The Fuel That We Burn

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In recent years, I have gone through a transformation when it comes to my consumption of food. I have gone from a kid that didn’t think twice about what I ate, drank or how often, to a young man who knows the consequences of not being conscious of what I put in my body.

This transformation began after I graduated from high school and moved out of my parent’s house. After a brief stint living in a buddy’s basement, and essentially living off of left-over pizza and kool-aid, I became increasingly frustrated when it came to athletics endeavors and my overall wellbeing. I worked part-time at a pizza shop and also part-time as a cellphone sales rep where I sold cell phones, so I was often either unable to eat anything or I would be forced to eat something unhealthy from the ingredients at the pizza shop. After about a year I moved out of my buddy’s place and I rented my own apartment for the first time.. I got settled in and after a few months, I was able to quit my part-time job at the pizza shop and give those hours to the cellphone store instead. Once I was away from the unhealthy choices for food and had more free, down-time, I had to resort to some other options. I had never been one to pre-make meals or prepare things for myself, which was something that one shouldn’t be able to say at 19 years old.

I started my “lifestyle change” with two simple things, I would drink water instead of carbonated sugar drinks and I would try to eat salads instead of pizza or burgers. After about two weeks, I no longer had a craving for carbonated sugar water and began to genuinely like and appreciate water, whether it would be luke warm or ice cold, it’s good and delicious just the same. The food part was a different story though. Resisting pizza and sweets were my toughest tests and still remain to be to this day. The key to improving this is retraining your palette and taste buds to not constantly crave those artificially created tastes that we’ve grown accustom to. They call these foods “hyper-paletteable” because they have been engineered in a lab to be the most addictive to the most overall sense of taste. A very specific ratio of fat, sugar and salt creates this addictive food taste. You might have experienced this before, when you eat out a few times one week and then you have a home-cooked meal and there’s just SOMETHING missing from it. There’s something that happens when you eat a king size candy bar or a bag of flavored chips that doesn’t happen when you eat a handful of almonds or a banana. It’s simple choices like this that have caused a health epidemic of obesity and heart disease in the United States.

 

USDA chart2I don’t believe that the key is related to a specific diet or company that is misleading the public, however, I do think there’s a large conspiracy to keep the same foods available at the same prices by the largest companies in the industry. I believe the problem stems from a lack of understanding of how the body works. I know at some base level, every human being knows that what you eat translates to your body. It’s just much more significant than a lot of people give it credit for. Whatever you consume is used by the body as fuel or it’s stored on the body to be used for energy, and the quality of what you consume determines if your body is going to use that fuel or store it. The Standard American Diet (SAD), the diet that most Americans eat is very, very ‘sad’. The typical American diet is about 50% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 35% fat. And just incase you didn’t know, sugar is a carbohydrate (Carb), and most of the 50% of calories that statistic is referring to is not from healthy, complex, slow-burning carbs. American’s are essentially getting half of their overall fuel from refined grains in the form of breads, cereals, chips & crackers, other breading products and not to mention, the biggest one of them all, refined sugar.

In recent years, sugar consumption has been studied extensively and some research shows that refined sugar in large quantities has a toxic effect on the body. It just makes sense that consuming processed foods, most of which have added sugar or fat or some kind of artificial substitutes, would be a terrible thing for one to do to themselves. However, it has become a standard way of life in some countries including, most notably, The United States. There are many correlations with changes in national food consumption and the rise of deadly diseases that I believe will be reviewed and seen as causation in the near future. The question is, what will happen to our cherished and beloved comfortable lifestyle of gluttony? Will the statistics from scientific studies and death toll numbers from the last few decades be enough to sway people from their addictions to modern American culture or will our desire for pleasure and comfort lead us to a national health crisis?

There’s a divide in this country between people and it comes down to one idea; should people and corporations be allowed to have free reign over anything and everything they do based on our right of freedom or should some kind of regulatory commission be able to step in and make changes once it finds that certain players of the game are damaging the entire system. Are industry giants to blame for the drastic change in the type of foods that we eat or are the individual people themselves responsible for doing their own research and finding out what is and isn’t healthy to eat? Should we allow businesses to create and distribute known disease causing substances and products to the public while changing federal regulations through the power of lobbying in politics or should some type of overseeing body be able to veto some things after they’ve been proven to be significant concern for the safety of the general public? You’ll notice that these are question we don’t hear our politicians asking or being concerned about. USDAchart1

 

The scary thing, is that the solution is part of the problem. Science is the only thing that can determine if something might or might not be detrimental to the public. Unfortunately, science doesn’t care about good or evil. One group of scientists could conduct a study that proves that a particular product might be harmful to people, but to discredit their work, another group of scientists, who are often ‘endorsed or sponsored’ by the company who makes the product in question, will conduct a study and skew the numbers. This causes everyday, working-class people like yourself, who probably doesn’t have too big of an interest in delving into the technical details of research studies, to just simply give up and say “you can’t believe either” or they simply agree with whichever side is expressed to them in a more convincing manner. Having an abundance of information is a good thing, but at some level, so much information from both sides tends to muddy the argument.

The point is, you have to do your own research. You have to find a source that you personally trust, someone who makes sense to you. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there that say they have the cure-all-pill. The truth is, eating healthier isn’t about gimmicks or fads. It’s the simplest thing and YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE SCREWING UP. We all have that voice inside our heads that says, “you shouldn’t eat the cookie, but what the heck, it won’t kill me!” It’s simply gaining small victories over that voice every day and retraining yourself how to deal with your urges. Next time you’re feeling sick or tired or groggy, maybe take a look at what you ate recently and try to draw some correlations, you might just surprise yourself on how big of an impact you can make by just skipping the pizza and ice cream once a week.

The food you eat is not for pleasure. The food you eat is for fueling your capabilities as a human being.

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