There is a story in the Bible about 2 brothers named Jacob and Esau. While they were twins, Esau was born first. And because of this, he was entitled to the family’s inheritance. But, one day, Esau returned from a trip utterly famished. He was hungry, weak, and desperate for food. His brother, Jacob, offered him a bowl of soup in exchange for one thing: the inheritance. Esau, smelling the soup’s aroma, agreed to the exchange. In that one moment, he traded his inheritance…something that would have substantially impacted the lives of his children, his grandchildren, and on down the line…for a bowl of soup.
Whether you believe that story or not, there are modern parallels to this story that should give all of us pause. We’ve given up so much in exchange for certain foods: our health. Something that affects us every moment of every day. We carry it with us wherever we go. We can never take a vacation from it. It is always there, for better or worse. I cannot think of a single thing that affects a person more than health.
Cardiovascular disease has exploded in the American population. Type 2 diabetes is being seen at levels never witnessed before in our history. Children are getting type 2 diabetes at alarming rates when this illness had previously been almost exclusive to the adult population. Cancer incidence is up. Disease after disease after disease is on the rise. There is legitimate concern that the next generation of Americans will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.
We’ve made an incomprehensible exchange: health. We’ve traded it in. For what? A bowl of food. How did this happen?
Over 50 years ago, processed foods were not a big part of American life. People just ate food. They bought fruits and vegetables. They made their own bread. They purchased fresh meat from the butcher. People didn’t think a lot about calories or fat or carbs. They just ate food.
Women entered the work force, and a lot of things changed. First, let me interject, I think it’s wonderful that women gained the freedom to choose their life paths. This is not a crusade to get women back home and in the kitchens.
But, while the gain in freedom was a big step toward progress, a new problem began to brew. People didn’t have as much time to cook. Entrepreneurs saw this problem as an opportunity to market a new idea: instant food. No more boiling bones for hours and hours for broth. Just buy it in a can. In fact, skip the broth all together and just buy a can of soup. No more hand kneading bread. Just buy it pre-made. Even pre-sliced.
Eventually, no one really needed to cook at all if they didn’t want to. Just throw a tray of food into the oven and in no time, it’s heated and ready to eat. The invention of the microwave reduced cooking times even more. Now, a person can eat a meal with less than 5 minutes of preparation and cooking time. This means there is more time to work. There is more time to watch TV. More time to…
Well, the way things are going, it doesn’t really look like it’s created more time for either work or leisure over the long run. Rising rates of disease threaten to shorten our lives by years and, for many, even decades. We’re not gaining time by eating this way. We’re losing it.
There is definitely one thing we are not losing…and that is weight. We’re getting fatter and fatter as a nation. Our kids are fatter than they’ve ever been. Though it’s not just about fat people. Skinny people are getting heart disease and type 2 diabetes, too. Their intake of large amounts of sodium and refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, corn maltodextrin, and similar ingredients commonly found in pre-made food has taken a toll on their internal organs. It may not show on the scale, but it shows in their arteries and in their pancreas.
Back when instant foods became popular, everyone saw them as a solution. But, no one really understood just what they were giving up. They didn’t know that cheap and convenient bread was refined and caused sugar levels to spike and crash. This negatively affects our energy levels and metabolism and increases our risk of diabetes.
They didn’t know these pre-made foods were high in unhealthy fats and sodium, but low in nutrients. They didn’t know our arteries would start clogging and our cells would be starving for nutrients. They had no idea.
But, now we know. And the great news is that this problem can be fixed.
Modern technology has made cooking our own food so ridiculously easy. Our great grandmas hand kneaded a loaf of bread daily. We have machines now that require no more than dumping in the ingredients and pressing a button. A couple hours later, a fresh loaf of bread is ready. Using an electric knife, we can cut it into slices in less than a minute. Electronic pressure cookers, mixers, high powered blenders, juicers, dishwashers, food processors, choppers, slicers, and so much more…we barely need to even do anything anymore to prepare fresh meals. And clean up is easier than it has ever been.
And yet, so few of us actually do it. Because the current middle aged population was largely raised on instant food. It’s what our tastes have adapted to. And because we’ve never really had to do anything besides pop a paper tray into the microwave and press a button to get food, we’re incredibly, astonishingly lazy when it comes to food.
Complicating matters is the fact that food products that harm our health are heavily marketed to us every where we turn. These companies know how make their food seem so tantalizing, and for many, it’s hard to resist.
And so, we take our heart pills, our pain pills, our insulin, or whatever else our bodies now typically require to get through each day as our health…something so precious…is handed over for a bowl of food.
Sound like terrible news? In some ways, it sure does. But, despair not. This is a problem we can fix. The truth is, we can enjoy eating well, and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming to prepare. Our tastes are not difficult to change and adapt. With some modifications and a willingness to change, it doesn’t take long for us to get on the right road and to be enjoying every step of the way.
This isn’t about supplements. It’s not about meal replacement shakes. It’s not about taking a One-A-Day. It’s about food. Really good, delicious food. It satisfies our taste buds and our hunger. It nourishes our bodies so they can function well.
We can eat great tasting food. We don’t have to walk around hungry and starving. We can love the food we eat, feel satisfied, and still live well. We just need to get back to the basics.