Anyone who knew me at Pearson knew it was not easy for me to own my American identity.
In case you have only seen American news channels or travelled to US-friendly countries (like me), let me save you the pain of stumbling across this realization in the future:
The United States is not a very well loved country (by some) on the world stage.
Politics and economics aside, one of the many criticisms from our neighboring countries is our dominating culture, now a globalized force in the music, movie, fashion, and food industries. And let me tell you – American food, from McDonald’s to KFC, is just as popular in China as in Kentucky.
While I am not here to bash my home nation that afforded me the bountiful freedoms of education, gender equality, and homeland security – to name a few – I do hope to draw attention to the biggest issue in our nation today: the h word. Hell? Happiness? Horoscopes? Good guesses –
Since elementary school, I remember being presented with food pyramids and catchy phrases on milk bottles telling me, “Milk is good!” “Eat more corn!” – and so on. Funnily enough, these are two of the biggest subsidies funded by the United States government. Corn is in everything – our bread, our yogurt, even our juice – and it is making our brains addicted to extra sugar. According to Michael Pollan, “Of the 37 ingredients in chicken nuggets, something like 30 are made, directly or indirectly, from corn.” Needless to say, I failed to be fooled by commercials of a young mother pledging, “High fructose corn syrup is natural!” (Sweet Surprise campaign)
That, my friends, is a straight lie. Nature never produced corn as liquid sugar, and neither should we.
Today I see more billboards daily about weight loss and diet campaigns, trying to get people off their sofas and into the gym than ever. In short, our addictions to fat and sugar have now created a healthcare epidemic, and the future of our nation is compromised by the threat of chronic disease. In America, “health” is the absence of disease. But what does that mean, exactly, and what cultural practices do we offer?
Apart from fad diets and medical prescriptions, I’m left without an answer to how Americans care for their bodies.
This has left me searching for a paradigm, a model for health that is both holistic and practical, from other cultures. What I found in my research was incredible: in many cultures, particularly traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurvedic medicine, food and herbs are the only “drugs” prescribed to prevent and heal all illness and disease. Organic, non-processed, whole foods are the most powerful force that affects our daily health. As the old proverb says, we are what we eat.
Greater than that, the human body is a microcosm of the universe. We have emotional and psychological, spiritual, and physical energies residing in our body and connecting to the environment. Our body is our deepest connection to the Earth – our heartbeat, reproductive cycle, diet, and sleep patterns are all attuned to nature’s rhythms. So when we are disconnected from nature, our health also suffers.
Our relationship to nature defines our well being as individuals – and as a species. (Side note: I saw the moon tonight for the first time in weeks.. I never go outside at night when I am home. I hope to change this.)
After many internet readings, alternative medicine visits, and cookbook searches, the greatest outcome of my search was deeper self-knowledge. I am no poster child for health, but I am learning. I learned that not all fruits and vegetables are stamped a-okay in unlimited quantities for me: my body has a particular constitution, and needs foods that resonate with me. I have found that eating gluten and dairy-free, and (when affordable) organic, may not be “normal” in my culture, but it does give me more energy and less health issues. And while highly processed, sugary foods may be quick and easy, I have chosen to opt-out to protect my body and the Earth in the long run. I also have found amazing support with nutritional supplements produced by Life Plus, an all natural supplement producer. Thank goodness for them.
Ah, sigh of relief. There is my rant. This blog topic has been on my mind for weeks – and I could continue for a lifetime. Maybe this is my calling: reconnecting us to the land, to our bodies, to natural food, to health. It is a growing movement. But for tonight, I leave you with one question –
Have you given thanks to nature for your food today?
This is a picture of a farm from my home county – Carroll County, Maryland!