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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where do you get your fuel?

I think all holistic health coaches like myself use an analogy along these lines "You wouldn't fill your gas tank with anything but gas because you know that you will damage the engine - right? And that damage is going to cost you a trip to the mechanic or possibly cause an accident. Then why would you feed your body junk?" Or possibly "don't get your food where your car gets its fuel." 

The foods we choose to eat do make a difference in our overall health. Many of us choose to ignore eating better or if we are somewhat aware of the key role diet plays in our health blame it on our distaste for vegetables, cost, lack of culinary experience, or hectic schedules, etc. Staying in the dark about the impact a healthy diet and lifestyle play in our lives will only keep us sick and tired or worse plagued by disease and death.

Check out "You are what you eat" by Jurriaan Kamp:

Under Americas new health-care reform act, health-care spending will rise slightly faster than it would have otherwise, according to a new government study. By 2019, the average American will spend $13,652 on health care every year, according to the report. Without reform, the average would be slightly lower: $13,387 per person. They now spend an average $8,389, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
Apart from the question what one may think about such very precise numbers projected almost a decade into the future, there is one clear overall trend: health care expenses are on the rise. It is probably one of the curses of the modern Western world. The wealthier we become, the more we spend on remaining healthy. It is not difficult to see the order of our priorities. What is difficult is to understand the priorities that we set in our health care policies. We read a lot about government regulation of new medicines and therapies. We hardly read anything about the importance of the very first crucial driver of our health: our food.

My favorite comparison goes like this: it does matter which fuel one pours into which engine. If you put diesel oil into a gas operated internal combustion engine, you won’t travel very far (I have tried, but that’s another story). So it makes sense to me that the food we choose influences our body engines, our health. It seems that my point is easily proven: more and more research confirms the relationship between junk food and obesity (and diabetes).
Nevertheless, still one probably gets the worst food in the primary health place – the hospital – as if modern medicine wants to underline that food has no relationship with health. There are, of course, government agencies that advocate the importance of fresh food compared to packaged foods. At the same time the economic system that we have organized drives more and more people away from healthy food and toward higher health care expenses.
An example: the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables has increased by nearly 200% since 1983. That increase is 3 times greater than the increase in sugars and even 6 times greater than the increase of the price of sodas over the same period of time. As an inspiring blog suggests: check Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma to find out why junk food can be so much cheaper than healthier alternatives.
It can be explained but it doesn’t make sense. It should be our greatest priority to make sure that people eat healthy. One way would be to use taxes. In The Netherlands several political parties are advocating to exclude organic food from sales tax. Taxes provide a great instrument to direct consumer behavior. It is a painful fact that the current tax system in most Western countries stimulates the energy and chemical intensive agriculture that produces the very unhealthy food that we shouldn’t eat.
In Harlem, New York, a truck regularly delivers organic food to people who would normally never consider buying – more expensive – healthy food. The Holton Farmsoperation was established to bring farm-fresh produce to people who cannot shop at established organic supermarkets. Besides changing the tax system, it is difficult to imagine a more relevant contribution to the health of the population.

While health care spending may increase with wealth, we are only discovering the relationship between health and food. You are what you eat, may very well be an accurate description.


sarahsic said...

Great post, Mary! When I am eating properly I notice that I am able to run further and faster without fatigue. When I eat junk (I am such a pizza kick right now), I notice that I can barely run a mile without feeling crummy. The kind and quality of fuel is so important! Even yoga feels different when I eat healthy.

MulberryMary said...

Sarah - I find that the simplest thing to learning how to eat better and live an overall healthier life is to just tap into how you feel. When you feel good it makes it easier to make the right choices. When you eat something or drink something that leaves you feeling like "crap" you tend to want to avoid those things. The more you tap into feeling good the better.