The View From Here: Food for Thought

political

Volodymyr Kish.

Although food is one of the basic essentials of life, it is also a subject that few of us pay any real attention to, unless it is not there. We eat our three plus meals a day, and unless we run into health issues, food remains a background issue that we take for granted in our day to day lives.

Until recently, I too was one of those who paid scant attention to food aside from occasionally appreciating it for its hedonistic value. As a kid, it was one of those necessities of life that my mother was primarily responsible for. As a married adult, responsibility for putting food on the table became, by default, my wife’s responsibility. Aside from having certain preferences and favourite dishes, I was little aware or particularly interested in the nutritional value of what I was eating, its provenance, or the consequences of my eating habits on both myself and the environment.

In recent years, all of this has changed significantly. The primary reason for this is the fact that I retired, and as my wife is still working, I became the chief cook and grocery shopper for our household. Secondly, my body’s metabolism and resiliency began to change. For the first fifty or so years of my existence, my weight remained pretty stable, seldom varying more than a few pounds from the benchmark weight I attained at around twenty or so. Regardless of how much I ate or drank, or how much or little physical activity I engaged in, by body adapted somehow and kept me on an even keel weight-wise.

Alas, that was not to last. At some point after I reached fifty, I slowly began to see that benchmark weight edge upwards, to the point where I am now some twenty-five pounds heavier on average than what I have been through most of my adult life. Aside from the dismay I get when I look in the mirror, this extra weight has also had corollary effects on my cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

There is another factor that is becoming a big influence on my food awareness, and that is the fact that my wife and children have become significantly more nutritionally conscious and taken active measures to upgrade their food consumption habits. My eldest daughter has been a vegetarian/vegan for most of the past decade, and starting last fall, my wife and middle daughter have been following a fairly strict Weight Watcher diet that has seen them both lose over twenty pounds in recent months. My son has always been environmentally conscious and makes it a point to vet what he buys and eats.

It would seem that the universe is conspiring to force me to become a lot more responsible and educated about what I eat and drink. Of course, on a rational level, I know that this is the right and proper thing to do, but on a basic emotional and psychological level, I know that it is going to be difficult. Eating and drinking are deep seated habits that are extremely hard to change. Being Ukrainian adds an extra dimension to this, in that all those Ukrainian dishes that I so dearly love tend to be overly graced with fats, cholesterol and calories. Being a great fan of craft beer, good wines and fine whiskies does not help either.

The other dimension to this is that as consumers, we are also starting to become far more aware of what is in the foods that we eat, particularly processed foods, and the facts are scary. The amount of sugar, chemicals, saturated fats and other components that you see in the list of ingredients on packaged foods is enough to raise an eyebrow. Obesity and nutrition related diseases are becoming rampant in virtually all developed countries. Growing awareness on how our foods are produced, and how the methods used by large corporate growers and meat producers are impacting us ecologically, is also troubling.

It is becoming patently obvious that we cannot continue to carry on with the practices and trends of the twentieth century when it comes to food. On a global level, the current food producing and consuming system is both unhealthy and unsustainable. On a personal level, I realize that the buck stops with each individual, and that I must, in good conscience, change the way that I deal with food in my life.

In a way, this is going to be a New Year’s resolution of sorts. Through self-education, discipline and will-power I need to get back towards a more holistic and healthy approach to food. Hopefully, in a year’s time, I will be able to write again and be in a position to report that I have returned to my benchmark weight and become a healthier person.