I have read Berkeley Wellness Letter for years. In their latest report they applaud the new Canadian dietary recommendations.
“Canada has done away with the dairy category altogether (instead including dairy as just one of many sources of “healthy protein foods”) in favor of reminding people that water is the best beverage overall. Its previous guide advised two to four servings of milk (or milk alternatives) a day, depending on one’s age.”
The USDA continues to emphasize meat and dairy in diet because “unlike Health Canada, whose sole mission is to improve the health of Canadians, the mission of the USDA is not only to safeguard the health of Americans but also to promote agriculture production (including meat and dairy foods)—which is a conflict of interest.”
Intense lobbying has created the plates Americans are encouraged to eat. Advertising supports the industry paying for it. Advertising and industry-biased research has fed us a pack of lies.
We have lost faith in dieting as a way to control or lose weight because the soda industry has devoted millions to convincing us, often through bogus research, that changing what we eat (and how much) will not work. Hello. What we eat matters. What we eat, how much, and when does impact our body weight. Exercise is critical for a healthy body, but what we feed ourselves matters most of all.
I share this in full knowledge that I eat badly, that I should lose weight, and that baking rugelach and cake is one reason I have gained weight over the past year. We have been vegetarian/pescatarian for decades, and there is little chance of our abandoning dairy any time soon (cheese!) but we hope for small stage changes toward more vegetables.
The colorful illustration above does not represent how my husband and I eat. It is entirely different from how my family ate when I was a child. In those days our plates were half brown (meat), a quarter each green or yellow or orange (peas, corn, carrots) and a quarter white (potatoes). In my childhood a salad meant chopped iceberg lettuce and Catalina dressing (sweet). Dessert was something large, sugary, and baked, cut into four pieces. Sweet drinks vied with whole milk (or powdered milk in lean times). It was a diet driven by culture and industrial interests, not health. Our meals were all too valid and sweet.
“Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables.”
The very concept of meals has disappeared in our country. We eat all day, though recent research strongly suggests that we are meant to feel a bit hungry each day. Breakfast is intended to break a fast of at least 12 hours. We are meant to feel and to be empty. People all over the world literally starve, but Americans are deeply afraid to feel hungry and so we snack and nibble and “graze” all the hours we are awake. We encourage our children to develop lifelong habits that will impact their health and shorten their lives.
The way we eat is not healthy. I should have seen this coming when the sleep surveys I have been completing online began asking me not only about hours of sleep, sound, lighting, and how quickly I got out of bed in the morning, but also how many nights I went to bed a bit hungry. Never, I responded. But then I wondered and sure enough the research began to come out.
Eat within a 10-12 hour window, between 7am and 7pm, for example. Or between 7am and 5pm. Fill our plates with vegetables. A little grain, a little protein. (Protein is actually easy to come by. Almost everything we consume contains protein.) One large meal, ideally earlier in the day. One very light meal, ideally the last of the day. (Or first like the French, back when we envied how they were all so slender.) Give your gut a rest overnight. Feel genuinely hungry for a few hours. No, you are not “starving” when you feel a bit hungry. Each day I hope to experience just a little “hunger” because my body needs a rest from eating.
Berkeley Wellness Letter also warns that by midcentury “the world will have nearly 10 billion people. One looming challenge will be how to feed them healthfully and without wreaking even more havoc on the environment. Our current eating habits, especially in wealthy Western countries, are responsible for creating an excess of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, largely due to our penchant for red meat and other animal foods. What’s more, the typical Western diet plays a major role in obesity and other chronic health problems; meanwhile, millions of people elsewhere are undernourished.”
I need a break from feeling full.
I need a different fullness: Full of hope. Full of passion. Full of intent and wonder and admiration and love. I am hungry for conversation and compassion and kindness. I am hungry for productivity and purpose.
on another note: Today is Zora Neale Hurston’s birthday.