YHATC003 – Less Human, More Unhealthy (Part 1)

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What I’m talking about in this first of a series of podcasts is something that relates to you, me, and everyone that we know in today’s world.

I’m convinced that if we as humans don’t stop and pay attention to how we interact with the world around us, we will become what I will term as “worthless lumps of flesh”, having lost the meaning of human life.  I’m of the opinion that we’re already well on our way as a society, and our health most definitely suffers because of it.

Since the dawn of mankind, our relationship with so many aspects of life has changed so dramatically that humans of the past seem to us like primitive aliens from another world, living in ways unfathomable to us in our “smarter,” “better” society.  And yet, those before us were just as human as we are.  Perhaps they were even more human than we currently are.

For your consideration, over these next series of podcasts, I am going to share with you how the changes in our relationships with food, the earth, each other, and with movement have changed us into a form less than human.  I am also going to present to you what I believe is evidence that this moving away from the essence of being human is harming our health.

Today, let’s talk about our relationship with food, as well as how that relationship has changed and has moved us towards forgetting how to be human.

Food.  What is it, actually?  I’m not trying to go ultra philosophical on you.  The answer, in my opinion, is quite simple.  Food is stuff that we consume, or eat, that provides us with fuel and nutrients to keep on living.

We chew and swallow it, and then it travels down the long tube that we call our digestive system, within which all of the good stuff in it is removed, and the useless stuff is gotten rid of (No details necessary).

But yeah, that’s pretty much all there is to food as far as I know.  We do have these small, muscular things in our mouths called tongues that actually allow us to taste and enjoy the food we eat, which means that food is not simply a substance to force down your throat for sustenance alone, it’s meant to be enjoyed..  I think about that sometimes…the fact that we were created with the capacity to enjoy food.  It’s amazing when you think about it.  It could have just been that we eat out of necessity without deriving any enjoyment from it, you know.

But considering that the tongue is this small, tiny organ tells me that tasting, while we have the capacity for it, is not the main thing.  Tasting was meant to be a minor part of the digestive process.  It seems like our taste sense was perhaps made to help us have the desire to eat food so that our bodies can ensure their survival.

With this said, if you think about how society is today…how we have all of these health problems and all, we’ve flipped the script.  We’ve taken taste and put it on a pedestal, high above the nutritive value of food.  How do I know?  Drive down the street and notice all of the “fast food” restaurants, and for the most part, what you have are establishments that serve food that is meant first and foremost to taste good…to you, the consumer.  So that you’ll buy the stuff.  Most fast food is indisputably unhealthy, containing high amounts of saturated fats, sugar and salt, as well as other preservatives and chemicals that don’t do anything good for your body.

In our consumer society, we’ve gradually transformed into this state of being where taste is king, and where lifestyle disease is prevalent as a consequence.  The crazy thing about it is that, not only do we not understand this, but many of us don’t really know any other way to eat, even though just a few generations ago it was much more common knowledge that what you eat affects your health.  To me, this is one example of how our society has made us less human.  The physician Hippocrates is known for writing “let food be thy medicine.”  Such a concept is foreign to us, because we don’t usually consider food to have medicinal effects on our bodies.

Society has caused us to cheapen the eating experience, making it but a form of what it once was.  Instead of us eating foods in their natural states when they are loaded with nutrients, we eat man-made foods which were made to taste good FIRST, and then they were enriched with a handful of synthetic nutrients after the fact…

On that note, consider this.  Consider the fact that fruits and vegetables in their natural forms not only contain the common vitamins and minerals that we know of – stuff like vitamin c and magnesium – but they also contain what are called “phytonutrients,” a name given to a myriad of other nutrients that scientists have yet to specifically classify like your Vitamin Cs and magnesiums.

Do you really think that man can recreate a food with the complexity and breadth of nutrients that natural foods have, with the intricate ways that those nutrients even work with each other to enhance your health?  Can we do that?  Uh…nah, man, that’s a negative.

So we eat foods that can only be called foods because we eat them as if they were foods, but in actuality, they’re not foods in the traditional sense.  Stuff like soda, cheese product – note, I didn’t say cheese, but rather, cheese product – and processed kids cereals are but forms of foods that taste good, but they add little to no nutritive value to our bodies.  Matter of fact, they help to make us sick and fat.

