What are your food habits? The way we develop our relationship to the food we eat says a lot about us – it can show just how far we are willing to go in order to locate good sources for food. It can also show how in touch we are with the important issues surrounding the current condition of food.
In today’s world, the average person will feed themselves to survive – not to live. Many people go through their days unconcerned about just what they eat and how it impacts health, the environment, and the future.
As we go into the new year, perhaps one way to make positive changes for ourselves, communities, and environments is to pledge to working toward more sustainable habits in the foods we eat and the way we live our everyday lives. It could be something as small as using traditional recipes to make food, or something with a larger impact such as planting a garden in our backyards or in our local cities. And, most importantly – to leave behind entrenched ideas dictated by conventional thinking about health and food – and to embrace real food as it is intended: as natural, living substances that bring us vitality, energy, and awareness.
There are many ways in which we express our desires, beliefs, and considerations about food. For years, we’ve been taught many things about food – ideas, rhetoric, beliefs, and “facts” that are just plain false. And the way we regard food is definitely a reflection of the things we’ve been taught from childhood to adulthood. We maintain those beliefs in a steadfast way, because anything that is threatening to our core beliefs is an undeniable attack on our intelligence and fundamental ways of thinking about life and ourselves. Whenever I try point out to someone that fat is good for us to eat, they stare back in utter disbelief. It’s almost as if I’ve insulted someone’s mother. Core beliefs that fat is bad for us are so ingrained in people’s minds, and yet it’s only been just over a hundred years or so that these beliefs have been in place.
Consider that for thousands and thousands of years, people have successfully produced and eaten food in ways that as a civilization, we have departed from in very significant ways. You can still find traditional cultures eating local foods around the globe, but so much of the way humans eat food now is dependent upon big corporations packaging food for the sake of convenience. We’ve lost what it means to know where food comes from, and to have that keen understanding of how it nourishes us and keeps us going.
We’ve become accustomed to allowing television commercials, magazine ads, and labeling in stores to confront our senses and play upon our emotions to influence our decisions and buying habits. And with all of our being, we swallow deceptions fostered to us by companies that lure us in, guaranteeing great taste, low-fat, and products that are loaded with vitamins, nutrients, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. They promise the moon and deliver little. But because we are so habitually patterned to do so, we return again and again to purchase nutritionally-empty, processed foods that continue to destroy our health.
It’s no coincidence that since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve seen continuing increases in the numbers of obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease. When industrially-produced fats like vegetable oils and shortening came on the scene near the turn of the 20th century, companies convinced consumers that real fats were bad for health and that these new, fake fats were not only healthy but convenient to use. Consumption of butter went down while vegetable oil went up – and effectively started the elimination of real food as the world had once known it.
Refined sugar also became much more commonplace. Companies started mass-producing sodas and sugary drinks, and their ubiquitous presence was felt more and more as our cultural identity began to be tied to beverages like Coke and Gatorade. People started believing that these drinks were synonymous with glamor, fun, and staying hydrated while exercising. No one gave much thought to just how much sugar or chemicals were in these products, and the deleterious effects they had on our weight, mood, and blood sugar.
Later on down the line, people began to experience marked health problems that we’d never before seen – anorexia, bulemia, obesity, and other eating disorders that were based on iccorrect ideas about foods in general. Suddenly, people started believing that real fats like butter and red meat were dangerous to consume, and that in addition to industrial oils, processed foods like boxed cereals, pastas, and crackers were not only acceptable but healthy. The USDA created a food pyramid that grossly underplayed the value of eating real, healthy fats and other foods, while suggesting consumption of artificial foods in several parts of the chart such as grains and dairy. More and more farmers began to use chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other toxic substances to produce more food to feed more people.
Because our relationship to food so clearly defines us and our goals, we can lose sight of what’s important when we don’t stop and ponder how we get our food and how it affects everything around us. If you support big corporate agriculture, what are you really saying with your food dollars? First of all, you are saying that you have little knowledge or idea of the food you are eating and where it comes from. You may not have a grasp about just what goes on in the making of the food you are eating. And if you did, you may decide to no longer eat that food. Secondly, you are giving license to big multi-billion dollar corporations to do what they will with our food, our environment, and our health. By withholding food dollars to smaller, sustainable food producers, you are making sure the whole-foods farmer doesn’t have a fighting chance of providing real foods to people, and that the economy and health of local communities will soon perish.
Some people simply refuse to believe – they detach themselves from the processing and adding of chemicals, the sheer adulteration of changing a real food into an artificial one to make a product. Because people don’t want to know and they don’t want to think about the destruction occurring to human health, the environment, and the humane-lessness of the factory farm environment. They become detached from something so elemental and basic to the notion of living. They begin to believe an artificially contrived notion of food and where it comes from – and may even harbor a utopian view of food – that it’s clean, and sterile, and companies’ health claims and intents have the best interests in mind of the consumer. When in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
We’re obsessed with the latest and greatest advances in technology to solve our problems and make life easier, but we’ve completely forgotten the simple notion of eating to live – of harvesting a real, natural food for our health and for the flavor. So distracted are we by marketing, media, and advertising we forget to take a breather, sit down, relax, and enjoy something so quietly satisfying, delicious, and nourishing as real food – something we’ve created with our own hands and in our own kitchens, or grown in our own backyards.
Our disconnectedness to food and the land is indicative of a deeply-rooted separation we have from ourselves and to other people. When filing through the grocery store buying food in packages, we are given the sense that the food just magically appears there for us to pick up, put in our carts, and go on our merry way. Our appreciation for food is greatly diminished. And we become disaffected and vacant.
By contrast, when you venture to the farmer’s market, local farm, or grow or raise your own food, you are instantly made aware of the preciousness of real food, where it comes from, and develop the desire to appreciate the humble and awe-inspiring origins of the substances of the earth from which we garner strength and energy. Our senses are awakened to the primal necessity innate in us all to be involved in the understanding of food, which is so inseparable from life. We can conceive of God’s plan for us to eat wholesome food and make it a part of our daily rituals. It becomes second nature to us to think of our impact on the planet, ourselves, our children, and those who will come after those generations.
So with resolutions in mind, remember these parting ideas – to eat real food is to be liberated from ties to corporations, governments, and other monstrous entities that seek to control us. Unhindered by packaging and labels telling us what to eat and how to think, we savor the amazing realization that our food connects us not only with life but to health. We can wipe away fatigue, brain fogginess, weight problems, depression, and so much more simply by eating real foods. It’s true that there is no such thing as perfect health – but real food delivers to us the satisfying contentedness we long for that is so vitally important…being stewards of the planet where we call home, which provides us with food and allows us to be human in the first place.
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This article is part of The Nourishing Gourmet’s New Year’s Resolutions carnival, Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays carnival, and We Are That Family’s Works for me Wednesdays carnival. Please visit these sites and read the other great posts linked there.