When I was a freshman in high school I gave up meat for the 40 days of the Christian Lenten season and never looked back. For every vegetarian/vegan in the world there is a different reason for their choice to be that way, and there are different variations and ‘degrees’ within the category of vegetarianism. My philosophy is simple in my mind, our bodies work best when processing nutrients in their most basic and minimally processed forms.
Meat, in its most widely consumed form in the U.S. today, comes from animals that are force fed food that often isn’t a part of their natural diet (cows don’t normally eat a sludge of corn and soybeans, they eat grass) and because their bodies aren’t adapted to that form of eating, are fed antibiotics to combat the ill effects of both the food they are fed and the abysmal conditions they live in.
This, to me, is a mirror of how humans are living. We eat foods that our bodies don’t process well and live in sedentary and confined conditions and the effect is that we medicate ourselves to combat those self imposed illnesses. Modern grocery stores are the slaughterhouse mazes that corral us to our overweight, unhealthy, and over medicated early deaths.
How can we prevent this? By eating minimally processed whole foods- fruits, vegetables, and grains in their form that most closely resembles how they looked in the ground or on the tree or vine. I’m not talking about whole wheat pastas and breads, but actual wheat berries, oats, wild rice, quinoa, barley, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds. No high fructose corn syrup! No maltose and dextrose! If you want something sweeter, use a little bit of real cane sugar, or maple syrup, or the natural sweetness of the fructose in fruits.
If you want to eat meat, that is actually fine by me, paleo dieters also abide by similar notions of minimally processed foods. But find a farmer that raises animals ethically and don’t make meat a part of every meal or the center of your meal, even our prehistoric paleo ancestors only ate meat when they hunted it and when that meat ran out, guess what they ate? Fruits and vegetables and wild grains, until their next hunt.
We have to radically change the way we think about food in this country and about where it comes from and how your body uses it. Food shouldn’t come from a factory or plant, or the packaged middle aisles of the grocery store. It should come from farms or from artisans or chefs who can prepare it in a tastier way than you might be able to (or at least be able to devote the time to preparing it.) The further from the source of the food you get, and the less it looks like the original food it was, the less your body can treat it like food and garner essential nutrients from it that your body needs to function efficiently. We have gotten so out of touch with real food that we often don’t even know that in season smaller strawberries are sweeter and tastier than the oversized and often flavorless variety sold year round. And tomatoes don’t usually have that genetically modified uniform roundness meant for easier packing and shipping and that red coloring which is added using chemicals so they arrive in grocery stores looking bright and appetizing but wholly lacking in taste compared to ones you can easily grow on your apartment balcony.
I may have used some hefty language like unrefined, paleo, genetically modified and minimally processed, but to me my philosophy on food is simple. Keep the majority of your food as simple as possible- cook whole form grains; roast hearty root vegetables or squash with salt and pepper; sauté, steam or boil green vegetables; and sauté, steam or eat raw leafy greens and lettuces. In a hurry- blend some fruit, leafy greens, ice and water into a nutritious smoothie. Find seasonings you like. Don’t use too much oil but don’t avoid good fats. Drink water! I truly believe you can increase your health and energy levels immensely if you eat this way even 50% of the time and start moving more.
Look, I’m not a doctor, I’m not even a nutritionist, but everyone knows the Standard American Diet (SAD) has failed us. We see this as our friends, families and loved ones are getting more overweight, more medicated, and are expected to live a shorter lifespan than their parents. I’m suggesting we change our perspective on food from “is it fast and convenient?” to “will it help me live the life I want to live?”
My philosophy is to see my body as the vessel through which I live my life and I am going to take care of it to the best of my ability and I want everyone else to do the same.