Why Do We Insist on Doing Things That are Bad for Us?

I came across this study today, which basically looks at twenty years of research and comes to the completely unsurprising conclusion of “vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy.” At this point, this seems to be kind of obvious. They’ve been doing studies for decades, and yes, avoiding meat and eating whole foods is healthier than the opposite. And yet, despite this clear connection, as a society, we keep on downing meat and processed foods as fast as our little mouths will chew. (This isn’t me finger pointing at others. I’m not a vegan, though these days I rarely eat meat, mainly because I’m a Denisatarian. I eat whatever Denisa makes for dinner when she’s cooking, and when the rest of us our cooking (usually Daniela), we make things Denisa will eat. And so since Denisa eats vegan, that’s my default as well. I eat burgers or steaks when we go out to a restaurant or are at a friend’s house, but that’s about it.)

It’s not that I really wonder why we do things that are bad for us. Often, the things that are good for us aren’t nearly as much fun. Brownies taste better than broccoli. Flossing is a pain. Exercise is a grind. So it’s no wonder we avoid them. But what doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me is why so many seem to do derive some sort of satisfaction about not doing the better thing. People who actively make fun of people who are doing better at anything.

Although, as I type that, I recognize right away why it is, or why it might be for many people. We recognize something is a bad choice, and yet we make it anyway, so then we do our best to convince ourselves that it’s the right choice, and that people who aren’t making that choice are wrong. It’s a kind of doublethink that happens every day, all the time. Global warming. Vaccines. Exercise. Diets. Seat belts. Speed limits. Helmets. Limiting screen time. Wearing masks. In each instance, there’s strong evidence for what’s the best option, but in each instance, some people actively avoid taking it.

So what would I do about it? Am I wanting to become vegan, or limit screen time more? (I’m doing my best on the others at the moment, though I’m far from perfect.) Not really. I think because I’m doing better than I would be doing otherwise, that I’m okay with what I do. Of course, “Other people are worse at it than I am, so I’m good at it” is a really inane argument to make as soon as you say it out loud, but that’s where I am for now. And ultimately, I recognize the right of everyone to make their own decisions.

What I really wish would stop happening is people making fun of others for making the right choice. Sure, I guess sometimes people making those right choices can be a bit overzealous with their proselytizing, but unless that happens, why not just let people be?

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