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The Ins and Outs of Processed Food with Andy Bellatti

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The Ins and Outs of Processed Food with Andy Bellatti

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Every Thursday at 8pm EST #wellnesschat happens. It's a live conversation with a guest and a vibrant community of people all seeking to live healthier, informed lives. Come join us some evening! The first Thursday of every month Andy Bellatti is guest. Here's the recap from Thursday, April 3, 2014

Andy's posts only: (highly recommend you read this)

[<a href="//storify.com/sarahstanley/wellnesschat-april-3-2014" target="_blank">View the story "#Wellnesschat April 3, 2014 " on Storify</a>]

And the full transcript:

[<a href="//storify.com/sarahstanley/full-recap-of-wellnesschat-april-3-2014" target="_blank">View the story "Full recap of #wellnesschat April 3, 2014" on Storify</a>]

Cover photo credit: Zdenko Zivkovic

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Cheeseburgers and The Church part six

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Cheeseburgers and The Church part six

Cheeseburgers and The Church

During this series, we’ve been taking a hard look at the dichotomy of the faith community and the health and the food choices they make.

I'd highly recommend reading the introduction, part two, part three, part four, part five.

Forewarning: if you aren’t ready to read and hear the truth, you may want to bookmark this for later. 

And before you dive into this article, please know I write this with the utmost love and compassion for you. I care VERY deeply about you and the health of our country.

Human trafficking, children living in poverty, clean water in Third World countries are all very popular charity work within the faith community. I, myself sponsor two children living in poverty and contribute to the clean water efforts in Africa. I also do not buy Big Food products, drink bottled water, drink coffee or eat meat. I don’t drink soft drinks (never have) or eat fast “food” (it’s not really food). And I make sure my dark (organic) chocolate is fair trade and not made with slave labor. Why? Because I strongly believe that my faith should permeate all areas of my life, not just “Stuff Christians Like” to quote a popular book and website.

You see, it’s really hard to say you’re against human trafficking and then buy products that keep people entrapped in slavery.

It’s a dichotomy to say you believe stealing and lying are sins, but then stuff yourself on take-out, BBQ and Krispy Kremes.

It’s a dichotomy to say you are for spiritual health, but completely ignore how you are treating the very body God designed.

It’s really easy to say addictions (pornography, alcoholism, drugs, smoking, etc.) are wrong, but then be addicted to copious amounts of soda, sugar, unhealthy “food”.

The faith community as a whole (no denomination discrimination here) rarely talks about their health. However, it is becoming increasingly harder to shove the elephant in the closet.

Spiritual health, physical health, mental health - they are all connected to living a healthy life that God intended for us. And you can't have one without the other. Everything is connected together. Everything. I’m not going to brow beat you with Bible verses about health because that's just not me, but the Bible does have plenty to say about the topic should you need proof that this is a viable concern.

Something has to change. The faith community has to wake up to the sleeping giant in their community before that giant wakes up and devours its prey. We can no longer ignore the problem. How can we share about the Living Water when we’re drinking poison on a regular basis? This dichotomy is screaming from the pews! You see, it’s really easy to shout from the rooftops that people need Jesus, but it’s a lot harder to face the reality that our daily purchases (Big Food) actually keeps people away from Jesus. It’s easy to say you love Jesus on Sunday morning, but a lot harder to treat our health the way God intended the other 167 hours of the week.

The health of our nation has been my work for years. During this work, I’ve noticed that the health of the church is pathetically appalling. We’re treating our bodies like garbage disposals and our souls like a landfill. We're buying and consuming products that keep people entrapped in slavery and poverty. Did God really create us to trash the every thing He created? I don’t believe so.

BHT, coloring dyes, GMOs (pesticides, Roundup, hormones and antibiotics to include rBGH & rBST), artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, preservatives - these are just a sampling of ingredients in all Big Food products.

And what do these ingredients do to your health? They are all linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, tumors, obesity, low immune system, chronic sickness, ear infections, infertility, male sterility, hyperactivity, autism, depression - the list is endless.

So if you’ve made the connection “did I make myself sick?” the answer is most likely, yes. Between 90-95 percent of all diseases (including cancer) are preventable through lifestyle. This is according to NIH. We can no longer use a Hail Mary when we’ve neglected our health all along. Grace is wonderful, but treating our bodies like an afterthought is a disrespect to God’s grace.

I cringe when I see believers post photos of their food choices and lifestyle. Especially when they post photos of what they are feeding their kids. It almost makes me ashamed to be a believer! Pretty photos of sugary products that cause disease. Candy that causes a host of health issues. Celebrating a milestone at fast food joint. It’s not a judgment, but an indicator to me that we have a ton of work to do in the faith community on this topic! And then a few days later updates indicate they are sick again. Or have another ear infection. You name it. And guess what? It's all connected to what they put in their body. You can't treat your body like crap and expect good health.

The faith community should be a place of healing but sadly it’s a place of promoting sickness. Donuts and coffee at the welcoming table. Men’s breakfast with five different types of farm factory meat, white, refined flour biscuits and gravy and pasteurized juice (no nutrients). Ladies Tea with the main attraction being sugary treats. These events are keeping people trapped in their food addiction. How is that helping them? It’s not.

FYI: Big Food is designed (important note: not created by God) to keep people addicted to their products for life. That is not living in freedom, my friends. Big Food also destroys the land God made, uses unethical labor and other humanitarian issues that should greatly concern you. Here are two great resources to find out how many slaves you use: Made In a Free World and Slavery Footprint. Very insightful to change your buying and eating habits.

No wonder people think we are hypocrites! We are! But you don’t have to be a hypocrite any more. You can change. You can start to match your words with your actions.

