Lean, Clean Dean

Evidently, I lucked into good health, due in part to an advantageous genotype and salubrious development that have provided me with innate and learned abilities to be somewhat diligent in my diet, exercise, and hygiene. I don’t have chronic medical afflictions (well, since I moved to the US Mid-Atlantic from the Pacific Northwest I’ve suffered from a persistent mild nasal congestion). I grew up drinking fluoridated water and eating a relatively healthy diet. In my early teens (due to the influence of a certain aunt) I read the book Sugar Blues by William Dufty and wrote sweets out of my life for many years. I still don’t consume much sugary food, although I do live a little – occasional sweet pastries, ice cream, holiday cookies and pie, gourmet sodas.

I’ve always been somewhat active, often taking long walks around town, and enjoying frequent day hikes in the woods and mountains. For years, winter’s end triggered a season of multi-day backpacking excursions, usually in the Olympics or Cascades. However, I am not athletic. As a nerd I was picked on in PE class and school hallways by the jocks and cowboys, from sixth grade through high school. Consequently, I have avoided all team sports, and just being inside a sports facility, whether stadium, fitness center, or simple gym, provokes a strong sense of alienation. My fitness activities are thus essentially solo, or in groups of essentially solo participants. I strive to do some basic calisthenics five days a week, and in Germany I biked to work. Even when hiking in a group, I seek to lose myself in the experience – becoming “one in nature” rather than “one with nature”. For a while I attempted to pursue rock climbing. I enjoyed the technical challenge and the exhilaration, but the constant attentiveness required is incompatible with what I actually seek from outdoor activities.

For my diet, I strive to eat nutrient-dense foods whose production and transport have minimal negative environmental impacts (I’ve got to do a bit more studying on this but I do fancy that buying at the local farmers’ market is usually better from a carbon footprint standpoint, and is certainly great from a variety standpoint). Unfortunately, what I most enjoy eating, beef with potatoes and gravy, doesn’t really align with my aspiration. I thus must consciously strive to eat mainly plants, although I dislike most fruits and vegetables. This situation has required me to become a worthy cook. Worthy cookery demands substantial preparation and cleanup in order to convert ingredients I don’t crave into meals I look forward to eating. For day-to-day dining my approach is to produce a freezerful of tasty meat sauce portions, using those as a seasoning for carbs and vegetables in a stew-like concoction I call “glop”, in honor of my wife’s family’s dining traditions. Don’t bother me with fad diets such as Atkins and Paleo; instead, I practice a form of intermittent fasting. I exploit sources like Cook’s Illustrated, Good Eats, and Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking to guide my choice of ingredients and techniques. I feel somewhat guilty that I don’t buy organic as often as I might.

I floss, but didn’t use to. I usually take the stairs rather than the elevator. When walking to the store, I often take the long way rather than the more direct route. I may be slightly overweight (I also quite enjoy Oregon-style craft ales), nevertheless in my fifth decade I feel more fit than I did in my previous four. I continue to increase, on average, the reps and intensity of my exercises, and have even slightly reduced my beer consumption. If only I had started being so prudent in my twenties!