For as long as I can remember, I’ve had issues with digestion. It’s a family thing: my dad complained about indigestion, and apparently had an ulcer (no one talks about ulcers any more. Did they go out of fashion when acid reflux kicked in?). Speaking of acid reflux, I finally took my indigestion to the doctor, started taking a proton-pump inhibitor, and had an endoscopy when I discovered that I had a condition called Short Barrett’s Esophagus. The “short” means it only was at the bottom of my esophagus, which I suppose is a good thing; but given that my grandmother died of esophageal cancer and that Barrett’s is a risk factor for the same, I’m pretty much going to have an endoscopy every three years or so from now until the end of my life. Better safe than sorry.
I’ve learned a lot about acid reflux since my diagnosis, and I know all the tricks like eating early, sleeping on an incline, and avoiding certain trigger foods (which I don’t always do well, which is why sleeping on an incline is so relevant). But the simplest way to manage reflux is, ironically, often the hardest thing to do: and that’s simply to eat less food.
Yesterday I read an article about how to avoid a heart attack over the holidays (one of my brothers has had several heart attacks and one of my grandfathers had heart disease, so it’s something that I do have some concern over). Of course, the article was a litany of common sense advice: be careful while shoveling snow, monitor your stress level, even get a flu shot. But not surprisingly, the number one suggestion was this:
Avoid overindulging in food or alcohol. The risk of an attack appears to double in the two hours after a particularly large meal.
It’s so simple, isn’t it? Eating less reduces the risk of something small like indigestion, and something major like a coronary. It’s one of two must-do’s when we wish to lose weight (and yes, the other one is to exercise). So why don’t we “just do it” — why do we keep on eating so much?
Oh, I know the chorus. We’re an affluent society; we eat to manage stress or difficult emotions; we have survival instincts that nobody knows how to turn off. I think another issue is that we’re so distracted. We eat while watching TV, while reading, while driving, while checking our email. We eat while flirting, while striking a business deal, while arguing with our spouse. We over-consume food because we’re over-consuming life.
“Less is more” has been on my mind a lot lately. I need fewer possessions than what I currently have. I need to eat less food, to read fewer books, to spend less time online. Is this a function of my age (I just turned 50)? Maybe so, but to anyone younger than me who is reading this, all I can say is “don’t wait!” Don’t wait until you are twenty or fifty pounds overweight before you start seriously modifying your food intake. Don’t wait until you have a heart attack — or develop Barrett’s Esophagus — before committing to eat less. Don’t wait until you realize that you own so many un-read books that it will take you thirty years to read them all, before you start winnowing out your library. Don’t wait until somebody takes pictures of your living room and uses them on a poster for Clutterholics Anonymous before you begin to manage your accumulation of stuff.
Consume less, enjoy more. Less food, less stuff. More life, more health, more time for the really important things like family and prayer. It’s my new mantra.