"Eat this avocado" they said
"Drink this juice" they advised
"Don't eat meat" they warned
Along my journey, as most of us, I have listened to and been 'fed' a heap of information, suggestions, 'expert' advice and recommendations as to the key to having a healthy body and solutions to resolve medical issues. The latest fad diet or 'superfood' that is able to give great health in any form consumed - raw, baked, smoothie or as a pill, apparently.
I have been extremely lucky to have never been on a diet or cared about they way that I look, believing that health is about the inner and not the outer - however on the other hand, I have had severe illnesses from tumours, exzema, alopecia, developed a stutter, temporary blindness, severe food intolerances, pleurisy, kidney inflammation, lichten planus auto immune skin disorder and the latest, genetic high cholesterol, not to mention a whole host of other illnesses along the way...
My personal life journey has taken me across the UK, having been born and raised in London, and also to living in many other countries across the planet with varied lifestyles, food cultures, habits and traditions - on reflection, from both this global journey and of my personal internal journey of bad health to good health, really bad health and really good health, sudden illnesses and occasional unexplained symptoms, I have observed, reflected, noticed and realised a few crucial things about 'health' and the mismatch of food awareness that we have in the UK, USA and Australia - 3 main countries where I have travelled to or lived in that I am using as examples where 'fad' diets, superfoods and marketing for foods has been getting out of hand and the populations actually becoming more and more unaware of food related health - not using statistics but from my everyday conversations and observations.
So I have recently retuned to living in the UK after living in Sicily. Prior to that I had been living in or travelled extensively to Saudi, Portugal, Indonesia, Vietnam, Slovakia, Japan, France, Austria, India, Scandinavia and The US.
The food cultures in these places are all different as we know.
Not one diet is the same as another.
Some eat meat and others don't, some wheat and others not, some dairy and others not.
So as we can already see, not one food item or diet is the best, as 'sold' to us in the UK & USA...
My journey to now having a healthy and peaceful soul has shown me after years of long and careful observations that the world of health, food, lifestyles and genetics are a combination to be discovered individually be EACH of us:
Top 3 Factors To Good Health:
Respect for Food.
What does this mean?
I recently saw a lady in a London supermarket with a shopping basket full of 'superfoods', 'healthy' foods and the obligatory avocado (as marketed to us in the UK & USA as a food that is good for EVERYONE all year round, along with ginger and tumeric!). It was a January afternoon and I realised that she, like many Brits were on a drive to eat 'healthy' and 'get fit' (very nice, if only the education about individual health and inner health, not size). As she waited in line at the check out, I observed her placing the basket on the dirty supermarket floor and continually kicking the basket with her foot (and muddy shoes). This lack of respect for the food and the energy that the foods absorb stood out to me. Now one might say this is a ridiculous observation, as food is food, no matter how it arrives. In the countries that I have noticed better health, there is a clear respect for food. By this, I don't mean the actual food, but the mode of cultivation, delivery and handling. I have never seen anyone even in Vietnam kicking food across the floor (boxed or not) then eating it.
Food intolerances in the past nearly killed me - I was allergic to almost all foods apart from five 'safe' items. Even a tomato or pineapple would set me off into a pain with stabbing like sensations, sweats and need for the bathroom. At that time I was unable to manage stress and had also been a meat eater then Vegetarian and also a vegan (for ethical rather than health reasons) - none of which helped my illnesses. There are many types of diet lifestyles from the ayevedic which is based on the balancing of your unique body type that we each have with the seasons and environment to the Mediterranean fish based diet and many, many more. The respect of food preparation and consumption is the linking factor that I have observed. Obviously I am not for one minute suggesting that the food we eat isn't important, as I know very well from my personal journey that when I was diagnosed by a kinesioloigst in minutes as having food intolerances that were causing my severe stabbing pains (as opposed to the doctors confirming that I had an extra long floating rib causing the pain, so the solution would be immediate surgery to chop a bit off!) that I had to remove certain foods from my diet. These foods were aggravating my 'messed up' unbalanced body full of stress hormone. I didn't want to hear that I was suffering from stress at the time, as like many of us, the physical symptoms that went from stabbing pains to temporary blindness seemed to be more than just 'psychological' Now decades on, with an abundance of medical, emotional, food and lifestyle awareness from my journey and world observations, I have no doubt that each of us needs to find our own foods that work for us but to also combine that with preparing and consuming in a more slower, respectful and aware way and to know that genetics from generations and our own cell memories will impact is at some point.
We all know the person who eats whatever they want and never gets sick, - that was my dad who was not only an alcoholic but ate what he wanted - but he did it in a healthy 'selfish' way - not giving a second thought for anything or anyone when preparing and eating food. On the other hand there are the people who eat well, follow dietary advice, take supplements and cook 'healthily' yet are ill. This was my mother! She didn't eat peacefully and was a worrier, overthinking and spending more time looking at ingredients (using a lot of brain power energy causing stress) and studying about food. There are many of us who are prone to this overthinking about what is good, bad and ingredients these days - trying to follow this expert and that. It can be highly beneficial, if not causing, like in the case of my mother and mine in the past, more stress...
Eating in Peace or Company.
I see how 'healthier' cultures eat differently, from fish (Japan) and meat (Portugal) to bread (Slovakia), duck fat (France) to pasta (Italy) - I often see tv documentaries, magazine articles and blogs on what is 'good' for health and what is 'unhealthy' here in the UK (we usually follow the US faster than the rest of the world). There is a constant debate about what diet is the 'best' for health. At the moment there is a push for the vegan diet. Last year the gluten-free and a decade before the low carb. Apart from the fact that not only are we all built completely different, requiring different foods at different seasons to stay well, the fact is that no matter what one eats, the manner in which we prepare it, eat it and digest it is what counts too. The cultures mentioned above all have varied diets and so it should be obvious that no food is 'better' than another. There is one thing that they have in common and that is that they have a culture of eating in peace, without scrolling through their phones on Facebook or Instagram, not in front of the TV watching violence, stress causing shows or depressing scenes and often in company. Lunches and dinners are not a quick 5 minute snack at the computer or on the bus, but time is made to eat together, even in silence. Portion control is apparent and smaller servings are the norm.
There is not a culture of buying processed foods either. When I travel I am not too interested in the local sights or tourist attractions but more the understanding of the people and culture - social anthropological observations are my thing, and from this natural ability to analyse for patterns which proved solutions as to why people 'suffer'. One of the first things that I do to get to know the community and culture of the place that I am in, is to go to the local supermarket, for it is here that observations about lifestyle and health can be ascertained. Where I am currently, the local supermarket offers cakes, sweets, fizzy drinks and packaged sandwiches at the main entrance. Following this several lanes of prepackaged, convenient foods, cheap processed meats, packed cut vegetables, processed breads and tins and jars of ready cooked ingredients. This is followed by the last two lanes before the check out filled with alcohol, crisps and chocolates. This supermarket caters for ever increasing unhealthy inhabitants of it's town. Ten years ago I lived here and saw thinner people. Size isn't a factor to health, but there are not many 'big boned' people in other communities that I have lived in / travelled to. The marketing for pre packaged and processed for here in the UK is phenomenal - now selling 'superfoods' and 'miracle' foods, like ginger, quinoa and vegan options in processed formats as ready meals and convenience foods. Food mixed with unnatural ingredients full of preservatives and sugar with a shelf life or freezer life of up to two months! Preserved fish, sauces and pickles are common in other cultures where heath is better, but the natural way that they are produced are important in the preservation. They are also eaten in moderation and in the right season with the right foods and in the right context - all of which offer health benefits.