Could Answers Lie In Our Past?
Growing up, I was always fascinated by traditions and traditional cooking. There was (and still is) something about the way we used to eat versus how we eat today that totally captivates me in a way that nothing else does (and perhaps it is the reason why I was so attracted to holistic nutrition). As I was going through nutrition school and even before that, I knew there was something special about the way our ancestors lived. They had a certain wisdom in the way they ate, prepared food, and their relationship with food that we have lost along the way. Even though I didn’t have all the facts, back then I had a deep belief that there must be a link between the relationship we have with food and disease. It turns out, I was on to something. The relationship we as humans have with food is a direct reflection of our own relationship with people, nature, the planet, and ultimately our selves. So come along with me and let’s explore a little.
Our ancestors, no matter where they came from, all viewed food as a very sacred act. Food was a gift from the earth, a giving and receiving that nourished and sustained the continuance of life. Nourishment was even embedded in the very connections we had to the animals, plants, waters, soil, and sun. We used to live in the same habitats as the animals we hunted, and be in complete harmony with the land in which we grew our own food. There was a symbiotic harmonious relationship between the people of the land, the animals, and plants that existed within it. What we grew, we ate, appreciated, worked hard for, and in return it nourished us all on more than just a physical level. Hunting was not about dominating, it was about respecting, giving back, love - nurturing nature rather than dominating or manipulating it. The way of life was farm to table, a continuous and beneficial relationship that unfortunately very few of us experience in today’s industrialized world. Today we have lost touch with the places and people involved in our food, we don’t know the story of our food, its source, or the people involved in the process. We are now embedded in a culture of disconnection. Our food is broken up in stages making it difficult to develop any type of connection to the food, the land, nor the people who grow it.
Food grows (or is manufactured) hundred kilometres away mainly on mono-crops or in labs, handled by many people and harvested by machines. They are sprayed or manufactured with many toxic chemicals and grown for the intent of economic development rather than sustainability or quality. After all that travelling it is then displayed for days before it makes it on to our tables. By then, it has lost much of its vibrancy and sustenance, if it had any to begin with. In today’s contemporary world where we waste thousands of pounds of food just because it has to look a certain way, is it any wonder why we have lost touch with the very essence of food as well as its fundamental spirit of nourishment? Is it any wonder why our health is deteriorating?
I’m not suggesting we should all give up this technology driven world and start farming and living like we did thousands of years ago (although I do believe it would help), but what I am saying is that there was a certain wisdom that we seem to be missing today. In today’s industrialized world, we CAN live with awareness of our innate relationship with the source of our foods. We CAN take the time to understand the potentials for not just nourishment in food but also in our relationships, minds, hearts, and bodies. Even if we just remembered the spirit of nourishment, it will bring us closer to ourselves and our communities. This alone will bring a deeper meaning into our lives and shift many values within us that can bring us into a healthier way of life and a healthier way of thought. We must remember that there is a vital link between nourishment and self-love. As we transition to a more traditional diet, we will naturally develop a more loving relationship with our bodies. Struggles slowly dissipate as nourishment grows and eating healthy animal proteins, fats and other nutrient-dense foods creates a grounding in the body that provides us with a steady flow of sustainable energy. When we remove allergens, additives and processed foods our brain fog clears and our mental clarity and emotional stability increases. The pleasures of eating are enriched when the senses are engaged with the smells and tastes, the diverse colors and textures of organic life-giving foods. Eating in the ways of our ancestors can cultivate a beautiful relationship with our own body and a growing sense of being at home in our selves.*
Today we are bombarded with distractions, stimulations and technology that we (especially our children) don’t have the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with food. The idea of nourishment is erased and food has become something that only sustains. When we are distracted from the act of nourishing ourselves, we are no longer in tune with our needs and the clever messages our body is giving us. When we are distracted, we are not listening to our selves, and unfortunately we are missing such an important and integral aspect of health.
Sadly, this is the perfect foundation for the development of emotional eating. Because we are no longer involved in the process of nourishing ourselves, we are merely eating just to eat, feeding emotions. And slowly as we walk away from nourishment (ourselves), we invite unhealthy habits, unhealthy food, unhealthy relationships, and ultimately create an environment within ourselves that hosts disease.
Our bodies are amazing. You may have heard me say this before, and I will continue to say it until you believe me. Our body will serve us faithfully every single second of the day to the point of injury just to comply to our wishes. When we choose to misuse or disregard our body’s warning signs, it will still continue to oblige, but with sacrifice. Our body will always choose a lesser harm. At first it makes many small sacrifices trying to minimize harm to other organs and systems, then as it continues to oblige to demands, it starts to sacrifices liver cells to protect us from the effects of foods that are toxic in our body. Our adrenals will exhaust themselves to protect us from the constant dangers of stress (and by stress I mean living in 2016 with bills, family, lack of sleep, lack of joy, demanding jobs, pollution, toxicity, etc... ). And your pancreas, it will wear itself out to a point of malfunction in order to protect you against the effects of too much sugar. And when the toxins we put in our bodies exceed the capacities of its cleansing mechanisms, it deposits them in places that will do the least harm like joints, sinuses, and bones. Eventually it will get overwhelmed and important organs start to lose their ability to function properly. But your body still does not give up, it will continue to fight for you, it will continue to send you signals and messages to tell you to stop, but over time we have learned to ignore or suppress these messages, we have learned to somehow view them as bad and foreign - something to get rid of as soon as possible.** What this has caused is a shift within us that has driven us away from our selves, away from our own ability to understand the how and why of eating, the right and wrong of eating, the sacred act of eating, the feeling and emotional connection of eating, and we have become mechanical machines that just consume. Perhaps, this shift is what we should be investigating? Perhaps it is because of this shift that we have unknowingly invited disease into our lives?
It’s important to remember that it’s not always about what we are putting into our bodies, but how, why, and when. I believe that is the key in unlocking the mystery of who we are, why we are, and most importantly, how we can live with optimum health.
Even though everyone’s body and needs are different, I think if we followed a few rules that our ancestors lived by, we can all benefit from the past and perhaps even thrive. Here are a set of rules to go by, and I feel it will truly help you in living healthy in today’s industrialized world:
On a physical level eat foods that are always whole, non-stimulating and non-violent; on a psychological level the mind should be in a blissful state, graceful and joyous; and on the level of the soul there should be a feeling of gratefulness and thankfulness.***
Follow this general “rule” of eating and I am willing to bet that it will help keep you connected, healthy, and always nourished.
**The Yoga of Eating – Charles Eisenstein