The final film that I want to discuss is "In Defense of Food". In my opinion, Michael Pollen does a fantastic job of doing an overview of the food industry as a whole (wheat, sugar, and meats). He takes time to talk about the history and culture of the USA and other parts of the world and the recent prevalence of what he calls "editable food like substances" (EFLS), then he presents a likely solution.
In the early 1900's a gradual, but critical transition took place from nutrients to "nutritionism", which is defined as a transition from foods to creating EFLS that contained all the nutrients that we need. It was lead by noble-hearted people who didn't know the impacts their ideas and science would make when the food industry got a hold of their information. Michael Pollan does a great job making relevant connections to the other films that I am talking about. First, bringing up Dr Kellog (from What's with Wheat) and his proposed plant based diet. After the food industry got a hold of this, they used this influential figure to sell their products! (grains, and lots of them). But if you look at the religious group that he was a part of today, the 7th day Adventists, you'll see that his advice sticks mostly true. They live significantly longer than the rest of us on a mostly plant based diet and abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes. Another key figure Ansel Keys (talked about in What the Health) came up with the lipid hypothesis, showed that red meat was correlated with higher risk for coronary heart disease. When the McGovern Report (talked about in all three previous films) originally came out there was an incredible statement, "decrease your consumption of meat..." along with other things about dairy and cheese. Big food spent millions in lobbyists saying that this was too harsh on their products and was demonizing their products. What did the report end up saying? "Choose meats, poultry, and fish that will reduce your saturated fat intake." They had successfully evaded a radical call to change and actually created a way to introduce new "low-fat" products into the market place IN ADDITION to their current ones. Food companies used the idea of personal responsibility (the idea that people ultimately have the choice) as a major tactic in marketing and advertising, eerily similar to the tobacco industry. . . Foods are now being artificially created to fit our nutritional needs as if any one nutrient is the cause or problem instead of the possibility that it could be the lack of several others. The eventual impact of the McGovern report was that Americans did NOT actually eat less fat, rather we ate MORE carbohydrates (think sugars) and in turn more food all together.
Pollan also looks at several different diets of populations around the world and all seem to correlate with lower heart disease and diabetes. He makes a pretty bold claim (that I love) that we can either keep doing what we're doing and wait for evolution to catch up to us OR we need to move away from our now Westernized diet. He gives a very practical approach that I believe has wholeness and wellness as its primary motivators. He sums it up in 7 powerful words
- Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize
- Don't eat foods that won't rot
- Eat food cooked by humans
- Avoid foods advertised on TV
- Do most of your shopping at a farmers market
- We don't NEED meat to survive
- Rather replace meat with more servings of fruits and vegetables
- Eat your colors
- You are what you eat eats too (what your meat eats matters)
- Eat foods that come from healthy soil (certified organic is a loose rule)
- Plant a garden if you can
Not too much:
- Pay more, eat less
- Avoid any food at a register
- Eat meals, not snacks
- Eat at a table, with people if possible
- Cook if you can, and again, plant a garden if possible
After further discussion of these films I want to make a few pretty bold claims myself. First, most if not ALL big food companies spend millions of dollars making sure their products get sold, even if that means that the truth is withheld or skewed with the intent to confuse of deceive. Whether it be through lobbying for policies, deceptive marketing, or corruption of the health sciences by sponsoring studies, these companies don't want to "lose". Most big food companies are not willing to take massive cuts to their revenue for the betterment of people or the world. There are exceptions to that (CVS, Patagonia, and CrossFit) but that is a story for another time. So if we can not trust food companies (or even the government) to look our for our best interest, then who do we turn to? I believe that is our own PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to look out for our own best interest. This has been a hard reality to become aware of, mostly because I want to default to trust, trust that those around me and my government wants what is best for me, not what makes them the most money. In my eyes, the first and possibly most crucial component of personal responsibility is seeking out truth. Taking the time and effort to make sure who you want to be and who you are, are actually in line. Seeking truth does not take everything at face value or what other people tell them. Step in that direction, and see how personal responsibility carves a better version of you, a better version of us, and better version of our world. I want you to consider Michael Pollens 7 words the next time you sit down for a meal.
If you thought you were going to read this instead of watching those documentaries, I'll let you reconsider that. It is now your PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to educate yourself. If you are doing the Whole Life Challenge with me this fall (Sign up here) every two weeks we will have a showing of one of these documentaries followed by an open discussion to help you learn more about what you're eating.
On a side note, one thing that I have been very curious about is going "off the grid" meaning growing my own foods and hunting my own meats as a way to get the most out of my foods. What are your thoughts?
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As always with anything I stand behind, don't forget to get outside and play.