Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I used to read Dragon and Dungeon Magazine religiously as a kid. I particularly enjoyed Dungeon but I also liked reading the game advice columns in Dragon (and the comic strips). I remember they used to run a lot of advertisement and sometime around the late 80s or early 90s (I think) they began an anti-obesity campaign. I couldn't track down the ad but it was an image of a bulging gut with the words "Some gamers have a problem..." on the top of the page and "....denial" at the bottom. I am going by memory here, so this may not be 100% accurate. Since then, I've participated in and observed many of the unhealthy habits that likely led them to run this campaign in the first place. I just want to do my part here to encourage people, gamers in particular, to make healthier eating and lifestyle choices. 

First let me say this isn't about people looking a certain way or being ashamed of themselves. I don't think anyone should be ashamed if they are overweight and I know a lot of skinny people who eat fatty food all the time. This is purely about heart health and living a longer life. Last year my business partner, William Butler, died suddenly from heart disease. He was also the Gamemaster in our group and like a lot of us, he didn't have the healthiest diet. I hope to encourage other gamers to think about what they eat both during the game and in between. 

When you game, you tend to eat the most convenient foods. At my table it was almost always pizza or Chinese (sometimes subs as well).  But we also tend to be readers and the types of folk who spend time at the computer. This isn't universal. I know plenty of athletic gamers too, but I think it is safe to say a lot us (myself included) spend considerable time sitting down and eating food that is easy to make so we finish our book or prep that dungeon level. I believe people should spend a little time and effort to break that pattern because you can only eat and live that way so long before it catches up with you, and I'd like you all to be around as long as possible. 

Here is what I suggest, and it is going to be a bit sacrilegious. Skip the pizza. If you have to order Chinese takeout, get the steamed dishes, not the stir fries or appetizers (or anything fried). Eat stuff that tastes clean, not greasy. If you have to, make food yourself before the game. Also don't eat snacks, pastry or donuts during play.  

I have some experience with this because I became very involved in competitive martial arts some years back and found myself needing to make dietary changes in order to stay inside my weight class (I couldn't go over 149 pounds). This was hardest to maintain on game night (at the time I think I was gaming once or twice a week). My way around it was I ordered the same boring steamed dish from the menu every time (because my group pretty much always ordered Chinese or Pizza). I discovered after a couple of weeks that steamed food, once you get used to it, tastes really good, and greasy food tastes bad after you haven't had it for a bit. In fact one of the other things I discovered was all the light sauces you can use to enhance steamed chicken and vegetable or steamed fish. There are all kinds of ginger sauces and bean sauces. I found out that you could even get a whole steamed cat fish stuffed with scallion and ginger from some places if you asked for it (and it was really tasty). This had a dramatic effect on my ability to remain at my desired weight. 

After I stopped competing and didn't have to be under a certain weight, I gained it back pretty fast by reverting to my old eating habits (getting up to 195 pounds). There is a world of difference between 146 (which is what I was before) and 195. I could feel it. I was still exercising and involved in the same kinds of activities, I just was allowing myself to eat big meals and eat whatever tasted good at the time. I was exhausted and even developed sleep apnea. 

These days, I am back down to my normal weight. But I still hadn't really been eating all that healthy. I was eating smaller amounts but I was consuming a lot of fatty, salty food and fewer vegetables. When Bill died, I started to rethink my diet. I've been aiming once again for the clean food and trying to eat more vegetables than meat of carbohydrates (not cutting this other stuff out, just putting more focus on vegetables). I also stopped ordering food at my games. If someone is hungry and needs to order food, I won't object at all, but I don't ask if people want to order it any more and no one really seems to bring it up. If they did I would also probably encourage them to get steamed dishes. 

So I would encourage any gamers reading this who are not already eating healthy to consider making a change. Eat cleaner and healthier food. Get a little more active and work out. I don't exercise to the extent that I used to, but I still try to stay active and do a moderate routine when I can. Not only does it improve your mood, it gives you more energy. I am certain if you don't exercise and incorporate a little resistance and cardio into your day, you'll be more alert at the game table and feel more enthusiastic when you prep adventures. 

I don't like being preachy about it. I know it can come off a bit high-and-mighty when someone tries to steer you toward healthier food options, but I also don't want to lose another friend to a heart attack, so I will take being more rude if it means gamers' arteries get less clogged. 


  1. Great post and excellent advice! I have worked hard to maintain a decent diet (I've been diabetic for fourteen years now) and my preferred game table snacks include sweet peppers, peas, celery and carrots. Alas at my table it usually means I have my snacks to myself, but encouraging words could definitely help change people's minds.

  2. Thanks Nicholas. I am glad to hear you are eating healthy and trying to keep the diabetes under control. I have some family members with diabetes and that can be tough to manage. For them it is a constant struggle to keep their blood sugar at the right level. Even a simple glass of wine can be a problem if they are not careful. This has made me very aware of how much sugar I consume because many of them developed it later in life. I gave up juices, sodas and now take my coffee with no sweeteners.

  3. It would be great to start a Healthy Gamers Initiative for conventions and such.