My boys are trying to bulk up. They’re going to the gym for 90 minute lifting sessions and drinking protein shakes.

Why didn’t I buy them the giant jar of protein shake powder? they want to know. It would be more economical in the long run. I didn’t know if they would like it, or just try it once and not drink any more, I point out.

They look at me with consternation. It doesn’t matter if they like it. They are going to drink it anyway in order to develop those bulging rippling muscles and get taller and gain weight and stuff.

Then #2 son asked why I always say “Have fun!” when they go to the gym. Why do I ask if they had a good time when they get home? That’s not the point.

So I thought about this as I was sweating on the treadmill. Increasing the grade, increasing the speed. Is it fun?

And I thought about it again as I was copying out the family recipes for #2 daughter. All those delectable things I used to cook with butter and cream and quantities of cheese. No wonder my boys complain about having to eat healthier food. A switch from a steady diet of Hamburger Helper to delicious fruits and vegetables would be one thing, but Chicken Champignon and Danish Almond Crisps to vegetables and brown rice is a step down, in terms of eating pleasure.

I think that we are designed to enjoy brown rice and vegetables most of the time, and to enjoy work, too. Then we can enjoy the punctuation of luxurious foods and rest.

In our modern lives, though, we have the option of resting and eating luxurious foods all the time. We have to create artificial opportunities for physical work in the gym, and make artificial constraints to keep ourselves eating simple foods.

We also have the option of working all the time and eating nasty food substitutes. Those of us who reel home from work — usually not physical work — exhausted and gobble down something from the microwave or drive-through window are doing that. Often, people choose to do that in order to reach a future goal which may or may not actually provide any pleasure for them or satisfy any requirements of duty.

We can keep ourselves in a continual state of festival if we want to, or a continual state of deprivation. Neither, I think, is good for us.

The Hundred Dollar Holiday makes the point that our holidays evolved during a time when feasting and noise were rarities. Now they are the norm, so it might make more sense to let our holidays be times for quiet and simplicity. Instead, for many of us, they are just another duty, another enormous effort toward a questionable goal.

I think I am arguing here for balance. Between duty and pleasure, between future goals and present enjoyment, between work and play, between simplicity and luxury.

And I guess those protein shakes won’t hurt the boys.