Last Wednesday we celebrated Halloween. I dressed up in a ridiculous pregnant cat costume (teets and all) and set out with our costumed friends to a couple of bars in our neighborhood. I’m not super into Halloween. I don’t like scary things–zombies, vampires, blood, and the sort gross me out. I also don’t like the the over consumption and glorification of candy–processed chunks filled with drugs like sugar and caisine (not to mention an assortment of unpronounceable chemicals). Despite all the things I don’t like about Halloween, it was a lovely excuse to be silly with friends and enjoy their company and our interesting neighborhood.
A conversation I overheard while I was splurging on my vegan field roast melt (since I couldn’t indulge in a cocktail or glass of wine I thought I’d at least indulge in a sandwich), got me thinking about some of the food choices I’ve been making lately (in my pregnant state) and also about how other’s think about food, health, and diet. After excusing myself at 9:30 to go home for some preggo sleepy-sleepy time, I pulled out my old friend The China Study and began picking through it. After reading just a few pages, I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, but I also couldn’t fall asleep because I was so disturbed by what I’d read…Here is an excerpt:
“…take a moment to realize that during the time it took you to read the above paragraph an artery in the heart of roughly one American clogged up, cut off blood flow and started a rapid process of tissue and cell death. This process is better known, of course, as a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this page, four Americans will have had heart attack, and another four will have fallen prey to stroke or heart failure. Over the next twenty fours, 3,000 Americans will have heart attacks, roughly the same number of people who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2oo1.
The heart is the centerpiece of life and, more often than not in America, it is the centerpiece of death. Malfunction of the heart and/or circulation system will kill 40% of Americans, more than those killed by any other injury or ailment, including cancer. Heart disease has been our number one cause of death for almost 100 years. The disease does not recognize gender or race boundaries; all are affected. If you were to ask most women what disease poses the most risk to them, heart disease or breast cancer, many women would undoubtedly say breast cancer. But they would be wrong. Women’s death rate from heart disease is eight times higher than their death rate from breast cancer…”
It goes on to talk about what exactly heart disease is and how it is PREVENTABLE! And it starts young. A study done in the 50′s with soldiers (fit, young, strong, men) showed the beginnings of heart disease. This isn’t a disease you should start worrying about when you wake up in your 50′s and find yourself overweight and out of shape. This is something we should be teaching our kids about! We NEED to care.
After I read this, I felt so completely sad. I felt anxious, in panic, for people I love whose chances of dying of heart disease or quite high. I felt helpless about the state of our national health. I felt overwhelmed by our governments continued subsidization of crops that are not healthy for us and are mostly used to feed the unhealthy animals that are being fed to us. I felt total and complete dread. I was on the verge of tears. It was the scariest Halloween story I had ever heard.
What if, as a nation, we put as much attention on CHANGING our eating habits and lifestyles as we so on “the war on terror”. What if we stopped worrying as much about donating money to certain campaigns aimed at “research” and started taking action on what we already know– the Standard American Diet is killing us. Are we waiting for some of the research dollars (many of which aren’t actually being used for research) to suddenly tell us, “GUESS WHAT? You don’t have to change, just keep doing what you’re doing and when you do get Breast/Colon/Prostate cancer or high blood pressure/cholesterol, all that money you spent on Pink Ribbon kitchen appliance will come back to you in the form of some drug or invasive treatment that will kind of fix you.” I don’t mean for this to be a rag of the Pink Ribbon campaign (that’s another discussion for another day), but I’m trying to point out that we already have a lot of information. Some of it hard to swallow because it demands major lifestyle and diet changes.
I recently read a quote from a pediatric feeding specialist from the University of Nebraska (forgot to note her name) that said this, “You wouldn’t let your child run into the street, why would you let him eat what he wants and send him on his way to a heart attack (in adulthood).” As parents and caregivers we spend quite a bit of time worrying about the safety and well-being of children, yet we often ignore a MAJOR component in keeping them safe and healthy–their diet. We do the same to ourselves. I have been scoffed at, growled out, judged for some of the choices I’ve made that some have deemed “unsafe”…but in reality, the chances of dying rock climbing, traveling, solo-trail running are significantly lower than dying of heart disease…but no one frets when I eat junk food.
Take HOPE! Not all is lost! You can greatly reduce your chances of dying of heart disease and even cancer! You can chose to nourish your body every time you put something in it! Every food choice you make, you can do so in the name of wellness. I promise you, you won’t be miserable giving up animal products and other junk. Even just limiting it will help a lot! The first few weeks might be difficult–your body will probably crave the normal gunk you’ve been giving it, but it only gets easier! Forget about yesterday and stop worrying about how you will ever go without cheese/burgers/cake/name your poison and start focusing on this moment.
I know its not always easy. Trust me, yesterday I about had a party because I could finally eat a kale salad (greens have made me a little queazy since becoming pregnant), and enjoy it. Over the next month, I’ll give some simple tips on how you can gradually transform your eating habits in such a way as to greatly reduce your risk of nasty, painful, dying too young of preventable causes diseases.
I know what has worked for me in making big dietary changes over the last 6 or so years, but I’d love to hear what has helped you!