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Around the bend: Take a walk on the moderate side

While eating dessert the other night, a question occurred to me: When did I forget about “seizing the day”?
I was savoring a modest square of gourmet dark chocolate, which health experts now say is good for you — in moderation, of course — and I realized that’s what my life is all about now: moderation. In my carpe diem days, dessert would have meant a slice of caramel swirl cheesecake or most of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Now a 1-ounce morsel of heart-healthy, fair-trade, 70-percent cocoa, antioxidant-laden chocolate has become my idea of a real treat.
I hardly recognize myself.
Later that night, while dutifully getting ready for bed at 9:30, flossing my teeth and laying out my exercise clothes for the morning, I reflected on how tame I’ve become. What ever happened to the young woman who used to stay up all night just to watch the sun rise? Who danced like no one was watching? Who, on the spur of the moment one June day, walked off her waitressing job and hitchhiked across the country to find herself?
Oh, I don’t mean me. I’ve never done any of that. But I used to at least feel like the kind of person who might.
In my college days, I stayed up past midnight whenever I felt like it, never worrying about whether a late night — or a hangover — would affect my ability to focus the next day. I thought nothing of ordering a pizza at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night — and eating it by myself.
Now, in contrast, I put on sunscreen before going out to get the mail.
I keep thinking back to one of my favorite movies, the 1985 romantic comedy “The Sure Thing.” In it, John Cusack plays a college freshman who falls for a straitlaced student. Appalled at her adherence to a rigid schedule of studying and self-improvement, he finally says something like, “Don’t you ever do anything you know isn’t good for you?”
She can’t seem to even comprehend the question.
That’s me.
I used to look forward to weekends for the parties. Now I look forward to weekends because I let myself sleep in until 6:30 a.m. As my grandmother used to say, “No sense wasting the best part of the day!”
Over time, I have gradually shifted my priorities from doing whatever I wanted without regard to the consequences to doing what’s best for my long-term well-being. That means, for example, incorporating strength training into my workouts to increase my bone density and lower my risk of osteoporosis. (Hear that? Twenty years ago, I did not talk like a sidebar from Women’s Health magazine.)
If that’s not pathetic enough, get this: I like living this way. Seriously.
And I’m not alone. Pretty much everyone my age or older has figured out that, in the spirit of self-preservation, “everything in moderation” isn’t a bad philosophy. In fact, the way I see it, the one thing you can never have too much of is moderation.
So these days, I consider a snack a handful of almonds, not a party-size bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I drink red wine — a 4-ounce glass with dinner, mind you — not multiple tequila shots. And I gave up the hobbies that would have raised my life insurance premiums — though I’ll never forget the thrill of powerboat racing.
Is it a crime that I’ve swapped out living in the moment in favor of living well? As boring as it might sound, it seems to be working. (Not to brag, but plenty of people would kill for my triglyceride levels.)
Still, sometimes I miss the reckless me, the girl of 20 years ago who used to go to rock concerts without wearing adequate ear protection.
Last night, after I finished my usual square of chocolate, I heard the voice of my younger self reminding me how incredible it felt to do something impulsive — even if I knew it wasn’t good for me. So, without a thought to calories, I went back and polished off the rest of the chocolate bar. The whole thing.
Oh, yeah. I’ve still got a wild streak.
It’s just that these days, my primary — though admittedly lackluster — goal is to be as strong and healthy as I possibly can. That means I can’t always “seize the day.”
But it doesn’t mean I can’t seize the chocolate now and then.

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