The truth will set you free and the truth about what you feed your soul, what you feed your body will free you and generations to come. Being healthy isn’t just for yourself, it’s for generations to come. And another little fact: did you know that what the mother eats sets the DNA for the next 5-6 generations? That’s a pretty powerful reason to start cleaning up your plate! What you are eating will determine what diseases (or good health) your future generations will inherit.

This message of health and what we put in our bodies is one that virtually no one wants to speak about. While others may be okay with, I am not. As believers, we are the light to those around us, but sadly our light is tainted with toxins and sickness and disease. Not because we are human but because we have ignored our health all along. We need to be on forefront of this battle, not sitting on the sidelines!

Another topic: Do you know what GMO is and what is happening to the very earth that God created? Did you know that if you are buying Big Food products (virtually anything in commercial supermarkets, Wal-Mart, Target, etc), consume fast “food”, or chew gum, that GMOs are in those products that God never intended to be in your body? GMOs are a real issue and so far the Christian circle is pretty silent on it. We need to be on forefront of justice issues, not waiting for someone else to take the initiative. And yes, health justice is very much a topic that impacts the faith community.

Our faith values need to coincide with our food choices. Our faith values need to match our ethics when it comes to what we put in our mouth or slater on our skin.

The faith community can’t live without their coffee, but did you know that it takes 37 gallons of clean water to make one cup of coffee? To dig deeper, coffee and cocoa are two crops that use slave/human trafficking/child labor the most. Yes, health justice is very much related to your faith.

What can you do? Here are 9 ways to start matching your faith with your daily choices and walking the talk.

1) Disrupt your buying and eating habits

I’m not going to sugarcoat it and suggest baby steps. We’re too far gone for that. Clean out your fridge, your cupboards, pantry and get rid of the toxic products. Yes, even that baking powder (if it’s not Rumford brand it contains Aluminum).

2) If you are a church leader, start talking about this issue

Work at a church or other faith community? Start the conversation. Share this series with them. We can not ignore the issue anymore. If you don't feel comfortable talking about it, I'm happy to talk with them!

3) Change where you shop

If you are currently shopping at Wal-Mart, Target, commercial stores for food, stop. You get your health from where you shop. Get to know your local, organic farmer. Shop at local co-ops, health food stores, farmer’s markets. Here is a great resource to get you started. On a tight budget? Read this. But remember, how much are you paying to be sick? Medicine, time off work, doctor visits- these virtually do not happen with the people that buy and eat real food and take care of their body. Something to think about.

4) Hire me to speak and/or host a workshop

I’d love nothing more than to help your church leadership, community and get well. We’ve designed the workshops to be a practical source of knowledge that you can apply instantly.

5) Work with me personally

You can sign up for our 21 day program and learn how to eat, cook, shop, live, prevent disease and reprogram your mind, body, life. So worth it!

6) Educate yourself

Before you put another thing in your mouth or swallow another pill, read the ingredient label and know the associated (and serious) health risks. Calories aren’t the focus of this exercise. It’s what makes up the product that is either giving you disease or giving you health.

7) Eat real, God-made food, drink, cures

It’s pretty simple what to eat: if God made it, you can eat, drink, consume it. If God did not make it, do not eat, drink, swallow, chew, consume. And PSA: soft drinks, Slurpees/Icee, energy drinks (Red Bull, Monster, etc) are not real drink. Ditch them right now.

8) Buy organic

There are so many reasons to eat organic! One of the reasons is that pesticides are toxins and fat cells like toxins. So if you want to lose weight, eat organic. Another huge reason is that organic farming also cares for the land that God created. Conventional farming does not. Again, put your faith into practice by buying that which God intended for you.

9) Devour this site

This website, Twitter, Instagram, eNewsletter and other social platforms are filled with countless resources to help you live incredibly well, prevent disease and share the love of Jesus to everyone around us. Here are some other vetted sources:

Dr. Mark Hyman

Food Babe

Tania Mercer

Andy Bellatti 

Robyn O'Brien 

Living Maxwell

Maximized Living

Dr. Matthew McAlees 

Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Nutrition You Can Trust

Kristina DeMuth and Moxie Dietitian (also contributor to this series)

I pray for you daily that the truth will set you free. Please be part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem. I believe in you!

Much love, peace and wellness to you.

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part five)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part five)

Cheeseburgers and The Church

So far we have touched on several topics with Cheeseburgers and The Church: In Part Two of Cheeseburgers and The Church, I talked about Big Food Industry and the its role in human slavery and poverty.  In Cheeseburgers and The Church Part Three, I discussed how our cheap meat and animal-sourced foods, highly refined food products are failing to provide stewardship to the Earth, non-human life, as well as human health. In Cheeseburgers and The Church Part Four, I discussed my frustration with Faith Based organizations promoting unhealthy food options in their church gatherings, mission work, and volunteer service projects. (If you missed why this series started, read the introduction here.)

Today, I am going to muse on faith, money, and health. I know for a fact that in the Christian community, people are called to be good stewards of their financial resources. I would argue that all humans, for the sake of the common good, should be good stewards with their financial resources too. When it comes to "cheap" food (e.g. fast food, cheap meat, processed food, sugar sweetened beverages), we are "investing" in expensive health risks for ourselves, our families, and greater society. In one of my public health classes, I learned that  each year America spends well over $2 TRILLION dollars on health care .... with only 3% of that $2 Trillion going to public health work (PREVENTION). These numbers are ASTRONOMICAL! Especially, considering that we spend more on health care than any other country, yet we still aren't doing better (in terms of health) than other developed countries.....

