Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Yes, WE can do it !!

September 20, 2012

In the late 1990s, my husband, my self and my in-laws attended one of our monthly Historical Madison County Society meetings, during which we were given a viewing of an old film shot around the county courthouse in the 1930s.  What has remained stuck in my memory was this astonishing fact – there were nothing but lean and thin people present.  Of course, there have been throughout history, some people who were “gravitationally challenged” – King Henry the VIII or “Chubby” of the Little Rascals.

However, something happened after the 1930s; that was already becoming clearly evident, in the 1990s.  I think I have found at least a couple of the “major” suspects – High Fructose Corn Syrup; and the trade group “Center for Consumer Freedom“.  High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was not introduced into the American food supply until the 1970s.  Coincidentally, about the same time that partially hydrogenated oils were also “added”.  These rapid changes to the overall content of processed foods have led to the epidemic levels of obesity, and the highest rates of disease along with the lowest life expectancy of any industrialized nation.  This is NOT a coincidence.

Becoming a well-informed consumer is certainly the “first step” in personal responsibility, as publicly promoted by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), founded in 1996 – those “friends” of every disease vulnerable American consumer (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg and Kraft are some of the known entities)  Their website says many of the companies – food companies and restaurant chains – supporting the lobbying and media campaigns of the CCF prefer to maintain their anonymity – Why ? – their website states that they are apprehensive that vegetarians and health activists might threaten their privacy and safety.  I would suspect that they are MORE apprehensive that their profits might be at stake.

 

Sadly, the Center for Consumer Freedom

 isn’t even able to see the irony in their own hype.

I have inherited genes that are particularly vulnerable to excess sugar in my blood stream.  So, although I’ve had an interest in nutrition since the 1970s, I am in a “getting serious” mode now, thanks to threats of pharmaceutical interventions for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  What I see with my own eyes, so many overweight people out there, is both scary and sad.  Last fall, my activist heart (born in the late 1960s but dormant for many years since) was re-awakened by the Occupy Movement.  Thanks to Occupy, and other collective efforts to educate the populace – I have now learned, and I can’t go back to not knowing.  What has been happening, while we, the people, gave the elected government politicians a free reign, is not pretty.  Large multi-national corporations are in control, not only of the law itself and the economy overall; but even in such places as the Dept of Agriculture and their funding resources, as well as both national and state food policies.

“YES, WE CAN DO IT” –  we can change the nature of the human diet to be nutritious and wholesome again; and this is something that every man, woman and child can easily and inexpensively chose to make contributions toward and participate in.

There is HOPE.  We, the people, are collectively sharing information, through more “alternative” channels than ever before and over which, we have individual discernment.  We are “finding” one another – our real friends who care about our genuine quality of Life – and we are supporting and encouraging one another to just say “No !”, to some of the most biologically addictive substances yet devised, which coincidentally ? boost the profit margins simultaneously for Big Agriculture, Big Food and Big Pharma.  Now, I’m not trying to suggest that there is an intentional conspiracy among these 3 globally-influential entities; but the actions of each of these are supporting the revenues of the others.

Not only is there a growing and impregnable collective, of nutritionally-conscious individuals that can’t be infiltrated by any external entity; but we have “heroes & heroines” willing to put themselves “out there” on the front lines; and they are not going to be silenced, until we succeed in taking back the health of the people of this country, and encourage similar activities in all other countries that have been similarly damaged by a profit-driven, market oriented approach by multi-national corporations, to the global food supply.  We, the people of the planet, will not fail; because our very lives, and even more especially a “good quality” of Life, utterly depends upon our success.  One who is sick cannot enjoy living, in the fullest sense of that concept; and is unable to contribute fully, to the evolving  of a “next – better” human society – for disease captures fully the human attention; and does not let us go, until we die.

Here are a few names and links, just some of my own personal “heroes & heroines” –

Dr Mark Hyman – pioneering nutritional approaches to wellness and spearheading a Take Back Our Health movement – in our schools, for our communities, in our workplaces and our places of worship, for our democracy, through our media and from a “sickness-oriented” medical perspective.

Michael F Jacobson, PhD of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and sponsors of “Eat Real, America !” on Food Day, this 2012 year on Oct 24th; as well as the long-time editor of Nutrition Action Healthletter and a dedicated activist, at the political level.

 

Whole Living Magazine for encouraging healthier lifestyles and for their yearly Action Plan.

 

Marianne Williamson for her perspectives in A Course in Weight Loss.

 

Geneen Roth for her retreats and workshops to heal eating disorders; and her books- including “Women Food and God” and “When Food Is Love”.

 

John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, and Ocean Robbins, founder of YES (Youth for Environmental Sanity) and author of Choices for Our Future – and their co-founded organization – The Food Revolution Network.

 

May WE all be well,

May WE all be happy,

May WE all be free of suffering,

May WE all be at peace.

 

Yes, WE can do it !!

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Why What I Eat Matters

October 16, 2011

“What I eat matters.”  I almost feel I’ve known this forever; but why what I eat matters, has changed over time.  When I was in high school, my mother made clear to me in words or actions, that diet would be important to me, my entire life.  In this case, diet meant not gaining weight, not getting fat, rather than about good nutrition.  At the same time, I was raised with having to eat everything on my plate, whether I liked it or not; and unfortunately, I still do that for the most part; so my hope for controlling consumption is left to not taking too much to begin with.  This is helped, by a long habit of splitting entrees with my husband, when we eat at any restaurant. 

