Health

Tale of Two Extremes

The notion of 'all things in moderation' is gone

Lately it seems the “middle” gets no respect. By middle, we mean a quiet, thoughtful way of navigating your life, not the attention-grabbing extremes that make headlines.

Down the line, will the extremes have a gravitational pull on us all and the middle become as antiquated as the Middle Ages? It seems that way these days, at least when it comes to how mainstream media and social media highlight our options in a variety of areas.

Food

Notice how the pendulum swings between a spartan approach and a gluttonous one. There’s a growing obsession with eating right, on the one hand — gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, organic, no GMOs. These labels just about scream out at us as we walk down grocery store aisles. Even more extreme are those who describe themselves as “ethical vegans,” meaning they will only eat the purest foods, often raw edibles. They believe selection leads to perfection, but their phobia of toxins often results in malnutrition.

The more gluttonous approach can be found by tuning into the flood of food shows on TV. Twenty-four hours a day, we can be tempted by goodies that should come with a cholesterol test. Enjoying life and personal empowerment are the justifications for such carefree consumption.

Twenty-four hours a day, we can be tempted by goodies that should come with a cholesterol test.

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Entire episodes are devoted entirely to finding the best fried chicken — and no one is counting calories. No one even winces at the vat of hot, fatty, oil used for frying. No one questions the wisdom of surrounding that chicken with fried pickles. In this world of cooking, fried is a plus … fried marshmallows, bacon, even butter. What’s next? Fried Altoids?

The same cavalier attitude can be found in an episode devoted to the best and juiciest burger. The winner was a triple-tiered extravaganza so big it looked like fitting it in your mouth could be a Guinness Book of World Records event. No one suggested the triple-tiered burger not be served with fries.

Health and Exercise

Staying healthy and fit can’t even escape the extremes. At one end of the spectrum are those who are zealous in their desire to maintain, no matter the pain. These are people who believe exercise is their ticket to a long life. The more they work out, the more calendar pages they earn.

Depending on their cash flow, their routine can include vitamin drips, stem-cell research, sci-fi cocktails of vitamins, supplements and, in some cases, hormones, walking speedometers, walking odometers and pedometer watches that count every step.

These people think of exercise as the problem, not the solution, linking it with the dreaded word in health circles — inflammation.

The other end of the spectrum believes less is more. These people think of exercise as the problem, not the solution, linking it with the dreaded word in health circles — inflammation. They prefer what they call functional movement that could mean a simple walk or what one believer described as “dancing with terrain,” whatever that is.

Other health and fitness approaches stress simplicity. The latest one is mindfulness, which advertises itself as (of course) a relief from stress. On this end of the spectrum, all roads lead to a deep inhale and exhale. Breathing is the ultimate elixir.

Dating

Dating is one thing. But let’s talk about breaking up. Even there, we have two extremes: over-sharing and ghosting.

Over-sharing is when you tell all your friends every excruciating detail of what happened. You might use Twitter to shame your ex. Venting has become almost irresistible in this era of personal, confessional blogging.

Ghosting, on the other hand, has become a relatively new phenomenon. This is when you pull the plug on a relationship without any explanation. No warning shot. No replies to text messages, phone calls, or emails. You defriend on Facebook. When his name comes up with mutual friends, you change the subject.

When the big freeze-out becomes a socially acceptable way to say goodbye in all situations, that’s troubling.

This phenomenon got a lot of attention earlier this summer when a high-profile Hollywood couple’s very public romance ended with a ghosting. This isn’t to say that ghosting in certain situation isn’t the right and healthy way to go. However, when the big freeze-out becomes a socially acceptable way to say goodbye in all situations, that’s troubling.

It’s possible we’ve gotten to the point where not dealing with someone face-to-face is the norm, despite the fact that an intimate relationship that’s been going on for a while deserves (at least) an “I’m done” declaration. If it’s a mutual ghosting, that’s a different story, but that’s rarely the case. Usually one person wants the relationship to continue or wants to, at least, understand why it didn’t. No one wants to be left like Bogart in “Casablanca,” abandoned in the rain at a train station, though at least Ilsa did send a note.

Is ghosting becoming more popular because there’s no longer a tacit rule that requires saying goodbye? Maybe we’ve gotten so accustomed to deleting words from our keyboard, we’ve expanded that to our personal (or impersonal) interactions.

Friendship

You might think this is an area immune from extremes, but it’s not. Blame it on the phrase “moving on.” That’s the catchphrase that justifies ending a friendship, regardless of circumstances.

Working out what went wrong with a good pal, trying to mend fences, seems so old school. Why bother? No one will question the “moving on” explanation.

We’ve been taught that moving on is a good thing, though that’s not always the case. People move on to worse situations all the time, but that hasn’t stopped the expression from being associated with optimism. It’s as if a sunnier, brighter world awaits whoever has the guts to head for an exit.

We’ve been taught that moving on is a good thing, though that’s not always the case.

What often doesn’t get mentioned is that the friend someone is moving on from was a BFF — Best Friend Forever — a minute ago. One day it’s perfect and the Instagram pages of these BFFs are full of selfies, posing at each other’s parties, big smiles and lots of xoxo. The next minute they’ve both moved on to xoxo someone new, and those old BFF photos have been removed or linger at the bottom of a photo scroll. Apparently the distance between BFF and “moving on” is shorter than one might hope and calls for a redefining of the word “forever.”

TV Watching

A lot of people don’t have the time or attention span to watch a one-hour drama from beginning to end without interruption. On the other hand, plenty of people are binge watchers. Committing a whole hour to watching one show instead of multitasking or clicking on 10 different sites in two minutes can feel like you’re in a sensory deprivation chamber. But binging has its drawbacks. Watching show after show without taking the time to process what you just saw keeps the thrill going, but robs you of anticipation and contemplation.

Common sense dictates there’s more value in integrating pieces of what works for you into an approach that works for your particular situation.

There’s a long list of areas in which the extremes seem to dominate the conversation, probably most loudly in politics. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have each staked out territory on the periphery of the conversation and now become the main attraction. Trump argues against the PC culture, while Sanders embraces it like a crusader.

All these extremes add up to a crowded field and a lot of noise. Yes, there is value in a lot of what can be found among the extremes. However, common sense dictates there’s more value in integrating pieces of what works for you into an approach that works for your particular situation.

Yes, balance and “the middle way” lack the drama of bringing the steel door down on your ex, or the thrill of a newer BFF. Balance lacks glitz, glamour bells and whistles. It’s not the fast lane. It’s not about immediate gratification. It’s not a narrative that can be told in a 160-character text message. It’s a science lab, your science lab. It’s where you figure stuff out. It’s about measured responses.

It’s a lot of things. One thing it isn’t is boring.

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