Habitus corpus

There are a lot of reasons to avoid developing some habits, but I think there is a place for establishing routines or conventions that confer greater peace of mind. In fact, I love creating (flexible) structure in my life. So, in the interest of describing rather than prescribing …

Most of us have far more to do than time to do them.  The way I cut down on repetition of what could and should be practices we create or establish only once with maybe some room for minor tweaking around the edges, is to routinize as much as I can.  Previously I wrote about my schedule.  I maintain that exact regimen every day of the year unless I have commitments that take me away from home.organized life

Pretty much, I do the same types of tasks at the same time every day.  I have already spoken about the fact that we divide our household responsibilities into two general categories (exterior/interior) and then treat every major maintenance area as a project and manage it accordingly, using a control notebook to remind us of what we need to do and what we did, by documenting and dating important benchmarks.  An example would be, cleaning the furnace, water heater and air conditioner, flipping all the mattresses, refreshing batteries on the smoke detectors, cleaning the coils on the two refrigerators, uncovering/covering the outdoor furniture, changing the oil on the cars, and cleaning the air filters throughout the house in May and November.  With a checklist and a timetable, we don’t have to worry that we will forget to take care of something important when we get busy with the unexpected or unpredictable things that occur in life.

This may seem too militaristic for some people.  I can imagine that and believe me, this is my particular idiosyncrasy and not my SO’s but he goes along to maintain harmony.  So, we pretty much have daily, weekly, monthly and yearly timetables that for the most part function to move things along almost mindlessly and hopefully free our mental faculties to work on more creative or innovative projects in the time we save (that’s my theory anyway).

organized life 2One of the many things I love about working for myself is that I have total control over the amount of time and time slot that I work.  I do tend to work seven days a week, but I only work, typically from 6 am to 2 pm most weekdays and only until Noon on Sunday.  I get a lot of work done in the morning and have the afternoon to take care of chores and then whatever recreational projects I enjoy.  Right now those include baking, knitting, and holiday shopping.  Once a month or so, we head out with one of my husband’s business partners and his girlfriend to various places within an easy drive to explore, take pictures, try a new restaurant or visit a museum.  (I no longer go to the movies – too expensive, crowded, noisy and dirty for me.  We have DirecTV with all the bells and whistles and I just love it – it isn’t cheap but worth it and we save on the gas, parking, and junk food costs, so I feel a bit more justified).

Most importantly, I apply this discipline and standardization to what all of us eat.  I mentioned in an earlier post that our breeder/veterinarian/canine expert gave us a strict menu to feed our dogs (the  older one passed away in 2009 and just the six year old remains), if we want them to have a long, healthy life.  Same with the avian expert who gave us instructions on what to feed the parrot.  I stick to those menus religiously.  As everyone who has companion animals knows, caring for someone who cannot speak and tell us what they need or if something is wrong, is a huge challenge.  In fact, I often wonder if it is fair to keep dogs, even though they have domesticated for thousands and thousands of years, living in our artificial environments, no matter how well intended we are in how we treat them.  Retrievers want to, well, retrieve and I imagine he would prefer to be running over the moors chasing rabbits rather then scampering around in our yard, but, oh well.  Parrots are only a couple of generations from the wild.  I now think it is wrong to have them as pets no matter what (but clearly I did not think so when I brought our little girl here — my understanding and thinking has evolved considerably over the years, with studying and caring for her).  Bottom line on them, though, they give us more than we give them and so we are the beneficiaries of a lot of companionship and affection that they both shower on us freely and continuously.

While I am on that topic, here is something I saw this week about jerky from China.  If you have fed jerky to your pets (we don’t), you should read this.



I also apply this concept to my own dietary habits.  Since I tend to be somewhat finicky and averse to running to the doctor, I have instead made it my mission to learn as much as I could about the human body and do whatever I can to keep mine in great running order.  For me that starts with putting the proper fuels in it, no different from choosing the best ones for our cars or pets or plants, etc.good habits 1

One thing I did was take some physical and paleoethnographic courses to learn about human origins. What I discovered there has helped me choose what to eat and to discriminate between dietary practices that are suitable for the human body and those that are not. There have been so many fad diets over my own lifetime that the solid grounding in human science I got in school has been useful.

