My father passed away Thursday morning after a 9 month battle with stage 4 stomach cancer. Looking back at his lifestyle and eating choices, many people will say that his early death was inevitable based on his weight and Midwestern eating habits. Plenty of fried foods, pies made with lard in the crust, only real butter, and no food lacking in sour cream or gravy for added flavor.
I remember years of discussions trying to convince him that grilling is better for you than frying foods, and how butter and salt are not major ingredients to be added to every vegetable. The idea of moderation in eating was simply an idea that was pondered, you ate until you’re full. Most of you will see this and quickly agree that his lifestyle significantly contributed to his death. But, like most things in life, it is not that easy.
The foods we know have changed.
Many food items have significantly changed over the decades without changes to the taste. Early on, food items were actually made with, well food. Technology had not progressed to the point of artificially producing ingredients for many foods on the market. This improvement in food technology allowed manufacturing companies to spend less on the ingredients while having a more consistent supply source. They no longer had to wait for seasons to change or the crops to come in, they simply made more artificial ingredients to meet demand.
But artificial ingredients do not process through our bodies the same way as real food. The human body has over 500,000 years of evolution breaking down real food into vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to fuel our bodies. We do not know how or if these artificial ingredients can be correctly used by the body for fuel. I know that even a little too much spice wreaks havoc on my stomach, I do not want to know what a couple hundred chemicals that I cannot pronounce are doing to my system.
Quality vs Quantity
Almost everyone still buys food based on quantity, not quality. Watch any fast food or restaurant commercial and you will see that the selling point is more food for less money. We never ask how good that food is for your body, what benefits will I gain from eating this? We focus on what extras we are given (never mind the added calories) for the same price that we would pay elsewhere. It is not about what is right for our body, but how much excess can we get.
This system of has led to us consuming hundreds and even thousands of extra calories per day that our bodies cannot use for fuel, so it stores them as fat. And then we repeat this cycle again tomorrow. And still we wonder how the 40+ different diet plans came into existence.
The reward system
Growing up, we went to Dairy Queen once every other week, if we were good. That last part could change on the way to Dairy Queen or even in the restaurant, depending on how we acted. Eating out was a rare treat and earned based on merit. Later in life we find ourselves eating out based on lack of time, emotions, and even boredom. We even arrange our eating schedule based on our television viewing.
And yet, with Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) allowing us to record shows and play them back anytime while skipping commercials, you would think that more people would take the time to have a home cooked meal first before settling down to binge on their favorite viewing pleasure. Sadly, I do not see most of us going back to home cooked meals. Eating out is the new norm and the home cooked meal is a reward that few people ever see.
No one can really say what caused my father’s cancer. I know the pain he suffered, the loss of ability to do the things he wanted, and the years of his life that we will miss.
I believe that if he would have made better lifestyle choices that he would still be here. Not just the simple choices of more vegetables and less ice cream. But the more difficult choices of taking the time to cook your own meals, use real food, and not allowing boredom or emotions to dictate your weight.
Many people are slowly eating ourselves to death while making sure that they don’t let a deal on more food pass them by. These added calories (and pounds) take a toll on the joints, the heart and cardiovascular system. They rob us of self-confidence, physical ability, and most importantly, time. Time enjoying life, traveling, spending with friends and family. Seeing how many wonderful things the world has to offer.
Everyone knows how to eat healthy, and still so many people are looking for a quick fix to the best nutritional intake. We now have so many food choices that the most difficult part is figuring out how to go back to the old ways. Real food, cooked by you, with a few spices for flavor, and in the company of friends and family.
Don’t allow the easy day-to-day choices to limit your life. The time you save now in short cuts may cost you later.
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