When in Rome…

We had barely sat down to our first meal in Rome that all hell broke loose.

Much like seeing family, no matter how far you’ve think you’ve come, how long you have lived away from them and established your independent self, seeing old girlfriends sets off a similar cocktail of high emotions and passionate exchanges… especially when hot-blooded Turkish temperaments are involved!

Slowly but surely, each one of us started talking more and more loudly, until we were all speaking over each other and precluding any possibility of reasoned discussion… But first things first! Here’s what was on the table: salad of octopus on a huge mound of arugula, prosciutto with mozzarella, a couple of Peronis… We were in Rome after all and we were going to start with a good meal damn it.

Rome, yummy from the first bite
Rome, yummy from the first bite

The subject we were getting so hot and bothered about? My favorite: health and food, and the intersection of the two. We had reunited at the cusp of our 40th year – and the conversation inevitably turned around our assumptions about life, health and aging.

As stories kept piling up of one little or big ailment after another, both personal and those of acquaintances, my inner voice was getting more vehement by the minute, fast becoming too difficult to rein in. Of course I knew better, that nobody listens when you shout, that you should let people come to you with questions instead of imposing your views on them. Yeah yeah I knew all that but had I mentioned how they were practically like family? And what unflappable soul can resist the temptation of getting sucked into a passionate exchange with family? Certainly not me!

As I heard about the endless doctor’s visits in search of answers and the general resignation that this is just what happens as you age, I wanted to tell them, whoa, let’s stop right there. Let’s stop considering that all these issues (the blood sugar problems, the yo-yoing weight, the skin, the hypertension,┬áthe hormonal imbalance, the cholesterol…) are unrelated to each other, and start connecting the dots.

Of course I knew that these discussions are best left outside of the heat of such moments, that the risk of “being heard” right then is practically nil. And that’s maybe why I’m sitting down to write this now. If we had the chance to speak calmly, I would like say first of all that I understand. I REALLY DO. We’ve been fed so much misguided information about health and nutrition since our pre-teen years (back when we first met) that it’s humanly impossible not to be confused anymore. It’s hard to undo all those years of conditioning and all of a sudden rebel against it all wholesale, to realize that it’s both much more complex and simpler than we think.

But if I may just nudge my lovely old girlfriends a little bit, I would say that, contrary to what we’ve been told, genetics isn’t destiny and that the important contribution of our lifestyle and environment makes the role of our genes just one variable among many in determining good health. I would also say that staying in good shape and a healthy weight are not just a question of pacing that well-trodden path between strong willpower on one end, and “letting yourself go” on the other. The frequent ups and downs on the scale are not a normal and inevitable fact of life. And most importantly, life should not be a just a gradual acceptance of all that comes with the passage of time, shutting up and taking it, this parade from one specialist or guru to another, each of whom prescribes yet another drug, another special diet, the latest nutritional fad or supplement.

If I could make a suggestion, here’s what I would say: next time, instead of picking up the phone for the next appointment, how about checking out a few trusty resources that may just give you (YOU) the tools to start building a solid nutritional and lifestyle foundation for your well-being, and slowly go from there? I know you have no trouble taking matters into your own hands in other areas of life so why not health, the most important of them all? A good place to start may be here. Or here. Or to understand how the hell we got so confused, all about that here.

We are only 40. This should be our prime. Now let’s please claim it — it is too important not to.

Colosseum

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