4 ways to have a healthy and sustainable relationship with food
By: Gunjan Toora
How I moved towards a healthier lifestyle, closer to nature!
It didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t have an epiphany. It was a series of curiosity led research and the resulting awareness that brought this change.
A little background story on how it started-
It started with my obsession with having good skin. My skin wasn’t in a bad state though but I just had a feeling that something is not going right. And as usual, I experimented with a lot of skin care products and nothing was obviously miraculous. It was also the time when I moved to a new city. And after a few months, I got severe hair issues as well. And again I tried to solve it using external products. It didn’t work. I tried countless commercial products in the market (no I will not be talking about any of those products here, don’t worry!)
So after watching one youtube video, and another, that claimed miraculous results with external solutions, and then thousands more- I finally stumbled upon the ones that changed my whole health game. Those videos taught me the most fundamental principles that I had been neglecting this whole time. And I would really like to give credit to three top sources that changed my perspective towards my body, health problems, and most importantly made me realize the fact that-
You are what you eat, when you eat, and what you digest.
Your lifestyle influences everything happening in your body.
Having a healthy body is not a goal, it is a lifestyle!
So, I will be sharing the knowledge that each of these sources taught me and how I transformed. Let’s begin.
#1 Ingredients matter!
Have you ever checked the back label of the packaged food that you eat- the ingredients list that is mentioned on everything from Maggi, Pasta, Ketchup, Biscuits, Jams to Chocolates, Chips, Juices, Breakfast cereals? I used to, but just for the external products like soaps, shampoos, and creams (’cause I wanted everything to be harsh chemicals free) and that’s all I cared about.
But thanks to the YouTube channel “FitTuber” for making me aware that we should check the ingredients of things that we put not just ON our bodies, but also INSIDE our bodies. The packaged food that we eat is full of emulsifiers, artificial flavors, sugar, cheap oils, thickeners, harmful preservatives, and whatnot that affects our health in a long run.
No matter if the Brands write things like “Healthy” “sugar-free” “organic” “digestive” “good for the heart” on the front, ALWAYS CHECK THE INGREDIENTS LIST given on the back.
Try reading the labels on any product from your kitchen then read more about it on the internet. Or I would recommend watching fittuber’s videos for the same. When I started checking the ingredient list of all the packaged food, I was startled.
I could no longer ignore the fact that packaged food is REALLY unhealthy because now I was looking at the exact ingredients that go into the products. So I reduced the amount of JUNK that I was eating and drinking. I stopped eating those cakes, juices, cold coffees, namkeens, chips that I would eat almost daily!
#2 Eat local and sustainable!
The second most important lesson was eating local! The food that grows locally in our region is much healthier and suits us better. Nature knows what kind of food does a place and its people need. Moreover, the local produce needs to be sustainable as well. The crops that are grown according to the climate, soil, and water availability naturally are better for the environment.
So I stopped running after exotic superfoods and started embracing the local, seasonal, and fresh foods. If you are in India, it’s our mangoes, apples, bananas that we must enjoy, rather than the foreign avocadoes, kiwis, and blueberries.
Do you know that our ancestors ate such a variety of food that grew naturally in the wild that took care of their overall nutritional needs? But with the agriculture revolution and exponentially growing demand for food, we moved towards growing only some selective (commercial) crops like rice, wheat, corn and slowly forgot the numerous other nutritious food that nature has to offer. We created this imbalance in nature, as well as our diets.
#3 Stay close to the nature
Then I came across this amazing youtube channel that I regret not having watched earlier. It is – Satvic Movement. Ever since I have watched their videos, my whole perspective towards food and diet has changed. They emphasize the eating principles of our ancestors (which was extremely healthy as we all know) but have adapted it to suit our modern lifestyle (which is sedentary and involves significantly less physical manual labor).
They have a wealth of knowledge on their channel that may heal people of many diseases. What I have learned is that it is important to have the right food at the right time.
Food provides nutrition and heals your body. If you eat food as your medicine, you never have to eat medicine as your food.
What is the right food?
The food that occurs naturally in nature, and which is fresh and living!
For example, eating whole fruits in the form that it occurs in nature, and not in the form of packaged juices available in the market or eating fiber-rich whole grains instead of bread Packaged biscuits, chips, namkeens are not fresh as they are processed and packaged months ago.
Similarly, Meats are a dead animal, and our evolved digestive system (like the size of our intestines) is not made to digest dead animal meat like other carnivorous animals like lions or tigers. Grains, legumes, sprouts are living foods as it will generate new life upon sowing.
What is the right time?
(This one was a heartbreaker.) We do NOT need to constantly eat and stuff food in our bodies all the time. Everything that our body does, takes up energy. The heavy, fatty, processed food diet that we consume takes up a lot of time and energy to digest.
If our body is constantly working on digesting our food, there is no time for healing and cleansing our bodies. Hence what is recommended is intermittent fasting along with eating more fruits and vegetables that are fresh, natural, and water-rich, only one-grain meal a day, and occasional fasts for natural detoxification.
Nature and our Body have all that is needed to keep us healthy.
