At dinner tonight we had breakfast for dinner (genius meal when you’re stumped by an unending need to create something “new”). At the end of the meal we were all discussing our love for bacon. Without a beat this came from the 6 year-old in our midst:
“Mama, could I live a long time and still have a piece of bacon everyday?”
I thought about it. Yes, it seems, yes. Yes, every day with bacon!
“Yes, I said, “I think you can have bacon but only if you exercise everyday and if you have really great friends. The kind of friends that make you feel alive.”
I launched into some sort of summary of the art of moderation with bacon, pouring out facts about fats, cholesterol, and diverse food choices – the essential need to balance bacon with things that grow in the ground. As I waxed on with a macronutrient-level discussion the 6 year-old in front of me just kept moving with his idea. Turned out he wanted concrete responses for his life with bacon. He pushed into the friendship part.
A long life with bacon goes something like this: of course you need to eat a lot of other goodnesses with your bacon. We can borrow wisdom from the Mediterranean diet and reduce the red meat we eat, put fish on the table twice a week, eat lots of seeds and nuts and ensure fruits and veggies show up on every plate we serve. Debates will wage on about the magic foods we eat, today it was the complexities to the value of an orange over OJ so we always have to put food advice in the context of life. I told my 6 year-old tonight he’d have to exercise every day and get outside, twirl around without a ceiling, take a lot of steps, and be connected with nature.
But perhaps most essential to living a long life (with bacon), I repeated, is solid choices with whom he chooses to live his precious life. If you’re going to eat bacon every day you have to make great friends and forge partnerships with those who make the world feel possible. In my mind you need soul-fetching friends — the ones who literally make you feel like you can fly. We have to spend time with those who let us unpeel ourselves without judgment and urge us to take risks, help us take our time, and lend support to shelter whatever we consider dear.
It’s no secret that friendship is an essential part of health. People with strong networks of social support have better immune systems, better heart health and less stress hormones coursing through their bodies. This is true at any age; clearly we all suffer more on the days our children are bullied or left out on the playground compared to the days we nurse them through a stomach bug. Some research finds that friendships and confidants, even more than our relatives, extend life.
It’s obvious maybe. When have you recently felt the “healthiest?” It likely wasn’t after a big breakfast. It was perhaps after a great tennis match, a yoga class that gave you time to reflect on what you value, or the afternoon you took time to walk with someone you adore. Maybe an intimate moment reading books with your children before bed or taking a beat of time to notice the presence of their hand in your own. For me, I feel most vital, human, capable and earnestly alive when in the presence of a real friend.
So vaccines, car seats, whole foods, and sleep – so important. Tonight perhaps I’m saying though, the thing we should focus on most when we falter is how we’re nurturing the gift of delicious, lasting friendships for our children and for ourselves. This may in fact be most essential, bacon everyday, or not.