Friday, October 21, 2011

Foods for Thought: The Great Disconnect

Since I adopted a Paleo\Primal way of eating, I've been researching alternative sources to conventionally produced foods. Having access to good, wholesome food shouldn't be hard, or expensive, though at first glance it sure seems that way. But as I started to dig, I was surprised by the options in my own backyard that I didn't know existed. I have lived here for over 20 years,. How could I not know about the lady down the road with the fresh herbs and eggs, or the farmer two towns over whose family not only runs a fantastic CSA at a low price, but has published books on the joys and trials of keeping that farm going?

I was also floored by how bad some of my choices really are for myself and my family. That whole grains weren't so wholesome, and some fats are actually good. That so much of what's supposed to be "healthy" breaks down into glucose and keeps us on a never-ending hamster wheel of blood sugar highs and lows that eventually leads to diabetes. 

I had an inkling of how poorly conventional livestock are treated in their short and miserable lives, but I was truly ignorant about the genetically engineered, heavily sprayed corn that surrounds my town and just about every other one in Illinois. I was also ignorant of the plight of small farmers who must either yield to Big Ag and their insane patent threats, or be driven out of business. It's overwhelming at times to even know where to begin to rectify it all.

As I drove by these fields today, I found myself amazed at just how disconnected I've been about where my food comes from, how it's produced and who's producing it. I thought I lived in the land of plenty. In reality, I live in the land of frankenfoods.

Was I stupid or just asleep? How did I become so disconnected from what I feed myself and my family?

1. I believed our food supply was safe. Most of us grow up being told we should eat our food and clean our plate, because there are starving people in China, Africa, or wherever. We are lucky to have food, so eat up. What's important is that we have food on the table, not where it comes from. Right?

But the sheer numbers and sizes of food recalls over the past decade are a wake up call to all of us. Why should anyone- adult or child- die from eating a hamburger or a piece of cantaloupe? Clearly our food supply is not as safe as we've been led to believe.

And repeated requests for transparency in the food industry often go unanswered. In documentary, after documentary, food companies declined even to be interviewed, let alone filmed. What are they hiding? And why should we continue to buy their products if they don't want us to see the basic conditions those products are made in? I would think a company that takes pride in its product would welcome customers with open arms to come see how their food is made. But more often than not, the reality is just the opposite.

2. I believed I was making healthy choices for myself and my family. Who hasn't heard about the evils of cholesterol and the praises of low fat diets and whole grains? How could we possibly know that the very things we were being told to eat might actually be contributing or even the causing our health problems?

A good portion of what we've been told about health for the past 50 years is based on biased studies or misinterpreted data. Sometimes the results were skewed to the viewpoint of  whoever funded the study. How is that still considered research? It sounds more like advertising to me.

Thankfully, there are independent studies and researchers that can't be bought. It's interesting to see what they are finding as they go back through the studies and data for another look. What they are finding contradicts EVERYTHING we've been told for decades. There are some big dollars at stake for the industries who have benefited from the misinformation of the past. You better believe they won't back down without a fight.

Some examples:
  • Check out the push back to the recently released book, "Wheat Belly" by Dr. William Davis. The Wheat Council and the Whole Grains Council have practically declared war on the man for suggesting genetically modified wheat may be the cause of many modern day illnesses, including celiac disease, diabetes and obesity.
  • Go back through any of the media blowback against Dr. Atkins for daring to say that fat was not making America fat. That it was most likely carbs. Today, low-carb diets are well accepted and there's an increasing volume of independent studies to back them up, but 10 years ago, the media had a field day villifying the Atkins diet. 
  • Non-food related: Check out what Dr. Sears has to say about SIDS studies funded by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (the companies that make cribs) and the pervasive misinformation about the family cosleeping, a common practice in many other countries.
In essence, what we've been sold as health news isn't news at's advertising, cleverly disguised as studies and statistics.

3. I never thought about it much. Keeping food on the table is hard enough as an adult. Getting food into your children is extra hard sometimes as a mom. And then trying to keep everyone fed (especially with teenagers!) is a challenge. I'd just point my car to the store, look for the best deals and throw them into my cart without a thought as to where it came from. I am ashamed to say that I spent many, many hours tracking sales, organizing coupons and searching out grocery stores to stretch my money, but not once did I think to spend any time tracing where my food came from, how it was raised, and who raised it. Occasionally I'd throw something marked "organic" in my cart, but that was the extent of it. 