Chronic diseases, which many are PREVENTABLE with lifestyle choices, are largely to blame for our high cost of health. In fact the CDC's website states:

"As a nation, 75% of our health care dollars goes to treatment of chronic diseases. These persistent conditions—the nation’s leading causes of death and disability—leave in their wake deaths that could have been prevented, lifelong disability, compromised quality of life, and burgeoning health care costs."

The American Cancer Society reports:

"Each year, about 585,720 Americans die of cancer; around one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight."

Additionally, the CDC predicts that by 2050: 1 in 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes!!! In 2007, diabetes alone costed $174 billion in direct and indirect causes! Type 2 Diabetes, which makes up about 90-95% of all cases of Diabetes in America, is PREVENTABLE with lifestyle habits like healthy eating, being physical activity, and maintaining healthy weight.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the cause of death for about 1 in 4 Americans, has officially become the number one killer for men and women in America. The CDC reports: "CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity." CVD is preventable!!!!

Everyday, I am becoming more convinced that people are wired for temptation, procrastination, and impatience. In America, we expect fast and quick results... immediate gratification for our desires, "needs", and happiness. We spend money foolishly on food because "it tastes good" rather than investing in food that does our body good. We don't see food as fuel and "medicine".... we procrastinate to take care of our health, and we are impatient to see results of our change in lifestyle (eating more whole, real foods or increasing physical activity). We want to see immediate results.... so we invest in expensive, and often times, unhealthy weight loss supplements. OR we "give-up" on trying to live healthy--we just stop. OR we decide that we don't need to worry about chronic diseases now because we are young--- BUT the truth is that chronic disease starts YOUNG. Children develop tastes for foods, they are rewarded with "treats" at sporting events, and grow up believing that they are "invincible" to chronic health diseases----BUT the truth is THEY ARE NOT. Children throughout the United States are being faced with "adult" diseases like diabetes, hypertension..... fatty streaks (from high cholesterol) are building-up in the arteries of young children. I will never forget learning about this in my Intro to Nutrition class 7 years ago..... It's shameful, especially when we have been given so many wonderful and health promoting resources (beautiful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans.....). Eating "foolishly" is costing us more than just our financial resources, however, it's taking away quality years of life that could be spent living to our greatest potential. It's taking away from our quality of work,  and our years to spend with families......our time, feelings, and relationships are invaluable and can not be replaced. Chronic health conditions are often intangible ..... but when you start to believe in PREVENTION and believe that YOU have have control over your health, then things happen....

The beauty is that WE DO KNOW from research that eating whole foods, especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, can help reduce risk of chronic health diseases and lower risk of all-cause mortality. Additionally, eating can TASTE AMAZING and doesn't have to break the bank (see: Oh She Glow's for plant-based recipes and plant-based on a budget). Eating healthy is a rather cheap form of health care that comes with additional benefits (possibly: increasing natural energy, maintaining a healthy weight, increased positive moods....). Being physically active can also be inexpensive and easy! You don't need a gym membership to move your body. Going for a walk, riding bikes, swimming in a lake..... wall sits, push-ups, jumping rope planks, jump squats, yoga moves, sit-ups, taking the stairs.... if you are are reading this, then I am sure you can find a youtube workout video to motivate you! The library also has videos and books for rent. Make physical activity apart of your daily routine.

Don't believe me about prevention and lifestyle!? Then watch this....

And this..

Do I need to explain more? What you eat matters for your health, the health of your family, and the health of your community!

Faith communities can and SHOULD respond to this health crisis in America. Some faith communities are responding to these health issues, which I find really refreshing! (see: Faithful Families, eat smart move more, ).... and I hope that more faith communities will RISE to the challenge to be PROACTIVE, STEWARDS to the Earth, to financial resources, and to all human health.

To paraphrase what my Haitian friend and I had conversed about last month, we can't expect God to save us from our foolishness. We are killing ourselves by ignoring the power of our choice. We must acknowledge our individual and community responsibilities to care for the Earth, our human bodies, as well as non-human life.

Now GO be a good steward--- spend your money wisely, live in prevention, and shine your light!!!!

Read Part Six here.

In good health,

Kristina

kAD
kAD
 

Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD

or Facebook: Moxie Musing

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part four)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part four)

Cheeseburgers and The Church

We're in a series right now called Cheeseburgers and The Church: the health message. As I (Sarah) look around the faith community I see a few common denominators: obesity, food (a lot of the wrong "food"), unhealthy people and hypocrisy. How can we take care of the souls of the people when we treat our bodies like garbage disposals? Last week was February 27 and it was the End It Movement Shine The Light on Slavery Day. What many in the faith community fail to realize is that the food-like products they are buying are often times produced with slave/child/human trafficking labor. What Cheeseburgers and The Church series is attempting to do is to take a hard look at how we treat our bodies and the purchases we make say a lot more about us than just going to church every Sunday. It's time for the faith community to wake up and start putting their words into action: eating real food, drinking pure (filtered) water, and to stop buying products (Big Food) that keep our fellow citizens entrapped in slavery.

Part One (Introduction to this series by Sarah Stanley)

Part Two (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Three (by Kristina DeMuth) 

Part Four (by Kristina DeMuth

Part Five (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Six (by Sarah Stanley)

--------------

Last week, I returned home from a sweet, short trip to Haiti to check-in with the children and the staff I lived and worked with last year. In "Cheeseburgers and The Church (Part Two)" I shared my experience of living in Haiti and making the connection between the Big Food industry and poverty. In this series, I would like to bring the idea of industry down to an individual and organizational level......and share with you some words of wisdom that came from a "health warrior" I met on my last journey.

These are several tweets that I posted that strongly illustrate some of the emotions I felt during my ministry...

