// CB the Food Warrior
Some of you know, and some of you don’t….that most of my late high school and college days were spent pouring over food and health books, writing and reading about food policy and supporting food advocacy. In college, my work in psychology was also a great deal about the connection between food, identity, body, self, and all the things that go around that space. I was fascinated. Health was only a part of it, but food goes so much deeper than that.
I studied a great deal of food anthropology and food sociology. Basically, everything I did was about food and how we handled it, and the relationships we had with it, along with the health implications of food stuffs.My approach was always laid back, however, how I fueled my own body was built on distilled and sound information despite the overwhelming amount of information popular media gives up.
I’ve consistently been a skeptic of the industrialized food industry, and the “health” information that is promoted in main stream media. I often say we are over-saturated with “health” information that is usually never without an agenda, be it from brands or big pharma. There is also so much misinformation as studies are often funded by the very industries that need your belief in their products or food stuffs to stay in business. The actual name of the game with food companies now is confusion.
In 2009, I moved to an organic produce farm in upstate New York as the city grind was not for me. I wanted to get out of the city, and back to nature. Being in food writing and sustainable food ways, there was no better place to land than a farm. The time spent there saw me leave my vegan diet, after being a vegetarian since the age of 10. I spent my time there continuing my work in food and wellness. I was super into sustainable foodways and the statistics around them, as I shared here with an old piece I wrote about the Hudson Valley.
Recently What The Health popped up on Netflix, and to be honest, I wasn't going to watch it. At this point, I rarely watch food movies talking about the dangers of our food for our bodies and our environment because I already know. This is not new information. Coming up in food as Micheal Pollen and Marion Nestle were putting out books and giving speeches, and multiple documentaries were coming out on the topic, there was no way I had NOT seen all this information. Not to mention, for me, much of my reading was research heavy as I was writing my college essays on the very topics being discussed. ‘Sustainable’ became the most trendy word, and ‘farm to table’ was the hottest way to run a restaurant. I was going to film festivals in Telluride where prolific food and thought leaders were speaking, and the entire theme was about food and agriculture. I even had a website called "For the Taste of It" where I wrote my meanderings about food, culture, and life. I even ended up in the NYTimes talking about squash.
I could not have been more engrossed in the work I was doing, yet I felt as overwhelmed as I did empowered with everything I learned over the decade I worked in the space.
I was also passionate about food ways growing up in Mississippi, a state notorious for winning at all the bad things. We have the highest rates of childhood obesity and diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. For me, this is greater than a health issue because the real reason my state struggles is a combination of poverty and the very community that lives in Mississippi. One cannot help but think the state is left behind because it is poor and primairly people of color, making this a human rights issue. How can we keep people sick? How can my state be a food desert? How can access to quality food such as produce be so difficult? This becomes another issue altogether that ‘clean foods’ are often seen as an elitist movement, and an act of privilege or status because vegetables, even conventional ones, are hard to afford when a highly processed hamburger from a fast food place is less than a dollar.
The amount I could say about these topics is long-winded and makes me exhausted. However, I put on What The Health today and was thankful they have combined so much information about why food issues matter to people, to people’s health, and the overall livelihood of the country. So often people only focus on personal health. I got into food ways because I cared not just about my own health, but about the health of everyone, anyone, and the environment at large. I cared about how we used food, and how we food was such a major part of who we are and how we identify, yet it is being used against us by the very systems we were taught to trust.
There are ways to combine everything that matters, and a big part of that is to stop believing so much of what is marketed to us...to be skeptical and to eat plants…lots of them. They don’t even have to be organic plants, also a subject that many are misguided on. I'll write on this later as I used to have much to field this question often when people start getting into 'health' and/or start buying from farms and only want to buy organic (or feel they have to because it's 'best.' In the meantime, read this about how 'clean eating' won't make you healthier. I don't agree with all of it, but there is an important message in most of it.
I appreciate the film’s desire to confront and expose places like the American Diabetes Association, yet I have no desire to do so. I wrote about policy reform for milk labeling laws in college. I was upset, but more so, I was tired. There seemed to be no winning with these massive monster companies, and it became clear that we could not always trust information from major health organizations. I then decided the power of the people is more important than the people in power.
Much of what we are told to eat, and how to eat is flawed. So what do we do? How can we better our communities and the health of ourselves and our children? How do we enjoy life, and not have to worry about every item we eat?
I will share my personal experience, with how I make peace with all of this information (and this is coming from someone who has read more than you will ever need to about it.)
- I encourage everyone to question what they were taught, especially what the USDA tells you. Try to find sound information that is not built on agenda.
- Look for solutions that fix the underlying problems, not just medications and procedures that put a band-aid on things.
- Sort through what matters most to you (be it health, environment, etc.) and take things step by step. It can seem daunting when no food is safe, and this causes that or this causes that. Eating should not be a battle ground. When we know better, we do better. Invest in the food you eat. Health can better us all, even if we live in a system designed to keep us sick. Prioritize produce, and shop for whole, real foods. Limit meats, especially processed ones.
- Support local farms if you can. Support sustainable agriculture if you can.
- I’ve written about ‘How to Eat’ according to my own opinion here.
- Figure out what works for you.
I do not have rules around eating, as I feel an obsessive mindset is just as damaging. I eat things that are not good for me at times, and I’m ok with that. I also eat many things that are great for me, according to what I know, and how I choose to live. Since longevity is my main concern, I have found a balance and a diet that works for me. I'm not vegan, as I once was, nor do I intend to be. I take what I know about food and conscious consumption, and try to make the best decisions I can. Meals are not fraught with anxiety, paranoia, or overly critical.
Feel free to comment below or respond via my snapchat or IG about what you thought about the film if you saw it. I'd love to open the discussions and conversations I was having a decade ago up again, as the material is just as pertinent as it was then.