We have all heard the saying that old habits are hard to break, and when it comes to our diets, this is no exception.
While I will never be an icon for health and you will never catch me at a gym, I am very aware of what I feed my body, and as a result, I have kept extremely healthy, happy and well. Over the years I have read and witnessed the drastic rise of health issues like autism, obesity, allergies and cancer – to name a few – and I started to ask the question, “why?” To answer this question, it seemed that food was the place to start. It was as I began to understand the effects of food on the body, I embarked on the slow process of changing old habits.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we never had kids at school with autism, and the idea of not bringing a peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch was absurd. When in elementary school, we made fun of the one fat kid in the school, and even he was far from obese. As a child the topic of cancer was something we never spoke about, not because it did not exist, but because no one that I or my friends or family knew ever came into contact with someone who was diagnosed with cancer.
So what has changed? After reflecting on so many things, I can come to one certain conclusion: Our food.
As the process of producing food has evolved, it has been our health that has suffered. Not only is our food now laced with pesticides and processed with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it often comes from countries that have little concern for the environment in which these foods are grown. And why is it that nearly impossible to find foods that do not contain sugar, fructose, glucose or aspartame, all of which has been found to have direct links to cancer.
The more aware I became of the trends affecting food, the more logical it seemed that all of these trends are responsible for the growing numbers of illnesses among children and adults alike. Is it such a stretch to suggest that the alarming increase in cancer and obesity is due to the increase of refined sugar in nearly every product? And is it unfair to argue that diseases like autism and the increasing severity of allergies is the result of the pesticides and genetically modified foods that our bodies are consuming? Is it wrong to think that genetically modified foods will genetically modify how our bodies react to these foods?
So what is the solution? Simple! We must look at our old habits and change them. For instance, while I will be the first to indulge a chocolate snack when the occasion arises, I will not buy any day-to-day products that have refined sugars of any kind. And while my vocabulary is pretty high, if I do not know what the ingredients are on a label, I certainly will not be consuming them. And of course, unless it says organic and GMO free, I will not buy those either.
The key to healthy living is making healthy choices, and the path to healthy choices is taking the time to educate ourselves while finding the will to break old habits.
Sean Douglas, BA, MA