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Happiness = Moderation (alternate title: “it’s good to eat occasional gelato”)

Sustainable Health Nutshell: Start with small changes and continue to educate yourself. Learn to enjoy being able to make better choices for your health and for the planet, and avoid judging what someone else is doing. In Ayurveda, it is understood that what is good for one may be detrimental to another (thanks for the reminder and wording, Szilvia!), so each person needs to be in tune with their own nature to determine whether any action is truly beneficial or not. This is the purpose behind Ayurvedic medicine- to help everyone become more aligned with their individual nature. For this post, most of all, remember the big three Ayurvedic food rules, all of equal importance: Eat food grown and prepared with love, Enjoy and appreciate what you eat, and Choose the best foods for your individual state of health.

This was prompted by the incredible media coverage (here and here and here and here) of Michelle Obama’s fast food meal at the new Shake Shack in D.C. this week. (Yes, even with no TV, I saw it on my NPR newsfeed and gave in to the gossip-mongering and listened to the story.) I am thrilled no other newsworthy things were happening in the world (oh, wait, what about this or this or this?), that a bit of cattiness about our gorgeous and fit First Lady (who has been working on numerous projects to help combat obesity) was the most interesting news those reporters could come up with that day.

gelato!

Point one- she clearly doesn’t do this often. Point two- it was probably something she’d been thinking about for a while and was excited to splurge and hopefully enjoyed what she ordered (all or part of it, I really don’t care). Point three- I’d bet a large sum that she exercised in some manner this week, possibly more than usual to counter the calorie bomb.

Second, I’ve had issues lately, sparked a bit by the new Edible Santa Barbara issue’s focus on gelato. I am not what you’d call “an ice cream person” exactly. I like it, but my style is usually to get a pint, eat a few spoons out of the carton, and let it sit in my freezer for a month before I have another craving, when I’ll have another few spoons… repeated until there are sad ice crystals and I have to dig a bit to get to normal-textured yumminess. It also is one of the most amagenic foods in Ayurveda, so minimizing ice cream, especially processed, is a good way to help your health. However, in the past two weeks, I’ve tried 3 new local places. And had gelato maybe 5 times. !!! I know. But, I BIKED each time. And biked back up the giant mountain I live at the top of. Ooh. Except once, after tennis. Now, I’m pretty sure I’m near the end of my mini-obsession because the last time I didn’t even need to eat the entire small cup. But to give you an idea of how non-crime-of-passion this has been, I bring a reuseable little cup and eat with my favorite spork I carry in my bag. I’ve been planning my gelato eating lately. Yep.

The thing is, I don’t regret ONE bite. I loved every little one. I eat ridiculously healthily 90% of the time. I cook for myself most meals and love my cooking. I get the majority of everything I eat from the SB farmers’ markets. I exercise almost every single day. I know I’m doing as well as possible at this time, and I hope in the future to do better.

The thing is, YOU are also doing YOUR best possible at this time! So is Michelle Obama! So is the person in your life you judge to be most unhealthy! Everyone has resources available to them right now, and some people are lucky enough to have the ability to make healthier choices than others. Most of these posts are about how to make healthier choices, and why, but that’s because of a belief that every single one of us is learning every single day, and that access to better information and the desire to make positive change will change your health for the better, and will actually change the entire world.

The takeaway from the silly gossip and temporary gelato fixation? “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” -Petronius. If you really really want one specific thing once in a blue moon that won’t cause definite or permanent harm, go ahead, and know you are choosing it and celebrate your enjoyment of it without guilt or regret- be honest about it. Focus on you first, not what others are doing. The rest of the time, find joyful and delicious ways of improving your health, embrace new ways of thinking about food and health that include taking the health of the environment into consideration. Try moderate things like Meatless Monday, and the oil-water cooking method to reduce intake of free radicals, and every week buy something at the farmers’ market you’re not sure about and learn how to cook it in a new way that sounds good to you. What is the sum total of your decisions to gain more knowledge and to make actual choices rather than behaving by habit? A healthier and more joyful you, which will spill over to a healthier and more joyful community, which will gain momentum to help us move towards a healthier and more joyful planet. Just remember the three rules above. The more each of us can do all three at every meal, the healthier we all will be.