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A Single Mindset Hack That Changes Everything About Food

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Do you want to do better with food for yourself, friends, and family, but find it difficult to stay committed? Here is a single mental hack that is making all the difference for me. I hope it challenges you, too.

Assume everyone you meet is struggling with a health issue. Everyone.

Young or old, heavy or lean, male or female, fit or flabby. This mantra is not meant to be employed as a scare tactic or exaggeration. It's actually quite true. Did you know that research suggests only some 12% of us are metabolically healthy?* Metabolism refers to how our body produces energy from the food we eat, directs that energy to sustain life, and removes dangerous toxins and wastes. Americans have a tendency to assume that only those who are overweight or obese are unwell. We are very fixated on appearances, you and me. It's comforting to turn the spotlight of honest evaluation off ourselves, whose health issues are perhaps cleverly veiled, and shine that beam expectantly onto others whose struggles are so plain and easy to see. But it's time we move beyond obvious visible symptoms of poor health and recognize that evidence of dis-ease manifests in all kinds of ways in all kinds of bodies.

That athletic young person walking to the bus stop might be struggling with chronic painful acne, acid reflux, debilitating allergies, and migraines. The smiling senior citizen at the grocery store could be struggling to stay on her feet and breathe while agonizing about her spouse at home with late stage dementia. Your overweight coworker is trying to manage multiple medications for his diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis, while the slim girl next door has anemia, chronic pain, and Crohn's. The CrossFitter with muscles galore can't function without caffeine, wine, and prescription sleep aids. The shiny, happy housewife who privately laments her aging body is orthorexic, addicted to exercise, nutrient deficient, and overwhelmed with anxiety. The cute toddler already has severe allergies, eczema, chronic ear infections, picky eating habits, and a forthcoming learning disorder diagnosis - possibly a result of vaccine injury. The beautiful bride will soon struggle with infertility and depression. Even the newborn has some undetected and rare congenital disease. These aren't exaggerations. Modern illnesses very rarely come solo. We can expect one condition to lead to another, and another, and another...because they are fueled with a steady stream of poor food choices and toxin exposure.

America is not well.

Instead of looking at body size alone, begin to notice clues like dull eyes, brittle hair, and irritated skin. Consider invisible digestive distress, connective tissue disorders, reproductive struggles, and mental anguish. How would you describe her countenance? How often do you see him smile? What sorts of things does that teen say about her body? How well does your middle schooler sleep? Do you ever see him outside? Does she ever leave work on time to join her family for a home-cooked dinner? When's is the last time you set aside time for a favorite hobby? How many medications am I taking - prescription and OTC?

When we begin to view ourselves and others in this light - as saddening as it may be - we are first humbled, and then - hopefully - better equipped to respond responsibly. Given our nation's, no, wait - let's bring it home...our family's compromised health, would we purposely seek to do more damage to those we love by offering them high sugar, nutrient-void, highly processed items doused with chemicals? Or would we do everything in our power to help them restore their health and heal with nourishing food? Would you offer a child in the throes of chemotherapy a donut with chocolate frosting, gummy worms, and rainbow sprinkles? Would you deliver a take-out meal from McDonald's to an elderly shut-in? Would you drop off a pizza, bag of chips, a pint of ice cream, and a 6-pack for your friend who is mourning the loss of a job, opportunity, or loved one? Would you invite your obese classmate to an all-you-can-eat buffet or a hotdog eating contest? Would you celebrate surviving your most recent heart attack and discharge from the hospital with a plate of cheese fries? I surely hope not, and yet I know things like this happen all the time, because people flaunt these behaviors and even post about them on social media. Worse yet, they get an abundance of "likes" and laughing emojis for their cavalier actions. We just don't understand how powerful food is, and how intricately connected our gut, brain, and body are. The ignorance and deception are tragic, and these things are literally killing us.

If you have children in your care, teachers, assume that they've either eaten nothing before arriving in your classroom, or they've eaten only Froot Loops, granola bars, potato chips, and Sunny D. You can still do fun food activities, just use real food rather than Skittles, Oreos, and M&Ms. Some of those kids might never see nutritious whole foods outside of their time with you. They might remember you as one of the few adults who wasn't constantly doling out junk food and candy, and be thankful for it!

Consider your athletes, coaches, and assume they get pizza or Chick-Fil-A most days of the week and think nothing of it, because they are lean and fit. Maybe you could take the time to explain and model proper nutrition for them instead of promoting the myth that eating and drinking whatever you want is a no-consequence perk of being athletic. Highlight what proper nutrition can do for their mood, as well as their performance and recovery!

Moms, when your kids have play dates or sports events, keep in mind that many of those children have diagnosed food allergies or sensitivities, and many more don't even realize yet that their favorite foods are silently harming them. We can't possibly accommodate every dietary need, but we can try to steer clear of the most common triggers without even polling the group: gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and nuts. No child needs more sugar in their lives, and no health-conscious mother (ie. ME, and others like me) enjoys telling her kids, "No, you can't have that," when all of the other fun moms are giving free rein to the junk food. Let's help each other! When in doubt, offer fruit. Let special treats be given at home, at the parents' discretion, or reserved for birthday parties where the menu is pretty much a given. We might even question whether food is necessary at all for many of our social functions. Unless you're dealing with an underprivileged population, I think it's safe to assume that the children and adults you know have access to plenty of food at home, and we would all be much better off without the constant snacking.

We are not our brother's keeper, but I am hopeful that we all desire to lift one another up, not only in times of vibrant health, but more importantly in the trenches of disease. "The food we eat will either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison." (Ann Wigmore) Choose wisely for yourself and those around you. The whole world is fighting against our health, and we need one another as allies.

I Corinthians 10:23 The Message: Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.

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