#4 Animals are not ‘products’
This was hands down the most challenging part of my journey. I can not help but feel guilty about making fun of vegetarian people in the past. How can someone not eat butter chicken, chicken biryani, keema, chicken wings, grilled fish and shawarma was beyond my imagination. I was a hard-core non-vegetarian for 23 years of my life. I love animals but somehow I did not sympathize with animals being killed to be served on our plates.
But to my utter surprise, this thinking changed. After watching fittuber and satvic movement videos, I adopted all those healthy eating habits, but giving up on non-vegetarian food and animal products was something I thought I can never do. Maybe I thought I could do away with retaining just this one habit. But oh boy, this Instagram page and youtube channel- Earthlinged freaking blew my mind! And I was never the same again.
And you would be shocked to know that the animal farming industry pays huge amounts of money for paid research and often to health organizations as well to put it out the world that eating meat is healthy for our body.
If you want to know why we all must give up on all kinds of animal products, we need to know the reality of the animal farm industry today and what are its implications on animals as well as on our OWN BODY.
It is not just related to animal cruelty but how we are better off without animals products.
# Debunking some myths related to animal products
Before your mind counters you with questions like – our ancestors drank milk, ate milk products, we evolved on eating meat, how can it be bad? I had this in my mind for 23 years too, and now I have the answers. Here’s the brief version of it-
About Dairy – Our ancestors did not exploit, torture, and separate young ones from the animals for their milk. They did not feed medicines and antibiotic injections to farm animals. They fed them good, took care of them, and treated them well (My dad told me about the days when they had a few cows/buffaloes at their home and how they feed such a variety of healthy grains and other food to them and the milk that they produced was so much different than what we get today. And the calf was always made to feed on the mother’s milk first and then milked by my grandfather).
And even if you disagree with the exploitation of animals for milk, we just can not digest milk products with our sedentary lifestyle. The amount of physical work our ancestors did, helped them digest the pure milk and milk products.
About Meat– Humans have evolved for thousands of years after they turned into farmers from being hunter-gatherers. Our bodies, our digestive system, and our lifestyle are now significantly different from our ancestors such that meat does more harm than good to our body. Our hunter-gatherer forefathers ate meat because it was the most calorie-rich food available to them thousands of years ago in order to SURVIVE, and not for living a long and HEALTHY life.
Why did I share my story here?
- The learning that staying close to nature in terms of what we eat, made me more conscious and aware of the power of our natural world. I am now more grateful and respectful towards nature.
- Eating fresh, local, and seasonal helps the local farmers and the environment. While emissions related to the local transportation of food may not be a huge factor to consider. But in several countries, fruits like berries, avocadoes are air transported that significantly increased the carbon footprint of the food.
- But ethical consumption of food is what we need to look at here. The hype built around “Superfoods” like quinoa, avocadoes, cacao is disrupting the local communities because they have become global products in great demand. The production of many of these crops is now controlled by large corporations that encourage short-term profit over long-term sustainability. The grip of these corporations could continue to erode local food-producing systems which, in many cases, used to be healthy, sustainable, and socially fair for millions of local communities and farmers.
- Packaged food companies overproduce food items causing overexploitation of natural resources (Read about palm oil and the resulting deforestation, and the amount of water companies like Coca-cola suck out of our resources).
- Not to forget the plastic packaging that wraps the already unhealthy food. Hence less packaged food and more natural, fresh food is always a good idea.
- Overproduction of food also leads to a lot of food wastage. And food waste also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Not to forget that one-fourth of the (food) calories that we produce worldwide goes to waste
- When you cook food on your own, you are more mindful about what goes into your meals. You buy your ingredients and become more conscious of reducing wastage of food.
- 77 % of all the land used for agriculture is used by the animal industry (as shown below), while animal products only provide 18% of total calories to the world and just 37% of total protein.
- Animal agriculture and the need for more land to grow food for those animals is also the leading cause of deforestation and intentional wildfires to clear the land in Amazon forests.
- Vegetables have a water footprint of about 322 liters per kg, and fruits drank up 962, meat was far more thirsty: chicken came in at 4,325l/kg, pork at 5,988l/kg, sheep/goat meat at 8,763l/kg, and beef at a stupendous 15,415l/kg.
- To know more about the environmental impact of food, check out this amazing compilation with data visualizations
Having a healthy body, and a HEALTHY PLANET is not a goal, but a lifestyle. Everything that we do impacts our body and our planet, positively or negatively, and later compounds.
Coming back to my experience- in pursuit of improving my skin and hair through diet, all of these lessons that I learned hugely and positively impacted my overall health and the way I looked at ‘healthy diet’. My digestion, metabolism, and energy levels rose, and I don’t think I can go back to that lifestyle of mindless eating. I will continue to happily embrace this more natural, healthier, and mindful dietary lifestyle. This constitutes one of my biggest learnings from 2020.
I hope that you found this useful and learned something new. Do explore these channels if you are interested in improving your health levels. Let’s work towards creating and sustaining a healthy body and a healthy planet!