People I have known have lost weight on Atkins, but all that rich food does not seem appropriate for our primate digestive or delicate circulatory systems. A particular brother and sister-in-law are on a paleo diet. They swear by it and it has simplified their lives. I actually think that one comes close to the “original” diet, so to speak. In addition to the fact that I don’t like eating muscle meats for a wide variety of reasons, I think the antibiotics and other fluids in factory farm meats, like artificial growth hormones cattle are fed or adrenaline, for example that pours into the about to be slaughtered animal, are not sustainable over a lifetime.  A high carb diet (one I am sure I would love!) wreaks havoc on the thyroid glandular system. So, all these things have to be considered in terms of our basic hominid physiology.

balanced dietFor millions of years our predecessors and early ancestors ate a very similar diet to that of modern chimpanzees: mostly raw vegetation, seeds, nuts, berries, funguses, charred meats, opportunistically at kills, bone marrow, insects and a good deal of feathers, leaves, twigs, shells, hair and other fibers that accompanied all of these things in the wild, as well as plain old dirt.  It was very high in roughage. They did not eat the basically processed, salty, sugary, soft, preservative, filler and dye-laden cooked food diet that westerners overwhelmingly consume today.  We are not really omnivores, in that we cannot just eat “anything”.

Just like there are a certain number of specific liquids that belong in our vehicles and nothing else, and only a certain amount up to the capacity of the tank, there are a limited number of fuel categories and a certain ideal amount for each of our individual bodies.  When we diverge from those items and amounts, our health suffers.

I decided to become a vegetarian, virtually over night.  For a long while I ate a wide range of things including a lot of cheese.  But one thing I realized is that if you eat a lot of dairy and carbohydrates, you can gain weight quickly.  I have a small frame even though I am slightly on the tall side, so I cannot afford to carry even ten extra pounds.  That more than anything else forces me to restrict the amount of calories I consume every day.  The easiest way to do that is to eat a pretty uniform diet and that is what we do.  I think my SO would eat more spontaneously if he had his druthers, but it is easier for the non-picky person to eat pretty much what the stickler eats, so there is less strife at mealtime, LOL.  I eat a number of small, protein rich snacks at regular intervals because I find that my blood sugar stabilizes better that way and I tend to be hypoglycemic if I eat what I prefer (bread and sweets). I only have an actual breakfast on weekends, but lunch and dinner every day — small and balanced. We get all our produce from local growers and eat seasonally, as well as the rainbow.  About half and half, cooked and raw.  Only honey or maple syrup as sweeteners (ok and I confess that I haven’t kicked coffee, and have a smidgen of brown sugar in that because I just haven’t gotten to black coffee yet, or eliminated it altogether).  I still eat about three ounces of yogurt and one egg weekly, so my veganism is a bit flexible. But, doing this, I have kept my weight stable and low, and my energy level high.

Not everyone could do this as easily as I have, because there are people who find it hard (or don’t think there is a reason) to give up certain foods they perceive as ‘comforting’.  For me that had been tuna salad and mac/cheese.  I have eliminated both and don’t miss them now.viking meal

If I had to pick a formalized diet, I would eat like the Scandinavians (‘viking diet’): cabbage, unrefined rye bread, root vegetables (carrots, beets and such), coldwater fish, (Vikings also ate grass fed livestock, wild game), oatmeal, apples, and pears and other Scandinavian staples. I would simply omit the meat and poultry.  This is as close as modern peoples come to the diet our true ancestors ate.

Nothing I have ever read, in terms of papers or health news and articles, nor newly developed diets has ever convinced me that eating the typical American diet is safe or beneficial.  There are things that we just should not put in our bodies.  Tobacco and marijuana are two, alcohol is another and sadly, soda or pop (something I had a hard time letting go of) are others.  I am also convinced that most pharmaceuticals, if you don’t absolutely need to start them (and let’s face it, we have all taken prescriptions at some point in our lives, particularly antibiotics) should be avoided.

