To audit one’s elderly eating habits: sensible or obsessive?


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(Edited excerpt from Boot Camp for the Bonus Years, November 2015.) In which I scrutinise my almost perfect diet for ways in which I should improve it, if any.

Auditing my eating habits was one of the official challenges of my Boot Camp for the Bonus Years. But truthfully, I couldn’t imagine why this one was on the list, because (as Smugilla said) my eating habits were superb.

According to any checklist of a healthy diet, I passed with flying colours. I was a walking talking role model of the ideal elderly eater.

For example, I ate masses of vegetables and fruit every day, not for scientific reasons but hedonistic ones. I cooked for myself from scratch every day. I drank enough water, I think. I took no supplements (or medication).

So stick my old face on a banner, said Smugilla. Erect a statue of perfectly nourished moi in Civic Square or outside Macdonald’s for all to worship.

Pretend I never said that

Let’s start again.

No, I haven’t audited my eating habits formally but I have been thinking about them. So have you, because we can’t avoid it. Almost daily we’re told about some new research with implications for our personal diet. Do eat salmon, don’t eat salmon. Do/don’t drink coffee. Do/don’t consume dairy products, red wine, gluten, black tea, bread, chocolate, pasta, potatoes, tuna, sauerkraut. Almost any food item may be cited as a magical cure for every disease known to mammals, or a lethal package of toxins, or an endangered species or all three.

Think think think about what you eat day after day, week after week? This is no fun, and anyway, you can’t win.

Maybe I tweaked my nutrition a tiny bit in that year of being old. Maybe I didn’t. Must I really give up chocolate brownie? Am I really supposed to have two alcohol-free days a week? Must I eat sardines twice a week?

Well, bugger that. Very very good is good enough.

Pleasure good. Evangelism bad.

People get religion over nutrition. They preach, they proselytise, they pooh pooh, and it’s not pretty. I hear myself doing this from time to time. ‘You should eat Brazil nuts for the selenium,’ I hear myself say—yep, I can turn into an evangelist at the drop of a hat, and yet what you eat is none of my business.

This realisation hit me with a wallop many years ago. On the one hand, my vegetarian friends used to pressure me to eat a horrible, coarse, prickly leafy vegetable called comfrey, for some daft egg-related reason. On the other hand, a dear friend’s son (living in a commune at the time) suddenly died of liver damage as a direct result of eating comfrey.

That’s probably why I have resisted auditing my own eating habits. Because then what?

You do your thing. I’ll do mine.

I eat what I love. I love what I eat.

That is healthy and positive and excellent advice for all and sundry.  I’m not about to dish up a plate of advice: if you eat the food you love and love the food you eat, then you might be eating very differently from me. Enjoyment is the key.

Thank you, Celia and David

I deserve no credit for my healthy diet: I just do pretty much what my parents did. Lifetime habits are hard to overcome, thank goodness. Just as my mother did, I cook every meal without fuss but with great speed and enthusiasm.

Speed is part of the fun. At lunch time I run down the stairs and on the second-to-bottom stair I decide what to eat. The menu depends on the contents of the fridge, the weather, the day’s plan, and a whim.  In the evening, I enact another old-fashioned habit. As Celia did, every day I make a main meal of meat-(or fish or eggs or cheese or tofu or lentils or some other protein)-and-3-veg.

Our Dad did his part, growing veggies, milking Daisy the cow, feeding the chooks. As kids we used to sing or say grace with every meal: we were formally, loudly, and quite musically thankful for our food. That’s healthy too. I don’t do that now but I do make embarrassing appreciative noises — whether over a simple mushroom omelette and salad, a lazy ploughman’s lunch, a tagine of chicken, olives and preserved lemons, a Japanese assemblage, a weird Bhutanese chilli-and-blue-cheese vegetable stew, a toasted sandwich—whatever.

A hierarchy of food habits

So there will be no audit of my eating habits. I’m not going to start a nitty-gritty food diary and I will continue to take the food-of-the-day with a grain of salt.

Instead I’ll just keep my priorities straight.

