ELDER MUSIC: Some Baroque Composers
Recession Living

Ice Cream, Guilt and Aging Well

category_bug_journal2.gif Among my favorite foods are lobster; Dungeness crab; big, fat, ripe blackberries; a blue cheese from Spain called Cabrales; maple-infused, grilled salmon; and gorilla salad, my own dinner invention involving 10 to 15 vegetables and fruits held together with a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Standing above them all, however – by magnitudes of pleasure – is ice cream. Occasionally, I indulge in chocolate chip or peanut butter cup but 95 percent of the time, I want plain vanilla with no accoutrements and Haagen Dazs, which must have been invented by a god, is the only one worth having. Its flavor, texture and creaminess surpass all other brands.

For reasons we all know, ice cream should be an occasional indulgence; it's not really good for you. According to the label of that Haagen Dazs vanilla, a pint contains 3.5 servings. Who are they trying to kid? A pint is a serving, all 875 calories of which 525 – 60 percent - are fat calories and half of those are saturated fat.

In my continuing dental saga, for two days last week I was without upper teeth while the new denture was being relined at a lab. In addition to arranging for the avoidance of all human contact during that 48 hour period, I loaded up on food that does not require chewing. There is not much to choose from but soup except – hurray! - ice cream.

I considered two-days of toothlessness a legitimate reason to purchase three pints of Haagen Dazs vanilla – half the number of meals I would eat in those two days - and health be damned. On the first day, I ate a pint for breakfast.

Then guilt set in, as it does every time I eat ice cream, which is probably more often than you do. As I had nothing more intellectually challenging to do that day than pack for my upcoming move to Oregon, I spent some time cogitating on that guilt.

Due to this blog, I read a lot about old age. Most of what is popularly written is about elder health and “aging well,” and I always fall short. According to the writers:

  1. My body and mind will fall apart because I sleep too little - only five, sometimes six hours a night.

  2. Both body and brain will further deteriorate because I get too little exercise, won't join a gym and don't play any sports.

  3. I am in danger of depression because I don't meet the requirement for the “proper” amount of socializing.

  4. My brain will atrophy because I don't stretch it by learning certain recommended new things, a language for example.

  5. I'll develop heart disease because I EAT A LOT OF ICE CREAM.

I feel guilty about one or more these things every day. I feel this guilt so frequently that it is as much a part of my being as loving Ollie the cat. Not that I take any of the recommended steps that would alleviate it.

So I decided, while sorting through clothing, kitchen equipment and other household goods, that I must find a way to rid myself of these uncomfortable daily thoughts, fleeting though they are. And since it is unlikely, as evidenced by all of the above, that I will suddenly (or even gradually) change my health habits, there isn't much else to do but make peace with them. It wasn't difficult to work out; a little logic and common sense help.

  1. I feel fine on five or six hours of sleep a night. My father never slept more than four hours a night and it never occurred to him to worry about it. That seven- or eight-hour recommendation is an average. I need less, so I can forget about that.

  2. I've been getting by without a gym or a sport all my life. I'm just less physically active than some people. I walk for an hour most days and when I wore a pedometer for awhile, I racked up a minimum of two miles a day in my normal routine around the house. I think the “experts” forget to take into account all the usual moving around we do.

  3. If I'm content with the amount of social life I have and don't feel lonely, I doubt depression will descend on me. If it does, I'm pretty sure I will seek out more companionship.

  4. I may not have any interest in learning another language and playing brain games, but as number 2 attests, I live primarily in my mind. It gets plenty of exercise even if I'm not formally involved in soduko.

  5. Since I otherwise easily maintain a well-balanced, healthy diet, undoubtedly ice cream accounts for the unwanted 15 pounds I haul around. So be it. Ice cream is way too large a pleasure to live without and I'll risk the heart problems.

I suspect I'm not alone in the guilt that invades my days. Egged on by a health industry and media that mostly scare the bejesus out of us, I think we spend way too much time thinking about our health and not enjoying what gives us pleasure. Guilt and worry can't be good for us either.

Most of us are probably doing just fine even with our indulgences. And with that in mind, I'm adding ice cream to my shopping list today. Pleasure is important to aging well too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda Chaput: The White Stag of the Mountains


Oh, I really love ice cream too, but my favorite is Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk. I know it's decadent. However, I've been dieting lately and went months without ice cream, but the other evening I indulged. I slept like I was drugged and had a hangover the next day. I have a feeling my brand of ice cream should be classified as a drug. When I don't eat ice cream (or other junk food) I sleep much less. I'd sleep eight hours a night if I could eat ice cream every evening.

So that advice we always hear is conflicting. If I eat healthy, I sleep less.

Hallelujah and Amen! My fav is Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia!!!!

