What About Booze and Cigarettes?

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

Before diving into the topic of alcohol and tobacco, first a mea culpa. Yesterday’s I wrote “Learn the Footwork” as a Posture Thursday post, and I posted it as a Posture Thursday post, and about 3 minutes ago I realized that Thursday is actually today.

Which means today’s resurrection of Nutrition Friday is going to get itself posted on a Thursday.


Anyway, before the big diversion resulting from some goof eating a bat, I used to take a regular dive into the great wide ocean of the food/nutrition space. I miss that, so Imma go back.

Let me begin by returning to one of my most fundamental rules about food. Before eating anything, ask yourself the following question:

Would your grandmother recognize it as food? If not, then proceed with caution.

Now, it may turn out to be no problem. For example, Grannie would absolutely not have recognized capun as food. Capun? Yes, capon. I have no idea how to spell it, it’s a Thai spicy soup/stew served over rice noodles and is one of my favourite dishes. Should you refuse to call it food, we’ll be having words, we will.

The reason I say proceed with caution is, Grannie might not have recognized capun as food, but she certainly would have recognized all the ingredients as food. Knowing my parents’ complete intolerance to spice, there is precisely no chance Grannie would, or even could, have eaten it, but she could at least have been convinced it was food.

Bats, on the other hand, are flying rodents; in German, “flying mouse,” in French, “bald mouse”. Do you eat mice? Thought not…rodents aren’t food. So don’t eat them. Unless they’re in the incomparable Ted Nugent’s cookbook, Kill it and Grill it (I heard he has a recipe for squirrel). Then, maybe it’s okay.

Aside: I’m not a Ted Nugent fan, his music era was a little before mine, and I’m more of a headbanger anyway. I just know he’s from upstate Michigan and is a big hunting/fishing kind of a guy, who wrote one of the two best named cookbooks in human history. The other being Eat What You Want, and Die Like a Man.

Kindly note I said “best named cookbooks” not “best cookbooks.” I own neither, I’ve read neither, and probably never will. I just love the names.

On to Alcohol and Tobacco

Since I threw in a mea culpa above, now for a confession. I like cigars. Which may seem an odd confession to find on the pages of a health and fitness site, but there you have it. I don’t smoke often, but I really enjoy a fine cigar.

I Do Like a Fine Cigar
“A Good Cigar is a Smoke” R. Kipling

And I really, really REALLY like scotch. Like, a lot. As in, to an unhealthy degree. Which also might seem an odd confession to find on the pages of a health and fitness site, but this one come with a slightly different “but” than the cigars do, and here it is:

But I haven’t had a drink since 1996.

Someday I must tell the tale of when, why and how I quit drinking, and why and how I stayed quit, but this isn’t the time for that story.

So, before I lose the thread of this discussion; alcohol. I recently read an article exploring the plusses and minuses of a glass of wine a day. After a bunch of humming and hawing, it boiled down to:

For most healthy adults, one 5-ounce serving of red wine each evening is OK. However, if you feel the need to refill that glass over and over, consider speaking to a health care professional.

Dietitian Elizabeth Ward, RDN, of Better is the New Perfect, reminds us to stick to just one glass for women and two for men. “Having any more than that every night may be a sign that you are using alcohol to deal with anxiety, depression or sadness.”


Bullshit? Yes, bullshit. I grant that:

  • Alcohol is a poison, although the dose makes the poison
  • Filling it “over and over” can be a problem
  • Drinking too much “may be a sign…” blah, blah, blah.

However, this is a textbook example of the fallacy of the excluded middle. Short version, 1 glass of wine per day and alcoholism do not cover the entire spectrum of alcohol consumption, there is a whole lot of middle ground. On top of which, every individual is, well, and individual.

What if, and I’m just spit balling here, but what if you like to have a couple three drinks with your friends to relax? And that relaxation is a major part of your stress control? What if the health costs of your stress are greater than those of a few beers with your buddies?

Likewise with tobacco.

We live in a time wherein there is no greater sin than smoking. Seriously, 20 years ago a survey of college girls showed they’d rather marry an embezzler than a smoker. Correct me if I’m wrong, here, but as I recall only one of smoking and stealing is mentioned in the 10 commandments, and it ain’t smoking.

Since then attitudes have only gotten worse, and yet the only reputable studies on cigar smokers show that a lifetime habit of a stick per day increases cancer risk by between one and two percent? And, to repeat the drinker’s question above, what if that 1 stick a week, or even a month, is a major part of your stress control? What if the health costs of your stress are far greater than the tiny risks of your cigar?

We do a great many things which carry risk. In fact, pretty much everything we do carries some level of risk. Literally walking out of the house carries risk, and your bathroom is the most dangerous place most people will ever go. My advice to you? Do not get so consumed by fear of the risks that you forget to live, and enjoy your life.

Yes, I regularly blather on here, about this thing or that, which will improve your health and lifespan. But the key thing to remember about life is, none of us are getting out of it alive.

Death comes for us all, so enjoy the time you have, while you still have it and don’t get so caught up in not dying that you forget about living.

So have a scotch and a cigar. Don’t chug the whole bottle, and don’t chain smoke them, but enjoy life, and enjoy them. I can’t join you for the former, but I sure as hell can join you for the latter.