Go Ahead and Make My Day

Those of you who are longtime readers of this blog have followed my getting on the steps bandwagon three years ago. Over the course of seventy years I’ve encountered any number of health bandwagons.

Let’s see. First there was margarine. My mother was raised on a farm. She first switched from butter to margarine during World War II when rationing was enforced. After the war, she stuck with Oleo Margarine as a matter of economics. Margarine was cheaper than butter. By the way margarine had been invented during World War II as a butter substitute. (By the way, that’s World War TWO not World War Eleven or worse, World War Pause!)

But then, sometime later, butter became public health enemy number one. Eventually bacon and eggs—especially egg yolks—landed on the verboten list. Thus it happened that some people—generally hair-shirt wearing individuals—changed their preferred breakfast menu to scrambled egg whites with a side of tomatoes and unbuttered toast. Unbuttered toast? Are you kidding? Count me out. I can think of few things closer to food for the gods than Dave’s Killer Bread toasted and slathered with a pat of butter and a dollop of Lingonberry Jam.

Generally speaking, people don’t go around making fun of those unbuttered toast folks. Well, admittedly, I just DID make fun of them, but I didn’t go so far as to say do you really think that eating egg whites and unbuttered toast will add a day to your longevity? There are probably plenty of egg white only and unbuttered toast studies out there —if the scientists involved can convince enough people to live that way for the time necessary to actually have a well-funded study, one you and I most likely paid for, by the way. The point is, no such study comes readily to hand as I sit here typing.

We’ve all lived through the red wine bad/red wine good arguments. That was followed by coffee good/coffee bad/coffee good ad infinitum. I believe the last I heard coffee was good again because it reduced the likelihood of developing Alzheimers. Bear in mind, however, that one person’s study cancels out another person’s study. So here’s what I’m doing. I drink coffee. I drink red wine. I’m all right so far.

And then there was the Low-Fat “gospel” which caused a whole generation of people to buy nothing but low fat milk—which, it turns out, has very little nutritional value. Not to mention the low carb gospel which suggested that every carb in the universe was bad news. Those people haven’t eaten Dave’s Killer Bread, either. And wait, I just heard that there’s no scientific evidence that Probiotics are good for your internal organs. But hey, if you love your Active, have at it. So I drink whole milk. I never got on the Active bandwagon, so I’m good there.

Some of you, suspecting that a rant may be in the offing, are waiting for the other shoe to fall, and here it is. This week I came across the following snarky headline from the NY Post:

Sorry, fitness fanatics: Your 10,000-step goal is bogus

The article in question explained that it was based on a study of 16,741 “older women” ages 62 to 101. A total of 504 of them died during the course of the four year study which was conducted by a Harvard researcher named I-Min Lee. I suspect Ms. Lee or maybe Dr. Lee is in a somewhat younger age bracket and regards anyone over 60 as elderly. I also envision her of being all of five foot nothing and clocking in a ninety-three pounds soaking wet. In her youthful wisdom she concluded that less than half of those 10,000 steps are actually necessary. She claimed that the people who did 4400 steps daily had the best longevity outcomes, and that notching more than 7,500 might actually be detrimental to your health. Well, let’s see, if you do 6400 more steps a day, I suppose that gives you that many more chances of tripping and falling, and you don’t need to read an expensive Harvard-based study to understand that falls are bad for “elderly” women!

The study was evidently inspired by the researcher’s realization that the “conventional wisdom” as to the value of those 10,000 steps goal grew out of an ad campaign related to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Well folks, I already knew about that factoid long before today’s “Bogus” headline! In fact, the real reason that ad campaign limited participants to 10,000 steps is this: The pedometer the Japanese invented for people to use while counting their steps only went up to 10,000. Beyond 10,000 it rolled right back to zero which is, if you’ll pardon my saying so, a bit discouraging and maybe even counter-productive..

So however that 10,000 number came into being—lucky or not; bogus or not—it’s gospel for me because it has worked for me. When I moved my game up from 1500 steps a day to 10,000, I weighed 265 pounds and was wearing size 26 pants. I’m at 199.2 as pf this morning. My pants are size sixteen. I had to get my size sixteen rear in gear last night to put in those last 500 steps before the clock struck midnight and my counter rolled back overtook zero.

