Un momento en los labios, para el resto en las caderas. That’s the phrase I bumped into in a Spanish language phrase book. The editor sure has a sense of humor.

I remember my capoeira mestre telling me he never ever drank a drop of alcohol. It was like taking poison. It would affect his athletic performance for sure. Yet just two days ago a friend who is considering expensive stem cell injections in another country stated that if he gave up drinking, he would grow more stem cells naturally. But he loves his wine or liquor too much.

I know former alcoholics (they would say they are never “former”) who refuse to take one drink for fear that their old compulsions will take hold. I understand completely how one little slip can lead to much bigger deviations. On a recent trip to Spain and France, it was impossible not to be served meat, cheese and cream in the food. It was everywhere, and these are three foods I gave up to keep my cholesterol low. I definitely miss chorizo sausage, so I had one little taste. Suddenly I was eating cured ham, salamis, lamb. Heavenly tastes. I tried cheeses I used to eat, had vegetables in cream sauce, and many flans with egg yolks. It was all delicious.

Of course I thought neurotically that I was on the way to killing myself. Ridiculous. But I started rowing again in a hotel gym on that trip. That kind of cardio really burns up the cholesterol. Thank goodness I left after 12 days of this food orgy. I was thrilled to get home and eat more normally for me. Much healthier.

But the idea of a short term deprivation for a longer term benefit is too difficult for most people. Whether the goal is to lose weight, be healthier, or save money. Humans want the immediate gratification. Just heard about a recent study testing whether people could give up some money in the short run to make more over time. If they had to wait a few hours or a day, they could. Wait a few days or a week…forget it. No wonder people can’t save money or invest in long term projects with payoffs years away. It’s how our species functions…maybe how we have survived for centuries. We will see if this pattern works when dealing with commodities shortages and climate change. In the short run, see if you can give up one food pleasure for a week. Catholics do it for Lent, right? Isn’t that 40 days?

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