For the past few months, I’ve been attempting to lose weight. Not just to fit into my favorite old pair of jeans again, but to simply feel better. This time around, my primary goal has not been about pounds lost; rather, I want to make better choices about the foods I eat. I’m not going crazy with this – I will never not want to indulge in that piece of chocolate cake, and I’m okay with that. The goal is to be mindful of what I eat and to enjoy the indulgences in relative moderation. (And to exercise more – but that will be a different topic for another day.)
It’s been going well for the most part. I’m feeling better, lighter, and healthier in general. There have been a few road-bumps along the way, like my tendency to “forget” to exercise, or my other tendency to claim ignorance when the last cookie disappears, hoping no one will notice the chocolate crumbs on my shirt.
The most frustrating part of this whole process has been the food itself. Not the consuming of it – the consumerism of it. I’m pretty sure anyone who has made an honest attempt at healthy eating can attest to the fact that it is much more expensive to buy fresh ingredients than processed, boxed, prepared foods. I can easily spend close to $50 when I try to only buy fresh fruits, veggies, locally baked bread, and organic, grass-fed, cruelty-free meat.
Here I can imagine many of you may be rolling your eyes. Organic, grass-fed, cruelty-free meat. I run the risk of sounding like a hippie. Or worse, a vegetarian in the making. I assure you, I may have some qualities of the former, but none of the latter. I love me a plate of delicious meats. When my fella first tried to get me on the free-range-grass-feeding train, I was dubious to say the least. Back then, I couldn’t justify spending close to ten bucks on one pound of organic bison meat when I could buy ground chuck for less than half of that. But I’ve converted. Not to say I never eat mainstream meats, but whenever possible, I opt to go with the other option. For one, I like to imagine the cows and pigs and chickens I eat once enjoyed a life full of frolicking on a grassy, sunny farm, not one spent in a dirty, hellish cage. For another, it just tastes better.
Still, it does make my wallet cry out in pain whenever I have to shell out the moolah for these tastier moos. And it doesn’t end with the meats. It’s everything.
Fed up with the irony and unfairness of it all, I texted my other half from the store a couple days ago. “This is ridiculous,” I told him. “I just want healthy, minimally processed food. But I can’t afford it!”
“It’s a crime to make people broke because they choose foods without cheap, unhealthy ingredients,” he said.
We recently watched Michael Pollan’s series, Cooked, on Netflix. To boil it down (see what I did there?), each of the four episodes centers upon the idea that food should be simple. The simpler it is, the healthier it is for you. Pollan explores the history of food – its origins and roles in different cultures, and then the various ways all these foods have become processed, controlled, and complicated by food companies, media, and the governing forces that be. In Cooked, Pollan puts forth the (very valid) argument that we should consume basic, healthy foods and that we should spend a little extra time preparing them at home to avoid the overly-processed food from grocery stores, fast food chains, and gas stations. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not interested in learning about where and how you get your food, you’ll definitely be salivating at the sight of all that bread, cheese, beer (yes, beer), and smoked meats.
Pollan has another series on PBS, In Defense of Food, which is more of the same idea – teaching you how nearly every food product you buy has been tinkered with by chemicals, artificial ingredients, and preservatives. My short descriptions of these shows don’t do them any justice. Before I watched them, I was just as skeptical as surely some of you readers are. I chalked it up to tofu-eating mumbo jumbo. But it’s not. I don’t know how else to say it. It’s not. It’s fascinating to learn the origins of food and to gain more knowledge of how and why we buy the things we do. So please – just give it a shot. One episode of Cooked and you’ll be hooked. Or read his books! See? I’m imploring you with rhymes here, for goodness’ sake. (To read/learn more, visit http://michaelpollan.com/.)
My underlying point: it shouldn’t break the bank to buy healthy food. But that’s the simple truth. If I want fresh ingredients and more natural food, I’m going to pay for it. I try to take consolation in the fact that in the end, it will be worth it. Mindful eating can only benefit me – body, mind, and spirit – now and later. Perhaps I need to accept the fact that spending more money is just what I have to do.… But should we really accept that? Should we just acquiesce and buy into this notion that healthy, simply processed food should be more expensive than sugary, sodium-laced, chemical-full, nutrition-less garbage? Is it so much to ask that I should get to eat real food and not go broke doing so?
By now, I’ve begrudgingly come to accept that The Man is in nearly everything I do. The Man takes on many different manifestations. The Man takes the money I earn and gives it to people who cannot work (and to those who claim they cannot work). The Man determines whether I as a woman should be granted access to birth control and abortions. The Man would like me to believe that my life won’t be complete until I own an Apple product and that I need to shop at malls if I want to keep up with the cool kids. Sometimes I can combat The Man in my own ways. Save for shirking society and living in a van in the woods, there’s nothing I can do about the tax thing. But I can voice my concerns about women’s rights and vote to keep those rights alive and well. I can vow to never become one of the iPhone-owning masses, and, never one to be trendy or “cool,” I will stick to buying my clothes from thrift stores.
Perhaps my next rebellion against The Man will be simply this: to eat simply.
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And, for a sample of my fiction writing, follow the link to read my original short story, “Lost and Found,” recently published by the Hawaii Pacific Review: https://hawaiipacificreview.org/2015/12/10/lost-and-found/