DEAR DR. BLONZ: I ate great and was active in college and grad school, but since then, I have been working on starting a business and that's been the main focus of my life. I have no time to exercise, with the exception of a bit of walking. I am constantly eating fast-food burgers and fried foods. I don't have time to cook, so I opt for what's convenient. I usually rush out in the morning with very little to eat (maybe some cereal), then I don't eat again until I come home eight or nine hours later. At home, I make telephone calls and then eat my dinner at about 11 p.m. or later.
I am still young, so I am hoping that my body will be forgiving during this investment phase of my career. My girlfriend is quite concerned, and it is affecting our relationship, so I wanted to ask: How dangerous is what I am doing? -- S.T., San Francisco
DEAR S.T.: It must be difficult for one who knows better to find himself totally immersed in a lifestyle that is far afield from previously healthful habits. How dangerous, you ask? That's a difficult question to answer with certainty, because much depends on other elements, such as your age, weight and any pre-existing risk factors.
Even without knowing the other elements, I would certainly question the wisdom of the torrid lifestyle you've described. The unbalanced fried-food diet, the lack of exercise and the apparent high stress level are definite benchmarks of a road to ruin. Is there an end in sight? For your sake, I hope so.
I apologize if this comes across as lecturing, but your priorities need to be re-examined. There are remedies; all you need is the wherewithal to shift a few items on your schedule.
Most markets offer a wide variety of fresh, whole foods, as well as a host of other culinary delights and options far beyond those at a quickie restaurant. You can keep dried fruits, nuts and seeds in your desk, and you might see if there is room for a refrigerator in your workspace. If so, you can stock it with healthful snacks such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt and juice. This would make you less of a slave to vending machines and fried, fast-food fixes.
For your food outside of work, I would suggest sprucing up your breakfast. Get a higher-fiber cereal, and make sure you always have either fresh fruit or juice with your meal. I know that you are strapped for time, but you might consider taking a cooking class. This would help you learn to cook in less time, using healthier ingredients, and you could even take the leftovers to work the next day!
Other important points are to devote more time to physical activity and get the sleep your body needs. You may find that your daytime productivity improves. I encourage you to make these changes now, and enlist your girlfriend to help keep things on course. The big risk is that a lifestyle of unhealthful habits has a way of setting itself up on autopilot and becoming your long-term "normal."
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