food and exercise, medicine for life
- I found this article at: http://www.enn.com/news/2003-10-14/s_9199.aspEnjoy and take action! StaciaFood and exercise, medicines for lifeTuesday, October 14, 2003
This summer, my wife and I were lucky enough to spend a wonderful 10 days in a remote part of British Columbia an area where grizzly and black bears, mountain sheep, wolves, and moose are plentiful and still range freely. Rainbow trout still fill the lake, and the night air echoes with the cries of loons.
We ate fresh fish everyday and reveled in the clean air and water. It was a classic Canadian wilderness experience, and it was gratifying to an urban dweller like me to know that it still exists.
When we returned, it took several days to readjust to the shock of the city. The first day back I stepped on the bathroom scales with trepidation. "Holy cow," I shouted to my wife. "I lost two pounds! How could that be? I never got to a gym and we ate like pigs."
"Duh," she responded. "Sometimes I wonder about you! Think about it. Wasn't that you up on the roof of the cabin scraping off the moss? We were hiking and canoeing every day and had to tote all the water to the cabin and the gray water back to the pit. And didn't you spend half a day sawing and chopping wood? You were getting a workout all day long!"
Well, maybe she said it more politely than that, but she did point out that the whole time we were up in the wilderness, we were doing things, using our bodies the way they had evolved to be used. We weren't stuck in a car or in front of a television, scarfing down junk food.
North Americans live in a paradox. We are told again and again by doctors, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies that we need to lose weight and get more exercise. Yet the lifestyles promoted in entertainment and the media are all about consumption: high-calorie foods, SUVs, and 4,000-square-foot homes in the suburbs. Even diet and exercise fads tend to involve buying more stuff.
Many years ago, I was honored to be adopted by the Haida people from Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) off B.C.'s northern coast. One time, I asked Ada, my adoptive Haida mother, why she insisted on eating traditional Haida food when so much other food is readily available from the supermarket. She looked at me strangely and told me something I'll never forget: "Food is our medicine."
When you think about it, that makes so much sense. We take most medicines for just a few days to deal with the symptoms of a problem, but food is something that we ingest three or four times a day all our lives. We take food into our mouths, tear it apart and incorporate the constituents into our own bodies. Good food means good health.
These days, food has become an afterthought, and much of what we do to stay healthy is a response to our otherwise inactive, stressful lives. Living in a city, I have to deliberately go to a gym to do what has not been incorporated into my everyday activity: exercise.
Perhaps the height of absurdity is when we try to resolve our overindulgence in unhealthy food not by changing our eating habits but by creating calorie-free substitutes for sugar or fat.
Today, there are as many people in the world who are chronically overweight as there are who are chronically malnourished. Obesity and associated health problems like heart disease and diabetes have reached epidemic levels in the developed world, and the health, societal, and environmental consequences are tremendous.
We continue to abuse our air, water, soil and ultimately our bodies and then try to deal with epidemic levels of allergies, asthma, obesity, and cancer without coming to grips with their primary causes. Until we do, we'll miss out on the medicine that our bodies truly need.
Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.