But let's face it, once we step inside the grocery store, most of us are on autopilot. That's not by accident. Grocery store "music" is designed to make us relax and shop longer. Displays and shelves are set up to entice impulse buys. Candies and snacks are set at a child's eye level near the registers to encourage the emotional blackmail that ensues when they see them. Talk about leverage!

Product packaging promotes the idea that everything inside is fresh off some farm. But it's just a suggestion, not reality. Meat and produce are enhanced with colors, solvents and gases to make us think they're fresh and wholesome. Nevermind that the meat may be starting to spoil; and the produce was picked early, artificially ripened and in some cases waxed, then shipped hundreds, even thousands of miles to reach the store, and then left on display for who knows long.

We are deceived and manipulated by appearances and encouraged to let our appetites and impulses drive our shopping choices, rather than our conscience. Information is purposely withheld or convoluted to prevent us from making choices or believing we even have choices! They call this "marketing". They should just call it what it is, lying and cheating!

4. Most profoundly, I was never really connected in the first place. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC. We occasionally drove by a farm, but the only time I ever visited one was on a field trip. The origins of my food were never even a blip on my radar! I discovered a love for gardening as an adult, but mainly as a hobby, not a necessity.

What's sad is that most of the farms around me now are not growing anything humans could eat. The crops must be highly processed or fed to animals before anyone can consume them! Sadly, I never made the connection between the fields outside and my dinner table inside until recently.

Our Legacy 

There's a part of me that's very angry about all of this. I feel like I'm waking up from a bad dream. (Like that Matrix guy that would do anything for a real steak.) I look around and so many people are still asleep. And not just about their food supply. Call them Food Zombies, Political Zombies, whatever you like.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, folks! All is well. Go back to sleep!

But I can't go back to sleep. I'm tired of being lied to, misled and downright deceived. I want the truth- untwisted, unbent. Just the plain, hard, lovely truth in all its nakedness and ugliness and vulnerability. I ache for its simple, powerful ability to shine through all the lies and get to the core of what really matters. Does it even exist any more? Or did we kill it completely for the sake of making a buck and a catchy jingle? I believe it still does, and. I'm ready and willing to make whatever changes it takes to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

I look at my children and wonder what kind of legacy we are leaving for them. I don't want to leave them a world full of toxins, frankenfoods, debt, and disease. If nothing changes, what will they have to hope for and look forward to? Childhood obesity? Juvenile diabetes? Heart disease at age 20? A drastically shortened lifespan? What happened to wanting the best for our children and how did we end up so far from that goal?

The Greatest Disconnect

Finally, I think we're disconnected from far more than our food sources. We've certainly lost our connection with nature. That's not the price of progress, it's the price of stupidity and arrogance. There are several movements currently attempting to regain that connection, such as clean eating, sustainable agriculture, ancestral health and even veganism. There is a sense of loss in all of these movements (as well as others) and an attempt to restore what's missing.

But the problem runs deeper. We are disconnected not only from creation but from the Creator as well. We forget why we're here and where we come from. We are driven to accumulate money and things at the expense of everything else in our lives. Often too late, we realize they never really mattered in the first place. Somewhere along the way, we lost site of what was really important -our relationships- with our family, friends, planet and Creator.

I think we need to do a huge reassessment of how we live our lives and make better choices, even if they are painful ones. Nothing will ever change if we don't. We'll continue to pollute the earth, our food supply, our children and ourselves with far more than just bad food choices. We'll pollute them with bad life choices too.

With that said, this series is about making better choices for ourselves, our families, our country and our world. To live thoughtfully and leave this earth better than we found it. Big change starts one person and one decision at a time. It starts right now. Won't you join me? Together, we can start a "Great Reconnect".

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kim, I just came across your blog today and I have to say I couldn't agree more with what you wrote.

    We live out here in the country (in Canada), our house surrounded by fields of GMO soy and dent corn, in an area populated by farmers who couldn't even feed their own families the "food" (and I use the term very loosely) they grow. This very much blows my mind. It's funny you should liken it to the Matrix, because we said the same thing. Once you know, you can't "unknow" it, sadly.

    I'm on the path now to going completely Paleo, after unknowingly drifting towards it for the past number of months anyway. I'd not had bread or pasta for some time and, when I finally did eat them again, realized I felt terrible. Slowly, I came to realize that I felt best when I ate no wheat at all. This led to some research and stumbling across the health effects of eating wheat, etc, etc, etc, until finally I found the Paleo concept. Definitely a turning point!


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