And yet, we wonder why we are so sick and fat as a society.  It’s pretty clear to me, and I hope it’s clearer to you, that our failing to do like humans were made to do, which is consume mostly foods that are as close to the natural state as possible, is much of the source of this “mysterious” suffering.

But eating our fake foods isn’t the only thing about our interaction with food that makes us live less than human.  Our lack of interaction with our food makes us less human, too.

What I mean is, the role that we take nowadays in procuring the food we eat is becoming smaller and smaller.  I’m not talking grocery store stuff, although that is included in what I’m saying here.  I am talking about the fact that we don’t grow and cook our food nearly as much as humans used to.

It used to be that to grow and cook your food was part of daily life for everybody.  Think for a moment on the Biblical creation story, where the original job of man was to tend to the garden that God had planted.

Man was originally a gardener.  He didn’t go through a drive-thru to grab a bite to eat.  He didn’t even go to the grocery store.  He had a direct part to play by producing his own food with his very hands.

He was responsible for tending to the plants that would produce the fruits, leaves, roots and seeds that he would eat.  He was responsible for hunting and preparing the meat that he would eat.

Can you imagine that?  I know there are those who do hunt these days, as well as those who garden to some extent on their own land, but can you imagine being responsible for producing all of your food?  Not buying it with money, but raising it?

“I’m glad we don’t have to do that,” a lot of us might say.  And true, I think myself on all of the work involved in producing all of one’s own food with a level of trepidation.  But when you think about it, we take our food for granted.  We take for granted the fact that we can go buy a tomato or some chicken breasts from the grocery store whenever we want.  Why?  Because we don’t really have to work to get them.

And you know what?  I’m not sure if it’s so good that we don’t have to work to produce at least some of our food.

For one, as I said before, we take the availability of food for granted.  Secondly, the fact that we no longer work for our food makes us that much more inactive, requiring us to fit artificial exercise routines into our daily routines.

If you’re out in your yard working for a few hours a day, seeding, planting, weeding, moving dirt, etc., you’re not going to need to go to the gym.  You’ve already worked out.  But we’ve more or less forgotten how this works as humans, and now we see working out as something that we all have to do.

A third reason that I feel it’s not good that we don’t work for our food as humans used to do is, it’s caused us to forget how to think about food.  If you eat a diet of food that’s produced by your hands, chances are that you’ll never have to worry about dieting or anything like that for the purpose of weight loss.  All of the food you eat will be natural, fresh, and filled with nutrients.  And when you eat this way, it is a lot less likely that weight will ever be an issue for you.  But because we don’t work for our food, we eat less of these natural foods on average, and I believe it lends to our confusion about what it means to eat healthy.

As a personal trainer, I often have people come to me to ask me if this food is healthy, or if that food is healthy…which, again, to be honest, is symptomatic of how detached we are from how humans used to be with their food.  The general way to think about whether foods are healthy is this:  The more a man had to do with it, the more unhealthy it is.  The closer a food is to the earth from whence it came, the healthier it is.  It’s that simple.

But when you live in a world where a lot of kids don’t even know that vegetables grow on plants, or where fitness models and athletes are constantly promoting man made products for health and fitness reasons, you’re going to always have this kind of confusion.

To eat food – real food, that is – and to have some role in producing your own food is arguably part of what it means to be human.  On the flip side, when we eat fake stuff and rely on the restaurants, the grocery stores and amazon to provide us with food rather than have any part in growing at least some of it ourselves, I believe that we lose some of the essence of what makes us human and this harms our health.  I want to encourage you to just ponder how detached we are from eating and producing our own food, and to consider the high rates of lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes in our society, and to ask yourself this question:

Is it just coincidence, or is it our movement from natural human activities that has caused us to become less healthy?  Is being healthy simply a matter of being human?  Truly human?  Are we victims of our artificial, comfortable and sanitized environments?

Have a question you want answered on the Your Health At The Crossroads show?  Tweet your question to @ShawnB2BFitness, put it on the YHATC Facebook page, or call (478)216-8536 and leave a voicemail.  You can also send your question via e-mail  to shawn@yourhealthatthecrossroads.com.

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