My mother,91, "denied" herself every indulgence all her life. Her word. She is the healthiest person at her senior living where they specialize in dementia. So, I figure something will getcha', we don't live forever. I "allow" myself (her word, not mine), many small pleasures in my life. If I don't live to my 90's, so be it. I'd rather live a life full of little dangers, drama, excess, and occasional ice cream.

Life is way too short to deny ourselves ice cream! And think of the calcium that your body needs and gets when you allow yourself that tiny pleasure :-).

Think no more about it -- life without ice cream is unthinkable.

Needs saying again, "I think we spend way too much time thinking about our health and not enjoying what gives us pleasure. Guilt and worry can't be good for us either."
Most excellent post. Do I ever fit into the framework of it.

"Pleasure is important to aging well too." I agree - life needs its little pleasures along the way.

As for #4, expanding your mind - I think that your writing fits that very well.

My pleasure is a glass of wine now and then, and/or a piece of really good chocolate.

The 'proper' amount of socializing is determined by your personality type. Extroverts need a lot of it; it's mostly meaningless but that's what they need and they can't understand those who don't...they think that there is something wrong with us. Hah! What do they know!

I'm glad to see you standing up to your guilt! We're lucky enough here in Western New York to have Perry's, which makes the most flavorful ice cream I've ever had. I indulge almost daily in the summer, but I don't eat much at a time. "Much" is, of course, a matter of personal discretion.

Oh come on -- life is for living, not for preserving, especially since the latter is impossible.

As for all those disciplines we subject ourselves to -- I have come to suspect they have seasons. Sometimes the right thing is to be ultra-disciplined and the result feels great. In other moments, it's time let go and just live. Now if I could only figure out more easily which times are which ...

Moving cross-country has got to be a right time for ice cream though -- that we can be sure of.

I agree with Gail, it's all about balancing quality with quantity. According to one study done with monkeys we could all live a lot longer if we ate less. The catch? You have to eat a lot less, almost starvation levels-not my idea of living.

In my own life I was worried about the amount of butter I eat since I cook with it and put it on my toast each morning. I just got my blood test results back this week and found that my cholesterol numbers are about mid-range, which is fine. I could get them lower but why? I'm healthy and I am happy, what more could I want out of life?

I could have written your blog word for word a few years ago. I could still write it, but without the guilt. I decided long ago that I don't want to spend my declining years being sensible and following a healthy regimen.

Steven has it right. I have a friend who is fanatical about living a healthy lifestyle. On vacation he seeks out a gym the very first thing. He gets a craving for brownies about twice a year and bakes a pan of them. He eats two and gives the rest away so he won't be tempted to eat more. He tries to put a guilt trip on me when he sees pastry in my house.

He fills every minute of his week with activities (he is an extrovert) and he has a lively social life. He keeps recommending ways I could increase my social life.

I finally made it clear to him that I already knew all the things he tells me to do and if I wanted to do them, I would. He has stopped patronizing me.

I am an introvert and do not need a lively social life. Maybe the disciplined lifestyle of my friend and being an extrovert go together.

Too many experts out there telling us the dire consequences of not following their advice on exercise, diet, etc! Worry => stress => dire health consequences. Solution: Stop listening to the experts and stop worrying. You probably did all the bad things that will shorten your lifetime in your youth anyway, so if you're still here enjoy!

All that advice is statistical anyway, just because one person avoids ice cream doesn't mean that one person will avoid whatever ice cream is supposed to be bad for. My Dad lived a not so healthy lifestyle, he died at age 77 of heart disease. My Mom lived a very healthy lifestyle, she died at 78 of cancer. Luck of the draw.

I agree: eat the ice cream and leave the guilt back East. I became allergic--not lactose intolerant, but deathly allergic--to all dairy products in my early 60's. Now I wish I had eaten lots more ice cream then. All flavors!

Anybody's chocolate anything with hot fudge on it and/or whipped cream. No wonder I am fifty pounds overweight. You should have emailed me. I could have sent you a tantalizing list of soft foods you would have loved that were high fat, high calorie, and absolutely guilt ridden through and through.

The main thing re weight is that you are not putting any on - so make the most of a dental day or two, I say!! And thanks for not telling me all the time that I am still a youngster at 66. So many young/old make me feel guilty for being unwell and unfit.

Haagen Dazs plain vanilla is my favorite ice cream. For me, it can’t be beat. I also like Hershey’s chocolate marshmallow, but can’t seem to find it lately. I go through Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise like there’s no tomorrow. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables as well as all the stuff that’s not supposed to be good for us. I slept about four hours last night and do feel a little tired right now at 2:30 p.m. Hopefully, I’ll get a few more hours of sleep tonight. If not, oh well, there’s always the next night.

