While doing research for my upcoming classes (radiantwellnessnc.com/classes.html) I hit upon an idea that I must share. I’m sure it’s not a new idea and I’m sure I’m not coining a phrase but we need to eat to live. What I mean by that is that the modern lifestyle, that has been in existence since well before my beginning, has ease and efficiency at it’s core. Instant gratification, to be precise. The idea of spending hours in the kitchen preparing, processing and cooking foods to sustain us is downright offensive to many people. Who wants to do that? When all I have to do is run to the nearest grocery store and pick up packaged foods that are just as tasty and nutritious. After all, there are scientists behind those boxes and bags of food who have done extensive research in how to keep people healthy, right? Hmmm, well, I’m not so sure about that.
First of all, food is big business. Look at how many different options we have these days compared to just 20 year ago, and especially 40 years ago. Grocery stores are huge now, with all kinds of various flavored goodies for us to purchase and consume. There are billions of dollars spent on marketing foods and a lot of that money goes to marketing companies who also employ the help of psychologist to understand human nature and what will pique our desires. There are pictures of lovely farms, animals grazing in open fields, happy farmers with sparkling tractors, fun cartoon characters, and words that make us feel safe and assured that our food is coming from somewhere good and going to be good for us. Sadly, most of the products in grocery stores come from industrial farms, not the small, happy family farm. Most animals are kept in such heinous conditions that the corporations that own these “farms” get people arrested for taking pictures or filming (even if flying over). Our dairy products are pasteurized, homogenized and travel great distances to wet our highly processed, corn, wheat and soy filled cereal bowls. Our government gives huge subsidies to corporate farms to grow corn, wheat and soy, much of which is being grown as GMO crops. GMO crops have never been tested for safety and their efficacy in growing better than conventional crops is proving not to be so great. Lots of money goes into fighting the labeling of GMO foods by corporate farming lobbyists. There has also been a big marketing campaign touting the safety of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in food and drink. HFCS is in everything, drinks, breads, condiments, candies and everything in between. Most of this, if not all, is made from GMO corn. That’s kinda scary to me, considering no long term, third-party, scientific studies have been done on the safety of GMO foods. Many of the additives and preservatives used in foods today are known toxins, carcinogens or have other negative effects to our health. Based on all of these facts, I have changed the way I view food and food preparation.
For most of my life before I hit 30, I ate the Standard American Diet (SAD). I thought I was healthy and that I ate really well. I stopped eating at most fast food restaurants in my early 20’s and ate quite a few salads made with iceberg lettuce and topped with various deli slices, veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts and cheeses. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t healthy. Even though I had chronic bronchitis and sinus infections, was diagnosed with activity induce asthma and had very low energy by 4pm every day. What I didn’t realize is that I was living to eat. I ate out with friends, bought cheap foods that looked good and I could afford, limited my time in the kitchen preparing foods by buying those already processed and easy to eat on the go. This type of eating didn’t meet my nutritional needs. I was starving myself nutritionally but stuffing myself on a regular basis, much like all those eating the SAD way.
What I’ve learned in my, almost, 15 year journey towards a healthy me, is that I was looking at food all wrong. Food is nutrition, sustenance and a basic need. It isn’t cool, fun, exciting and doesn’t make me happy just by eating is, like the marketing gurus would have me believe. Food is food, plain and simple. By keeping it plain and simple, I have regained my health and been free of chronic illness, asthma and even allergies (except for a recent incident with mold) for years. First, I had to recognize the marketing of food and how it was devised to deceive me. (Check out Center for a New American Dream website.) I also had to reprogram my sense of smell and taste, to recognize the chemicals that were being used to trick my senses. Finally, I had to get comfortable in my kitchen and learn how to cook with what was available in my refrigerator and cupboards.
Little by little, over the last 10 years, I have reduced my dependance on processed foods. I have committed myself to purchasing most of my meat, produce, dairy and what ever else is available, locally. My weekly trip to the Durham Farmer’s Market is a highlight of my week. I get to meet the people who painstakingly grow, ship, display and sell food to me every week. I support a local egg business, who sadly aren’t as free ranging as I’d like, but the eggs are fresh and healthier than if I bought them at the store. The rest of my food comes from the local coop and occasionally Whole Foods Market. I purchase foods that need to be prepared, gluten free grains for bread, nuts for milk, baking and snacking, fruit and vegetables for smoothies, snacks, meals and dehydrating, meats for entrees, soups, stews and jerky. I even go out and pick herbs and mushrooms from our surroundings that supplement our diet. All of these foods make up for variety in nutrients and taste that keeps me satisfied in many ways.
I no longer crave those carbohydrate laden snacks in the late afternoon just to keep me going. I am healthy, even when my son or husband brings home a nasty bug that got them sick. (More often my husband than my son, because my son is eating what I eat and is rarely sick.) I have energy to exercise and stay fit, which makes me feel and look good. I’ve crushed the sugar monster inside of me that craved sugar and would get quite angry until it was fed. All of this is due to the fact that I have changed my relationship to food. Whenever I am getting ready to eat something, I ask, “What is the nutrient density of this?” I consider what value the food will offer my body, nutrient wise. I’ve started treating my body the way a gear head treats their performance vehicle, high octane food or nothing.