Such Long Life


I'm really not complaining here. It'd be sort of problematic to do that, actually, but the truth is, I'm in a good mood. Even with this upcoming week, always hectic and crazy for us (i.e., Holy Week, the week before Easter, which for a church staff person is everything. Also CPAs, I would think. Different, though). I'm not complaining.

But if I were to complain, about something that irritates me, or whatever, I could think of things. Recycling matters lately have irked me. There are a few people in this household (this would be all people, minus me) who don't feel compelled to do their own basic research into recycling protocols. Can you believe it? So it's up to me, digging through the bin, yanking out plastic bags filled with soda cans that aren't completely empty. Picking out foam take-out containers. It goes on and on.

It's just a hassle to sort it. I'm not a Nazi about recycling. I just figure, you're doing it for a reason, not a rule. If there's a question, call it trash and live to recycle another day. A stray piece of plastic that ends up fouling up a load of actual recyclables seems to me much worse than an extra ounce or two in the landfill of something we're uncertain about. That's just me, though.

There's another irritant. They're sort of connected, too.


People would have thrown the hissiest of fits 40 years ago, had someone suddenly forced them to recycle the way we do today without a thought. I'm certain.

This isn't about character, or morality. Just human nature. Like voting, we have to suspend our disbelief and grasp the big picture. It will change nothing if I don't vote. It'll change everything if nobody votes. In the middle is the Big Fuzzy, the notion of personal responsibility in the greater good, the needs of the many and on and on. It's difficult.

Not to mention an annoyance, which is even a bigger obstacle. I remember hearing a runner talk about trying to speed walk, just to see. He spoke of feeling awkward, and the relief he had when he could finally just run.

I understand that completely, because it's how I feel when I can toss something in the garbage, knowing it's appropriate. I feel no remorse for adding to the junkyard that the oceans are becoming, because whatcha gonna do? I appreciate the sentiment I read on graphics: The next time you throw something away, remember--there's no Away. Yup.

But it's a hassle, so we withdraw into our personal bubbles of individuality and absolutely refuse to compost, are you kidding me?

I'm not judging. I'm right with you. I fight the bubble all the time. I get a perverse pleasure, sometimes, in tossing something in the green bin and not the blue one. I call it public disobedience because I'm clever that way.


But you know. We should all eat more leafy green vegetables, but it's a quality of life thing.

We should seriously consider climate change, and that's a doozy. The scenarios are dreadful, but estimates are looking at the really serious stuff showing up in a few centuries, when none of will have perfected immortality, so find some motivation. No judgment there, either. Quality of life again. We like our cars, and we've still got a bunch of combustion engines out there combusting.


So we should probably talk about life. Or about goals in life. Security, financial and personal. Health, always. Mental acuity, an engaged lifestyle, socialization. All things to consider and aim at, hoping to at least knock off a couple.

But the big one is longevity. We can massage that concept a bit, understanding that many people pull the plug when quality goes down the tubes, and others just get miserable as the clock ticks down. Mistakes in the past change the future, or vice-versa (if you read some out-there theoretical physics, Wacky stuff, that quantum world).

And the answers are mostly Don't. Don't smoke, for God's sake, as enjoyable as that is (I think that if more people understand that smokers don't have a nicotine problem (minor stimulant, similar to caffeine, easy for dependency but not monkeys on their backs); they've just become psychologically dependent on sensation, a peculiar one that involves inhaling smoke, or vapor, and then blowing it out. It's intimately tied to breath, and it'll choke off your respiratory system in no time flat.

Most people end up quitting, in really what seems to be the most effective use of federal and local law to discourage a legal but unequivocally bad habit. People react to nicotine withdrawal in various ways, which are stressful and uncomfortable, but not new. Nicotine has a half-life of about an hour in the human system. Smokers, aside from the chain variety, deal with withdrawal several times a day. It's hard but there are worse things. Booze is work. Opiates are a nightmare.

But cigarettes are doable. I watched a video of Dick Van Dyke doing some fun cabaret work at a local LA blues club, very good and polished, and he held a cig while singing some jazz riffs, and he held (and puffed on) a cigarette.

