Another Inconvenient Truth?

by Annette Gelhar

There’s a statement that’s been buzzing around my brain for—years! EATING IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT. I believe our western society has slowly but surely become confused on this issue. Yes, we have over-consumption of meats, fats, sugars, processed mumbo-jumbo, high-fructose corn syrup and other stuff to blame for a multitude of ills, but there’s also THAT ATTITUDE.

What ever happened to “Honey, let’s go dancing this weekend?” Or, “Let’s go to a concert,” or bowling, hiking, visiting, etc. etc. Now it’s “Let’s go out to eat.” And if what we’re eating doesn’t deliver a mind-blowing jolt of flavor and look like a Mondrian on our plates, we’ve been short-changed. We’re not living “the good life.”

I just saw the movie “Forks Over Knives” last weekend. It makes the point that poor health can be prevented and/or reversed simply by diet. It lays it all out, from the huge China Study that conclusively links the western diet to chronic conditions to the government supporting the beef and dairy industry with propaganda about the need to eat meat for protein and dairy for calcium.

For the past six years, I’ve been eating a macrobiotic diet as a substitute for the standard chemo and radiation I was prescribed after breast cancer diagnosis. I took control. I dropped 30 pounds, and I’ve never been in better shape, from my gums, to my skin, right down to my colonoscopies.

My friends are curious. I’ve given several presentations about the diet. So why don’t I have more dinner parties to share my amazing little “secret”? Because I know most people will think the dishes I prepare are bland, leave out scary amounts of key nutrients, are an exercise in deprivation, are too difficult to cook or all of the above.

The meals are in fact, very easy and basic. I do remember the day I reorganized my kitchen to accommodate my new lifestyle. I went cold turkey. Out went the boxes of mac and cheese, the cereals, the ketchup, the soda, the frozen dinners and pizza. The grains and other dried foods fit into one cupboard, and the rest would be fresh produce in the fridge every day or so. I followed council of the US master of macrobiotics, Michio Kushi.

At first, my hands hurt from washing and chopping so much produce. I was washing pots and pans all the time. I had to plan for an extra half-hour to prepare my lunches (my choice) because I would no longer be “nuking” a frozen entrée or leftovers. Then there were the little nuggets of wisdom to integrate about all my new foods: eat indigenous produce, miso should be fermented at least a year, always rinse your rice, if you cook with kombu don’t add salt, stay away from nightshade vegetables, and so on.

Now I feel like Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail.” I can whip up a delicious meal from scratch without breaking a sweat. And speaking of sweat, I’ve doubled my old routine at the gym before I hit my old heart rate. I crave my new menu, and look forward to what I’ll make for breakfast to start each new day. And I’m continually frustrated when I hear about folks who just can’t seem to get away from their doctors’ offices or their expensive meds. What’s your idea of hardship—being sick, worried and paying your doctor, or taking charge and devoting more energy to creating your own wellbeing?

But that’s just my story. I’m not advocating the macro approach for everyone. Along with the “downsizing” of consumption and lifestyle brought on by the recession, there’s been a great deal of interest in “eating clean,” the “plant-based diet,” and the writings of Michael Pollen and Barbara Kingsolver. I’m waiting for the day that a trim and slim Paula Dean shows people how to make dishes for a plant-based diet. Just a good way to eat, not instructions for how to be the talk of your community by the weird food combinations you cook.

Our bodies are designed for wellness. All we have to do is help them along. You wouldn’t fill your gas tank with motor oil would you? Our bodies need real food, not chemistry. Go see “Forks Over Knives” and live simply and well, like nature intended.

About jim

Jim Morningstar, Ph.D. I am a clinical psychologist whose avocation has always been to integrate healing with wellness and growth, both as a body/mind therapist and as a manager, director and owner of health and wellness organizations. Trained in community psychology in Washington, DC, I returned to my native Milwaukee to become an outpatient clinic director for Milwaukee County in the 1970s. I avidly explored alternative and complimentary approaches to therapy. In 1983 I founded what is now the School of Integrative Psychology and a state-licensed community mental health clinic, both of which I still direct. Our School has graduated a number of the holistic practitioners in this area. My passion over the past several years has been to work with other like-minded colleagues to create a new model for wellbeing in our community. This has led to the founding of InWellness.
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