Reader Request Week 2020 #2: The Hellish Swill I Consume

This question, from (and here I assume this is a WordPress error rather than the actual name, but even so) g2-772325788f49f5257c84be1c8310f9d7:

To a long-committed healthful foodie, your apparent diet is quite horrifying. How often, if ever, do you consume plant “superfoods” such as carrots, kale, collards, broccoli, winter squash, sweet potatoes, chard, etc, etc, not to mention whole grains, beans and so on?

I work at least two or three of such superfoods into each day’s menu, and couldn’t survive on the hellish swill you so often highlight.

“Hellish swill”?!? I mean, damn.

So, two things:

1. I’m still alive — and healthy! — at age 51, even with this apparent diet, so there’s that.

2. The key word here is “apparent.”

In fact, I do eat carrots and broccoli and sweet potatoes and beans and such on a regular basis, although I don’t go out of my way to call them “superfoods” — that’s a marketing term, not an actual scientific designation — they’re just, you know, vegetables and fruits and stuff. I eat vegetables and fruit regularly because I like vegetables and fruits, and also (and I suspect this is to the point) because it’s a good thing to eat more than just heavily processed foods high in fat and sugar and empty calories.

(And here Krissy, who is about whilst I am typing this, says, “You eat fruit a lot, but you don’t eat vegetables unless I make them,” to which I said, “Yes, but you make them often,” to which she said “but not that often,” to which I recounted all the times in the last couple of weeks she’s made vegetables with dinner, to which she rolled her eyes at me. So, uh, yeah, vegetables?)

I don’t usually blog about the fruits and vegetables I eat because there’s nothing particularly unusual about eating fruits and vegetables — or, indeed, most of the other perfectly normal and largely healthy foods I eat on a regular basis — whereas the “burritos” I make from the leftovers I have in the fridge are usually heinous in some way that’s amusing enough to post. I should note that I eat burritos that aren’t particularly notable in terms of their contents, too, but I don’t post about those. In general, I don’t post most of my food. It’s not that interesting. Please do not confuse what I present here and on social media for actual general caloric intake.

(This is where I point out again that the John Scalzi you see here and on social media is a real and actual John Scalzi, and also a John Scalzi that is tuned for online performance and engagement. This includes showing off questionable foods because it’s funny, and not showing off the normal food, because it’s boring.)

That said, I will note that I am eating in a (somewhat) more healthy manner than I was a couple of years ago, because when I started making a concerted effort to get in better shape at the end of December 2018, part of that was not only trimming back the amount of calories I was putting into myself, but looking at the quality of those calories as well. So I eat relatively fewer empty calories now than I did before. I don’t want to overstate that, because I still eat a not-trivial amount of junk; I have a pretty serious sweet tooth and I don’t fight that much. That means I will still eat cheesecake and candy and what have you. But I do keep track of how much of it I eat, and work to balance it out with things that are better for me in the long run. Moderation! It’s boring but it turns out it works.

I do appreciate that people don’t want me to die of burritos and candy, which, bluntly, is a reasonable concern given that I’m on the old side of 50 now, and also I’m a writer, i.e., in a profession not known for being physically active (like, at all). But in fact I’m in better shape now than I have been in probably a decade, and I am actively keeping an eye on my health, which includes getting up to move on a regular basis, and looking at what I eat.

Yes, I eat crap, and tell you all about it when I do. But it’s not all I eat. I promise.

(There’s still time to get in questions for this year’s Reader Request Week! Go here to ask your question.)

23 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2020 #2: The Hellish Swill I Consume

  1. > I’m on the old side of 50 now

    And let me tell ya, from here on out you really need to start adjusting your food and exercise because the old body knows it’s gone past reproductive age and it’s gonna change modes drastically, even when fed healthy vegetables — they get converted to flub more than to muscle.

    Because the only contribution elderly you can make to the health and well being of your offspring and relations is to get fat and slow so the bear or sabertooth chasing the tribe will catch up with you, and let the rest of them go climb a tree somewhere.

    Old people become predator fodder. By design.

