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Old friends and new concerns about lifestyle

Now that we have been in Costa Rica for awhile, my husband has had a chance to meet up with many of his old friends. At our age, "old friends" can mean people we have known for two generations or more, and he mentioned the other day was that there is quite a contrast between himself and some of those other men his age. These were all commercial fishermen, who lived lives that were pretty rough and tough by my definition.

Some of them have been lost to drug abuse and AIDS, to be sure. It is always sad when he hears about the early death of someone who was a good friend. And they seem to be startled when they see him, because they see what I see. He remains a dapper, presentable middle-aged man, healthy for his years and energetic to a fault (especially when he drags me around to see his old haunts).

This brings me back to the stunning experience I had when I watched an evening of "My 300-Lb Life" on television some months ago. I was struck by the fact that those who suffer through extreme weight management seem not to know any other way to eat, nor do those who cook for them. It is a morass of ignorance in which, after bariatric surgery, the family is back drinking liter bottles of soda.

I even knew a man once who had overcome the beneficial effects of weight-loss surgery simply by drinking can after can of soda at work. He had blown his stomach back up to at least normal size and had no concern with his eating habits; consequently he was even bigger than when he started the program to lose weight. He used to say that the surgery was a medical hustle and that no one should be fooled into having it.

And what we see here in Costa Rica is the same phenomenon: my husband's old friends, who are sick and weak from a lifetime of bad habits, don't actually know what kind of program to put in place. The restaurants here are full of bottled soda, even sweeter than the same products in the U. S. At that point it hardly matters whether it is high-fructose corn syrup or sugar.

They are products attitude that we see in the cereal commercials in America, where a gang of kids shouts, "We eat what we like!" I am really angry at the ad agency that came up with this. And it takes no notice of the idea that "what we like" can be redefined in your life.

When I look at concentrated sugar, like candy or soft drinks, I see a reading of 300 or more on my blood-sugar monitor. Is it worth it? Some people simply don't think that way. If it tastes good, it is good.

But that is not true. Salad is delicious; get your Romaine lettuce sliced up and add some barbecued chicken, cut up, and make a dressing of mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. Thin the dressing with water and throw on some radishes, sliced avocados or tomatoes, get out the crusty bread, and I defy anyone to come up with something that tastes better. But it won't do you a bit of good if you don't order it, or make it one night for dinner instead of stopping at a burger joint.

The Big Six loom larger in my mind than ever before. I could guarantee that eating what I cook will build health, but I cannot force anyone to eat it. Malcolm X once wrote that he did not eat anything that was not prepared by good Muslim women in his mosque in New York, and he was on the right track. It would be different if America had a food industry with a conscience, but I hope no one is living in that dream world.