Years ago I had a discussion with one of our suppliers about the alarmingly rapid rise in the cost of certain popular and classic wines like classified growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundies, Champagne, Barolo, Vintage Port and 25 year old Scotch whiskey.
"Sometimes you gotta pay the price," he told me.
A truism, for sure, but that isn't the reason I'm thinking about "paying the price" today. After my Lost Weekend of excessive eating and drinking, the danger signs from my excesses began to be painfully obvious.
First of all, I got on the scale and wasn't happy with the result--I weighed more than I had in five years--291.6 pounds. That's nearly twice what a healthy 5'9" male my age should weigh. I hadn't been going on my daily walks during those years, so as my metabolism slowed down I put on about 25 pounds per year. I still didn't pay attention to my unhealthy ways when my apnea came back, and I didn't change my eating habits when my sore back began to give me fits again. Never mind that I had to keep buying bigger and bigger pants with stretchy waists and longer belts and they, too, were straining and making me uncomfortable. Never mind that I became winded from simply bending over to pick up trash in front of the store. None of that made enough of a connection to get me to change my evil ways.
Second, though I adore wine, I think I need a break from wine for the next few days, even though I know that a moderate glass or two of wine every day is generally better for my health than a binge on the weekends. I need to up my water consumption even when it means going to the bathroom more often.
It's remarkable how blind we can be to our own reality even when the signals are obvious. I didn't change my excessive, unhealthy habits when I had my last physical in February and the doctor told me I was pre-diabetic. I rationalized that I could reverse that ominous diagnosis with some exercise and some weight loss any time I chose, though that choice meant changing what I was resisting. What was it going to take to get through my thick skull that the most boring word in the world--moderation--was going to have to guide my life? A heart attack?
Loving the taste of things brings me a lot of pleasure, which is also needed for a life well-lived. I recently read that there is a test you can take to see if you have more taste buds on your tongue than the average person, which 25% of us do. They call them "super-tasters" and they seem to be more sensitive to bitter tastes than the public in general. I wonder if I'm in that group because I chose a profession where tasting things is what one does for a living.
I also can't seem to resist sampling new menu items, new incarnations of Snickers bars, new flavors of potato chips, gooey, sour cream and cheese-laden Mexican food, cheesy omelets with creme fraiche, high fat-content ice cream and See's Nuts and Chews, even when my jaw starts to ache from eating so many of them at the same time. Is that the curse of a super-taster? These certainly aren't healthy obsessions.
I love the smell of the things I choose to consume--the waft of black cherry in my Pinot Noir, the scent of blueberry in Syrah, the vanilla in my Cabernet, Chardonnay, Rum, Scotch and Cognac. Before competing fragrances put the kibosh on cologne in the wine shop, I used to love the smell of a woman's perfume when she walked by. To this day some Shalimar or Jungle Gardenia in the air makes me nostalgaic the same way people think of their dads (or is it their granddads?) with the scent of Old Spice, Jade East or English Leather--if they still make those things. Can you still love to smell food and wine without consuming so much that they hurt you?
There are trim, fit people walking around that seem to metabolize life's pleasures much more effeciently than I do, but truth be told, they probably work hard to keep it that way. Sure, there are those lucky few who can wolf down any quantities of anything and still stay slim. They have the engines of hummingbirds, but their arteries are probably clogging up like the rest of us. Skinny people die of heart attacks, too.
The secret to a life well lived is balance--that Eastern concept that seems to be at odds with our American Bigger-is-Better, Don't-Tread-On-Me mindset. When we're told that even the lowly bacteria won't eat McDonald's french fries, too many of us won't come to grips that a bacteria may be smarter than we are in the matter of what we choose to consume.
So here I sit, 36 hours after my last wine binge and 14 hours after eating a bit too much steak and once frozen Mac 'N' Cheese determined that this is the first day of my newly balanced life.
So after two cups of coffee, Dale and I went out into the chilly morning air and took a brisk 30 minute walk. My legs ached a bit, I was huffing more than I should, but I got to see the neighborhood.
In a few short days I'll be drinking wine again, even though I'll be sipping wine with sales reps during the day. The question that looms large over my large, unflexible, aging frame is, can I lead a balanced life with all the pressures of my responsibilities of the store, home life, my physical health and my genetics all conspiring to pull me off course? Yoga would help if only I could get on the floor without crashing down.
"One Day at a Time," is the famous motto of those dealing with unhealthy habits. The key, I know, is not to struggle with this, but to give in to a happier, less-stressful mindset of simple well-being. The big question is whether I can be content while knowing there is a party going on somewhere serving creamy garlic mashed potatoes, sauce Bearnaise, cheese enchiladas Rancheros, lasagna and some righteous wine to wash it all down.
I'll let you know.