If I got down on my hands and knees and begged you to take better care of yourself, would it make a difference in what foods you chose to eat from now on? I’ve been educating people for more than 30 years on the importance of eating well, exercising daily, and taking care of themselves. I started years ago with a gentle message. I’ve gotten much tougher over the years. I’m even ready to get down on my knees and beg. Yet, Americans are doing worse today than they were several decades ago. In fact, a study from Oregon State University just reported that fewer than 3% of Americans eat right, exercise, are at a healthy weight, and don’t smoke. (Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2016; March 21st)
I don’t get it. We are given this amazing opportunity to live on this gem of a planet floating in an infinite universe. No life has yet been found anywhere else in the universe. Yet, here we are. We don’t get much time, maybe 80 years if we are lucky. Every minute, hour, month, year, and decade counts. We also are given only one body and one brain in this lifetime. The only place that brain and body get their building blocks is from the foods we choose to eat. Eat foods that fuel that brain and body – i.e., colorful fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, calcium-rich sources, and a little lean meat – and we thrive, stacking the deck in favor of enjoying every last minute of our blessed moment on this planet. Yet, most of us are eating the Western diet proven to undermine health and energy, increase diseases from heart disease to dementia, cause excessive weight gain, increase medication use, and shorten life. Our self-care is so poor that it is breaking the back of the healthcare industry, not to mention devastating our opportunity to live joyful, robust, passionate and energetic lives.
It’s not like we don’t have a choice. While many people living in poverty elsewhere in the world must eat what they can get, Americans have access to an abundance of foods. Granted, not everyone can afford blueberries out of season or wild Alaskan salmon. But, most healthy foods are cheap, from oats to carrots. Pound for pound, potatoes are much cheaper than potato chips. Instead, we make choices based on immediate gratification. Rather than take the time to think before we eat, we grab-and-go what is easy to reach and goes down sweet. We spend considerably less of our hard-earned dollars today on food cooked at home than ever before. That leaves more money for gadgets and medication. Shame on us! For Americans to live in a food-abundant country – with so many people starving in the world – to choose highly processed, disease-causing, obesity-generating junk food is a crime.
I recognize that food companies have manipulated our food choices, enticing us to choose modern-day, processed foods that are as alien to our bodies as breathing in carbon monoxide. A Civil War soldier wouldn’t recognize the tens of thousands of boxed, bagged, cartoned, canned, and wrapped junk in our grocery stores. Today every cupboard in American is spilling over with food-like products made from refined grains, added sugar, salt, fat, and chemicals designed to mimic real food. The marketing is clever and the ingredients are addicting. It is a food war out there: them against us. We must engage our higher brain center, the cortex, to make food decisions or our lower brain centers, call them the animal brain, will react instead of think.
So, here I am down on my knees. Please, please choose wisely for your health today and your chance to enjoy fully every minute you have left in this lifetime!
Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D