A couple years ago the World Health Organization published a study revealing that red meat, and especially processed meat, is more harmful than they originally thought. Ever since reading that, I’ve had second thoughts when eating red meat, or when I see Daniel buying a package of beef jerky. The study revealed that consumption of processed meats, like bacon or hot dogs, can increase the risk of cancer by 18%. According to Dr. Kurt Straif, “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but the risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”
I remember my first thought after reading this news was, Welp, there goes my enjoyment of meat! And then, just as soon as that thought entered my head, I thought of Shake Shack, and my throat started to close trying to consider giving it up. Over the past year, I have continued to eat red meat, deli meats, and of course, bacon, and I sometimes wonder if I’m eating too much. But I try to remember that many things in life have the potential to cause some harm, and living a balanced life means accepting that not all of our decisions can be 100% safe.
These days, with the mountains of information and scientific studies that come out about health and diet—often contradicting each other—it can feel overwhelming trying to decide on the right things to do. One day you hear red wine is good for you, and the next it’s a warning to avoid alcohol at all costs. Sitting will kill you; standing isn’t much better; exercise will injure you; bacon will give you cancer. We all turn into Ponce de Leon trying to adjust our lifestyle to live forever.
The only truth is, we are going to die. Obsessing over the minutiae of health information is not healthy living—at least not for me. I try to live a life of balance and moderation. I eat very little processed meat, but occasionally I’ll eat bacon on my burger or I’ll have a hotdog at a cookout. Life isn’t a controlled scientific study. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to accept some small increased risk in exchange for happiness and comfort.
If you eat processed meat every day, yes, consider cutting down. If the findings of the study lead you to decide to stop eating red meat entirely, that, too, is perfectly fine for you to do. We all have to weigh our our health and our happiness and our peace of mind. Try to find a path that is mostly healthy and mostly comfortable and hopefully you’ll be walking it for a very, very long time.