I believe “you are what you eat” with the same faith I believe in the Almighty. What we digest in our bodies determines as much how we feel, look and behave as our genes although, the food affect shows up pretty fast, genetics are an ongoing thing. Eat too many raw vegetables, you get gas, eat a lot of carbs you gain too much weight, drink too much alcohol, you get drunk, or don’t eat, you get sick and die. That’s overly simplified, but just observing what’s in grocery carts in the checkout line tells me people eat for comfort. Invariably, I see products based on the trifecta of salt, fat and sugar. Shouldn’t there be a balance between comfort and nutrition? What would happen if we ate simply prepared well balanced meals and drank our alcohol in moderation? Diabetes would decline, for one thing.
Eating habits are as individual as our fingerprints and as personal as your name to me. What you eat tells me a lot about you. Gluttons are appalling to watch. They are obsessive, indiscriminate and concentrated on consumption. The super size can’t pass up a crumb. I’m more fascinated by people who can’t, or only eat certain things. They have dietary prejudices or restrictions that determine, to a large extent, how they function emotionally and socially. Julia Child once said Americans had become afraid of their food. I agree, indeed, the media has been full of warnings about food for years. I can never make up my mind if we experienced a “craze” or a neurotic phobia to the basic food groups. My mother overcooked everything to death because she was afraid of bacteria but never questioned food cooked otherwise in a restaurant. Institutional food is strangely acceptable to her. Elvis Presley ate the same thing every day, peanut butter and bacon sandwich. Gluten free is the current dietary theme. Anything that can be labeled “gluten free” is for marketing purposes and I know lots of gluten sensitive people who claim it resolves everything from digestion to migraines. If gluten free improves the quality of their life, then ok, but I feel sorry for anyone who can’t eat birthday cake.
Then there are those who would put ketchup on escargot – hopeless.
Years ago, we fed the dog table scraps. Poor thing died of a brain tumor too young. Now my pets eat a specially formulated diet in exact amounts and live an eternity. Similarly, at the gym I frequent, the trainers and athletes adhere to impossibly strict diets of scientific protein concoctions washed down with endless bottles of water to accomplish their lean, muscular, polished physiques. They claim to drink alcohol rarely, but I’m suspicious. I only aspire to be healthy and fit in my clothes so I pass on those protein bars.
It’s reassuring to learn that starving children in foreign countries are being saved with a simple paste made up of peanut butter, powdered milk and a few nutrients. A simple, inexpensive and brilliant formula is dramatically saving lives. How we feed children and the habits they develop are so critical to their future health. I still remember my husband telling me about an indigent boy he treated years ago, who had lost all his teeth at age 8 due to malnutrition. As I observe my little grandson, I know breast milk agreed with him best, but now he’s on formula and it makes a difference. He’s growing and thriving but formula is obviously harder on his digestion. He makes funny faces while his tummy deals with digesting that stuff. He has no idea how fortunate he is to have all the benefits of an advanced society and informed parents.
There’s just no excuse these days for not knowing what’s good for you and what isn’t. We still live in the land of plenty, thank God, so making better choices isn’t too hard. I’m striving for a better balance this year, myself. I’m not giving up anything, but I will cut down (not out) on carbs, take smaller portions and ramp up the exercise. If I am what I eat, I intend to be healthy, happy and wise.
Choose wisely. Happy New Year!
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