  1. "The "white savior" and how our influence of power shapes the developing world."
  2.  " Another child asked me for candy yesterday.... Americans=candy, junk food! That makes me mad and sad." Followed by... "Corn flakes & juice are NOT health foods. Corn flakes= processed GMO, juice= sugar beverage. Wish I could make a public service message." and " What also makes me frustrated about corn flakes is that it's displacing real native cultural foods...."
  3.  "The problem we are now seeing in Haiti w/ illness according to my Haitian friend,"People believe in medicine, they don't believe in food." Followed by "diabetes, hypertension, strokes... Mostly are lifestyle diseases that have been on the rise in developing countries due to westernized diets."
  4.  "I wish more Americans would come to Haiti and try the native foods!!" (Here are a few pictures of the native foods)
  5. "Elders speak wisdom and truth about life. Take time to listen..."
  6.  "I cringe when I see missionaries leaving Haiti (one of the poorest countries in the world) and filling their bodies with processed crap."

Many missionaries, Expats, service volunteers, are all  trying to do the right thing-- serve other people that have a need. The troubling part about our service, however, is that we aren't always aware of how our power of influences shapes the lives of others. We often times come into situations with good intentions, but never think about how those intentions undermine and oftentimes displace traditions, artistry, and rich-culture. I have realized this throughout my experiences in Haiti, specifically with how it relates to food.

It frustrates me when people come to Haiti and have no idea about any of the rich, native foods of the county. They come to do service and developmental projects, and then fill their bodies with SAD (Standard American Diet) food-- pizza, french fries, candy, pop, and meat. They bring treats for the children they visit in orphanages----filling these already malnourished bodies with highly processed, refined foods. In the middle of Cite Soleil, one of the poorest slums in the world, I've had children asked me for a piece of candy. I have had a child cry while I visited a friend's home because I didn't bring a piece of candy! Why are Americans associated with candy? Because that's what Americans are doing...passing out candy, as though life is a carnival. Yes, the candy brings the child a few moments of joy and makes us "feel good" because we've put a smile on his/her face, BUT we don't have to witness the long-term consequences of these actions: the influence we have on cultural eating patterns and the implications it will have on this child's health (many of these same children often don't have dentists, doctors, tooth brushes, or basic sanitation). You may think it's just one piece of candy, but you are just one of millions thinking that it's just one piece of candy. Let me tell you, kids in Haiti are as happy to see fresh fruits (especially the more "rare", native ones) as they are to see sweets and candy! (See: "How to screw up orphan care in the name of Jesus: 8. Feed them a crappy diet.").

The role of influence on health and food extends beyond just the sweets we bring and share and into everyday, cultural staple-foods for these people. To many Westerners, food appears to be just food. BUT food is more than that. Food is about emotion and power, and in many parts of the world, food is also about status and class. Some foods, like edible weeds and native grains, become "food for the poor" though the nutritional value of many of these foods are critical for optimal health and food security for many people around the world. Undermining these health promoting and rich native foods during our times of service, does long-term damage to the people and the cultures we are trying to help (See these research articles on food security and developmental work) including deadly consequences. I am sadden to hear stories from my good, Haitian friends about their parents suffering with lifestyle diseases (or dying from them)  (See my blog "Education is Power").

Strokes, diabetes, hypertension... many of these are preventable by eating whole, real foods and being physically active. Coke, refined-grains, cheap meats, candy, corn flakes, cheetos.... they are all "foreign" foods that are "more palatable" and brought in by foreigners and, consequently, displacing native, whole-some foods (see my blog "Musing on Food-aid Again"). I kid you not, some children are eating only cheetos and juice for dinner, and (in the case that I am aware of) it wasn't because there was a lack of food available. Where did people get the idea that cheetos were an acceptable meal for children? Perhaps it was the Americans? Maybe it was the health professionals in America that have ties with food industry?

Chiritos
Chiritos
 

While doing "service" on one-hand, many people are also doing "dis-services" on the other.. not just to themselves, but also to the people they are trying to serve. We are blinded by how our poor eating patterns are harming the health of others, and how our moments of joy are doing long-term damage. We think of it as "just food" or we think that we are the experts about food because we have had our own personal relationship with food. I am not out to play the blame-game. I used to be in the same shoes as every other missionary/ volunteer.... I used to eat the highly processed foods with chemicals and ingredients I couldn't pronounce.. but then I became educated and now try to be more conscientious about the foods I put in my own body, share with others (and allow them to put in their bodies), and the how the my own food choices impact a much larger, sometimes intangible system.

You, personally, may not be involved with mission-related work in a foreign country, but we have a nutrition-crises here in the United States that needs to be addressed. In many places across the country, children are being fed carnival food at school-- they are being fed cheap, processed, an fried foods that are not health promoting. The meat we are producing is destroying the environment, our health, and increasing antibiotic resistance. It's been reported that over 23000 Americans die of superbugs per year...that 30 million pounds of antibiotics are being used to raise animals for human consumption (only 7.7 million pounds of antibiotics are used in hospitals) ....and 80% of these antibiotics are being used as "preventative mechanisms"....Our cheap meat and our cheap "snack" foods are REALLY EXPENSIVE FOODS with the increase in healthcare costs and the loss of human lives!!!! Our current food system is abusive to the workers producing our food (exposing them to toxic chemicals), the environment (depleting the soil, and polluting our air and water) , the animals (factory farming---thousands of animals crammed into cages and living in their feces), and our own health (see TEDxManhattan and "Antibiotic Resistance and the Food Supply").

