Until recent years I was a firm believer in convenience, snacking and the modern diet. I was the ultimate consumer dropping into the local shop mart each evening after work along with the strategically planned big weekly grocery shopping expedition on a Saturday morning. I whole-heartedly embraced new food products and looked forward to the new taste sensation, shopping cart filled to the brim with boxed and packaged foods and the anticipation of satisfying my food addition. An even bigger bonus if the box said it was heart health approved or low in fat, it went a long way towards making me feel good about my choices.

Ah yes, the good old days, eating crappy packaged food following by a round of Weight Watchers and then binge eating again.

When I was dieting and following the standard Australian diet, I believed I had a handle on the correct way of eating, and the resulting round of binge eating after each diet was my fault, because I lacked the will power. Never did I consider that the government sanctioned recommended servings (which usually included measured amounts of the food that made me sick and unhealthy), was the continued cause of my food cravings and inflammation, but I merrily counted the points and I thought that was okay.

We certainly aren’t taught about how we came to this point and how we ended up needing government bodies to advise what we should be eating.

A person who is in touch with their innate wisdom and their body’s nutritional needs will naturally gravitate towards real whole foods. However, through no fault of our own we are now more disconnected with our hunger queues and obtaining locally sourced and in season foods. We no longer know what to eat and how to prepare it, instead our new normal consists of food found in boxes, pouches and bags, available all year long.

In fact, when people shun manufactured food and rely on plain meat and vegetables, (like they did in the olden days, before manufactured and processed food were a thing), they are told they are eating a dangerous and fad diet! No one told me I was eating a dangerous diet when I was knocking down KFC, Maccas, pizzas and food deep fried in toxic vegetable/seed oil. How did we get here?

The timeline below highlights the nutritional milestones that lead us to the modern diet.

Today’s produce is grown in chemicals and pesticides and packaged food is treated with chemicals to stabilise and lengthen shelf life. These chemicals can increase hunger levels and interfere with hormones and satiety signals. Large scale over farming has degraded soil quality resulting in a lack of nutritional value in food. We are eating high calorie low nutrient foods which lead to an increased appetite as our body is naturally and instinctively looking for nutrients. Our denatured diets have led to the development of chronic diseases, including inflammation, autoimmune issues, allergic reactions, mental health degradation, hormone imbalance, blood sugar dysregulation and cardiovascular issues.

It wasn’t until I entered the world of eating properly prepared, nutrient dense whole foods that I started to dig a little deeper into where and how our food is sourced how little our processed foods resemble their original form. How little I thought about where the food was grown and how it made its way to my plate, or even if the food was optimal to meet my nutritional needs.

As if a veil has been lifted, I now take stock of the quality of the food and drink we are ingesting. I’m consciously respecting my cultural heritage, my bio-individually and that of those around me, whilst trying to be a positive role model.

A brilliant read is Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Price, Weston A (2018). Extensive research conducted by Price unequivocally demonstrates the introduction of modern food, in the forms of white flour, sugar, canned foods and vegetable oil along with the cessation of following ancestral wisdom and the traditions of forebears, has had an immediate and detrimental result to the development and formation of offspring and physical and dental degeneration to those individuals eating a modern diet.

I ponder if my Jamaican heritage and my father’s insistence of eating his traditional meals whilst we were growing up provided me with the advantage of having enjoyed cavity free dental health well into my 20s. My mother tried very hard to indulge my father of his cultural heritage which mainly comprised of growing the majority of our fruit and vegetables and sourcing goat meat and offal, at a time in Brisbane when eating such meals was virtually unheard of.

Furthermore, was there a correlation between my declining dental health when I moved away from the family home and assumed full control over a new fast-food diet regime? But then, what does my childhood obesity have to say about this? Too much home baked jams, cakes and slices and the overriding influence of CWA (Country Women’s Association), at time where sugar was added to everything? One could pick the bitter rosellas from the garden, but with enough boiled sugar, everything is palatable. And the sweet memories of the Tristrams truck’s weekly delivery of a dozen one litre bottles of colourful carbonated sugary goodness. What were they thinking?

My son has a small mouth, underdeveloped lower face and crowded teeth typically found in his paternal side of the family, which resulted in a need for orthodontics. Now I question how much our diet was to blame rather than being an inherited trait. Over the years we have observed that I am able to tolerate any type of food without digestive issue, whereas I have to be mindful that my husband has some vegetable and lactose intolerances. My son has often expressed his hope that he has inherited my stomach, however research would suggest that he can shape his own gut health now and in the future, and that his gene pool doesn’t have to be stacked against him.

According to Kresser, C (2018) there isn’t a one-sized fits all approach to diet and we all have a different gene expression. Acknowledging our bio-individuality has afforded me the wisdom of learning certain foods do effect my husband’s gut, he’s not just being fussy, similarly I can’t tolerate high carbohydrate processed foods as they trigger overeating and lead to obesity. Kresser,C (2018) also notes that our diet and requirements change over time and with this in mind I now make a concerted effort to source vegetables as locally and organically as possible and try to obtain meat products from a butcher who supplies grass fed, and steroid, hormone and antibiotic free goods.

As a family we have now decided to start a home garden to grow our own vegetables and try to be as self-sufficient as possible. I am lucky enough to have access to a local community farm and keen to investigate further. The goal is more involvement in a local community farming workshop at Millen Farm to learn how to properly prepare a garden bed, and when and how to plant crops best suited to our area. Millen Farm’s tagline is Learn, Grow, Feast and state, “The farm would like to show our respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, of elders of past and present. Millen Farm is named in acknowledgement of the ancient communities who gathered here to share food”. (Millen Farm 2017). We are looking forward to joining a community-based group supporting locally grown organic produce.

At one time pickled tongue, ox tail, pig’s trotters, and all manner of offal, as well as pickled and fermented vegetables were everyday meals in my childhood household and it wasn’t until I was much older that I discovered they weren’t “normal” and most people reacted strongly (not in a positive way) to the idea of eating these foods. I am keen to reintroduce them into our diet, I’m a firm believer that eating nose to tail can provide all the nutrients we need. However one thing I have learned is that I can’t force anyone to do what I think is right and I especially can’t make anyone adhere to my beliefs and approach to eating, but I can influence the quality of the foods that I am feeding my family and by osmosis, slowly encourage them to think about what they are ingesting.

 

REFERENCES:

Kresser, C (2018). The Power of an Ancestral Perspective on Diet, https://nutritionaltherapy.com/the-power-of-an-ancestral-perspective-on-diet/

Evolution of the Modern Diet, Student Guide, Nutritional Therapy Association Inc (2020)

Millen Farm (2017). About us. Retrieved from https://www.millenfarm.org/millen-farm/about-us/

Price, Weston A. (2018). Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

 

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