I have written about Dr. Mark Hyman and his efforts to raise our consciousness about what we eat. He posted another article online and as usual, he pulls no punches.
When I watch old movies, which is often, it breaks my heart to observe the artistic visual effects that were achieved with smoking and the black-and-white contrasts that earlier directors achieved. To say that they made smoking glamorous and beautiful is an understatement.
But you can't do the same for overeating. Recently an actress who is generously built was cast in a comedy that became quite a hit, but critics savaged her for her weight. I don't know if it is against the law for full-figured actresses to become stars, but from some of the comments it seems that she certainly is a sanctioned victim--one that can be attacked without any criticism going back to the source.
Nevertheless, Dr. Hyman tells us that overweight and other conditions can be approached through food as medicine. In his article, Why Cooking can Save Your Life, he writes:
"The cure for what ails us -- both in our bodies and in our nation -- can be found in the kitchen. It is a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, and enrich and nourish our bodies and our souls. Yet, in the 21st century, our kitchens (and our taste buds) have been hijacked by the food industry. In 1900, only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside of the home; today, that number is more than 50 percent. The food-like substances proffered by the industrial food system trick our taste buds into momentary pleasure. But our biology rejects the junk forced on our genes and on our hormonal and biochemical pathways."
Why is it, then, that as many people say, junk food tastes so good? According to Dr. Hyman:
"Your tongue can be fooled, and your brain can become addicted to the slick combinations of fat, sugar, and salt pumped into factory-made foods, but your biochemistry cannot handle these foods, and the result is the disaster we have in America today -- 70 percent of us are overweight, and obesity rates are expected to top 42 percent by the end of the next decade (up from only 13 percent in 1960). Today, one in two Americans has either pre-diabetes or diabetes. In less than a decade, the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from 9 percent to 23 percent. "
Dr. Hyman's reference to teenagers is not in regard to those who have Type I, or early-onset diabetes. He refers to teenagers coming down with Type II diabetes, the type that Paula Deen came down with last year. So although your teen years ought to see your body at the top of its form, that is not the case with nearly one in four teens.
Dr. Hyman goes on to say:
"Yes, and, perhaps even more shocking, 37 percent of kids at a normal weight have one or more cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar, because even though factory food doesn't necessarily make you fat, it does make you sick! The food industry taxes our health and mortgages our children's futures. Obese children will earn less, suffer more, and die younger."
And where is this situation rooted? It comes from our own kitchens. Mothers who feed their children what they think are the same foods they grew up with are unaware of the new ingredients that have been substituted into prepared food to save money. The classic examples are juice drinks and soda. Instead of sugar, we are now consuming gallons of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, a substance that does not occur in nature and is responsible in and of itself for a rise in Type II diabetes that corresponds with the rise in the addition of HFCS to American prepared food. And so, says Dr. Hyman:
"It is time to take back our kitchens and our homes. Transforming the food industry seems like a gigantic undertaking, but it is in fact an easy fix. The solution is in our shopping carts, our refrigerators, and our cupboards -- and on our dining room tables. This is where the power is. It is the hundreds of small choices you make every day, choices that will topple the monolithic food industry.
"We need a revolution. Cooking real food is a revolutionary act. We have lost the means to care for ourselves. We have now raised the second generation of Americans who don't know how to cook. The average child in America doesn't know how to identify even the most basic vegetables and fruit; our kids don't know where their food comes from or even that it grows on a farm. Cooking means microwaving. Food "grows" in boxes, plastic bags, and cans. Reading labels is supremely unhelpful in identifying the source of most foods -- the ingredients are mostly factory-made science projects with a remote and unrecognizable lineage to real food."
If the problem is complex, the solution--thankfully--is simple. Says the good doctor:
"We are brainwashed into thinking that cooking real food costs too much, is too hard, and takes too long. Hence, we rely on inexpensive convenience foods. But these aren't so convenient when we become dependent on hundreds of dollars of medication a month, when we can't work because we are sick and fat and sluggish, or when we feel so bad we can't enjoy life anymore."
Think about it this way: plain fresh potatoes are cheaper than boxes of prepared potatoes. You can fix them many different ways; you can be creative; and you wind up with more money to spend on more superior food. Dr. Hyman says:
"Convenience is killing us. In fact, real food can be inexpensive. Choosing simple ingredients, cooking from scratch, shopping at discount club stores, and getting produce from community-supported agriculture associations (CSAs), community gardens, or co-ops all build health and community and save money. Europeans spend nearly 20 percent of their income on food, Americans only about 9 percent. Food is the best investment in your health."
So begin by observing: look at the shopping carts being checked out and note what is in them. Do you see cans and boxes, or do you see bags of vegetables and salad in little boxes? Do you see milk or soda? Look at the shoppers; one thing that I see constantly is slender parents with fat children. I have heard mothers say that they can't get their children to eat "regular" food and that they simply must make convenience foods or their children won't eat or will have tantrums.
Well, how about making your own French fries, macaroni and cheese or burgers from white whole-wheat flour? You can find white whole-wheat hamburger buns in Tucson's supermarkets--look for Sara Lee at any Fry's or Safeway. The more interesting "sandwich thins" are also available, as well as white and whole-grain pita bread.
No matter what you make, it will be healthier than prepared convenience food. And even if you or your children insist on drinking carbonated beverages--which have been linked to pancreatic cancer--why not try getting a Soda Stream appliance and making drinks at home? Look at Bed, Bath & Beyond or other department stores, read the back of the package so that you understand how it works, and give it a try. Even teenagers can understand that it saves you money--and it does.