  2. Every good diet needs to budget in some junk food. Rice cakes will make you awake in the middle of the night to satisfy the need for it

  3. I’m relieved to have this clarification. I’m still at a loss about the decorative object in the mini-cheesecake. What is it?

  4. If you feel you can, please work “hellish swill” into the next book? It’s just…it lands.

  5. Wow! Sorry about the accidental crazy “name,” but I’m honored to reap a lengthy response to that insufferable food-cop query. Yeah, “superfood” is a marketing label, but there are indeed certain veggies and fruits with notably concentrated nutritional value, and I’ve long emphasized those in my diet.

    Good to hear that it’s not *all* Jelly Belly and Spam-level cuisine at chez Scalzi.

  6. As not everybody is able and willing to foresee in their own nutritional needs, there’s money to be made in food production. As a result, there will be producers who produce stuff that we find irresistible. They design it that way with science and, unless mandated, they will tell you as little as possible about what they put in their products. They will, wherever possible, cut corners to make their product as cheaply as possible and will sell it for as much as the market (you) can cough up. Your longevity or lack thereof is not their responsibility as long as you don’t keel over too suddenly after intake.
    Read what labels there are on the packaging thoroughly and decide for yourself whether you want to put that inside you. If you don’t understand what it says, there are several search engines available which might help you learn more about the subject.

  7. Some people say you can‘t outrun doughnut. I‘ve been at your Worldcon party and you can outdance it for sure. You didn‘t quite strike me as low energy, there.

  8. How tasty vegetables are does depend on how they are cooked. The story in my family is how my Dad and BIL did not like vegetables until they had eaten my Mom’s cooking. And in my Dad’s case, Mom’s Mother’s cooking. Green beans are not supposed to be mushy. Mom’s ‘no mayo’ potatoe salad is always a big hit at our block parties.

    It also helped that they would go the extra yard and removed the stringy bitter stems from lettuce and spinach as part of the prep work.

  9. I used to work with a guy who hated vegetables. He could happily live his life on burgers and fries (yep potatoes). I could never understand. I loved vege’s when I grew up with a gardener and now have a garden of my own.
    Then I had chemo. It changed the flavor of a lot of the foods that I eat or drink. I still can no longer drink most soft drinks. I now understand that taste is very subjective. I don’t dismiss anyone’s food preferences.

  10. One reason I read this blog is to consume the models of tolerance like that response to the being who asked about “superfoods.” You inspire me.

  11. Everytime i hear someone mention superfoods or antioxidants or anything like that, i just grab my Brawndo and take a swig. The thirst mutilator. With Electrolytes!

  12. Junk food will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no junk food.

  13. John, I did the same sort of thing a decade later — decided that I wanted to enter my 60’s fit and strong. 50 pounds and a lot of muscle and sweat later, it’s still hard to keep off. (Yours is cheesecake? Mine is chocolate.)
    But damned if I’m going to get eaten by that bear, 60 or no! I’m going to punch the fershlugginer thing in the throat and save my kids the old fashioned way – with an axe.
    Speaking of which… it’s time to go do Body Combat and lift weighs…

  14. I was expecting the hellish swill referred to was your Coke Zero. Which is hellish and swill. But your burritos are legendary.
    I’d gained about 15 pounds last year during a bunch of travel, and while I’d lost a bit of it, since the pandemic shutdowns I’ve lost about 10-15; I suspect not going to restaurants is a lot of that (since I’m used to working from home most of the time anyway.)

  15. @scalzi: have you ever put kale into a burrito? That would reach a new level of awfulness. I just did a quick Twitter search and found nothing. BTW, I appreciate your periodic reminders that kale still sucks.

    @Hank Roberts: it is strangely fulfilling to know that I am fulfilling my biological destiny.

    @Mary Lamb: thank you for that article! A friend is a kale pusher (probably on the payroll of the Kale Cabal) and it’s good to have fresh rebuttal material. With all the work you have to do to make kale edible, you could probably substitute grass clippings.

    @Patrick Linnen: I positively adore green beans when they are fresh and cooked minimally. My M-I-L was visiting and bought some green beans at the market which were just glowing with vitality and potential. I was so looking forward to dinner because she was a good cook. But she cooked them to death in the midwestern style. Sad.

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