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How Much Risk Are You Willing to Take?

Risk vs RewardAre you a risk-taker?  I am not talking about bungee jumping or James Bond 007 stunts where your life is in danger…just basic risk-taking.  Whether we realize it or not, we all take risks every day.  We also make decisions NOT to take certain risks.  Over the past couple weeks, this topic has been on my mind and I wanted to share some food for thought.

What is risk?

We often think about risk as “a situation involving exposure to danger” or “the possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen.”  So, driving 30 mph over the speed limit greatly increases your likelihood of an accident or the pleasure of seeing the heart-dropping red and blue lights in your rearview mirror!

But of course, we don’t make decisions based only on the risk...there's the "what's in it for me?" benefit too.  We consider the potential benefits (“a good or helpful result or outcome”) to be what we get in return for taking the risk.  The benefit of flying 30 mph over the speed limit?  We will get to our destination faster...and will be on-time for work or that important appointment.  For most of us, this benefit may not be significant might only justify 10 mph over the speed limit...not 30!

What kind of risks do we encounter?

“No-brainer” risk:  The benefit is significantly greater than the risk!  Telling your spouse “I love you” or hugging your kids as they head out the door...we can't argue that these actions have enormous benefit and NO risk.  Eating together as a family?  Again, most of us would agree there is significant benefit and NO risk (unless an unexpected sibling food fight breaks out).  Hopefully, we take these "no-brainer" risks A LOT!

“Playing with fire” risk:  The risk is greater than the benefit!  Many of us decide not to smoke, use drugs, or skydive because we believe the risk of injury or illness far outweighs the benefits.  We believe the risk is "just not worth it."

"State of denial" risk:  These are the "it won't happen to me" risks!  Texting and driving - or speeding - are prime examples.  We have heard so many stories of lives ending prematurely because of texting and driving, yet many people still do it.  Why?  Is it because they think the benefit is greater than the risk?  Most of us would agree the benefit isn't great enough, but many still do it because they think “that accident won't happen to me” or “just this one time…nothing will happen and I will never do it again”…until the next time, of course.  These "state of denial" risks may later turn into ones we strongly regret.

By now you are probably wondering...what does this have to do with REAL food?

Last week, I was watching an interview with a doctor who had done some clinical trials to try to understand how certain foods affect the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  His trials and other research are providing more evidence that what we eat has a significant influence on our risk of getting these diseases.  When he described the benefits of a diet based on REAL food, the interviewer asked “what's the downside?” and the doctor responded “there isn’t one.”  The interviewer then said, “So let me see if I understand you.  I can do something that’s good for me, that tastes good, that feels good to do and makes me feel better.  Where’s the downside?  I’m waiting for the hook here.”

Did you catch that?!

THERE ISN'T ONE!  A diet based on REAL food...there isn't a downside!

So, here is my question...what are the risks and benefits of eating REAL food vs. eating “convenience” and highly-processed foods?

To me, regularly consuming highly-processed foods would fit into the "state of denial" category.  We know it's not good for our health, leads to weight gain, and increases the risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and others, but we still do it!  The benefits?  Perhaps it's convenience, less arguing with our picky eaters, or the taste we are accustomed to.  Are these benefits really that much greater than the risk?  Maybe in the short term, but many would say "no" over the long-run.  So, why is highly-processed food the preferred choice?  Similar to texting and driving, it sounds like a state of denial thinking...“that disease or illness will never happen to me” or “just this one time, and then I will get my eating on track”…until the next meal, of course.  Again, this type of risk-taking is one that we may later strongly regret.

Regularly eating REAL food, on the other hand, fits perfectly into the "no-brainer" risk category.  The benefits?  Decreased risk of chronic disease, great taste, weight loss for many, increased energy, and many more.  And, with a little planning, these foods really can be just as convenient as a frozen pizza, carry-out, or a box of mac & cheese.  The risks?  As the doctor said, “there isn’t one.”

-In the end we only regret the chances we didn't take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.


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