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Food Is More than Fuel and Medicine. Food Is Life.

Food Is More than Fuel and Medicine. Food Is Life.

Have you noticed just how many advertisements, videos, blogs, or "direct marketing" pitches you see/hear for drinks/shakes, meal replacements, supplements, exercise regimens - you name it. Carbs are good. Carbs are bad. Eat more protein. Watch your macros. Pay attention to gut health. There are good bugs. There are bad bugs. 

Now, I'm all for trying to get people to be in better health. We DO need to focus on a different approach to our health, and we DO have many things to fix in this country. What bothers me is the subtle and insidious shaming, fear-mongering, and emotional manipulation from tapping into people's subconscious feelings of inadequacy. An example of comments I've seen recently:

  • "It's all about mindset. Feed your mind with positive thoughts and positive things will happen!" (Shaming, emotional manipulation)
  • "If you think you can't afford it, you're prioritizing the wrong things." (Shaming, emotional manipulation)
  • 'Our healthcare system is a sick-care system. Doctors get paid for people to be sick." (Fear-mongering)
  • "People get sick because they've compromised their immune systems. Building healthy immune systems will solve so many healthcare issues by solving the root cause of disease." (Fear-mongering, shaming)

There is nothing patently wrong with any of these statements; there is truth in all of them. The issue I have is the focus. They are all focused on pointing out, subtly, that you are deficient, and if you work hard enough, stay consistent, and have the right mindset, you will become like the pictures they often present - healthy, vibrant people with six-pack abs. 

I come from the advertising industry. Trust me; this is how to manipulate people into buying something. Tap into insecurity or a perceived deficiency, tease with a promise that if they purchase x/y/z, they will be happier, more fulfilled, and living their best life. Again, nothing morally wrong with that, and that's our capitalistic culture. But it's focused on the wrong things. Life is challenging, change is challenging, and the reality, I'm sorry to say, is that most of us are not going to have six-pack abs. 

We're trying to do the right thing for our health, we want to look healthy and be active, and we have the right intention. But life gets in the way. We face barriers. Unexpected bills come up. And hey, we like food and the social and cultural meaning behind it.

So my point is this. Yes, we need to improve our health. But the "why" should not be on all the problems and human deficiency. It should be on the joy of our existence and human potential. What do I mean by that? I'll focus on food because that's what I know. But it will probably apply to any aspect of life.

You'll often hear that food is fuel. You also hear that food is medicine. These statements are factual, but they are simply features of the food we eat. Our human experience is so much more than just inputs to our digestive system to help it function better. Food is rich with meaning. Our human experience more than just functional; it is also emotional, sensory, and cultural. As humans, when we think about making changes in our lives to improve our health, the approach that will work best for most of us is small, incremental changes that are about experiencing life's pleasures. Changing some of the foods we eat and removing highly processed ones. Trying to eat organic whenever you can. Going on walks in the evening with a friend or family member, reading books that are educational. 

You may recall a list I shared of the nine things my Mom reminded herself of every morning to live a fulfilled life. I've boiled them down to four things, it's about taking C.A.R.E.

  • Eat Clean
  • Stay Active
  • Build Relationships
  • Keep lEarning

Focusing on these simple things and the joy that comes from experiencing them fully is what will help most of us make the meaningful changes required to improve our health. Instead of treating your body and life as a machine, focus on living fully. Eat real food. Be human. And don't let anyone make you feel inadequate or deficient or jealous. Just remember, every day, you are exactly where you need to be. And if you make small changes, tomorrow you will be exactly where you need to be.

And particularly when you are making decisions about the food you eat, it's not just fuel, and it's not just medicine. It's life.

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