I want you to sit back and think about a few things for a moment. Think of an industry that markets specifically to children. An industry that looks to get kids hooked at an early age, not only to addictive products in general but specifically to their brand.
An industry that costs billions upon billions of dollars in health care costs. Spends billions on marketing and lobbying to suppress information about its links to disease, health and addiction. A group of companies that pay lip service to solving some of these problems knowing full well it creates more sales for them. An industry that is killing the users of its products.
Many people would be quick to say the tobacco industry, and they would be right, but that’s not who I’m referring to. I’m talking about the food industry, specifically the processed food industry. An industry dominated with monopolies and policies that favor corporate profits over human health. (Though it should be mentioned that Kraft at one point was owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris [now Atria] and some would contend they are still in charge despite the separation of the two.)
My first instinct is to launch into a rant about the perils of the industry, but there is an abundance of articles, documentaries and information already (including a documentary I’m currently working on). Instead, my goal is to provide you with some solutions and ideas. It’s easy to get bogged down with the negative aspects of things, lets find some positive.
I recently created a nutrition curriculum that will be used nationwide in martial arts schools. The goal is to teach the practitioners, especially kids, about what they can do to keep themselves as healthy as possible. Each unit has a lesson and some tasks. I’ll share two of them and hope they can help you as well.
1. Good food is our essence. If you want to be smarter, better looking, have clearer skin, feel better, run faster, be better at sports, have more energy, no gimmick in the world compares to pure plain water and good wholesome food.
The tasks for this lesson are to create a 7 day food journal. Chronicle everything you eat and drink for 7 days and how you felt. Once this is done, go over your findings and look for patterns. What food made you feel great? What made you feel lethargic or sick or bloated?
Once you identify these areas you can start to replace your bad habits with good ones. So often clients come to me to create meal plans and diets when the reality is that you might only be a few details away from an outstanding diet. Don’t think of adding, think of replacing.
2. Food is community. Studies show that food eaten and prepared with friends or family fosters a greater bond and better communication with family and community than a heat ‘n’ eat meal chowed down in front of the television. Pitch in and make a meal together. Slow down and converse while eating.
The tasks for this lesson are to host a potluck, picnic or cookout with either friends, family or as a neighborhood event. Even if people bring meat based dishes that’s okay. Let them experience a plant based diet without beating them over the head. You attract more flies with…err, honey.
As vegans and vegetarians it is common to “stick to our own” when it comes to dinner parties, cook outs and picnics. Instead, lets try creating an air of inclusiveness. Many people have the mental hurdles that plant based diets are bland, boring, tasteless and nothing but salads. We of course already know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Why not create an amazing homemade vegan mac’n’cheese or vegan banana bread and share with your friends and family and let them experience it for themselves? When my wife and I do this, we typically hear comments like, “I thought you were vegans” (usually said smugly).
Sadly, health issues, animal rights issues and moral issues usually are not enough. People will vote with their taste buds. The goal is to convert people to a plant based diet, it doesn’t need to happen overnight. Personally it took me almost a year to go vegetarian, and another 6 months to get to vegan, and I still struggle at times. The majority of people are where they are because of a series of events and decisions. To change the destination it will take a process and a series of decisions. The battles are won with each small victory.