  • Food as fun.
  • Variation in colour, taste, and texture.
  • Joy in the making (or arranging) and eating and sharing.

Beyond that (granted that I’m a veggie-lover), the vitamins will look after themselves.


If or when I get sick, I’ll be the first to use nutrition as a first line of defence and to take advice from experts.

Image: from “Larkin housewives’ cook book; good things to eat and how to prepare them” (1915) Larkin Co.

18 thoughts on “To audit one’s elderly eating habits: sensible or obsessive?

  1. lifecameos says:

    I have decided over the years that I eat what I believe is healthy, and leave other people to eat what they wish. A few people tried on occasion to proselytise me on their particular favourite fads, but it was minor … until … I was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year. It is amazing how much people want to tell me what I should eat now. I go to the official classes which inform us how different foods react inside diabetics, and we decide on our own diets from there. A few people have taken some convincing that I am my own expert on what I should eat. The world is going crazy about food these days !

    1. I suppose they believe they are helping you, but I bet you do a lot of eye rolling. Seems the official classes take a practical approach based on science, not evangelism. Of course you know your body best!

      1. lifecameos says:

        I think they do want to help, but science is finding out more all the time, so the most up to date information is at this year’s classes. There also seems to be more emphasis on individuals’ differences affecting what they should eat. i do hope that particular message becomes more widespread.

      2. That makes good sense! Kia kaha.

      3. lifecameos says:

        Thank you.

  2. Dan Antion says:

    “You do your thing. I’ll do mine”

    I wish more people would adopt that notion. It would prevent s lot of problems.

    1. So true.

  3. dray0308 says:

    Reblogged this on Dream Big, Dream Often.

    1. Thank you!

      1. dray0308 says:

        You are so welcome!

  4. Glynis Jolly says:

    I wish I was as healthy as you. My diet is considered a good one these days. There was a time when I just didn’t feel like eating and had gone down to one meal a day just because I knew I needed to replenish what I had used up. I’m still not all that interested in food, which can be seen by the lack of variety I have. I’d be happy to have a little door on my stomach where I could shovel in a small amount and slam it shut.

    1. That must be incredibly difficult for you. What a struggle. Congratulations for maintaining a healthy diet in such circumstances!

  5. cedar51 says:

    I go through different periods of not eating all that much either, I make a stab at whatever meal I do imbibe with as much of the nutrients I think I need.

    Then I get into a nibbling sort of edibles – sometimes not even anything that need cooking. Sometimes, some strange combinations but living alone means I’m the only official seeing what is happening

    I don’t eat a lot of meat but there are times when that’s on the daily menu – like last week at the retreat…although also at the retreat there was piles of salad both vegetable and fruits.

    1. I am sure you come up with some fun meals.

  6. Wendy says:

    He he. Love it. Eating healthy is a good ambition but surely not at the expense of white chocolate or wine or Camembert cheese or…… God bless thin genes!

    1. Lucky you with the thin genes! No to white chocolate, give me the real thing. Eating healthy has to include lots of what you fancy, so I’m with you there.

  7. Hmm, food is not always my friend. Indeed food can create havoc on me, particularly fats (not wheat). What I find amazing is that I’ve told all my friends, and one in particular not only serves cream but cooks with it. I watched my friend pour a carton of cream into a soup she was making for me. I shuddered and wondered should I say anything. I decided I would as I’d feel sick, if I’d eaten it. Cough, ‘actually I can’t take cream’, I said. Oh, really? And she had thought that I couldn’t eat it with dessert but cooking with it was OK!!!!! To her cooking with cream was like cooking with herbs or salt or whatever, essential. But lethal to me!!!! I’m so not a foodie! But what do I like? Plain cooking, meat and potatoes and vegetables – just lovely!

    1. I have two friends with similar problems and I’ve seen a waiter say breezily, No, there’s no onions in this dish, which turns out to be an outright fib. It’s a little like people who question or ignore an alcoholic’s need to avoid alcohol: insensitive to the point of cruelty. Go for the plain cooking, it’s yummy.