Formula For Life Part 2





QUILL WILLIAM MORROW                  1989



Chapter 2: why don’t we take better care of ourselves?

We are taking good care of ourselves. That’s what we would have said ten years ago. And, in a sense, we would have been right. We were eating “good” food. We weren’t smoking tobacco, or anything else, for that matter. Yes, we were drinking wine rather freely, but then we were living in Paris at the time and the wine was practically free. Besides, half a bottle of wine with lunch or dinner, in France, put us in the light-drinker category.

We were eating extremely well by most standards. Food prices were so low in Europe that we could buy the best meats, cheeses, seafood, vegetables, and fruits from our neighborhood markets on the Left Bank.

It is true that the wonderful cheeses, the meats, the cream sauces, the rich pastries, had pushed our cholesterol right into the critical zone for stroke and heart attack. And it’s also true that today – older and wiser and much healthier – there are times when we still miss the terrines and pâtés, and especially the soft, scented cheeses that went so well with a nice red wine. All this means is that while we still love wonderful-tasting food, we are not willing to die for it. Especially since we now know there is wonderful-tasting food that doesn’t kill you.

Box 1

One in 5 American adults suffers from some type of disability. Difficulty in walking is the most common disability. Over 19 million people can walk as little as ¼ mile only with some difficulty; 7.9 million cannot make such a walk at all. 18 million people say they cannot even climb 1 flight of stairs without stopping to rest; 5 million report they cannot make such a climb at all.

The New York Times, December 23, 1986

  • American family life and social life often revolve around the outdoor barbecue. Barbecued ribs are black soul food.
  • It’s hard to imagine an American child without cookies and soda, a Frenchman without cheeses and wine, Germans without sausage and beer.
  • Given such deeply ingrained eating and drinking habits, one doesn’t win popularity contests by informing people that their traditional ways of eating are loading their arteries with atherosclerotic plaque or will give them cancer.

People are likely to think they are taking pretty good care of themselves, and are more likely to resent being told otherwise. They perceive health activists like us as overly interested in their private affairs and overeager to impose their own values on the rest of the world. We find this attitude quite understandable – since ten years ago we felt the same way.

Box 2: Health-promoting attitudes

  1. Healthy people feel that they are in control of their lives, rather than victims of circumstances beyond their control.
  2. Healthy people do not underestimate or overestimate their capacities. They are aware of their physical and mental limitations and accept them, but continually strive to improve themselves to realize their potential.
  3. Healthy people make personal decisions on the basis of rational rather than emotional considerations.
  4. Healthy people are not prejudiced, but are open to rational argument.
  5. Healthy people are not stubborn or willful, but proceed in the light of the most logical course of action.
  6. Healthy people are not overly flattered by praise and recognition, nor unduly influenced by lack of recognition and criticism.
  7. Healthy people have a strong, personal value system and are therefore immune to corrupting influences and greed.
  8. Healthy people have a realistic appraisal of human frailties and shortcomings. Such realization does not prevent them from readily entering into trusting and meaningful relationships with others.
  9. Healthy people have interests and concerns beyond their own personal welfare and happiness, or that of their immediate family and circle of friends. They see themselves as members of the larger world community and accept the responsibilities this entails.
  10. Healthy people conduct themselves in full knowledge of their ultimate mortality and have come to grips with it emotionally. These people do not harbor a morbid fear of death or dying, but are sustained by a strong sense of the underlying continuity in the perpetual changes and transformations observable in nature.


  • Denial of the facts of aging and the ill effects of certain lifestyles on health are especially prevalent among younger people.
  • This reluctance to apply unpalatable truths to themselves is one of the biggest obstacles in motivating people to modify their lifestyles.
  • Getting onto a life-extension program such as ours requires reshuffling our financial priorities. Both extra savings and extra expense are involved.
  • A shift from steak and chocolate cake to an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, and grains saves money, as does cutting out cigarettes and booze.
  • Better health means lower medical bills and less time lost because of illness.
  • In schools, colleges, and universities, health education that seriously covers sound nutrition is all but unheard of, while greasy hamburgers are served in the school cafeteria.

One could make a very long list of examples and reasons why most of us are not taking better care of ourselves. Basically, as we have tried to show, it all comes down to a single fundamental principle: conditioning. This forming of dietary habits and the adoption of certain life-styles begin very early in life. In America they are perhaps more pronounced and accelerated because of the intensive advertising of food, alcoholic drinks, cigarettes, and over-the-counter drugs. This kind of bombardment with commercial propaganda makes eating the wrong kind of foods, then taking nonprescription drugs for heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation, seem the most natural thing in the world. At the same time, it glamorizes and trivializes unhealthful life-styles that involve smoking and drinking.

Besides early conditioning, there is only one other reason why people who are genuinely concerned about their health may find it hard to get off traditional foods and onto a healthier diet: it is not easy to find or prepare a variety of healthful foods that really satisfy them the way cheese and chocolate and hamburgers or steaks “satisfy.”

  • Here we only want to acknowledge the deliberate effort and enormous mental energy it takes to go against the culture and overcome long-established dietary patterns.

For all these reasons, we entertain no illusion that any more than 1 in 1,000 people reading this book will actually follow our recommendations all the way. We’ll be happy if 10% of our readers go only part of the way with us on diet but faithfully take the anti-oxidants, adhere to a minimal exercise program, and dedicate themselves to cultivating positive mental attitudes.

Our hope is that more and more people – however unthinking they may have been in the past – will never have to say, “I wish I’d taken better care of myself.”


Chapter 3: why people give up on vitamins

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