The Yoga of Eating
A Regular Guy
I grew up in a home where we didn't ask many questions. It wasn't so much that we had a total trust in others, as it was that we relinquished power to them. Even in my senior year at college, when the war in Vietnam was escalating and many students were protesting, I believed it unpatriotic to rail against the government. It was 1968 and I had never read the ingredients list on a single packaged food, nor did I know anyone who wasn't eating red meat. I was a big eater and I ate almost everything. The only things I considered unhealthy were cigarettes and alcohol. Everything else had to be good for me or it wouldn't be available in the grocery stores, right?
This Is the Pits!
Not until 1972, when my wife had two seperate cases of pneumonia and I had a terrible skin rash after using my antiperspirant spray, did I begin to question my traditional American lifestyle. It was my wake-up call to make changes. I began to read ingredient labels and books on, of all things, "health".
Flash forward to 1974 abd the PBB cattle feed contamination. Nearly all of Michigan's residents had ingested doses of this fire retardant chemical before it became public. We immeditately quit eating red meat and all dairy products and started patronizing a nearby "health food store" in Jackson.
And so it began what has become a nearly thirty year quest to, not only change our lifestyle, but, take full control of our personal health and well being. Aside from never eating red meat or cow's milk again, we eliminated white sugar, table salt and white flour from our house (although we rarely drank soda, we eliminated that as well). We read books by Paul Bragg, the first person to open a health food store in the United States, and books by other nutritionist such as Paavo AIrola and Bernard Jensen. Our cookbooks included Recipes For A Small Planet, Deaf Smith Country Cookbook, and Ten Talents, all of which promoted "natural foods" and were, for the most part, filled with vegetarian recipes. Then, we joined the first "food buying club" in Jackson County. When we moved to Grand Traverse County in 1982, we immediately joined Oryana, a food co-op in Traverse CIty, and have been members ever since. Recommendation: Find a source for natural foods.
In addition to refining our diet, we established a habit of regular exercise that has included running, hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, snow shoeing, and yoga. Just to make sure we got our daily dose of fresh air and exercise, a coach, in the form of a dog, showed up on our doorstep in the fall of 1981. Our second exercise coach arrived in much of the same manner almost fourteen years ago. Recommendation: Exercise everyday and be sure to spend some time breathing fresh outdoor air.
Health Nut or Disease Victim
Over the course of transitioning our diet and lifestyle, we have listened to friends and family make comments such as "What's that stuff you're eating?", "What are you, a health nut?", "You're not going to live forever, you know." ect. It's a sad commentary on our culture when soda pop, a non food item, is regarded as the beverage of choice among most people under thirty, 25% of the population eats a least one meal a day at a fast food restaurant, and vegetable salad with spourts gets strange looks from the average American. We need to look no further than the alarming statistics on heart related illnesses in this country (over 200,000 heart by-pass operations a year) or the fact that 62% of the population is overweight (Michigan is the leading state in this category), to realize that ours is not a healthy nation. Recommendation: Eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
To Think or Not to Think
Among other things, American have a love affair with cars. Is it any wonder, the way the auto industry spends billion of dollars on advertising. And, there are a lot of people who take better care of their cars than themselves. Here again, advertising agencies have
done an excellent job of convincing us that we need to buy certain products to be happy, accepted and whole. Actors, athletes, comedians, singers, and cartoon characters have have been used to endorse products that have little or no redeeming qualities. The giant food conglomerates and pharmaceutical corporations are more concerned about healthy profit & loss statements than healthy consumers. According to Dr. Royal Lee of Foundation for Nutritional Research, " The only reason for for putting caffeine in a soft drink is to make it habit forming." Recommendation: Replace soda pop with water, herbal teas, and 100% fruit juice.
Bridging the Gap from Regular to Organic
Once I pulled my ostrich head out of the sand and began reading ingredient labels on cosmetics and household products, as well as packaged food, we began buying fewer and fewer products from "grocery" stores. Today, many grocery stores carry a line of natural and/or organic foods.
If you are looking to make a change, I recommend the following transitional steps.
1. Eliminate, or cut back on, consumption of caffeinated beverages. Replace with herbal teas, 100% fruit juice, decaffeinated (preferably organic) coffee, soy beverages, and water.
2. Eliminate, or cut back on, consumption of white sugar. Replace with honey, pure maple syrup & evaporated cane sugar.
3. Eliminate, or cut back on, consumption of white flour. Replace with an assortment of natural, unrefined flours, such as whole wheat, spelt, rice, millet, oat, and barley.
4. Eliminate, or cut back on, consumption of table salt. Use natural herbs and spices, and Bragg Liquid Aminos.
5. Eliminate, or cut back on, consumption of refined, hydrogenated and saturated oils and fats. Replace with unrefined, cold pressed oils (olive, sesame, grape seed).
6. Buy one or two natural cookbooks and begin incorporating these recipes into your life.
7. Buy food as locally as possible. Get to know the produce personnel at your local grocery on a first name basis and learn the source of the produce.
8. Support the folks who are in business of providing natural and organic foods, cosmetics, household cleaners, clothing, ect. from growers to distributors (such as health food stores, food co-ops, and buying clubs).
9. Have your drinking water tested and analyzed for chemical content and possible health hazards.
10. Eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other toxic chemicals.