His family said getting him out drinking and into sobriety was much easier than dealing with the cigarettes, Make sense to me, though, although nothing is simple. Hundreds of thouands of smokers quit every month, making us question judgement, commitment, intelligence, ambition. I think these are wrong.

I don't know if Dick Van Dyke, a personal hero, quit for many years, many snuck a few, and maybe now in his 90s he's gone back to his pleasure, More power to him. It's all irrelevant.

So what's the one thing we can do to endure the final days, or it seems so. Scientists have been exploring low-calorie diets for nearly a century, and as this Wired article points out, a recent rigid longitudinal study rare in this field, (among others) has lent some scientific approaches to calorie restriction.

This take away from this article is that provides more detail about the types of dietary tricks we use to maintain our weight at health levels (another discussion). As we've heard for years that simple less food, lower caloric intake, sometimes drastically so, can decrease their risk for cancer and lead to longer, healthier, and more engaged live. There are groups devoted to this.

I think smokers, some of them, are hooked on the jolt of relief; unlike psychotropic drugs, although both nicotine and caffeine fall into that category in minor ways. But the majority are more about the routine, using tobacco to calm their nerves, allowing them to take a few minutes to themselves, stared at by passerbys in horror and disdain.

I have tremendous sympathy. I was actually forced to learn how to smoke, when I was 23, for a play that required (filterless Lucky Strikes) props and realistic smoking. Having never smoked, although I grew up with a chain-smoking, Parliament-preference father, I reluctantly puffed and loved it as soon as I threw up a bunch. It's the perfect prop for an actor, and I learned that lesson quickly.

And then smoked off and on for another 10 years, sporadically often, sometimes steady. I eventually tried an E-cigarette, for all of its worries about the future consequences a slam-dunk alternative to those who can't seem to live without their puffs. E-cigarettes provide the sensation, just not the combustion of smoke and all those nasty things it entails. It's definitely possible that E-cigs would be less than healthy, although I doubt they'll approach cigarettes in that and I definitely won't affect me, at this time of life. It's essentially Harm Reduction, although the threat to young people supposedly attached to the many flavors and thus drawn to tobacco cigarettes seems speculative and not very scientific.

Maybe. This seems unrealistic, given that idea of teenagers changing from a pleasant, smelly, dangerous habit  to one where we feel like we're smoking when we're not. This is a win-win, and our Nanny State is bunching their panties, often a group effort (I assume they have an underwear wadding experience on a regular basis). This sounds like Just say no, the Reagan-era conservative approach to social darwinism. Meh.

I switched the occasional cigarette to the E-variety years ago, now regulated mostly to when I'm involved on the computer. Like an evening cigar, I blow out water vapor, which dissipates in seconds, Again, I accept that this might come back to haunt me. Again, I can't imagine that my alternative would have been to continue cigarettes. Harm reduction. It's a real thing.


This reluctance to change what's necessary is, again, human nature. And some of it is just love and concern. And that's where I get irritated.


I lost some weight in 2007, having spent 15 years in the upper 260s (at my height and build), I should be no less than 183 or so, maybe 190. Anything over is overweight, but slight and meaningless in terms of statistical help.

And then in 2017, trying to eat healthier and avoid sugar, I dropped nearly 45 pounds in 9 months. Not horrible, just a bit down on the average male side. I could lose another 20 and be marginally still in a healthy rage. Just skinny.

And I'm pretty skinny now, after an adult lifetime of obesity. I weight 273 in August 2007, got it down real fast by the end of the year, coming in at 186. It bounced, up into the 190s, then back to the 170s. This was periodically indulgent eating on my part, knowing I could adjust the next day and wipe that gain out.

I never got complacent, although I went through some daily ice cream gluttony, and I stuck at a reasonable weight, right around 193. Hardly worth noticing. I felt good.

And then, in the spring of 2015, i changed my diet and try to cut back on sugar, owing this all to my newly-diagnosed diabetes type 1 in my 17-month-old grandson. We all made changes. I just lost my appetite.