Jamoca, Jamoca, Jamoca. Cherry Garcia.

Vanilla. My faves.

Thanks for the awesome post, Ronni. I can relate. Just today, had Phase 1 of dental implant surgery (two hours!) here in Tel Aviv. And listening to my post-surgery instructions on oral care (to take only soft edibles today), I went straight for the Swiss milk chocolate balls in the bowl at home. The bowl is now almost empty, and I feel that my gums are as happy as the rest of me. Sin, Sin, Sin of this kind is oh, so, yummy. Zero guilt, by the way. For what? My body. My aching hacked-at gums and jawbone. Oy! My, my, my... delicious;-)

Sin after 70? It might be fun but I fear it's irrelevant. All the "naysaying nabobs of negativism" can not add one day to my life and if they did I wouldn't want it. I believe absolutely that after three score and ten, I know what's best for or me and when my inner person says "no that's not for you" , I listen and usually obey but I don't hear that often because I'm no longer tempted by booze, tobacco, drugs or illicit sex. If eating Hazen Dags' dark chocolate ice cream is a sin then "Lead on McDuff and damned is he who says enough"

It is a difficult struggle at times for me as I'm a sugar addict (along with other addictions). I don't have a stop button and self-discipline is am alien concept to me.
I have to avoid ice-cream. But oh how I miss it! And if I were going to 'fall of the wagon' I would have to buy a gallon. A pint would never cut it.
Instead, I overindulge on books and DVDs.
PS I hope your teeth get fixed, Ronni!


At an hour a day you are still walking *far* more than the average American. Gail, my mother too ate very healthfully and exercised years before it was in style. She still battled weight her whole life and died at 80 of a massive stroke. I watch my weight, too, and have been pretty success at fighting a tough metabolism and body type since the age 8.

For all these reasons, I have long concluded that a life with no pleasures is not worth living. Keep those ice cream spoons close--and live those dental days to the fullest!


As far as I know, you don't smoke and you don't do (illegal) drugs. So, reward yourself and eat all the ice cream you want!

Exactly! Ice cream is one of life's greatest pleasures... ;)

-S ;)

Computers can be so frustrating! I just lost my first response to this post in cyberspace. Wonder if aging well includes fighting with technology, especially since technology usually wins. Well, at least it helps with item #4--keeps the brain active trying to figure out how to get my computer to do what I want it to do. For me it probably resolves item #3 as well. I was born an introvert, and a social butterfly I'll never be.

Hallelujah! I'd bet that guilt and anxiety stress the body and mind far more than many behaviors that are considered unhealthy (okay, addictions, including smoking, and obesity are excluded). Go for the ice cream!

I think a lot of us bloggers and blog-readers are introverts, and I don't think our brains are shrinking because of it. Sudoku isn't my idea of fun, and after a while most crossword puzzles seem pretty much alike. Why waste our limited time on them?

I can read one foreign language (slowly), can't speak any, and don't care. I'm not about to learn another, or work hard to improve. I exercise what's left of my brain by writing and by reading a lot. Your most excellent blogging keeps your mind super-sharp!

Exercise is one thing some of us have had to leave behind, not always willingly. I didn't get to be a physical wreck because of not exercising--it's the other way around.

Sleep? I need lots of it, more than when I was young. So nice to be retired and able to sleep in when necessary.

And ice cream? Love Edy's slow-churned, preferably french silk. One can't indulge every day, but we need to enjoy yummy foods once in a while. Life is too short not to. Experts now say that carrying a few extra pounds is protective. You go, girl!

If I come anywhere near butter pecan - I'm eating it!!

This is the second place today I've read about a pint of ice cream being one serving! That must make it true.

One of the best things about aging is accepting ourselves as we are. I love Cherries Garcia, I have diabetes 2, but discovered if I lay off the bread and potatos, my blood sugar and I are fine with a nice blob of ice cream. The list of things I don't want to indulge in or can't anymore is huge, ice cream is the prize. Guilt begone.

The idea of eating whatever you like but in smaller portions gets rid of guilt, fat, indulging the American fantasy that every plate be filled to the brim and keeps you thinner and well stocked with ice cream.

Today I enjoyed a strenuous yoga class. Afterwards, my friend and I went out for a root beer float!

Ronni I couldn't agree with you more. I love my ice cream at midnight while watching a movie to 2 am - it seems that I sleep better as a result...go figure. I was actually thinking of writing a book called ICE CREAM AT MIDNIGHT...Sheila's quest through old age but I am too lazy to put in the effort. Just live and enjoy and know that this is not a dress rehearsal.

yeah, ice cream is a food group by itself. very important to partake!
haagen daz strawberry and it's fruity to boot.
guilt is for youngsters.

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