For the first 20 years of my life or so, "Diet" was a word reserved for people who wanted to lose weight. My buddy wanted to be thinner, so he'd go on a diet. My friend wanted to look good in a bathing suit, so she'd stop eating shitty food for a month. I ran around like an idiot enough that it technically counted as "exercise" and my young metabolism was a beautiful engine of rage and perfection, so I never thought about diets. "A diet is what overweight people go on," Past Daniel thought.
Your "Diet" refers to every single thing you eat, how much of it you eat and when you eat it, and when you get older, you have to monitor that shit. As you get older, it's not as simple as "eating lots of food makes you fat" or "eating less makes you skinny." You have to make sure you're eating the right foods in the right portions. In part, you do this to stay in shape, but not the easily-attained immaculate shape you were in in college that required absolutely no maintenance; a different shape. Imagine, in your late twenties, you just look like an average person. Not overweight, but not covered in huge muscles or anything. Maybe you've got a bit of a beer gut. You will have to maintain a steady, healthy diet for the rest of your life just to not look any worse than that. When you get older, eating right and working out is just about breaking even.
You need to work out every day to stay like this.
But monitoring your diet isn't just about staying in shape; you also have to do it to keep yourself from feeling like shit all day. (Apparently everything you do when you get older is based around having enough energy during the daytime to contemplate more ways to cultivate and maintain energy.)
For over two decades, I didn't think about what I ate at all. I never counted my meals or recognized when I wasn't getting enough protein or water. I'm the guy who would eat a meal of Steak-Ums and Twizzler Nibs at 4am and wash it down with a nugget that could have been of the Chicken Mc variety or could have just been some other nugget-based treat. I'm the guy who would go a whole day without eating a thing and then make a burrito full of pasta and mustard, because that's what I had in my apartment. Not only am I the guy who knows what a filthy, disgusting chili dog from 7-11 tastes like, I'm the guy who knows that there's a price break if you order more than four at a time, that's who I am, that's what's going on my tombstone. Different foods didn't have different functions to me, it didn't matter what I put into myself-- carbs, red meat, protein, fiber, iron, sugar, salt -- it was all just handfuls of things that went in my mouth and made me powerful. That's it.
But now it's the future, and eating one thing, (like a meal with lots of red meat), means that I have to deprive myself of something else, (beer, french fries, a fist-full of sugar), to balance things out. That's just a thing you'll probably have to do at some point.
Here's a neat little exercise that I would never recommend doing under any circumstances: Graduate college, and then wait. After a few years have gone by, track down your frat brother or sorority sister, or whoever it was that you did the bulk of your reckless living with, whoever it was that ordered pizza in the middle of the night with you, drank beers till six in the morning and then road a bike to class. Invite this person out with you. Spend the entire night recreating an evening from your college days; eat the greasy food you ate at 19, drink a lot, eat a second dinner, the whole nine yards.
It will destroy you for the next 24 hours. My old roommate and I did this not too long ago. We went to one of our favorite places, ordered several plates of the best buffalo wings on the planet, drank beers out of giant glass boots, yelled at things and had a wonderful night. The plan was to go for a hike the next morning, but not only did we not go, I never even called him to cancel, and he didn't call me. We both just needed to spend a day recovering, not from a hangover, but from a general I'm-Too-Old-for-This-Shit-over, (or "Murtaughver"). We stayed in all day, basting ourselves with the juices of our shared shame. The late night buffalo wing game is one designed for younger men.
"We can't hang out at college bars anymore. Riiiiiiggggs!"
You'll be slower, greasier, everything will hurt, you won't feel motivated enough to do fucking anything, and your toilet bowl will forever look at you as if you'd killed its brother.
"Hey man, I just want you to know, whatever relationship we had going on before? That's done now. We're through."
There's no reason to be coy about this. When you're a kid, there's only one thing that "joints" means. (Or, I guess, two if you're the kind of kid who read a lot of children's books written by people who love olde timey language.)
For most people, "joints" refers to Marijuana cigarettes. Reefers. Depending on where you fall on the spectrum of party animalogy, you either never think about finding joints, or you're constantly going from person to person asking if anyone knows "who's got loose joints?"
But Now ...
You're going to do a thing. Like anything, like some random, boring thing that you do every day. And you'll wake up the next morning in pain and you'll have no idea why. No one punched you, you didn't over-exert yourself, and there aren't a bunch of knives sticking out of you. It can't be that thing I did you'll think. I've been doing that for years, and it's never caused me any pain before. And yet, you hurt.
It's your joints. Your joints hurt, because carrying the weight of you around has become too much of a burden. Your body is now rejecting you.
I've highlighted the parts that will shut down in red, and I've highlighted the parts that will never work as well as they did in high school in skeleton.
Joints form the connections between bones. You don't need to think about them when you're younger, because for many, many years, your relationship with your joints is so good that you're barely aware of their existence. But then they turn on you, and they're all you can think about. There's some medication and physical therapy you can use to treat some forms of joint pain, but for the most part, it's just a thing that starts to and will always happen when you get older. To everyone who doesn't wake up with random pain every once in a while, just prepare yourself. When you're young, a sharp pain means something's wrong, and you need to go to a doctor and he'll fix it, because you're supposed to be immortal. Eventually, you won't rush to the doctor every time something aches. You'll just wake up one day saying "Oh, my elbow hurts? Sure, okay, I guess that's life, now."
Well this ended up being a lot more depressing than I'd intended. Some day in the future I'll write a companion article that's full of words that take on a new awesome meaning when you get older. Until then, I'll just do something to lighten the mood.
(Though, I'd feel weird if I didn't point out that, when that dachshund gets, its adorable wiener-shape is going to cause a ton of back problems, as that has historically been a problem for that breed. And actually since I have no idea how old this picture is, it's possible that the puppy we're looking at has since gotten older and died.)
(I'm so sorry.)
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and he stayed up so late finishing this column that he didn't get his full eight hours so please speak quietly and stay away from him (fuckin', everybody).
For more from Daniel, check out Genius or Insane? 8 Rejected Cracked Photoshop Entries and My Brief Time as Encyclopedia Brown's Partner.