—did most of the hand painted sign work for Reno’s most prominent casinos. This was back when all the sign work was done by hand.
With the exception of my paternal grandfather—who used to tell me stories of how they, as German soldiers, would make fun of all the Hail Hitler saluting and genuflecting bullshit they had to do—all the other grandparents and the great grandmother were overweight. Not obese, just standard plump for old people in the 60s, 70s and then 80s.
And all five of them lived into their 80s. And for most, they lived pretty active lives until reasonably near the end. (Side note: one of my dad’s grandmothers whom I never met, lived to 96, in Germany). The great grandmother had dementia of a sort not diagnosed, but this happened after she was 80, and she made it to 85.
Not a single one of them darkened the door of a gym their whole lives. Three of them smoked until they died, my paternal grandmother quit early on and my maternal grandfather quit in his mid-60s, but was the first of all of them to die, of leukemia.
And so, what am I to make of all of this?
I’ll tell you what, and it’s the very most important thing: they all loved good real food. They all knew how to source and prepare their own food, did so daily, and some of them hunted & fished it. I don’t have a single recollected image of any of them eating a fast food meal, though I’m sure it happened. Yea, and in particular, my maternal grandmother, she had typical crap in a box around…but they were of a different culture in that, you simply didn’t sit down and go through a bag of chips or crackers.
I think that the eating of real quality food is absolutely the most important thing you can do—especially if you eat crap sometimes.
No matter what else you do in terms of indulgences, addictions, or anything else, make sure to get plenty of high quality, nutrient dense food regularly. Then, feel free to up your game, as many of us do around here.
None of this answers Bill’s questions, of course, but it does give you something to consider when figuring out that’s going to work for you.
For example, what if you just hate everything about the gym? There’s nothing you try that you like. Let’s say that going to the gym and doing the prescribed intense exercises gives you five extra years of life. But if you hate it, are those estimated extra years worth 40, 50, 60 years in the gym 2-3 times per week…doing something you hate?
That’s an analogy for the essence of the tradeoff. It means you have to really think about what your values are and determine a sensible way to pursue them.
In some sense, I just wonder if optimality is rather a fools chase, ending up in diminished returns because you did a lot of stuff you didn’t really enjoy, ending up diminishing you’re life with not much, little or less to show for it.
But eating a lot of good real food? If you don’t want that, then you’re dysfunctional and so who cares? But if you do, then the other things might not be so important as you might believe.