Many churches throughout the United States have fundraisers and weekly/ monthly fellowships that serve processed juices, conventional cows milk, donuts, pizzas, pancake-breakfasts, grill-outs, spaghetti dinners, and fish frys.... some churches may even serve meals at homeless shelters, pack-food for foreign countries, collect canned goods for food shelves. How can we turn all of these church functioning, fundraisers, and services into events that honor HEALTH--- honor the body as a human temple and the food that we put into it as medicine? How can we offer more health promoting food choices (e.g. fruits and vegetables) and less processed, refined food options (e.g. chips, white bread, cheap meat)? Can churches promote more meatless options to cutdown on the environmental constraints and the production of "cheap meat"?? How can we learn more about the cultural-food practices in countries that we are packing food for? Are there options for locally sourced food-aid that we can put our money to instead? How do our food choices at volunteer events and church functions contradict the faith messages about stewardship to our Earth, to our bodies, and to others?

In closing, I would like to leave you with this message a Haitian "health warrior" shared with me about health, nutrition, and the bible. This is an excerpt from my blog:  "In regards to foolishness, the Haitian man again shared with me a message from the bible about the eyes, the ears, and the mouth. We have been given all of these things to see good, hear good, and speak good…. but in today’s world, people are interested in foolishness. They aren’t interested in doing what is good for their bodies. They may listen, they may speak, they may see…. but they do not act on wisdom. They act on foolishness."... Further reflecting on foolishness, the Haitian man said, “People believe God made everything for humans to eat. They pray over it and think it is blessed. They think it will do no harm to their bodies….. but I don’t think so.”We must stop acting as though our Creator is going to save us from what humans have done to destroy our global food supply. It is foolish to think that we have no control in our food choices or how we construct/ develop food environments for  both others and ourselves.

kAD
kAD
 

In good health,

Kristina

Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD  or Facebook: Moxie Musing and learn more about my work in Haiti at For I was Hungry

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (Part Two)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (Part Two)

Cheeseburgers and The Church

We launched a new series last week called Cheeseburgers and The Church: the health message. If you missed the introduction article, be sure to read it!  Today is part two and is written by Kristina DeMuth.

Big Food and the faith communities. 

How can the two possibly be connected?

I asked myself the same thing a year ago… and that’s when my life changed.

It was last year at this time that I was living and volunteering as a dietitian in Haiti. Like many low resource areas of the world, Haiti has vast environmental constraints (e.g. deforestation), and extreme cases of poverty and malnutrition. During my time in Haiti, I was working with a small community just outside of Port-au-prince (the capital) to help enhance micronutrient intake of the children by utilizing native foods and increasing diet diversity.

american rice
american rice
 

Many places I traveled throughout the city, I would see signs for sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. COKE and 7-up). Corner stores and vendors filled with highly processed, imported foods (e.g. candy, chips). I would find myself picking up wrappers and containers around our community and reading the ingredient labels the best I could—artificial dyes, added sugars, trans fat, and chemicals I have never heard of. Many of these products coming from America and other wealthier countries. Unfortunately, it was easier to find a bottle of pop than fresh water. Processed foods were made highly available compared to the local, fresh produce (that I greatly enjoyed and preferred).

Tampico
Tampico
 

Being bombarded with advertisement and sales of processed, imported junk and American white rice was incredibly heartbreak especially when all things considered--- malnutrition is prominent in this country, many people don’t have basic health care, and people are poor without much money to spare. When money is spent on these foods with the little money that they do have, it is ultimately going back to Big Food business in a “developed” country rather than into the hands of the local, small farmers (who are some of the poorest people in the world!!!).

When I returned from Haiti, I started doing more research and investigating the role politics plays in our global food supplies. It was never a concept that had been important to me before. Because really, how could MY food choices in the United States be impacting the lives of people in other countries?

I was in disbelief.

I picked- up a few resources-- "Uncomfortably Unaware" by Richard Oppenlander,  "Food Politics" by Marion Nestle, and “Out of Poverty” by Paul Polak. I also stumbled upon Food Empowerment Project and learned about the work Oxfam was doing with their “Behind the Brands” campaign. ....AND IT HIT ME.

Food is about power. It’s about an unequal distribution of resources. It’s about politics. Yes, it is about nutrition… but more than anything food is about systems and power.

change bar
change bar
 

The Hershey chocolate bar, the cereal in the cupboard, the Coke/Pepsi/ Evian waterin the fridge... all of these products are apart of a system MUCH larger than made visible at the cash register.

In many of the poorest areas of the world, Big Food companies have brought their industry. As my mother always reminds me, assume positive intent of people. I am sure, like many people, Big Food saw these as opportunities to bring business to other countries and provide jobs. BUT what we know from research and advocate groups is that these, perhaps, good intentions are DESTROYING cultural groups and systems.

Women and children being enslaved--- being paid unjust wages with poor working conditions. Farmers are being forced off their land to grow monocrops (e.g. planting just sugar cane) rather than food for their families. Deforestation and environmental issues are only exacerbated from the destruction of forest for farming purposes. For example, cattle ranching has contributed to 70% destruction of the Amazon rainforest (Americans have been huge consumers of this beef). The destruction of the forest not only destroyed vital eco-systems, but it further has displaced over 90 native tribes of PEOPLE (Facts from Uncomfortably Unaware).

Imagine for just a second that someone decided to destroy your home, your neighborhood, and the sacred place where your ancestors lived? Or perhaps that you were a young child SOLD to the chocolate industry, unable to go to school, never able to see your family, paid very little and maybe even WHIPPED for not working fast enough (More on the Chocolate Industry, and My post here).

“When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh” – Lauren Ornelas's Tedtalk 

Human slavery exists in the 21st century. Poor people, women, and children around the world are working to make the wealthier people “luxurious” foods…. (and sometimes these foods are even being marketed back to the people who are enslaved making them....).

