Greetings, welcome and thanks for hangin’ out in the Head Plant cave!
I’ll be your over-excited, spittle-flinging host; mind your step as we traverse some uneven, poorly charted nutritional ground and engage in conspiratorial health theory. What happens on the blog, stays on the blog. You down?
Oh HEY world! Coming atcha for a big primal bear hug.
Let’s make small-talk.
I’m a young spritely 23 year old gal with a fetish for food, (efficient, fun) fitness and geeky nutritional factoids. I study naturopathy, herbs and nutrition but like to nibble at multiple pieces of the wholesome, crusty, life-shaped pie. Science, film, art, music, exotic, tongue-twisting tea varieties…fair game, let’s chat. But life wasn’t always this peachy – my ability to enjoy the heck out of it was limited by sub-par nutrition. Let me ‘splain. Physical health = mental/emotional health = happy slappy hippie. Without it, I was flailing about like a listless limpet.
Evicted from the womb in an icy crevasse in an Arctic ghetto, the strange, slippery child of a hulking wooly mammoth and a transgender warthog slid into the world like a misshapen hockey puck on the eve of a full, lacto-fermented moon.
From these bizarre beginnings, I grew into a fully-fledged Aussie cliché. Enjoying one too many schnitzels, savouring trans-fatty acids and sugary snacks, abusing pre-mixed alcoholic bevvos whilst underage and undereducated… the usual sub-optimal nutritional evolution. Sound familiar?
Moving out of home amplified already questionable habits; late night condensed milk from a can, birthday cake for breakfast and an over-reliance on cardio in a vain attempt to ‘burn off’ the damage. I was a total hypochondriac, suffered anxiety, chronically compromised immunity, headaches, fatigue and a mild case of festivally plump-iness. None of this I linked with my complete disregard for my body and the fuel it needed to maintain vitality. You can’t run your car on sawdust.
I somehow stumbled across a community of health bloggers and began to take an interest in wholefoods, exercise and fermented soybeans. All these shiny young thangs with their vego sensibilities appealed to my love of food, animals and health dissection. So I joined the ranks, started a blog and ascended the vegan stairway to devon (made entirely out of conjugated gluten and textured vegetable protein – win!).
Barefooting; rugged, vibram-love.
Vego and vegan for a solid 2 years, I lost weight, felt my health improve and jumped right on board the sustainably crafted enviro bandwagon, drawn by emancipated beasts wearing garlands of the latest overpriced superfood blossom. But something still wasn’t adding up. I lost weight, yes, but had no muscle tone. My skin was dull. My hair, brittle. Towards the end I battled with a prolonged infection that I simply couldn’t shake; tired, puffy-eyed, possessed by an oat addiction. Carbs sustained me, and one too many healthy! vegan! baked treats slipped past the swollen tonsils and fuelled an increasing need for sweets and satiety. Was this nutritional nirvana?
I came across a smattering of ‘paleo’ blogs, weston-price-esque websites and hugely experienced naturopaths who spouted far-out philosophies regarding animal protein, saturated fats and the perils of grains. I cringed. I resisted. Madness! Lunacy! Co-workers and fellow naturo students built strong, lean tissue chowing grass-fed meats and butter, while I battled lethargy, acne and residual IBS and stood by my lentils, green smoothies and chia-seed puddings. My dear old gran ate her slow-cooked beef, fresh seasonal veggies, eggs and bacon and continued to stay strong and vital. She eyed my tofu-dog with a suspicion I mistook for ignorance. I clung to my high-raw vegan dogma and refused to concede the inevitable; something in my diet wasn’t working.
To cut a long, tedious story short, everything I thought I knew about nutrition was turned on it’s head as I began to understand and appreciate our evolutionary history, our unique nutritional needs and the ramifications of our modern diet of processed starches and frankenfoods. We have all had the genetically-modified cotton-wool pulled over our eyeballs and conventional wisdom has led us astray, convincing us that saturated fats cause heart disease, 9 servings of wholegrains is optimal, and low-fat is where it’s at. Yo.
Even the word ‘healthy’ has become synonymous with foods that can be both irritating to the gut (the root of all disease!), impossible to absorb & digest and environmentally taxing (unsustainable pseudo-grains shipped from Peru, anyone?). The general public is bombarded with misinformation from all angles; molycoddled by self-serving corporations and patronized by advertisement. Eat this, pop that, never fear, drugs are here. When did we forget how to eat y’all?
Somewhere in the last few generations, we’ve paddled right up shitzen creek and now we’re frantically treading water; gasping & spluttering. Despite more ‘health awareness’ than ever, populations are getting fatter, diseases of affluence such as diabetes are occurring at increasingly alarming rates (and younger ages!), and we’re no closer to demystifying those big, formidable diseases such as CVD and cancer of which we are constantly kept in fear. But did you know that before the early 1900′s, heart disease was relatively unheard of? Obesity was reserved for those select few who could afford to sit around and be idle? People cooked with stable fats such as butter and lard, ate a crud-load less sugar, noshed on organ meats and grass-fed beasts and exercised as part of their everyday existence, not mindlessly on a dreadmill. Grain has only been a feature of our diet for the last 10 000 years, at most. How does this fit into the knowledge that “All of us, regardless of our ideologies, ethnic backgrounds or anything else are genetically “hunter gatherers” and 99.99% identical to humans living 40,000 to 100,000 years ago”? (Nora Gedgaudas, genius, idol). Not neatly, that’s for sure.
There were less polyunsaturated fats (seed oils, nuts, grain-fed meats; omega-6), more drippings, raw, organic dairy, fermented foods, slow-cooked meats, garden-picked vegetables and chops for breakfast. Seriously. Do you feel uncomfortable embracing this information? I was. It flies in the face of everything we’re taught about good, wholesome healthfulness. But since when has the majority had the monopoly on fact? Does 5 million people saying something is right, make it so? Instinct should tell us to look harder.
