Quite literally, the collection of cells that are assembled into the form of YOU derive their raw materials and fuel for energy from the food that you eat. And so, quite literally, you become the things that you put into your mouth. The food choices that we make are one of the top ways that we impact our planet, our communities, and ourselves. Some of us may believe that we should be able to eat what we like and that it’s none of anyone else’s business what we choose to put in our bodies because it only affects us. Wrong.
By choosing to continue on the Standard American Diet (SAD), you choose to take from others. Industrial agriculture is destructive and unsustainable. That’s simply a fact. Globally, it is the second biggest contributor to climate change and results in massive water waste and soil degradation. Family farms in this country have been crushed and replaced by massive corporate mono-cropping monsters that get huge government subsidies to destroy the long-term viability of our food systems for today’s profits. This is a perfect illustration of how we fail when we give preference to one leg of the stool at the expense of the others. Unless we find more planets to start raising our food on, the current methods of production will exhaust Earth’s capacity in the not-too-distant future.
Our addiction to red meat in particular is the most dangerous. Aside from the cardiovascular and cognitive health risks, and the increased risk of cancers from eating animal products, I also think that we become, in some small part, the pain and suffering of the animal whose body parts we ingest. But, for those who prefer a more concrete, “I feel it in my bank account”, kind of reason to make a change, the most economically destructive consequence of our unsustainable diets is obesity. Being fat costs a lot more money; way more than the purported increased cost of eating a plant-based, organic diet. Poor lifestyle and diet create a degree of strain on healthcare systems that they weren’t built to handle and this drives up costs for everyone because we’re increasingly treating a population that has multiple chronic conditions (and very soon, less money to pay for treatment). This will be an unpopular statement, but to be obese is to be a taker (the same applies to those who smoke, drink and do drugs for that matter). I can say so because I was quite fat myself and had the blood pressure and blood chemistry to prove it. Whatever my share of the risk that I purchased with my health insurance premiums was, it was quickly wiped out by the cost of my medical treatments, meaning that my insurance company incurred the losses in paying for my care. Where does the insurance company get the money that covers the expenses it pays? Everyone else’s premium dollars. That is how insurance works (kind of a socialist idea, isn’t it?).
Before, on the right, I’m 273 lbs. That guy had to take breaks when tying his shoes. On the left, after a year of a plant based diet and thousands of miles of walking and bike riding, 178 lbs. of business class bad-ass.
So many of the leading killers of Americans – heart disease, cancers, type 2 diabetes, etc. – are lifestyle diseases. So many can be prevented and remedied by changing our diet (not going on a diet). Asking everyone to become a vegan or to only eat a whole foods, plant-based diet is an unreasonable starting point. Let’s start by eliminating one serving of red meat at a time and move forward from there. Tyson’s new CEO is even on-board with the meatless future because that’s where the most growth and profit is. Below, I’ve linked to several resources that can provide some expert guidance. Please take action to reduce the harm you inflict with what you put in your mouth.
One Green Planet – This is a wonderful website/blog that has TONS of ridiculously awesome plant-based recipes.
NutritionFacts.Org – Videos, articles, blog posts, discussion forums, all related to nutrition research.
Sustainable – A great film about sustainable agriculture. I was very hungry and wanted to become a farmer after watching this.
Food Choices – This covers all the bases in making the case for a whole foods, plant-based diet.