Thoughts on Eating and Dying

April 22nd, 2005 by

We try to keep up with the latest advice on staying healthy. It isn’t easy. Have you revised your personal food pyramid, based upon the new government guidelines? In addition to the complex new charts, the government has provided a printable worksheet for tracking your daily progress. You get to grade yourself on how well you ate on a given day: great. So-so. Not-so great. I would have added at least one more category here: “don’t even ask.” I wonder how I am supposed to distinguish between a “so so” and a “not so great” day. Clearly, a pig out is “not so great.” But if I order stir-fried tofu along with my spare ribs and General Gau’s chicken, am I allowed an upgrade to “so so”?
As if the intricacies of the new pyramid are not enough, we now have the Journal of the American Medical Association warning us about being too skinny. (OK, I’m not really worried about this one.) In their study of mortality for the year 2000, they found that skinny people and obese people were both at higher risk for dying. They seem to recommend that the best way to assure longevity (or at least for surviving the year) is to get slightly overweight. So perhaps we’d best ratchet up our food pyramid to ensure a few extra calories.
When it comes to calorie counting, I’ve always had trouble figuring out just how much the recommended 8 ounces of grain is, or the 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. How many cups is a banana? Do you have to mash the banana into a measuring cup to come up with an accurate count? Whenever I think this way, I start to worry. And when I worry, I really need a few chips and salsa to calm me down.
By now, you are probably wondering what all this has to do with workers compensation. All of us, every worker in the country, implement a de facto food pyramid every day. We make myriad decisions that impact our health and well-being. Workers who consistently eat in the “great” category are probably at lower risk for certain kinds of injuries. (Of course, if they are self-righteous about it, they might not be much fun as coworkers.) Our physical well-being directly impacts our ability to do our jobs safely and our ability to respond to sudden hazards. Now if we could only figure out exactly what we are supposed to eat and how much we’re supposed to weigh!