They say that money can't buy love. But, can it buy happiness? I think it can.

Eight years ago, I was running a public startup medical company located in Westchester, N.Y. and split my living time between a permanent home in Delaware, where my wife lived and worked, and an apartment in New York City where I spent several nights per week. On top of that, I was traveling outside the area on business approximately 40% of the time. On weekends in the winter, we would stay in the Big Apple apartment. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, our young niece and nephew visited us.

As the children were exploring the small one bedroom apartment, the high pitched voice of my 10 year-old nephew called out, "Uncle Joe, why are there only drinks in this refrigerator." I ignored him, hoping that he would move on to something else, but he persisted. "Why are there only drinks in this refrigerator?

I went over angrily to show him he was wrong and opened the refrigerator, and much to my surprise, he was actually right--on the refrigerator shelves and doors were bottled water (Poland Spring and San Pellegrino), Diet Coke, skim milk, and several bottles of Chardonnay. Wait, there was a tub of Country Crock and a few packets of ketchup. And that's it.

On weekends in the summer, when we are at a beach house together, my nephew is accustomed to seeing a packed refrigerator--several buckets of my finely cut fruit salad that takes me more than two hours to prepare (watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes), eggs, bacon, whole milk, butter, jelly, Hershey's syrup, deli sandwich meats, cheese, salad dressing, several varieties of lettuce, meats to be grilled (hot dogs, steak, hamburgers, salmon, scallops), Chinese food leftovers from the night before, wrapped-up pizza, peaches, cherries, cottage cheese, yogurt, and a pie.

He is also used to seeing me happy as I prepare the fruit salad and skewers, grill the meals, make coffee, and chat with his parents and my wife.

In the N.Y. apartment, I was not happy, at all. I was working, running on adrenalin, rushing everywhere, and trying to get back down to Delaware to see my wife whenever possible. And my evenings and nights in the apartment were very stressful; either I was packing for an out of town trip, preparing slides and printing them for meetings with investors the next day or completing other work. I would order from the Moonstruck Diner, open a bottle of Chardonnay, turn on the Mets or Knicks, and drink as much as I could to wash the day away, but not so much as to prevent me from working out the next morning at 6 AM.

The last thing on my mind was what I would eat. The last thing I would do is spend the time to go food shopping during the week.

You are what you eat, and you eat what's in your refrigerator.

When you force yourself to shop for food, to prepare, plan, microwave, pre-heat an oven, slice, peel, and boil, you give yourself distance from the day. The planning and execution of an enjoyable healthy pursuit brings happiness into your life without you even realizing it. Washing the dishes instead of reading reports or trade journals gives a tired mind room to clear itself, and nerves time to calm, naturally.

The expression, "Keepin' it real," basically sums it up. A life without food in a refrigerator is not a real life. You can sustain an artificial existence temporarily, but you cannot do that for years without losing something. I lost a lot, insidiously--I didn't even realize it was happening. I kept telling myself that this was temporary, that the hurdles and challenges the company was facing would soon be over, that Nirvana was just around the corner. But it wasn't.

Working in startups and entrepreneurial ventures does this to you. The sacrifices add up and take their toll. When there are more challenges than successes, you wrongly equate activity itself as winning. So, you do more, whether or not it has any vector sum gain, or is just a frenetic pace of harmonic motion. And then, you don't go food shopping.

If there are only drinks in your refrigerator, you're stuck on this dangerous treadmill. Recognize the signs, take stock of your life, get someone to look at your life from the outside and help you see what is happening. I wish that I had done so.

In the meantime, buy a bottle of Hershey's syrup and put it on the top shelf to remind yourself of what is real.