I have tried more diets than I care to remember; and have reached a point where I truly hate dieting and think it is generally detrimental; but find I must resort to that technique on occasion, to reign in weight gains in excess of my body’s need for long-term well-being.  I constantly seek to not need to go “on a diet”.  Yet, I am not obsessive about my diet either.  My dad left instilled in me the thought that – “you have to eat a little dirt” – to be healthy; and so, I eat a varied diet, at least.

When my husband and I conceived our oldest son, we made a commitment to obtaining as much food that was natural and/or organic, as possible.  We live in a rural wilderness area; so, such foods are generally not easily available, at the local grocers.  We do eat some foods off the land – mostly fruits as we have an abundance in season of black raspberries, wild blueberries, blackberries, wild cherries, pawpaws, autumn olives and persimmons.  There are not any organic farms close by, locally; although some regionally, they are not really in convenient locations, to where we live.  So, we must travel 2 hours one way, as often as our lives allow it – to visit Whole Foods Market and other upscale urban grocers in St Louis (Dierbergs), where I can purchase the best foods I can manage, for my family. 

Fortunately, WalMart makes some effort; and though they are certainly not my favorite for many reasons; still, they are the best quality there is available to me locally.  Sadly, our “hometown” grocer focuses on poor quality, cheap versions of basic provisions.  Since my elderly in-laws passed from physical existence, taking with them my reasons for the long journey to St Louis (for their numerous doctor’s appointments, at the end of their lives); WalMart is my weekly provider.  And I still happily commit to the longer trip but keep that to once or twice a month only, stocking up as best I can.  When it comes to produce, that’s a significant issue, for it spoils so quickly; and I know that focusing on fruits and vegetables is an important aspect of a basic, healthy diet for my family.  I can only do the best that I can do; and be grateful that I am able to do, what I do.

Cancer took both of my in-laws, but they had each led long lives (both died mid-80s) and had long health-spans, only suffering illness during the last few years of their lives.  Still, as I see cancer take the lives of more of my acquaintances, at much younger ages than my in-laws, I am suspicious that the changes in our modern human diet, have been adversely impacted by chemicals and all the artificial ingredients now put into convenience foods; which are the ones that much of the population consumes.  It does not help matters that, these are also the least expensive but the least nutritious choices available, to many people. 

I seek to provide my family with simple, home-cooked meals of very basic foods, prepared minimally (and not pre-processed and packaged) to avoid the excess sodium and chemicals, I would prefer to keep out of our diet.  I am an avid label reader; and make many food selections on that basis.  So choosing organic and natural foods is one way to avoid chemicals.

Choosing to support organic food producers helps to preserve water and air quality – both important elements in health and global well-being.  Organic producers help to prevent soil erosion, while enhancing soil quality; and these practices are also respectful of the health of those who work at farms.

One of the challenges we face in our time is a decline in biodiversity due to environmental impacts, the loss of habitats, organisms, standardization of genes in food crops and species extinction.  As humans, we are single-handedly one of the greatest threats to a healthy biodiversity; and therefore, our own significant risk factor, which could eventually lead to our own extinction. 

With healthy biodiversity, wasps and birds can prey on pests that might otherwise destroy our food crops, without depending on toxic chemicals to do that for us.  Insects, birds, bats and some other animals pollinate our crops, making the fruits they produce for us possible.  There are even living organisms in our soil, that decompose matter back to nutrient rich soil; and with broader genetic diversity, our plant and animal food sources are definitely better able to weather disease and pests. 

Where humans over history have relied on 7,000 different species of plants for food crops, we now rely mostly on only 15 plant and 8 animal species for 90% of ALL human food.  The infamous Irish Potato Famine was caused by a fungus that was able to destroy their entire crop of single variety potato. 

Thousand of non-commercial animal breeds and crop varieties have disappeared due to industrialized agricultural practices.  Even though none of the major species of domesticated food animals is in danger of extinction, we still lose 2 breeds to extinction every week.  Half of all the breeds that existed in Europe in 1900 are now extinct (300 of the 6,000 breeds worldwide have been lost in only the last 15 years).  The loss in genetic diversity for livestock creates a system dependent upon a carefully-regulated environment, that requires climate controls, antibiotics and high-protein feed and produces massive amounts of concentrated waste products.

Biodiversity is lost as untreated animal waste, chemicals and soil erosion damage the natural environment.  Enormous amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, used by industrial agriculture, continue to leach into the ground and water.  All of these pollutants kill the living organisms that should naturally thrive in the soil and that depend upon the soil for sustenance. 

I happened to be driving through cotton fields, ready for harvest in SE Missouri yesterday.  I was struck by the “dead appearing” quality of the soil – only cotton growing in bleached white earth.  And I was also staggered by the significant amounts of cotton waste left behind, by the enormous machinery used to create giant round bales of cotton.

There is one more thing that matters a lot to me personally – it is the spiritual aspect of all of this thinking – I should remember to appreciate and hold precious every bit of the food that I do have, in recognition that there are always some who do not have enough, some who’s food is not at all healthy and many who’s food is lacking in some way, even lacking in an acknowledgement by the people eating it, of all the aspects of Life that the food has touched, on its way to nourishing the body. 

I do not need to feel guilty that I have enough to eat; but I should not over-consume the food that I have, even if it is of good quality and highly nutritious.  It is important to be mindful; and in balance, for the health of the self, and for the health of our world.

I seek to have a balanced, personal expression, relative to the food I eat – I want to be mindful of adequate but not excessive consumption, aware of all the energy and labor that went into my food’s production, supportive of efforts to reduce any negative impact that my need for nourishment may make, and grateful to have provision and waste it not.  In seeking an end to the suffering of any person, sentient being, or living aspect of my planetary home, the Earth, I intend to be a beneficial presence, in the living of this lifetime.  Food is a very important aspect of that impact.