The myth is that healthy living is expensive living. The reality, however, is that healthy living can be expensive living, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Anything can be expensive if you approach the purchase as a careless consumer. We’ve all paid more than we wanted for products or services only to find out later that had we dug a little deeper, the price would have been significantly lower. It happens to everyone. Eating and living healthy should be thought of in the exact same way. Healthy lifestyles can and should be sustainable in the long run, especially economically. All you need is a little bit of know-how, a few shortcuts, and a strategy for success. This is where I think I can help you.
Ever heard of a CAFO? It’s short for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. I’ll save some of the specifics of what happens within the confines of a CAFO for later in the article, but for now let’s simply summarize a CAFO as a hybrid of a factory and a farm where most of this country’s livestock is destined to spend some time on their eventual journey to your plate. Even though science has finally jumped on the common sense bandwagon by signing a declaration acknowledging every mammal’s inherent conscious awareness, the treatment of livestock in CAFOs is anything but humane1. Currently in the industrialized livestock agriculture sector, even the most progressive welfare policies lag behind, are ignorant of, or arbitrarily disregard the science on sentience and cognition that many people believe to be common sense2.
Do you currently work out? Do you “watch” what you eat? Are you on a diet? If so, then you probably have a calorie counting application on your phone. Or, you’ve had one in the past and can relate. There are a lot of different options for calorie counters to choose from since it’s an easy and straight forward calculation that most—hopefully—can do with a pen and paper. This makes programming such an application as easy as pie (pun intended). The only variables needed are an individual’s weight, height, age, and sex. Factor in the weight loss/gain goal for the individual and voilà, you’ve just calculated the amount of calories to be eaten during the day to reach a specific goal. So simple. So easy. So mechanical. So wrong.
Going to cooking school was a no-brainer decision. All of the nutritional theories floating through my head needed some good ol’ fashioned practical application in order to provide my clients with substantive advice and not just words. Now, my most recent educational journey takes me back to somewhere I thought I’d never go: formal education. Even though a Master’s of Science in Sustainable Food Systems may seem like a far cry from my current line of work, like cooking school, it will connect the dots even further.
I guess it’s time to quit my job. As a fitness and lifestyle coach, I’ve consistently focused the majority of my nutritional consulting on coaching clients to choose whole, organic foods. You may have heard the trendy acronym circulating around the fitness industry, JERF – Just Eat Real Food. Food largely determines our state of health and fitness, and 80% of the nutrition battle is picking foods as close to their natural state as possible, in other words, real food. The rest is determined by the biochemical, behavioral, social, and cultural individuality of the person.
It’s simple actually. You are fat because you eat processed chemicals instead of real food. You are fat because you lock your windows and prevent fresh air from circulating through your home and your lungs. You are fat because you wear makeup and cosmetics filled with poisons you wouldn’t swallow, yet willingly rub on you skin, the largest organ of your body. You are fat because you consume more sugar in a day than our ancestors did in one year. You are fat because you hate your job and you do nothing about it. You are fat because you sit or sleep for a total of 23 hours of the day. You are fat because you blame your genes for being fat instead of the cake and ice cream. You are fat because when you wake up in the morning, a time when your natural circadian rhythm dictates you have the most circulating cortisol, you drink coffee because you didn’t get enough sleep, which places even more stress on the body. You are also fat because of your lack of sleep. You are fat because you drink just one or two alcoholic beverages per day. You are fat because you accept that food is food, regardless of quality and source. You are fat because you are depressed. You are fat because of your nagging injury that you’ve yet to deal with appropriately, which requires that your body constantly expend energy trying to heal itself. You are fat because your liver is burdened with all the pain pills, supplements, and drugs pumped daily through the body. You are fat because you didn’t have time to work out today… for the last six months. You are fat because your scar was never treated or healed appropriately, causing inflammation to chronically circulate through the body. This will continue to expend energy until the scarring is resolved. You are fat because the environment in which you live is toxic. You are fat because you are dehydrated. You are fat because you stress too much about being fat. You are fat because of the way you live.
Death by Bacon? A Rebuttal.
I woke up this morning with texts and emails from a few concerned clients. They sent me news articles and quotes from articles posted by NPR, LA Times, and a few prominent vegetarian bloggers. The headlines were crystal clear: Eat red meat at your own risk. Meat was being singled out as the risk factor for premature death.
It’s easy to point out all the differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. We have intricate forms of communication, create technologies that allow us to visit neighboring planets, and, except for some recent dolled up celebrity dogs, wear a wide variety of clothing that is anything but useful for animals in the wild. As much as we have attempted to separate ourselves from our roots, we share the same basic functions: eliminating waste, sleeping, and reproducing, the fundamental functions of all life on earth. It’s safe to assume that if something is wrong with these, one should investigate the underlying cause. Unfortunately, that rarely seems to happen. After an unhealthy meal that leaves us lethargic, bloated and tired, we pat our stomach with a sense of pride. Twelve hours later we clench our stomach as we have a painful bowel movement. We disregard the quality of our sleep and spend the following day in a zombie-like state as our hand refuses to let go of a coffee mug. We accept our diminished sex drive as normal and in so doing lose our most effective and natural stress-reducing tool. Any program focused on your health and well being should start with these three functions.
Isn’t it strange that humans are the only animals on earth that debate about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat? Disease, obesity, and disorders are absent in the wild yet they are now accepted as commonplace within “civilized” human societies. Well, that is not entirely true. The select few wild animals that have been domesticated by humans also suffer from many of the same health conditions that torment our society today (*cough* irony *cough*). It seems that with the evolutionary gift of self-awareness and abstract thought also came the curse of disconnecting from nature. We have forgotten how to live, and in turn, what to eat. The truth is humans are omnivores. We are a lucky bunch that gets to eat a wide variety of delicious goodies provided by Mother Nature. We have digestive freedoms and capabilities that have allowed for evolutionary success over the last few million years. In times of famine, our species utilizes creative ways of finding, cultivating, and preparing foods that would be impossible for other species. Yet even with this breadth of time-tested knowledge and practice, we eat unhealthily. There’s no arguing that. Two important factors contribute significantly, but not completely, to this phenomenon.
For the first part of the three part blog post, click here.
What does “organic” even mean? While it can highlight truly healthy foods, it can also fool unsuspecting consumers into falsely believing an unhealthy food is actually healthy. The USDA actually has four different levels of “organic” labeling (see below). It’s interesting that food can be partially organic. To me, it’s actually comical. It’s either organic or not. That hazy middle ground means cutting corners and using shortcuts to maintain organic status. That doesn’t sound fair to the health conscious consumer and results in a whole lot of confusion in the grocery store. This predicament is not limited to the term “organic.” Countless terms are thrown