That 10,000 step number may not be magic, but it translates to a daily walk of 4.8 miles. Before my 71st birthday I never imagined myself as waking close to five miles every single day. But that’s my goal now —making my ten. I don’t CARE where that number came from. I don’t know if walking this way will make me live one day longer or one day less. I DON’T CARE! It makes me feel better while I’m doing it. I makes me feel as though I’m accomplishing something—as though I’ve established a goal and I’’m MEETING THAT GOAL.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “damning with faint praise.” It’s something I encounter often—most notably at book signings from people who consider their literary choices to be far more high-brow that mere humdrum mysteries. It generally goes like this: I don’t read murder mysteries, but I’m sure yours are FINE.” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they are!

At that’s Ms. Lee, for you—damning with faint praise. At the end of the article, this researcher who is most likely right in line with those dry toast adherents, allows as how if you want to disregard her advice and notch those extra steps, “more power to you,” she said. The article didn’t quote her as capping that sentence with the words, “Go ahead and make my day,”, but I’m pretty sure I heard them all the same.

And you know what? I don’t care about that, either!

Now I’m going to go walk.

See you when I hit my ten.

24 thoughts on “Go Ahead and Make My Day

  1. I grew up on a farm so we churned our own butter. At least Mom did. She would sit at the kitchen table with the church between her knees and read a magazine while she turned the crank. She said it was the only time she could sit down and still work.

    We bought oleo a few times. It was white and came in a plastic bag that had a button that had yellow food coloring in it. You squeezed the button to release the color and “kneaded” the bag until the oleo was yellow. How many folks remember that?

    You keep walking. It suits you just fine.

  2. I remember stirring that yellow blob into oleo and it was hard work. My Mom would always buy the cheapest available option (she was a child of the depression after all). I am also doing the “steps” thing and recently graduated to walking with trekking poles (my knees are unstable) = when I eat carefully and do my steps I smile after weighing myself each morning. Keep on what you’re doing and keep writing those great book. Jan from Adna, WA

    • And you know that for a couple of years, in the mid-seventies, I lived in Pe Ell. One of my insurance clients lived in Adna. She ran the local Welcome Wagon

  3. Whe I was getting ready to retire from my mostly desk job of 44 years and 8 months I was in pretty poor shape. I weighed closed to 260 lbs, my back hurt, and I thought I’d never feel good again. I retired, the Dr prescribed some physical therapy sessions for the back pain being caused by arthritis, and I read about your starting the 10,000 steps. The physical therapy helped, but I knew once it was over, I’d sit on my behind again and be back to square one. So I decided if you could walk, I could walk. A good friend would walk the Mall with me, we’d do 4 laps on a good day, @4000 steps, I bought an exercise bike that didn’t hurt the back and get the other 6K done on the bike. I lost about 50 lbs. Now almost 4 years later, I’m still getting those 10,000 steps in and on a good week, my average is closer to 16,000. I feel good, even on the days that I just don’t want to look at the bike. So the Drs can research all they want, I’m going to eat butter on my toast, drink one diet soda a day, and bike. Thanks to you for the inspiration!

  4. I love your rants!
    As for 10,000 steps I say if it works for you then go for it. I think if we just get moving that would benefit us all. So go for it 10,000 steps or 4,000 or what ever just move a little and I’ll bet you feel better!

  5. This rant is one of your ‘classics!’ I was laughing out loud by the end and couldn’t wait to share it with my husband. He remembers kneading the oleo – it was ‘his’ job. The number one thing my Oncologist (and every doctor for that matter) emphasized was to EXERCISE! However much or little, do something to get yourself moving! Not only is it beneficial to your health, but it feels good.
    You are to be commended for the example you have set. Thanks for sharing so much of your life, struggles and successes with us!

  6. And didn’t you say that now you can get up, off the floor, without crawling over to the couch?
    Having seen you Before and After, you’ve remade yourself beautifully!
    The closer to whole and fresh, the better, is our food mantra.
    Eat the Killer Bread white you can. Gluten intolerance can happen at any age. ;(

  7. Loved the article. Along with the food no nos etc., came those who eschewed red meat, then meat all together. Several I knew well slipped back into it, but not to the extent of before. Lots of veggies, of course. I think when one exercises, one pays more attention to what they eat. A recent visit to the ENT resulted in his saying my throat showed aging and lack of exercise! Who knew. Whatever it takes to keep you feeling good and writing!! As for those who look down on mysteries, several of those type acquaintances of mine now read them!

  8. Once again, you’ve made my Friday. I look forward to your blog every week. No matter where you take us, the trip is always worth the time.

    Just like your books, I can almost always relate to your blogs. Thank you for always finding the humor and sharing.

