Thursday, June 10, 2010

Overfed and Undernourished... Grrr!

"A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished."
~Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

           We live in such a bizarre world. The dialogue surrounding my recent test result posts sparked quite a bit of reflection and contemplation on my part—beyond my ongoing personal health puzzle. 
I’ve been slowly digesting each morsel of feedback and response, as well as chewing a bit more carefully on my own written words. (I can't help it; overanalyzing is what I do best!) And this post is my attempt to share some of what’s been running through my mind.
            I find it so interestingly ironic that regarding my alleged metabolic issues, as Eimear of Vegan Dukka Girl pointed out in her comment on Part Two, I’d survive just fine in a time of famine—just like my ancient (and not so ancient) ancestors obviously did thanks to their fleshy fat stores. My closest European ties are Irish, Swiss, and Scottish, and you can bet some of my people were caught up in that blasted potato famine.
Yet, while my ancestors near starved to death for a lack of sustenance, here I am surrounded by food and able to eat so little of it without getting sick. Overfed and undernourished—the dietary dilemma of the Western World.
            It really is pure preposterousness that I can literally stuff my face 24 hours a day if I so choose in this country (very cheaply), and yet, the more I eat, the sicker I become. And again, it's not just me; the number of folks with food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances continues to grow at an alarming rate. The sad truth is that most people aren't even aware of how the foods they eat are affecting their overall health and well-being.  
            A few months ago, I submitted an essay to a contest revolving around “The Morality of Profit.” In fact, in a few weeks I’ll be posting an excerpt from it and asking you to go to their website and offer social media support for it (pretty please!). More on that later.
            In the essay, I wrote about the vast array of health and environmental problems associated with the industrialization of agriculture—from mass malnourishment to global warming to the greed and profiteering of the food industry fat cats. And I told the story of a couple who retired from their lucrative careers to restore and run a small biointensive organic farm in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle, Washington. I focused on the importance of people like them and the contributions they are making to the reformation of our current system of processing food in the United States of America.
Because truly, it is shameful.
            The further I’ve delved into my own dietary dilemmas, the more I believe that there is a direct link between industrial farming and corporate food processing and the ever-widening glut of people who are currently suffering from various digestive ailments and other chronic health problems. I’m not just talking about industry inventions like high fructose corn syrup  here (as I did in my earlier rants); I’m talking straight-up farming methods—as in, the way the food is produced, prior to any chemical creations and preservatives being processed into it.
Of course, it's not like I'm spouting anything new here. The irritable bowels, inflamed arteries, and insufficient metabolic activities of countless Americans can most certainly be attributed to poor diet; that's an undisputed fact in the research community at this point. And poor diet is undeniably linked (in part) to the stripping of our soil’s nutrients by the go-go-go, sell-sell-sell mentality of the U.S. agricultural industry. 
            Yes, the food is abundant. And yes, it is cheap. But when it comes to our daily bread, I think it's safe to say that cheaper is not necessarily better. The movements toward sustainable farming methods and organic, whole foods are seen by some as elitist and unrealistic, but the truth of the matter is that I and countless others have suffered immensely for placing our trust in the processed foods available today. 
            On that note, I must admit that in spite of the headaches, weight gain, muscle pain, fatigue, and digestive difficulties I've dealt with in recent years, I am immensely grateful that my body is smart enough to react to poor quality foods. My cells enacted an all-out revolt to the kinds of crap I was putting in my body—the symptoms of which didn’t really start surfacing until seven or so years ago.
            The changes I’ve made have changed my life for the better, but still, it’s rather silly, isn’t it? To have to think so much about food—and to have to be so obsessively selective. Hidden ingredients, false labeling, faulty processing—it’s like a battlefield out there!

            I thought maybe I'd pose a question to you all to end this rant on a postive note: How have your food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances improved your life for the better?


  1. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog :) For me, my food sensitivities/intolerances/allergies have improved my life in that now that I do not eat the problem foods, I feel a LOT better. Even though I am far from all better (still working on other digestive, adrenal and thyroid issues), the improvement I feel is noticeable and positive. I would rather deal with a restricted diet than go back to feeling as awful as I used to, you know?

  2. I do know... The journey to healing is such a personal one, and it feels so amazing when your BODY (not a doctor or a counselor of some sort) tells you you're on the right path. The whole mind-body-spirit thing; each of us comes from such a unique place, and even though we food-sensitive types share so many of the same symptoms, we all have to find what works best for us, in our own way, in our own time ;-) I'm so glad you stopped by, Valerie. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Overfed and undernourished - that sounds like IBS to me! :) I read in one of Gillian McKeith's books that when you have IBS, too much food can mess with your digestive system and make it hard for you to digest your next meal. Eventually this leads to malnourishment.

    Sometimes I wonder if that's why we have issues with weight gain too. We can burn cals if we aren't getting any cals, right? There's so little I know about nutrition! :)

    I love what you propose here - fighting this problem with more whole food eating, the way nature intended us to feed ourselves.




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