As a faith community, how can we sit back and pretend that human slavery in the 21st century isn’t happening? How can we ignore the fact that our precious earned American dollars ARE SUPPORTING HUMAN SLAVERY, HUMAN POVERTY, AND DESTRUCTION OF CULTURAL GROUPS when we continue to purchase products made from Big Food industries that aren’t working to address these issues. As my friends and I always say, “VOTE WITH YOUR MONEY.” … and raise your voice.

For how much money these companies spend MARKETING their products to you, they could be working to really improve the conditions for which many of these poor people live. Working to enhance ecosystems and communities rather than destroying them.

If I am not mistaken, the only time Americans (generally speaking) stop to think about the lives of people in low resource areas of the world is when they hear about disasters on the news, or when major famine and war plague a country. People react and send their money, pack food at hunger relief organizations… and then they carry on with their daily lives. Occasionally, praying for those living in poverty and praying for world peace. And then the typical American wakes-up in the morning, eats a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Cheerios, drinks milk from conventional cows, eats a few Pringles, Oreos, and a pepsi for lunch, has a Snickerbars for a snack, eats a big steak for dinner, and polishes of the day with a little Ben & Jerry’s (more on Behind the Brands here, more on factory farming here). Again, prayers are said, money is sent to a relief organization… and people continue on with their lives WITHOUT ever thinking that their food purchases and the companies that produced their food has contributed to the cycle of poverty and the destruction of human dignity...  for the very same people that are only thought about when their stories make headlines because of tragic deaths and natural phenomenons.

Honey Nut Cheerios

Honey Nut Cheerios

 

While we sit and dine in “luxury”, we support human slavery.   We support the destruction of ecosystems, climate change, and poverty.

We are just comfortably unaware.

AND that’s a slap in the face.

 So what can we do about it?

Learning about these issues has impacted me both professionally and personally. I've worked along side people in Haiti-- I have seen extreme poverty. I have smelt  poverty. I have touched poverty. I care passionately about people in poverty. AND since I care about these issues, it has helped me to want to better understand how MY OWN personal food choices impact larger systems and lives... CHANGING THE WAY I EAT (because this happens on a daily basis) MAY POTENTIALLY HAVE BIGGER IMPLICATIONS FOR THOSE LIVING IN POVERTY THAN SENDING RELEF MONEY OR SIMPLY JUST SAYING PRAYERS.

Fair Trade Certified

Fair Trade Certified

I am continually working to find better products for my own consumption (e.g. fairtrade, local farmers markets), educating myself about food politics, food systems, climate change....and inspiring others to (hopefully) do as well. Because at the end of the day, OUR CHOICES MATTER. We can either sit back and allow these things (e.g. child slavery, landgrabs) to happen, or we can do something about it (e.g. boycott--aka vote with your money, petition/ protest, demand fairtrade).

AND ultimately, we can turn PRAYERS into ACTION.

In good health,

Kristina

kAD
kAD
 

Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD  or Facebook: Moxie Musing.

Learn more about my work in Haiti at For I was Hungry

Updated articles in this series:

Part Three (by Kristina DeMuth) 

Part Four (by Kristina DeMuth

Part Five (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Six (by Sarah Stanley)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church

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Cheeseburgers and The Church

burgers
 

[Introduction] This has been on my heart for a long time (a very, very long time).

As I look around the faith community I see a few common denominators:

  • We go to church
  • We love food (a lot of the wrong food and drink)
  • We are unhealthy

Until last year (2013) America was ranked number one in the world for obesity (Mexico recently took the number one spot and America moved to second place).

By the year 2030 obesity related health care costs are estimated to reach $550 Billion in yearly costs if current obesity rates continue. That’s a ton of money spent on a preventable disease!

By 2030 51% of people will be obese. (And obesity contributes to all kinds of health problems including cancer.)

Current obesity-related sick care (i.e. “health care”) costs are at an outrageous figure of  $147 to $210 billion a year.

Currently 1 in 3 children are obese.

For adults, 2 in 3 are obese. That's 1 Billion adults globally.

Childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14.1 billion in direct costs alone (yearly).

Furthermore, the obesity rates across the continental states are predominantly in the Bible Belt territory. This is one of the biggest dichotomies in (Christian) society today. As a faith community we should be the example to others of how we should take care of our whole body, not just one part of it.

With more and more people being diagnosed with cancer and other diseases and childhood obesity increasing at a staggering rate, I believe it’s time for the faith community as a whole to start doing something about this preventable problem.

Using a title from a great documentary, we don’t have to be fat, sick and nearly dead! God made us to live abundantly healthy lives, not sick, just-getting-by lives!

Grace and prayer are two amazing parts of our faith. But using them as a Hail Mary when we’ve not treated our bodies the way God intended us to, is, in my understanding, irresponsible. God asks us to be good stewards with our money, time and yes, body.

I believe that the faith community should be on the forefront of this health crisis. So far we’ve done a terrible job on this front. Almost every event centers around toxic food. There is diabetes for breakfast (donuts and coffee  with sugar) at the welcoming table. Men’s Breakfast centers around arty-clogging food-like products (nitrate-made bacon, gravy, biscuits, steak, eggs and ham). Fall Festivals are packed with hyperactivity and disease like cancer (candy). ("Food" dyes are linked to tumors and cancer*.) Caring for only the spiritual needs and neglecting the physical, emotional needs is an unbalanced approach to living the life God wants us to.

(Yes, there have been a few programs (i.e. The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren) started to help with this ever-growing problem, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.)

My passion and goal for quite some time now is to come along side The Church and the faith community to equip and educate them on how to start the conversation of healthy living and turn it into a wellness revolution. That’s why the salt/light project was born.

