Recently I have been thinking about an intriguing concept. I think a lot and spend plenty of time in self-reflection. Being a Holistic Health Coach and Nutritional Chef, I think about people, and then I think about food, and then I think about people and their relationship with food.
The individual person is capable of understanding what it is they need to be fueling their bodies with, but more often than not, struggle with weight loss/gain, and various other visual indicators that signify there is a problem in the diet like……….let’s say psoriasis (a skin condition).
When we look at human-beings collectively, we are a sick species – continually getting sick with various cancers, heart conditions, mental conditions, arthritis, digestive problems, and the entire gambit of auto-immune disorders. So why do we agree as a culture that our hereditary conditions have our fate sealed? Why is it that we’ve resigned ourselves to the idea of living out our twilight years in assisted living, or a nursing home?
I keep coming back to something I stated in a previous radio show – the concept that I mentioned earlier, here it is.
Take an herbivore (which eats only plants) – a deer – the deer knows instinctually what it is supposed to eat. The deer will serenely go about the business of eating their leaves, grasses, bark, twigs, and flowers, and as a result their bodies respond the way their DNA is encoded for their development.
A carnivore (which eats only meat) – like a tiger – instinctually goes about the business of tracking that deer, slaughtering it, and eating it. The tiger is repaid in kind by receiving all the nutrients that are required for the tiger to remain a healthy animal.
An omnivore (which sources food from both plants and animals) such as a bear – finds itself scarfing up blueberries and catching salmon – the bear thrives as a result of its activities and diet just like the other two categories of eaters.
Then there’s human-beings – we are in fact omnivores – similar to that of the aforementioned bear, akin to primates, and a curious nod to the pig and mice. Why is it we can’t come to terms about what we need to be putting in our bodies? Why are we confused about our food? Why do we take offense at those trying to pull themselves up out of the murky bog that is the Standard American Diet? The answers are both simple and complicated, yet compelling through and through!
Taste buds – The tongue is an amazing organ. The tongue and its surrounding glands and teeth are first in contact with the food we eat. Chewing properly and allowing our saliva to coat the surface area of the foods we’re eating is an integral part of the digestion process. Taste buds provide the sensations and flavors that we experience from our foods. Prior to our industrial revolution, this all important feature played a vital role in us determining what was good to eat! Sweet, salty, tangy, umami, bitter, sour, fatty, acidic, and all accompanying textures are sensed or felt through the tongue. Receiving the right sensations from our taste buds would indicate whether or not we should be consuming whatever we are “mouth-testing”. If you’ve ever fed a baby, you may have witnessed this pure, powerful action. Give a baby a single ingredient food – they will tell you right away if it’s going to go down the hatch or not. In this case, it might not be that the food is unhealthy, but more specifically, that the baby doesn’t need this particular ingredient at this particular time. As adults now, the sense of taste can confuse us and often does. Food industry manufacturers have teams of scientist working to achieve what’s called the “bliss-point” of the foods they are creating. The “bliss-point” is the amount of an ingredient such as sugar, salt, and fat which optimizes deliciousness. All forms of pre-made foods have some element of this calculation incorporated in it. It’s kind of like giving a mouse the option of eating their foods or drinking sugar water – it will choose the sugar water every time as it hits the pleasure centers of the brain. Yes – in this way, humans are very much like mice. This is why our taste buds now fail us – they weren’t designed to calculate for all the processed foods – just the real ones. Now that we’ve trained our taste buds to love the sugary, salty, and fatty foods – we have to train them out of it, which is challenging to say the least when our pleasure centers are so affected.
Mental fatigue – Everyday of our lives we are inundated with sensory overload. Our primitive, yet evolved minds are handling thousands of pieces of information every minute of the day. From billboards, to radio commercials, and TV ads to the shows themselves, then there’s Facebook and google and bumper stickers and many more…you get the idea. There is hard science behind how and why big marketing firms do what they do, they spend a lot of money and they do it well. It’s hard to keep our thoughts focused on what is good for us when images and words are constantly interrupting our thoughts. This can literally wear us down to the point of throwing our hands in the air and giving ourselves permission to partake in our little indulgences. Over time, this becomes habit, and habits are hard to change!
