I love documentaries. I find them captivating. They help ignite an interest in a subject and drive me to dig deeper with my own studies. It's like learning and being entertained at the same time.
Or maybe my affinity to them just proves how big of a geek I am.
One documentary that helped change my paradigm on diet is Food Matters.
I remember watching it almost a decade ago and being blown away. All of a sudden I felt like Mugatu in Zoolander. Diet can change our nation's health and overall wellbeing! It can reform health care! It can save lives! And there's corruption among us! We're being lied to by greedy corporations that are seeking profits from the deterioration of our own health!
Eventually I calmed down...at least enough to stop shouting.
Food Matters was the beginning of a shift in my view of food. It went from a daily requirement to an integral part of health and medicine. It helped make sense of the classic Hippocrates quote, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food".
JELLO and Cancer
I was recently visiting some family in the hospital. After seeing the food that was available to them I was reminded of a great quote from the documentary.
Diet is one of many lifestyle choices we make everyday that affects our overall health and well-being.
It's easy to overlook things like this. We give ourselves many excuses: a temporal pass ("just this time"), not knowing the right answer ("the research isn't clear"), justification ("that was difficult, I deserve to cheat"), or global comparison ("we're all going to die someday anyway").
These excuses may provide a nice confirmation bias in the moment of temptation. But while our brains may be easy to convince, our bodies are not. If an occasional indulgence turns into a lifestyle, our health will suffer.
Bad lifestyle choices will lead to bad health.
So when we choose a poor diet, the question doesn't become whether or not our health will deteriorate. It becomes a question of when.
When Things Go Wrong
We can really take the above quote and apply it to anything. It's like a formula.
"I'm not saying [insert bad lifestyle choice] causes [current medical issue],
but they sure aren't the cure"
When things go wrong we often look for a single answer. Something to blame. An easy solution.
And in some cases there is a direct cause. Accidents, traumas, genetic influences, medical anomalies, etc. But just because there appears to be a simple cause and effect doesn't discredit the fact that we'd recover better if we were healthier.
However, in most cases, there's not a simple culprit. And chasing the idea of a simple culprit, instead of addressing the system(s) responsible for the symptoms, leads to a prolonged recovery...or worse, a perpetual state of disease.
As a physical therapist, I see this all the time. The people that eat well, sleep well, manage stress, and are physically active recover much faster than those that choose poor lifestyle habits.
For example, if we use the above "formula":
"I'm not saying processed foods, lack of sleep, and poor aerobic capacity causes chronic back pain, but they sure aren't the cure"
So the next time you are dealing with a medical issue ask yourself, "am I taking the right actions to improve my overall health?"
And if that's too difficult to answer, go to the other end of the continuum, "am I taking the wrong actions to improve my health?"
The body is a dynamic system in which every variable matters. Sometimes changing one thing can lead to changing another. Both mentally and physically.
So the overall question we should ask ourselves is...
Do our voluntary variables (lifestyle choices) shift us into a state of healing or a state of disease?
Sometimes it's difficult to make choices in the information age. There's so much content, so much discrepancy, and so many opinions.
That said, even if we don't know the exact right answer, we do often know the wrong one.
And that might be the best place to start when trying to improve our lives or resolve any health issues.
Subtraction and substitution are often easier than addition.
Vegetables are better than McDonalds. Staying up late and sleeping less is bad. Going for a walk is better than sitting on the couch. Drinking more water is better than drinking sugar drinks. Eating late at night is harmful to our health. And one more shot of tequilla usually isn't a good idea. The list can go on and on...
We don't need to become obsessive health nuts. We just need to do a better job of limiting the bad choices.
It's not always an elixir that we need, sometimes it's just a poison we need to remove.
Or as Berthold Brecht so eloquently put it,
"The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error"
Help Others & Buy Local
There are many problems in our country's diet. From poor advice from trusted organizations, to lack of opportunities to quality nutrition, to corruption of corporate companies harming our local farmers. There are many variables we need to improve upon.
An important factor to keep in mind is that every time we buy food, it is a vote.
If we buy local food from farmers, it will increase the demand and allow them to produce more quality products and encourage others in the area to join the market.
On the flip side...if we buy mass produced food that harms our health and treats animals poorly, then it will signal the market to produce more of this immoral action.
So buy quality, local food. It'll not only benefit your health, but also the world we live in.
Here's a website that can help you find local farms in your area.
Other ways you can help:
Don't go on Netflix and watch every food documentary to figure out what to eat. If you did this, you'd only be left with kale and water.
Instead, you should do your own research to gather information and form better questions. Then seek out a specialist for a professional opinion.
- Help with diet? Find a Dietitian (RDN) (*anyone can be a nutritionist*)
- Help with movement? Find a Physical Therapist
- Help with fitness? Find a Trainer or Strength Coach with quality certifications (i.e. CSCS, SFG, FMS, etc.)
- Help with stress? Find a Psychologist that focuses on an approach you need
And if you are having any health problems, gather a strong medical team with MDs and various specialists to best help you recover.