I have many pastor friends and I know they have a ton on their plate (no pun intended). The last thing I want to do is add more to their to-do list! So, this series is going to attempt to start the conversation that is so desperately needed in the faith community. If you are in a leadership position at your church, a pastor, a pastor’s wife, worship leader/leader’s spouse, or any other influential person in the faith space, will you share this series with those you care about? Will you join me in helping America regain their health? And lastly, can you pray that hearts will be open to this information? Talking about food and weight is not an easy talk to have! But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer.

There are many facets to the obesity crisis that is sweeping America. Wellness is not singular, it’s plural. Just like being spiritual or having faith isn’t just going to church every Sunday, so too is wellness. Living a healthy life includes a healthy mind+body+spirit. And this includes what we put into our body (food and drink).

This series will try to attempt to shed some light on topics not commonly discussed in the faith sector. It’s a (health) message that is so desperately needed! We’ll discuss the kind of food and drink we are consuming in greater detail as the majority of our health problems stem from toxic food. Exercise is great, but if you aren’t eating nutrient-dense food, fighting disease is null. (You don’t need to wait to read future articles tho, just browse through our website to learn more about what you are putting in your body!)

Here are few topics that will be tackled and discussed:

  • Ethics, fair trade and our food supply (we say we’re against human trafficking, but what do our food purchases say?)
  • Eating and cooking with real food to prevent disease and illness
  • Exercise: living complacent or active lives?
  • Events: centered around faith or toxic food?

Regardless of what denomination you attend and whether you go to church twice a year or every weekend, there is no discrimination here. This series applies to everyone.

And as always if you need further help, we are always here to support you in your wellness journey!

Next week part one of this series begins with an article written by Kristina DeMuth on Big Food and Faith Communities. Don't miss it!

Updated links to articles in this series:

Part Two (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Three (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Four (by Kristina DeMuth

Part Five (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Six (by Sarah Stanley)

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Sources:

F as in Fat

U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization

American Journal of Preventive Medicine 

Phit America

CDC

*CSPI

Prevention Institute 

Obesity Statistics 

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Got Integrity?

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Got Integrity?

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Everyday I see things that make me cringe and remind me that the work is never done. The message of wellness is a 24/7 job. I’m glad I’ve been living this way as long as I can remember so I can help people today.

This morning as I was browsing my social timelines I came across an “influencer” in the health space with a large following. On her Instagram account she had a photo of General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal with the caption “this has some serious potential, dessert tonight! Thanks, General Mills”.

To say I almost had a heart attack is an understatement. Furthermore, this woman does CrossFit- this cereal is NOT paleo by any stretch of imagination- and is also pregnant.

1) Do people realise what they put their body? See following point.

2) This is a box of GMO ingredients and toxins. BHT for one. BHT is a fuel additive. Yes you read that right. BHT is a preservative that is banned in England, it damages heart cells and in animal tests showed brain bleeds. Who wants that in their food or body?! Tell me why this is being promoted on a fitness account? (BHT is in all Big Food products, btw.)

3) Sugar content. Cancer feeds on sugar. And let's not forget that obesity loves sugar too.

So why are people selling out? Here's why:

A) Because Big Food has a very large public relations and marketing budget.

B) Because (many) people will sell their soul for anything. Integrity seems to be a lost virtue and it is appalling to me.

This is not about being perfect. It’s about having morals and integrity. It’s about not selling your soul. It’s about taking a stand and not accepting money or product that is killing your fellow citizens.

Not only do I have to educate others learn how to eat, I also have to educate these “fitness enthusiasts” and call out BS when it occurs. I think it’s high time that we bring back integrity to our lives and especially if you call yourself a “health warrior” or “fitness enthusiast”. Regardless if you have 50 or 50,000 followers take your responsibility seriously.

Now a plea, a very loud plea to personal trainers, fitness experts, health experts, “fitness enthusiasts” or whatever you call yourself in the wellness field, bloggers in general please, PLEASE! Start giving this industry some integrity by not accepting everything that comes from a PR company or straight from the company itself. Do your homework. Find out what the label means. Investigate. Do you really want to be promoting child/slave labor? Obesity? It’s an oxymoron to be in the health space and be promoting products that make you fat and give you disease! Aren’t you trying to help people live?!

The food industry (largely Big Food) spends $40 billion (that’s billion with a capital B) is spent on advertising each year. $40 billion on deceptive marketing. Don’t be a puppet with them.

  • Please, please don’t sell out for free product.
  • Please, please don’t sell out for money.
  • Please, please stop promoting Big Food (anything Big for that matter).

More than ever before we need to be promoting real food and companies that do the same. You will find that very few meet this criteria. That is why this website, our Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and Google+ pages exist.  We encourage people to cook with real food. Motivate and educate people to really learn what they are putting in their bodies. This isn't a hobby, this is our mission and calling. (And oh by the way, I live this day in, day out. There isn’t one piece of advice I give that I haven’t lived myself for years.)

This job is only going to get harder. With the rise of GMO, health-washing, and use of false health terms, we need people who are committed to calling out the untruths in the food industry. (Robyn O’Brien  Andy Bellatti, Marion Nestle and Michele Simon do a great job on this.)

I pray that you will be proactive at learning what you put in your body. And also what you are promoting. Not all products are created equal. And very products are worth selling your soul for (free) or (money).

Integrity is of utmost importance to me and you can rest assured the products I recommend, eat and buy are vetted with scrutiny.

Do you live with integrity? If not start right now!

Cover photo credit: Jessica Merz (Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, btw)

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My Heart Is Heavy

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My Heart Is Heavy

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My heart is heavy with how many people there are to help. My fellow citizens who are fat, sick and nearly dead. People thinking they have to live with disease and chronic illnesses.