All those high-calorie indulgences kept me there in the 190s, Higher than I liked, hardly worth thinking about, and feeling the status quo and OK. What I'm trying to prove?

But my changes, lurking serious depression, and just the carb starve resulted in a lack of interest, and loss of appetite. Food was less appealing, and with only a vague sense of maybe losing 5-10 pounds, not unwelcome, I ended up at 154 on my next doctor's appointment, which sent the office into a dizzy. Lab tests were done and bizarre. It's not hard for a medical professional with years of reading abstracts and reports in highly technical language and topics to go batshit crazy with speculation, ranging from leukemia to sometimes work.

Just turned out I was starving. I added in calorie-dense foods (i.e., cookies) and raised my weight a bit, finally settling in the upper 160s, where all my clothes fit. I can order jeans from Amazon and know they'll fit. I can pick them off the rack and feel confident.

And I think if I dress up a bit, I look lean and healthy. When I see old friends for the first, they panic and say the same things: You're losing weight again, I roll my eyes and correct them. Same weight, three years. Perfectly healthy.


And still I hear it, the constant nagging to eat more. Mostly family and friends, and most staring at Facebook pictures. You could call me skinny, although I'm smack dab in the middle of the BMI range (problematic too, but at least a general gauge). I'm so far from being underweight that I can't imagine getting there, as if I wanted to, because thin people of a certain age can sometimes seem frail, and I'm not. I took the trash out Sunday night and everything,

(OK, just realized John did the trash Sunday. I was at a late meeting and he took the job, for which I am grateful.)

But there was a new study written up in Wired magazine,

that has bit-definitive data on a huge longitudinal study about decreased calories as a key to healthy, long lives. It's not secret that Americans eat too much; this just sorts of points in the direction of more benefits than fitting into a size 3.

I was overweight my entire adult life, but barely, just a bit flabby. It went up in my early 30, jumping 100 pounds in 4-5 years. I had to adjust to a new body, and my mind wasn't going along. It just went sideways and wandering into dark alleys, where Twinkies and cookie dough hang out in corners, understanding addicts.

There were few answers in this study, mostly that there seemed to be no different in terms of diet. Pick what you can live it. Maybe restrict your calories, if you can discover what those are.

And it's not like I can't reverse course, gain 70 pounds in a year for whatever reason. My health and weight are now under control, barring a medical complications.

I'm better, too. And the irritating factor, the family and friends with their concern, they're "You have to eat something," the implication being that I somehow have reached 60 years without learning how to feed myself. Besides the usual data: Cholesterol in record territories, not even accepted in certain databases because they don't believe it. Blood pressure perfect. Lung capacity amazing. Pulse rate in the athletic range. I walk for exercise but much less than I did.

It might be like advising Jeff Bezos on financial strategy. You may make good points. Bezos is the richest man in the world (aside from Vladimir Putin). He may not need some advice,

As I don't. I welcome good advice, but not when someone, unaware that I've already consumed nearly a daily dose of calories based on healthful eating, nags me about eating a sandwich or a piece of bread or something to keep me from dying because I'm only 60 and it's still a challenge, I guess.

But the study is the main thing. There might be something there, and of course there is. We eat too much, calorie consumption has been raised 500 calories or so daily in the past 30 years (that's equivalent to a pound. A week). We're getting fatter.

I'm not all that excited about living into my 90s, not now, but I'd very much appreciate good  health, and eating less seems to be a good idea, but good luck. I can do it, because I got obsessive about weight control 10 years ago, when it seemed the easiest thing I could change, and then I stumbled onto something that worked.

I've heard it said over the years that losing weight will not change your life, or make you happier. I understand the thinking here. It's complete nonsense, of course.

Weight isn't about health, not primarily. It's about comfort and vanity, with health bringing up the rear, and those two factors will definitely change your life. It just won't get you a better job or more money.

But in a real sense, it just gives you more time, and opportunity, and I eat just fine. Just a little less, because I got used to it. I wish everyone else well, and I approve of fun food indulgences. Just take it easy the next day. But, really, do what you want to be happy. I'll dance on your grave, though.


Chuck SigarsComment