Food is not the enemy. But the way we look at food has been twisted by well-meaning doctors and the usual assortment of snake oil salesmen with one diet fad after another.
The truth is our bodies can adapt to all kinds of situations, available foods, and a never-ending quest for really great food. There is no shortage of opinions about what we should be eating. Some see food as nothing more than fuel. They break the food down into its various constituent nutrients. We have learned from them a new vocabulary of biochemical terms like “translate,” “antioxidants” and “folic acid.” But does that really help you? Not really, no.
Complicating Food Makes Us Fat
Why have we made this so confusing, so complicated? In food, one can easily get into the geeky technical side of food, into the nutrients and chemical reactions in cooking. That sort of thing is fun for foodies. But for most people, it’s much more than they want or need to know. It should be simple and it can be if you want.
There are plenty of people to blame for this. As our society has become more prosperous, we have fallen victim to the predators of Marketing, persuading us we had to get the latest food trend, new diet or latest new product available. We got fat. So the marketers sold us on macrobiotics, organics and rumors. We have placed our collective bets on Nutrition Science, which just makes more gobbledygook we don’t really understand.
The Modern Western Diet As Villain
Let’s look at the simple facts. Our so-called Modern Western Diet is filled with fat, sugar and salt. Grains have been ruined to just starch with all the other nutrients lost. We don’t eat enough vegetables, we eat too much meat, too many processed foods, and we burn far fewer calories than previous generations. That has resulted in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer that is killing us.
But nutritional science isn’t talking about that. They are concentrating on finding the magic bullet that either causes those lifestyle diseases or takes them away. It reminds me of the ancient alchemist trying to find the magic formula to turn lead into gold.
Like those alchemists, they are missing the larger picture. There is no magic bullet. There is no one thing that is making us fat and sick. The problem is everything: what we eat, how active we are, what we do for a living, it all has an effect. In fact, concentrating on finding that magic can cause more harm to our health by allowing us to ignore the real problems.
What And How We Eat Makes A Difference
A recent study showed that people who stop eating the modern western diet reduced the risk of heart disease alone by as much as 80%. That’s a big difference.
There are lots of hurdles in our way. Food companies are always trying to create new foods and tastes to tempt us to buy their products. They have, through marketing and advertising to leave behind our dinner table in favor of chicken buckets, a sack of burgers, and the food we can eat on the go. At the same time, our lives have changed. We used to walk and take public transportation to physically strenuous jobs. Now we live far outside the center city. We go from the house to the car just outside the door. When we get to work, we spend most of our time behind a desk burning far fewer calories. But we still eat like our parents and grandparents did. Preparing meals used to be a lot of work. Now we can stick something in the microwave or have food delivered.
We are descended from hunters and gatherers, then farmers, then industrial workers. Now we are sitters. Cutting back on French fries, switching to diet cola, those will not fix the problem, because it’s not one thing, it’s all of them. We have to re-think eating.
An Easy Three-Step Process
Step one is to start cooking your own food. That gives you control over your own health. You control how much salt, sugar and fat you consume.
Step two is to have a more balanced diet of following the basic food groups, eating less meat and more vegetables.
Step three is to learn to eat more mindfully. That means paying attention to the food you eat. Instead of bolting your food or wolfing it down barely tasting it, learn to savor your food. Enjoy it.
These will not only improve your health but your emotions and ability to think more clearly. It really is not that hard. But it does mean getting away from our modern diet and returning to real food that you make yourself.
This change will not always be easy and it will take some time, but the effort is worth it. You won’t lose 20 pounds in a month, but that is not healthy anyway. However, you will probably lose some weight as your body adjusts to a new eating pattern, a more natural food intake. This also will make lifestyle diseases like diabetes, obesity and hypertension less of a problem.
Celebrate Real Food
Real food is still out there and home cooking is becoming more popular again as we realize what our lives today are doing to our bodies and our health. Food is very important to all living things. To us, food is about more than survival, more than just fuel for our bodies. Food is central to all our cultural backgrounds. We use it in religious ceremonies, in celebrations, and when we feel depressed. If we feel better about food, we can feel better about ourselves. Food is not the enemy. Food can nourish, food can bring joy, sustain us on bad days, make us healthier, calmer and reconnected with families and friends and neighbors. And the best part of all is you just have to eat it.