I know what you might be thinking: another foodie yogi posting pictures of food on Instagram. Just what the world needs, right?
But yes. This is what I am and it is exactly what the world needs. In a country where our typical diet is characterized by the acronyms SAD (standard American diet) or MAD (modern American diet), we need the tour de force of health promotion and disease prevention.
Food is a lot more than molecules we ingest, absorb, and excrete. Food is community. It is bringing people around the table to connect on a deeper level. Do you remember the last great night you had? I am not psychic, but I can imagine that it involved food. What is a baby shower without finger sandwiches? Or a wedding without cake on the faces of laughing newlyweds? Food is celebration. It is also sympathy, and comfort. When a loved one dies we receive food from our neighbors to help us through the sadness. Or we may accept a pint of ice cream to help us through a breakup!
Food is empowerment: it is the cancer patient who puts lemon in their water so it does not taste metallic anymore, finally able to leave the hospital, go home, and sleep in their own bed because they don’t need round-the-clock IV fluids anymore. It is the diabetic who learns how to make educated meal decisions so they will no longer faint from low blood sugar. It is the person with Celiac who finally learns how to make their own delicious gluten free pizza. It is the mother of three who switches from processed snacks and prepackaged Lunchables to clean eating, packing her kids lunches that would make any foodie jealous.
Few people realize that nutrition is the first answer to their health problems. Before we had pills upon pills our bodies were healed with good, old-fashioned food. As advances in agriculture and technology grew, so did our separation from recognizable, real, raw nourishment. I did a presentation to a group of first graders once and we enjoyed raw pepper slices and hummus for a snack. Not one of them knew from where a pepper originated besides “the grocery store.”
When I used to work in the hospital, we would have to list all the diagnoses of our patients during our investigative process so we would know how to help them with our nutrition tools. JANE DOE, DOB 2/14/1952: CHF, CKD, HTN, liver cancer stage III, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, L knee replacement, gastric bypass. Too often the treatment plan includes “more medication” or “more surgery” before nutrition is even on the radar. According to a 2010 report produced by the Bravewell collaborative, “currently, the majority of our healthcare dollars are spent after a person is in crisis, when it costs the most to intervene and when the possibilities for full recovery are the slimmest. In 2008, $2.1 trillion dollars were spent on medical care to treat diseases after they had already occurred.”
Since most of these “crisis” conditions stem primarily from poor nutrition, what if we responded with nutrition and lifestyle changes instead? The 2010 documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, showcases the consequences of the modern American diet (MAD) loop, and conversely the incredible healing that can happen when we put nutrition and lifestyle changes first, or at least as a more integral part of the treatment plan instead of a last ditch effort. The alphabet soup of initials representing diseases start to disappear. Fewer medications, healthier weight, better breathing. Less sick days used, better sleep, improvements in mood. The possibilities are endless; the question simply becomes how healthy do you want to be?
So back to my purpose: I am a yoga loving, food picture taking, wellness searching, meditating dietitian because I believe in preventative medicine. As the Bravewell report also notes, “Lifestyle change programs – which focus on nutritional interventions, stress reduction, moderate exercise, and the development of greater love, intimacy, and emotional well-being – can mitigate and sometimes even reverse the progression of chronic diseases.”
I am determined to help people find peace with their health, and on the path to feeling better. Let’s get started today!
In peace and health,