If dogs and birds and cars and washing machines and locomotives — you get the idea — are meant to have a restricted and uniform ‘diet’, so are we and imho, that is the kind of habit we should start early and stick to for dear life.

Images: addapinch.com, womansday.com, imore.com, myrecipes.com,medievalhistories.com


8 Comments on “Habitus corpus”

  1. I know I need more of a schedule or structure in my life – I think my resistance is due to the fact that my weekly schedule, thanks to my job, is so completely out of synch with a schedule I would like to follow that on the weekends I just want to throw all time commitments out the window. But at the same time, I am not motivated to change the situation (ie, do the work it would take to start up my own business and work from home). I have long been aware that the complete mismatch between my weekly and weekend behaviors has kept me stuck, as the whole focus on weekends centers around being able to stay up later, sleep later, and rush around less, instead of getting things done that need to be done. I guess you could say I’ve been in a time-rut for years, but lack the kick in the pants to get it together. Maybe not being thrilled with my current job is part of the problem; I’m sure it is.


    • I had all the same issues. Plus, I had a hideous commute that added an hour on each end, so I would arrive home not only mentally and emotionally drained, but dog tired. The weekends were completely thrown off by wanting to rest. Let me not glamorize working for oneself. Working at home is great but it does put a lot of pressure on one to keep a steady flow of cash coming in and paying for health care, etc. On balance, it works for me because I got fed up with colleagues, very frankly and just wanted to work without having to depend on anyone else’s performance or lack thereof, lol. It was also good to get away from all the junk food that was available in the kitchen at work – I ate far too many of those peanut butter cheese crackers and M&Ms (to say nothing of soda) that were always there. There are up and downsides to this.


  2. I’ve survived 30 years in the military, yet I prefer a non-regimented daily existence. Not that your discipline isn’t more productive, as it clearly is. My poor gf, the uber-disciplined entrepreneurial interior design architect magnate (bit of a stretch there), has to put up with me.

    I also agree with your wise dietary views in general, although I include organic local meats / poultry / fish / dairy. We have a local organic poultry farm with geese / ducks / chickens that has the most outrageous Sunday cookhouse brunches with foie gras encapsulated in organic butter (i.e., paleo man heaven). And I do cheat on occasion, as fatty (i.e., me) occasionally drops buffalo wings into the shopping cart. By accident.

    I can hide 10 lbs better than most.

    As an example of how great a challenge I am for Madam gf, I raise the Hogsback Brewing Company Vintage Lager, which I am currently consuming in a most guilt-free fashion, “which” being indicative of a non-restrictive and therefore parenthetical clause, in your honour, Beth.

    Can you tell I’ve been reviewing the edits on my manuscript?


  3. I understand. The vast majority of people would agree with you rather than with me. I will not tell you my opinion of foie gras, in terms of animal cruelty. Most of that kind of eating is habit, what our parents served is what we think we like. But it can be retrained. I don’t eat the diet my parents started me out with. Dark beer is probably a healthy thing, whereas most alcohol isn’t. I am sure early man stumbled on the idea of beer. Everyone has discipline in different areas. Writing a manuscript takes rigor and commitment. Anyway, I am striving to describe, not prescribe so I thank you for your description and response too :-).


  4. I’ve been a pescatarian for nearly 20 years merely because of the realization that I didn’t like the idea of muscle meat hanging out in my colon indefinitely, but I’ve acknowledged for myself that I can’t encapsulate myself in a bubble try as I might.

    I like your approach Beth in that developing and adhering to a system that empowers and motivates you is ALWAYS a challenge and one worth having!


    • Thank you. You bring up a key point that I did not cover :-). We have the complex digestive tract in common with our primate cousins. Unlike true carnivores, which have a relatively short, straight intestine. So, meat sitting in 98.6F temperatures, in the dark, for what usually takes about 100 hours to digest it, is a recipe for putrefaction and disease.

      I have never once had a problem being a vegetarian, with the slight exception of time spent in Germany where all the food was laden with animal products or pickled, something that I don’t care for. I had to be content with dark bread and kartoffelen :-).


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