My heart is heavy because our nation of people no longer knows how to care for themselves. They don’t know how to cook. They don’t know how to eat.

My heart is heavy because people view food as points, portions, calories, pills, restrictive. Not as nutrients that can heal their body and make them well.

My heart is heavy because people feel doomed to this miserable life, only living for Happy Hour or their nightly glass of wine where they can drink their sorrows away.

My heart is heavy because people are bombarded with deceptive advertising from Big Food, Big Soda, Big Ag, Big Dairy, Big Pharma. Big everything has swept across the nation and Big Sick People are the result of it.

My heart is heavy because people don’t know what real food is. Real food is organic food in their natural, pure state: vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, and yes, even meat. But grass-fed, not given hormone injections, humanely raised and killed. (I’m plant-based so no meat of any kind (chicken, beef, fish) for me but I want to make the distinction between real meat and junk meat). McDonald’s doesn’t serve meat, it serves pink slime. Deli meats aren’t meat - just ground up junk. There is a difference.

My heart is heavy because most people buy products and don’t even stop to think how it was made. Big Food products are made with ingredients sourced from slave/child labor, human trafficking. But yet we place that Hershey Chocolate Bar in the grocery cart and don’t even blink an eye because we’ve been brainwashed to believe that our purchases don’t really matter. We can’t really make a difference with our purchases, can we? Child labor doesn’t really happen in this day and age, right?

My heart is heavy because we have highly intelligent people who don’t know how to nourish their body. They are a slave (addict) to soft drinks, junk products (fast food) and artificial sugars and fat. Living for their next high of caffeine, sugar, processed salt, unhealthy fat.

My heart is heavy because the Church turns virtually a blind eye to the ongoing obesity epidemic that is happening right in front of their very eyes. The Bible Belt leads the way in obesity but yet church events still center around (toxic) food: Men’s Prayer Breakfasts, Dads and Donuts, Women’s Luncheons, Fall Candy Festivals.

My heart is heavy because Christians should be leading the way in true health and setting the example but instead they are leading the way in ignoring the problem and continuing the cycle of sickness and obesity. And then pray that God will heal them. Prayer works, but God expects you to do your part too.

My heart is heavy because we have popular Christian leaders talking about sin of adultery, gossip, lying, but failing to see that gluttony is a sin. In fact, gluttony is pretty much celebrated (potlucks, BBQ’s, feasts) in Christian circles. And what about justice issues? Human trafficking is rampant and yet many of the products Christians are purchasing are supporting human trafficking with their money. It’s time for the faith community to wake up. These are social justice issues that need to be addressed and fixed.

My heart is heavy because people think that if they have a coupon, they can buy double of their junk for the price of 1. No, 10 soft drinks for $10.00 is not a deal, it’s poison for a lot more than $10.00.

My heart is heavy because people think that products labeled “fat free, sugar free, low calorie, diet, healthy” are somehow good for them. But in reality these products are filled with man-made deadly fats, cholesterol, artificial sugars and dyes that are made by Big Food companies to addict people for life. (Addicts = customers for life.)

My heart is heavy because we’ve gotten so, so, (so!) far away from the basics that I fear we may never learn how to care for ourselves again. I'm deeply concerned. My soul weeps for our nation.

My heart is heavy because people will sell their souls for money and promotion. “Fitness enthusiasts” promoting McDonald’s, Chocolate Milk filled with pus, hormones, Chobani (GMO, btw) and whatever product comes their way. There is no integrity. (Some) Registered Dietitians promote Big Food, Big Dairy, Coke, Pepsi, and tout Pillsbury pie crust as part of their “sexy diet”. Nothing sexy about hydrogenated oils! Doctors promoting toxic NutriSystem products and fat-free products, God forbid they tell their patients to eat real food. Will the real health and food advocates please stand up and make their voices heard?

My heart is heavy because we live in this instant gratification world. “Moderation in everything!” “Enjoy yourself, just eat this artificially-laden cookie, you deserve it!” These phrases are shouted from the rooftops, but yet our country is drowning in disease, sickness, cancer. And continues to grow daily.

My heart is heavy because people put their life and health on hold for generations until a “study” appears telling them that soft drinks really are terrible for your health. My heart is heavy because people aren’t using common sense, they are simply puppets to the brainwashing of all things Big.

My heart is heavy because people have been duped to believe that healthy food is expensive when in reality getting sick is very, very costly. (Have you priced cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes recently?)

My heart is heavy because we're too afraid to tell others that what they are putting in their body is toxic and deadly and killing them. Say it in a loving way, but don’t sit idly by and watch others die before your eyes. Being PC is killing us.

My heart is heavy because Monsanto will sue farmers in struggling countries, America and Canada. They will kill bees (if we don’t have bees, we don’t have food!), poison our earth, the land we walk (or run) on and the air we breathe. If God wanted genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our environment and food supply, He would’ve made cloned vegetables and fruits and animals. He didn't. Eat real food.

My heart is heavy because people don’t want to hear the truth that what they are putting in their body, on their skin and in their environment is killing them. It’s time to wake up folks. Stop being complacent and begin to educate yourself on what you are putting in your mouth, on your skin and what is going in your country. Be an informed citizen. THIS is your health, your body, your generation, your country. Stand up, walk away from the TV, walk down to the local farmer’s market, cook yourself a homemade meal from scratch, drink a glass of filtered tap water. Crush freshly picked garlic! Learn how long it takes to grow an organic tomato from seed to your plate. Be invested in your health, your life, your country.

Yes, my heart is heavy. But I have hope in the middle of this darkness that people will begin to see the light.

photo credit: Daniel E Lee

 

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