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Doing 'what's good for me'

Published December 11. 2010 09:00AM

There is a stiff wind blowing.

Some might call it only a breeze and welcome its presence.

But on a bike, at least for a novice like me, that breeze adds to the resistance and difficulty.

I chug along, pushing with one foot after the other, keeping an eye on the odometer. When it hits 10 miles, I can stop.

Yes, I know. Ten miles is nothing to bike. But with my breathing problems, every mile is mild torture.

So why do I do it?

Not because I like to suffer. I do it because exercise is good for me.

When I had my last birthday and realized the days I have left are far less than those that passed, I vowed to spend every precious day I am given doing what I want - not what I have to do.

So now, I clean less and play more.

If I'm in the middle of a cleaning project and a friend calls, I abandon what I am doing and go with my friend.

On the other hand, if someone invites me to do something that doesn't sound appealing, I say no. There was a time when I would do it, just to be polite. But now, if I want to make my days count, I know I have to enjoy every hour, every day, as much as possible.

While that philosophy doesn't seem to square with suffering through exercise, it does because healthy habits hopefully will give me more of those precious days.

Mostly, I love physical activity. I do it because I get a high from most kinds of physical activity. I love to dance. Love to kayak. Love to take a nature walk, regardless of the weather.

I like biking but I don't love it. I find it hard to love something that makes me pant like a woman about to give birth.

But I put it in the category of things that are good for me as I plow on, one tedious mile after the other.

When I think about it, I do a lot of things simply because they are good for me. Some of what I do and much of what I eat is done mostly because it's beneficial to my health.

It seems like each week another study comes along that verifies how lifestyle contributes to how long we live and how well we live. We can stay healthy longer, studies prove, by eating the right things and by getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.

The other day at a party we were talking about the question of how we would live life if we thought we only had a short time to live.

Some said they would travel to spend time with family. Some said they would take that exotic vacation they always longed to do.

My answer sounded flippant. I said I would eat more pasta. People laughed. They thought I was joking. But I meant it.

I love pasta in any form - linguine with homemade red sauce sends me into ecstasy. Homemade pesto sauce over pasta is another heavenly treat. Perogies smothered in butter are surely the food of the flavor gods.

But I can't trust myself to eat pasta in moderation so I don't make it at all.

Instead, I eat things that are good for me.

When I analyze my diet, it's amazing how many things I eat only because of health value.

I keep changing what I eat for breakfast, basing my choices on what I read in credible nutrition articles.

When food experts proclaimed the egg was nature's perfect food, I scrambled eggs for breakfast. When we were told to limit eggs because of cholesterol, I gave up eggs and went to a healthy high-fiber, high protein cereal topped with cup of fresh fruit.

I pick a cereal based not on taste but on the label, studying the amount of whole grain, protein and fiber. I pick the one that is best for me rather than the one I like best.

If I could eat anything I wanted without consequences, I would probably eat crullers smothered in peanut butter for breakfast, perogies with onions and butter for lunch and linguine in a tomato-pesto sauce for dinner.

Of course, then I would waddle instead of walk and I probably would have more health problems.

So, until nutritionists and scientists redefine "healthy" to include all of those high-calorie laden favorites of mine, I'll stick to healthy choices.

But if they ever tell me I'm facing a short time to live, I'm going to eat more pasta, followed by chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.

Maybe that's what that sign means when it says: Life is short. Eat dessert first.

The other day I went to lunch with nine other women. Nine ordered simple salads, not the ones loaded with extras. I ordered chipotle chicken and Asiago cheese on a pesto focaccia.

Sometimes, it simply feels good to do what I want rather than what's good for me.

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