Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ll have seen the recent headlines involving the WHO’s research on processed meats & their link to cancer. News sites have been splashed with sentences like: “Bacon & other processed meats can cause cancer, experts say!” & “Processed meats as bad as smoking!” There’s probably a good deal of sensationalism with these headlines, as boring stuff doesn’t gain readership/money, but the general gist is things like cured bacon, sausages, & the like, are not good for you in large amounts. The same goes for dairy (it’s addictive & causes obesity, cancer, yadda yadda yadda).
This announcement woke up the two age-old combatants.
In the left corner we have the veggies/vegans saying: “We knew it!” “Told you so!” “You’re all going to die!”
In the right we have the bacon wavers, who repeated the old adages of: “You only live once.” “We’re all going to die some day anyway.” “I’d rather die than give it up.” “Look, here’s a picture of my sausage sarni, lol.”
Now for disclosure’s sake I’ll say this now; I have not eaten meat for over 25 years, & a few years ago I made the full switch to being “one of those people”, namely a vegan. I’d actually been vegan briefly once before, but it was a lot harder in the 90’s when all you had to play with was tofu & carob, & as I hated the taste of them both (I like tofu now. I still consider carob an abomination to humanity) it wasn’t easy to stick to. I became veggie/vegan because of my own ethics, but don’t worry, that’s not what this post is going to be about.
Listening to the protestations to the news got me thinking about my own life, & what happened all too recently.
To those who say “You only live once,” & “We’re all going to die some day anyway,” I say, I agree with you*, & I understand where you’re coming from. You have this life, so why not enjoy it as much as possible, & if that enjoyment comes from wolfing down a bacon whopper dripping in grease, then why not?
My mother was the same. She loved full fat cream in her coffee (along with three heaped spoons of sugar). Peanut butter on toast would involve a base of salted butter, plus an excessive sprinkling of salt, & an extra nob of salted butter on the side (you know, just for extra moisture). Bacon was fried, as was the bacon rind (mmm crackling! Yes, when I was young I liked the taste of meat, & I ate it a lot). You get the picture. She was of the opinion that you only live once, so why not eat the fat & the processed shit. Needless to say, she spent the majority of her life overweight.
In her late 60’s, she had a heart attack, & had to have a quadruple bypass. She suffered from diabetes, gout, osteoarthritis & crumbling bones. She had several strokes, & had to take so many pills her kidneys could no longer cope with the medicinal load & failed. The drugs addled her mind & left her confused & detached from the world. Because her kidneys no longer worked properly, they could no longer flush the excess liquid out of her body. Her legs blew up, leaking fluid everywhere. She ended up chair ridden, in constant agonising pain, just wanting & waiting to die.
She died this May, aged just 72. I only just made it to her hospital bedside.
Ironically (with regards to the WHO research) she didn’t have cancer.
As my mother’s health failed, I put my investment into mine. I embraced the health side of veganism, I cut out alcohol (except for the occasional toast), & I invested time into my fitness; regularly spending sessions on a training bike & doing weights. I too used to be overweight (even as a vegetarian), now I have nice biceps & quads, & pretty sweet glutes! Turns out I like being healthy & having muscles.
Of course, there’s always the chance that what my mother went through wasn’t linked to her lifestyle, but instead DNA destiny. That no matter what, my future will play out the same, that my life is already half over, & that all this deprivation & fitness is worthless. However, looking at my other family members, this is unlikely. My grandmother lived till her 80’s. My grandfather, despite medical issues late in life, lived well into his 90’s. My aunt, at two years younger than my mother, is still going strong, despite occasional bouts of ill-health.
It could be written into my DNA, but will only show itself if I follow the route of excess combined with a sedentary lifestyle. My grandparents certainly ate meat (my aunt is vegan(ish) thanks to several food allergies). The thing that differentiates them from my mother was/is activity. They went for walks, & they were active around the house. My mother, not so much. However, I don’t want to poke that bear. For me, stuffing yourself with cheese toasties, burgers, & bacon sarnis, hoping exercise will stave off disease, just isn’t worth the possible price if you’re wrong. Maybe my view would be different if I still ate meat. Maybe I’d be one of the ones singing the praises of bangers & smoked fish. Who knows.
What this ramble basically boils down to is this…. To those saying they’d rather be ‘happy’ than give up processed meat, yes, you may well be happy in the short-term, but stop for a moment to think about your possible future. You may not get cancer, you may not end up obese, or have multiple heart attacks, but there is also a good chance you could. Is eating that processed crap really worth living your final years drugged up to the eyeballs & in never-ending pain for?
Knowing how my mother lived her last years, I’d have to say no.