Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Food vs. Food Inc.

We're in the midst of trying overhaul the health care system of our country, and debates are flying across cyberspace about taxation, socialized medicine, and the dangers of rationed health care. Did you know the roughly 60% of home foreclosures have their roots in a family health crisis? One major surgery can wipe out a lifetime of savings which, in a country where the primary means of independence in one's senior years comes from taking of yourself by saving for the future, is no small matter. These are just some of the reasons that the subject is important. Entrenched special interests are the reason this isn't easy.

What's missing from all of this though, is a discussion (careful, I'm about to sound like Ron Paul), of personal responsibility for the pursuit of health. This conversation might be offered in the public square, but never as more than a footnote. I want to scream, "This issue isn't a footnote. This is the centerpiece of the way forward!" I'm sitting here eating a fresh melon as I write this.

I began the morning with some great coffee and then did several sets of high intensity jump roping, along with some leg lifts. Last night my supper consisted of some beef that wasn't raised on antibiotics and hormones, zucchini and onions sauteed in olive oil, and a glass of whole milk. I slept for about eight hours. In short, I'm trying to exercise, eats tons of fruit and veggies, along with some fat and protein, and get enough sleep. I've cut out soft drinks and most grains, most of the time. I'm not a nutritionist, so don't take this and run with it without considering some evidence. I know too, that none of these habits are magic bullets in this fallen world. We could get sick in spite of our best efforts. But if anecdotal evidence is worth anything, I feel better with these new habits of eating exercise than I have in years. I'm increasingly convinced that stewardship of the body can help us be more creative, productive people during the years we're given here.

An abundance of sugary treats, along with meat raised on feed lots and filled with meds, are stressing our national insulin response and leading to diabetes and obesity, even in teens, and who knows what kind of problems due to the meat (these are the themes of "Food Inc."). We sit on our butts and watch TV rather than playing games. And in the midst of this, we're trying to make health care more accessible. More accessible is nice, but less needed is even better, and that will only come about as a result of one of two things:

1. a change in government policies, whereby we give localized and organic agriculture a fair chance, start treating sugar like tobacco, and encourage, even mandate, exercise in schools, all the way through college. Since none of this will happen, we'll need, instead, to...

2. take responsibility for our own health. Buy organic. Eat more fruit and veggies, less fluffy grain stuff, cut out sugar. Exercise. Play games that require more than wrist dexterity. Get enough sleep.

If a nation did this, the movement of the people would change the market forces, and we'd have a breakout of health. This isn't just a national policy issue. I feel strongly that this is stewardship issue because the reality is that we're not disembodied spirits. As whole people, we have spirits and bodies, and the two aren't divided; they're interwoven.

Our new life in Christ is expressed that resides deep within, in our spirits, is expressed in our bodies, as we serve in food banks, throw a party for our neighbors, play ultimate frisbee with our kids, work long hours and come home to love our families, create, teach, serve, clean, or do whatever else it is that we do in Jesus name.

You'll do it better if you're healthy. So, perhaps the next time we open our Bibles to feed on the word, we should think about what we're putting in our bodies too. When we ponder where we're to go today, we ought to think about the spirituality of taking our bicycle or walking rather than just hoping in the car. These little decisions are important for the kingdom, and we do ourselves a disservice when we ignore them.


At 31/7/09 09:42, Blogger Megan said...

I very much agree with you. A couple of thoughts: 1) Why are you cutting out grains? I hadn't heard that they are unhealthy. 2) According to Yahoo News, organic foods aren't necessarily healthier than conventional foods:

At 31/7/09 10:09, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

is a good summary of the low view of grains... agree or disagree, it's thought provoking.

At 31/7/09 10:27, Blogger Kevin said...

The problem is not necessarily grains, but grains which have been processed and refined to the point where they require little to no digestion and the body simply dumps a bunch of the extracted sugars straight into your blood and then stores the rest as fat, both of which are a serious strain on the body. What's needed are whole grains, high amounts of dietary fiber, and abstinence from anything made with enriched flours. This means 100% whole wheat bread made without corn syrup instead of white bread, brown rice instead of white rice (or quinoa, if you're adventurous), and less of these items on the whole. A good staple to add into the diet are beans--any variety--which are high in protein, high in fiber, and meet our need for chewy, tasty, carbs (lentils are good for this, as well).