But why should we care? Surely it ain’t that bad. Surely I’m a big sack o doom and gloom.
Well. It worries me that the food we eat today; boxed, packaged, processed to oblivion, is a completely unprecedented addition to our diet. Only in the last 50 years have we had unlimited access to sugars (oh hai, high-fructose corn syrup), eaten veggies sprayed with bizarre chemical concoctions and stored for eons before being stacked on brightly lit chain-supermarket shelves, and eaten a large percentage of our calories from corn and soy (consciously & unwittingly – just read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma). It worries me because it takes a few generations for genetic mutations to occur; offspring to suffer; trouble to brew. The folks today who feel relatively chipper subsisting on puffed corn and trans fats are creating kiddies out of wiggity wacked, non-edible materials. We’re entering uncharted waters; testing the untested. We need to honour our physiology and start fuelling our bodies with the raw materials they need to survive. Flourish. Thrive.
Depression, autoimmune disease, chronic pain and inflammation, illness are all better understood in this context. Can we blame our battling bods for conking out on us when all we put in is empty, damaging particles? We are what we eat; what we absorb. And I sure as hell don’t want to be a crunchy nut cluster.
I may have lost the punch-line of this long-winded tale, but in a macadamia-nut-shell, the low-down is this:
- Let’s get back to basics; animal foods & fats are not to be feared! Proper, fo real real meats from grass-fed critters are what humans evolved on. Organic (this is just another word for the-way-nature-bloody-well-intended). Organs, fat, muscle-meat, the whole shebang. Almost everything we need is supplied by animal parts, bones, flesh, fat, in an easily assimilable and nourishing form. (Sorry vego friends. See the blog for further posts about the philosophical aspects of meat-eating).
- Let’s eat beautiful, fresh, organic vegetables. They supply many micronutrients (vitamins & minerals), fibre, enzymes and other goodies; but remember that anything in excess is also bad news. There is such a thing as too much fibre! It can decrease mineral absorption; irritate the gut. Just be sensible aiight? And eat your greens & veg with a helping of butter, ghee, coconut oil – some form of fat to assist vitamin assimilation. Shouldn’t be too hard a task seeing as it’s DELICIOUS!
- Let’s correct our omega 3 & 6 ratio. A modern affliction, we’ve epically skewed our proportions of omega 3 (anti-inflammatory fatty acid) and omega 6 (pro-inflammatory). We need both, but in a 1:1 to 1:4 ratio. Not 1:20, people. Be mindful that we get a shit-tonne of Omega 6 from plant & seed oils, nuts (especially sesame, walnut, almond etc), processed foods (takeaway; boxed & packaged nasties) and grain-fed meats. Decrease these babies and up the wild-caught oily fish, grass-fed ruminants and supplements like high-quality fish, krill and cod liver oil.
- Let’s give grains the flick. Don’t look at me like that! I’m not some carb-fearing Atkins monster. Hear a brudda/sister out! The crux: we have not evolved to eat grains. They contain gut-irritating anti-nutrients that create inflammation, autoimmunity and absorption issues (holla at you, leaky gut). Once your gut is compromised, there is a cascade of internal awfulness – yes, that’s the medical term. They also bind to certain minerals and prevent us from absorbing them (eg. excess consumption of improperly prepared grains leading to zinc deficiency). Cultures that included grains in their traditional diets did so in a manner that saw much pain taken to negate the toxicity; soaking, fermenting, milling, grinding. Who has that kind of time? I’m certain that most people have a degree of intolerance to gluten and other grain-bound proteins, I for one ain’t taking my chances. Read this article if you want to be shamelessly converted!
- Let’s heal our collective guts. If shit ain’t working in your bellows, not much else will follow. Most naturo-hippie-herbal types agree that all disease starts in the gut; I’m down with that assertion. This means avoiding intolerant foods that hurt our intestinal lining and pave the way for leaky gut – once proteins and food molecules are passing into the nether regions of your insides, autoimmunity (attacks on self – the body’s surveillance sees it as an antigen) reigns and inflammation results. Disease = inflammation. Instead, gut-healing and friendly foods such as bone broths, raw, fermented dairy (if you can tolerate), nourishing fats and a mix of raw and cooked veggies will patch that weathered intestinal quilt right up.
- Let’s correct nutritional deficiencies without a squillion supplements. If you’re eating a high-quality, organic diet with a sturdy gut wall, you shouldn’t need to re-mortage your house to afford an array of monthly medications. I believe in herbs and a few well-placed nutritionals, however self-prescribing a plethora of artificial vitamins isn’t the way forward. Many are based on petroleum, scary lab concoctions and unnatural, synthetic compounds and offer us a license to neglect the true foundation of our health; diet and lifestyle.
- Let’s exercise efficiently and not add to the stress tally. Moving your body should revitalise, build strength and reduce stress, not be a catabolic, depleting activity. Epic marathons of running, twice-daily gym visits and donut-burning spin-classes comprise my idea of a hellish time, and furthermore are perceived by the body as a stressor – counterproductive in the extreme. High-intensity, short-burst activity, weight & resistance training and invigorating outdoor action is super in my books. Enjoy it, do it regularly, get your feet in the sand, and don’t waste your time with dread-mill drudgery!
- Let’s not ignore the basics; happiness, sleep, socializing, sun, fresh-air, movement and a little spot of wine. The final, crucial point. The hardest? Perhaps. But grab an occasional glass of red, set the dinner table with a rabble of friends, absorb some vitamin D and crack a big silly smile. That’s what it’s all about. Let’s grab life by the coconuts!