If you want to improve your well-being, you’re going to have to raise your awareness about two things:
1. Some of your despicable habits
2. Some facts about health and wellness
Let’s start with the first one. You pick your nose while you drive and you think that nobody sees you. You eat with your mouth open. When somebody objects to your point of view you get flustered, crawl into a fetal position, and call your abuelita.
Most of us do annoying things automatically, and they don’t just annoy others -- they have terrible consequences for us as well. For example, at the end of a perfectly good and satisfying meal you ingest three bowls of ice cream with seventeen spoons of chocolate fudge. You walk into a movie cinema, as a zombie you buy the largest bucket of popcorn there is with extra butter and whipped cream. To flush it down you buy three of the largest available sodas and add a few packets of sugar just in case the whipped cream didn’t make the popcorn sweet enough. You eat it because it’s there, not because you are going to play Chris Christie in a movie.
If you’ve ever tried to talk someone into healthier eating habits, as has happened to me, your companion usually tells you right off the bat that there is no point in giving up meat. Why, you say naively, to which he replies that his great uncle had a cousin who had a friend who ate only iguanas and porcupines while he was wounded in Siberia in WWI, and lived to be 107.
Sometimes, it’s not just individual people who get defensive about eating habits, but entire cities. I recently was invited to give a keynote address at a conference in Sheffield, England. Everyone was exceedingly nice. I had a good feeling about this trip, until I tried to get a bite to eat. I admit that vegans like me can be a pain in the butt to accommodate. I grant you that, and more. But, you would imagine that an entire city would have some veggie friendly eateries. This is what the locals thought anyways.
After a long search, I finally stumbled upon an Italian restaurant which advertised pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian soup. Feeling extremely self-conscious I awkwardly asked if the soup was mainly pasta, or whether there were also beans. I know that fagioli means beans in Italian, but I’ve had traumatic experiences before where I was served only constipating white pasta, so I wanted to be sure. I was reassured. Beans are one of my favorite foods: protein, fiber, and iron, what could be better? I was going to have a green salad with pasta fagioli.
After I ate a horribly overpriced beet salad with one leaf of lettuce and one thin slice of beet, I was anxious to get to my pasta fagioli. I was willing to put up with some white pasta for the beans. My soup finally arrived in a gigantic bowl the size of Texas, only one tenth of which had soup. I started eating, eager to chew some beans. My fear increased the deeper I got into the soup. I was already three quarters into it and I had yet to encounter a single bean. I knew fagioli was the plural of fagiole, which meant that there had to be at least two in my soup. I kept eating until I found one, single, lonely bean at the bottom of the soup. I was willing to risk some white pasta for the reward of some beans, but not for just ONE. Metamucil here I come.
When I shared this with my hosts -- not the whole bean experience, I was way too self-conscious for that, but that I could not find a veggie-friendly restaurant -- they were very defensive and told me in unison that there is a lovely café behind the cathedral, which opens between 10 am and 10 20 am, every other day, in spring, where sometimes they serve brown rice. Wow, thank you! I wish I had known that ahead of time so that I could plan my trip -- and bowl movements -- accordingly.