I'm not a nutritionist, either, but I've also taken to eating more healthy and I've lost over 60 pounds in the last year. I feel better, I'm more active, and I generally have a better outlook on life. Another great byproduct of all this healthy living is that I've developed habits and disciplines which have spilled over into other areas. For instance, I'm much better at setting aside time for God than I have ever been. Spending time in scripture, prayer and mediation, activities which I previously have struggled with, seem to bookend perfectly with this healthy lifestyle.

At 31/7/09 15:09, Blogger Udubalum mama said...


At 31/7/09 18:15, Blogger Roy said...

I enjoyed 'Food Inc.', I didn't feel like I learned anything I didn't know (can anything make me have will power to say no to another slice of fruit pie or motivate me to exercise more often?) but it was a good reminder. GO VEG! :)

At 31/7/09 19:02, Anonymous Kristen said...

One of the problems, however, is the food which those living on tight budgets can afford. I went through a period of my life where fresh fruits and vegetables were rarely an option. The choice was no longer what was healthy but simply what was on sale or what I could afford.

At 2/8/09 14:09, Blogger JenPorter said...

Very well said, Richard. As a doc in this me-first, pleasure-before-responsibility society, I'm painfully reminded, and in an alarming way, that these attitudes are becoming more prevalent. And, it's both saddening, and exasperating. A sense of entitlement and lack of responsibility on the part of us as individuals directly leads to poor health, more complications, and consumption of resources. As an example, look at the HUGE, growing problem of obesity and the financial and clinical impact it has... It used to be that most of the top 10 medical problems were infectious disease related. But, that has dramatically changed --most are problems directly related to unhealthy behavior and choices. Health care providers are left with the pieces, and it's extremely disallusioning and exhausting to try and motivate change, when most don't want to really change, and would rather be complacent and seek easy answers or fixes. This is, indeed, a stewardship issue, and thank you for pointing this out. The question becomes, how do we facilitate stewardship? I wish we would hear more of this message, but it's been deafingly silent from every avenue --community, politics, the Church.

At 2/8/09 20:15, Anonymous Lisa said...

I would echo Kristen's comment. Many people simply cannot afford the healthy kinds of foods that I take for granted. There are inner-city neighborhoods that don't have anything more than a convenience store within walking distance. I know that other resources are available but people have to first know about the resources and then have the time and energy to take advantage of them. Single mothers working multiple jobs have a hard time scrounging up the energy.

Until society examines and changes nearly everything about our way of life obesity as a result of hunger and/or apathy will continue to persist.

At 3/8/09 18:08, Anonymous Lisa said...


This is shameless volunteer recruiting.

I have a dream to sheet compost the large wedge of grass on the east side of the chapel and turn it into furtile, veggie growing, goodness. The women of Tabitha, the children of Bagley, and those who seek the help of our foodbank will benefit enormously.

If you are interested in helping please contact me (no experience needed). Lisa- or 206 351-2699. This project won't even get off the ground without a solid force of volunteers!


At 5/8/09 11:52, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have been raised to believe that our bodies are constantly at war. The majority of our understand of health is that germs, bacteria, and viruses are constantly attacking us. We are just lucky to be here, thanks mainly to our health care system, pharmaceuticals, etc..etc...

What is rarely ever considered is understanding that health can come from within. That our bodies are predestined towards health, as long as we live in balance by maintaining our bodies through nutrition, exercise, sleep, and the like.

Popular opinion has been so heavily influenced to the outside in mentality of health, versus the inside out, that it is no surprise that people do not understand that it is important what we put in our bodies.

It amazes me how much credit is not given to the God given ability for our bodies to self regulate, and heal naturally by medicine, doctors, and ultimately us.

Clean water, pure food, and a proper sanitation, are essential to our health care crisis.

Not more drugs. Not more middle men. Not more industry.

The second a wave of people start understanding that health comes from within, are accountable for their health, make differnt choices with their $$$, is the second health care can change.

My post hasn't addressed the life shattering costs of emergency care and the like...but I can say most of that money is being absorbed in the middle, not by the physicians at the end.

At 11/8/09 13:21, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can eat like a vegitarian and still struggle w/cancer or some other catastrophic disease, only the good Lord knows when our time is up and even eating healthy may not be the answer...I also agree w/Kristen. Sometimes you just can't afford to eat all organic food etc. it's just way too expensive for so many.
I also don't believe in government getting involved, that's a very very slippery slope!
My Dr says, use your God given commen sense, everything in moderation!


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