The “Wellness” industry – We talk plenty about the fallacies of the healthcare system. We often choose to skip over the issues within the wellness industry. After all, why would someone in the wellness industry want to throw themselves on the sword? I’ll tell you why. The wellness industry likes to differentiate itself from the healthcare industry citing that doctors are trained in only the ways of western medicine which is clearly failing us as a collective. Rightly so, the wellness industry dares you to find other methods of healing that the doctors are ignorant to. I find however that there are some practitioners who are charlatans and are strictly in it for the money. Sound familiar? There are snake oil sales people in EVERY industry, and wellness is no exception. This can be a bigger problem though as people seeking help in the wellness industry are often frustrated and exhausted with trying to find solutions in the western medicine arena and are potentially more vulnerable to the charlatan than those who live in the world of alternative healing and trust it implicitly through their positive experiences and healings.
A body of truths – There are a multitude of diets on the market. How is it that we can make a decision without “throwing the spaghetti against the wall? I almost went with a body of lies, but the reality is that those who have published diets and have gained a following do so for various reasons – none of which are nefarious in nature. While there is no arguing the money that goes into promoting a diet is substantial, and there is the element of the capitalism machine of driving revenue, these dietary theories are born in anecdotal evidence, as well as scientific theory. Can you think of why a diet may take off and others you may have never heard of? When a diet boasts that you can eat meat and lose a ton of weight – I would say that appeals to the majority of Americans. As a species, we are most commonly binary thinkers. This means that many of us think in yes/no solutions with little gray area. Because of the mental fatigue I mentioned earlier, we want someone to hand us a road map, but the road map needs to be written in a language we understand. “I can eat cheese on that diet? I’ll do that one!”. We want to believe and trust that we’ve found the solution – and with every success we want to influence our friends and family about how amazing the cheese diet is! Over time though our bodies will tell us the truth and unfortunately there are very few reliable long-term studies which help us realize the damage we’re doing prior to doing the damage. We are all Guinea pigs in this manner.
The industrialization of our Food systems – In the early 1900’s and prior, people ate whole food diets. Although we remember great grandma eating bacon and saving the fat to be used in biscuits and pies, there was a 50% chance in her youth that she was one of the people raising the animal and growing the fruits and veggies. Before our industrialization, pre-packaged foods were hard to come by, and with our elders doing the heavy lifting, and eating what they farmed; even if they were urban dwellers, they labored and ate a far more modest plate of calories than we are used to seeing today. Today, most of us don’t grow our own food and an even greater majority don’t participate in manual labor. We are largely sedentary because of our work. Even if we’re adamant about getting to the gym every day, it’s a far cry from living a laborious hands-on lifestyle. Technology has its ups, but this has been one of its downs!
Government’s role – For decades I believed that it was the role of government to protect its people. If you mean that its their charge to simply protect our economy, maybe that statement is true. Military – absolutely. But what of public health and ecology – the preservation of the people and the environment they live in? With the USDA telling us what a healthy diet is all the while promoting increased beef and dairy consumption – I see a glaring conflict of interest! Meanwhile proven alternative medicines have to come with warnings because they are not FDA approved – yet the FDA approves medications which have side effects up to and including death among many other far more unpleasant side effects than the death itself. Shall I continue? I’ll let this one rest.
These are just a few categories that tie in to our food dilemma. But my question to pose to you is this. Capitalism being what it is, we can expect the manufacturers to continue producing and advertising their unhealthy products. We can count on the government turning a blind eye if the alternative is to make a change and spend money. With all of this and the potential charlatans out there that just want to take your money, it’s really challenging to make sound decisions about how to eat and remain healthy. What is the answer to living healthy in all of this? It’s quite simply – you! You need to be engaged in your life. Turning off the news which really doesn’t have anything new to say, reading and researching, meeting the alternative practitioner in person to get a feel for who they are and what they can do for you, and getting into the kitchen and gym is the gateway to your success in staying healthy. We need to stop waiting for others to figure it out for us and really take a hard look at how we are living and start making changes as individuals and families. Once the manufacturers see their sales tank, they’ll move in the direction of the consumer rather than vice versa. We give away far too much power to the businesses that would perpetuate our suffering to make a profit – you have more power than you know. Take the reins for yourself and show them who’s in control of your health! Your life depends on it!