Is The Food System To Blame for Our Expanding Waistlines?
“I am disgusted with myself”
“Sarah” came into my office for her first appointment full of frustration as she continues to gain weight despite her best efforts to move the scale in the other direction. Sarah disclosed the numerous dietary changes as well as the addition of a new exercise routine, which she faithfully gets up an hour early each morning to complete. ” I need help, I don’t know what I am doing wrong and I am disgusted with myself.” she blurted out as soon as we sat down.
With tears running down her face, she continued to express her frustration as she described her new diet. I laid out a lifestyle changing “diet” program for Sarah, and she worked diligently at implementing it. We met every other week for 8 months. Sarah lost some, then would gain some back. Up and down she would go, managing to keep off 15 pounds, but the struggle is real and it continues everyday for her.
A digressing society
This scenario is pretty typical, and as I discussed it with my colleagues we all agreed. Even our success stories tend to gain weight back, maybe not all of it, but a good amount. Why? When looking at the statistics, American’s waistlines continue to expand despite our best efforts. While I understand the many nuances and multiple layers at play within this issue, the big impact item is our complete disconnect from our food system. We no longer understand where our food comes from. It is no longer a necessity to eat with the seasons, we have countless options available to us at every turn, and we are a society that is largely overworked and under paid leaving little energy for cooking which makes prepackaged, cheap foods a main staple in the American diet. We have taken an extreme approach to the traditions of celebrating holidays and special events with food that families would spend all day cooking together and transitioned to celebrating every event with quick, easy, and highly desired snacks, desserts, and sweet drinks. While we have made much progress in many aspects as humans, food is an area that we have actually gone backwards…..really, really far. And it is quite literally killing us, sometimes in ways we can not see. What we eat effects our mood and energy, further perpetuating the vicious cycle of dependence on convenience foods and unhealthy lifestyles that slowly kill us.
A matter of politics?
Many of my colleagues have chosen to fight this battle at the political level, getting legislation passed for stricter standards, better labeling, and even lobbying for warning labels on sugary foods. While I do feel that some of this is necessary, and I appreciate the role they play in implementing change, again it just doesn’t feel like the way to establish real, lasting, sustainable change. Food is big business…. REALLY BIG BUSINESS, and I have faith that these companies will maneuver quite well around any legislation that gets passed and we will be right back where we started…or worse….
Nourish My Soul
I see this problem in a different way. I know the people that come to me for help are intelligent, capable people so why are they struggling with something as simple as food? I believe it is because of the disconnection. Now stay with me here, I know this will sound hokey to many of you….but here it is…. FOOD IS SPIRITUAL. Have you ever grown your own food? Worked the soil and cared for a plant – watching it grow, knowing it will provide food for your plate? Have you prepared a meal with loved ones? Do you sit down to a table to share a meal with others? These are all things that fill our soul, making us healthy and whole. When your soul is filled and well nourished, your body naturally finds its balance in mind and body which translates to maintaining your ideal, healthy weight. We no longer need to look for our happiness in the chocolate bar, bags of chips, or bottles of wine. We are mindful, aware, and connected with our energy source.
Small steps will eventually get you to the goal
I realize for many families it has been multiple generations that have not grown or even prepared their own foods, so this can be extremely overwhelming and for some may be completely unappealing to learn these foreign skills. Finding the time in our society with so many demands on us is also a very real concern. Let’s do this together, one baby step at a time. One small change is all you need to commit to. That small change will lead to another and another, and before you know it your soul will be nourished!
Where to start?
We will kick this off with our Meet Your Farmer Project to learn how we can reconnect to the food system by going directly to the source and get to know the people putting food on your plate and how we can best support them. We will also learn from them (they are the experts after all) and see how we can grow a couple easy things in our own home. And as always, I will be posting quick, easy, healthy recipes using ingredients that are in season. Let me know if you have made any changes, big or small – how is that working for you?