  9. Do what you like, like what you do!

    And to Mr/Ms/Mrs/Dr Lee…”Get off my lawn!” (for the unenlightened: reference Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino”)

  10. I had a client who grew up on a farm and he said “IF you could see what egg whites become, you’d never eat them!” YEP.TRUE – egg whites make feathers! Ha Ha!, according to him. So walk as much as you want, and eat what you like!

  11. I had a different take-away from Ms. Lee’s article. I felt she was definitely encouraging folks to get out and move — even as little as 4400 steps a day was good for you and more was just fine. The 10,000 is an arbitrary number for those who want that goal, but the real goal is getting out there and moving your bod every day as much as you are able and you’ll be healthier for it. And I know you are not just walking — you and Bill made some big diet changes too. I have my special likes, I just have to eat less of them than I used to, eggs, butter, bacon, dessert and especially cheese! Moderation.

  12. I am 70 years old. I love red wine , coffee
    scotch steak bacon eggs. My girl friend weighs the perfect weight but never gets to eat a meal without guilt. Yes I am a bit over weight but I am happy when I am 85 I told my dr that I will drink a bottle and smoke A pack a day but I probably won’t but I want to.
    Everyone must do what is best for themselves as everyone is different. I can only say live life as it’s your last day because someday it will be. See you next week have fun .. Jan

  13. It is interesting you should mention Oleo margarine. My Mother was a very good cook. I have taught myself how to cook many things almost as good as she did but one thing eluded me, Popcorn. I love popcorn and have always put butter on it and it just wasn’t the same. A while back it dawned on me that she probably used Oleo margarine. I have since experimented with various brands of margarine but nothing matches the taste of her popcorn. I don’t remember Oleo in a pouch. I remember it in the standard box of cubes like butter and margarine come in today.

    Recently my 72 year old Brother cracked a egg and it had a double yoke. He acted like he won the lottery because he had never got a double yoke egg before. I am 67 and I have come across a dozen or so. I love them and wish I could buy them by the dozen.

    I weighed 240 lbs at my highest. I joined Weight Watchers and also started walking. I lost while 20 lbs before I go tired of WW. I gained back 10 lbs and I also stopped walking.

    I retired at 60 years of age and became a couch potato. I gained some weight and my back and knees started giving me a lot of problems. At 65 years of age I finally decided to join the work force again and instead of office work I picked a job as a janitor working for a company that wanted 16 hours of work done in 8 hours. It just about killed me in the beginning but after a few months, my back and knees stopped bothering me. You won’t find me running or walking fast upstairs but I am in pretty good shape. I also made one BIG change in my diet. I am now single and if I buy a package of 4 pork chops I cook them all and then eat one and put the rest in the refrigerator. Later on I would find myself eating one or more throughout the evening. Not good! Finally I came up with a idea that really helps. I bought a bag of apples and when I want a 2nd pork chop, I make myself eat a apple first and if I still have the munchies then I can eat the pork chop. So far I have never eaten anything but the apple. I told my doctor about my and he suggests it to his patients. If you aren’t hungry enough to eat an apple you aren’t hungry.

    Now I am 67 years old, weigh 200 lbs and have a 35 in waist and walking 5 miles doesn’t bother me. I also switched to a much less active job and the weight doesn’t vary from 200 lbs. Life is good!

    • Martin, my mom bought 100 chickens every year and sold the eggs. She would sit on a little chair by the pails of eggs and hold them up to a light to see if there were blood spots in them. This is called candling. The good eggs would go in a case and if there was one with a double yolk it was set aside for one customer who always bought them. He figured he was getting more for his money. I can’t remember what she charged, but it was probably 50 cents a dozen.

  14. Glad to her that you’re walking and have a goal. Memorial Day weekend I did 5K (3.1) mile event in a little over two hours. I’m training for next year with the hope of finishing closer to one hour. If I can do that with a prosthesis and a walker, you sure can with two good legs! Mark it on your calendar, Saturday of Memorial Day weekend 2020 at Panorama Cit y. Come join me! I’d appreciate the company.

  15. I remember mother telling me about the yellow coloring in margarine. Her dad refused to eat it as he said it was made out of whale blubber. So the challenge went to determine what was right. As do diet and exercise throughout my lifetime. Moderation was stressed, but how I’d that determined. Carry on with what makes life worthwhile. Enjoying the lifestyle of retirement the best. Bless you and your writings for keeping life interesting.

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