Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I should really start writing rough drafts of these first...

I should have clarified earlier that weekends, days on which I receive unemployment from the Massachusetts Division of Workforce and Labor Development, and holidays don't count as blogging days.

Most of what I want to talk about pertains to food, as promised. I read an interesting editorial today that again sparked my recent fascination with the link between avoiding processed foods and living better. Articulating that makes it sound so stupid. DUH. Of course "junk" food is bad for you! But that's not what I mean.

Many people don't acknowledge that "whole grain" foods are "processed." General Mills might seem like health food to some in the same way that Quaker granola snacks don't seem like candy bars (they are). We don't just have "junk food" anymore. We have a LOT of food-like substances that we buy and eat because they kind of taste like food and are cheap. Then we take dietary supplements to "fill the gaps."

I actually saw this very dietary philosophy advertised in a PediaSure commercial recently. In it, a mom stands in her kitchen playfully rolling her eyes and shrugging to her audience about how her "picky eater" of a kid had to start drinking PediaSure "after her diet began to affect her growth and development." Really? Want to know how to make sure your kid eats right? MAKE THEM. Don't give them animal crackers if they won't eat carrots. Let her go hungry until she eats the carrots. I was a nanny for 7 years. I've fed angels, demons, and the spawn of Satan himself. Eventually, the kid takes the carrot. Human beings are built to eat when they are hungry. If your kid is willing to eat animal crackers but not dinner, she's never experienced hunger. And now you're going to give her all kinds of behavioral disorders because your failing to show her boundaries (which is really what she wants) and she'll trudge through life listless, untrusting, and likely a binge-eating kelptomaniac. But I digress.

I'm trying to explain this to myself as well as this trusty blog because I've undergone what I believe is a personal revolution with food recently. It extends through every part of how I live... not only in how I eat, but how I see food's distribution throughout the country and its social, economic, and political consequences. It's amazing what people accomplish without having enough food, and equally astounding what people who have too much of the wrong "food" can't accomplish. Like harness energy, live actively, be happy, or avoid diabetes.

I can't tell whether I'm stating the obvious or am just plain late in saying that I believe that the American food industry has conspired to keep the poor poor, the rich rich (again, DUH), and of course, the fat fat. I know that on a surface level, all of this seems obvious. We are a "fast food nation." Okay, fine. But is it just "fast food" as we perceive it that's hurting us?

For instance, I didn't know until recently that 90% of the corn harvested in this country is inedible to humans. Almost all of it becomes grain feed for cattle or is processed into food (most likely soft drinks) for us. Oh, or it becomes ethanol for fueling our our precious motor vehicles! What that means is that the corporate vendors who feed us and the government who "regulates" them find our dietary needs on par with those of tortured animals (ironically also future food?) and machines that feed but don't feel. Great.

Learning more about this, feeling afraid of my future self, and being downright curious about the alternatives (it sounds funny to call eating like a human being "eating an alternative diet").

In order to even approach food differently, I had to temporarily remove myself from the entire system. Books helped to detach my sugar-addicted perspective, of course, but treating a temporary "survival" diet as an experiment or game helped too. [Thank you, Les Stroud, for going days without eating and cherishing water in ways I never could.] Using this time, wherein I ate only "survival foods" (tea, plants, fresh and pastured meat, seeds, and some fresh unprocessed whole grains) allowed me to also experiment with scratch foods. Pasta, breads, animals, soups, and personal dietary staples like pico made me realize how valuable it is to understand that what we do to food determines what food does to us.

After a few weeks of feeling great, I decided to extend my "survival" diet with a few exceptions. I can have the occasional diet coke, coffee is okay a few times per week (but with no sweeteners), and special occasions don't mean I can't have a cupcake (<3).>

This started more as a political action: boycott the institutions that keep us down and their products because Americans deserve to eat better. But I realized after feeling better, thinking more clearly, and weighing a little less that this isn't just political. It's a medical, social, economic, humanitarian AND political issue. It's a "catch all" issue because eating (one of the four teleological purposes we have in life, I think) impacts everything we do and how well we do it. Which might explain not only why Americans have higher rates of specific chronic diseases than most other developed nations in the world, but why we have such high instances of behavioral problems (which, I realize, are also a by-product of reality television and the internets), depression, anxiety, and HUNGER. And bottle rot.

Why are we not only willing, but eager to accept the offer of processed meals for cheap? Why can't real food now be cheap? There are so many answers, but I think acting now will get us closer to a desirable outcome for all eaters.

I always thought that mobilizing herds of vigilantes or picketing for change or voting served as symbols of protest and social unrest. But I truly believe that refusing to participate in the establishments that are poisoning us and destroying us at our foundation is the strongest move we can make. And when I say we, I mean everyone who eats from the center aisles in the grocery store.

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