copyright © 2005 Betsy L. Angert
Today I was driving past a Chick-a-Dee “restaurant.” I use the word “restaurant” with hesitation. For me, a restaurant is a place where people go to relax. The atmosphere is calm; there is an ambiance, and a flavor. The food has zest, tang, and taste. Delicacies are made with love. They are created and cooked, slowly. While the preparation is not swift, the delivery is delightful. The dishes are savory. However, I digress.
As I drove past this establishment, I noticed the line at the drive-through window. It was long. Car after car was sitting still with engines running. Passengers were both patient and impatient. They waited for what is commonly known as fast food. This experience reminded me of another that happened only weeks earlier. On that occasion, my father and I concluded fast food is not fast.
It takes time to dress, to drive, to sit, and to wait for the food that slowly destroys the human body. Eating fast food does not save time, as many claim. It does not save money. Yes, the ingredients are inexpensive; however, the cost of these provisions is high. The toll that this cuisine takes on the body is higher. I know. I once ate foods that were full of sugar, salt, trans-fatty acids, and preservatives.
In truth, I did not eat junk food, though I did eat pre-packaged foods. I did partake in fare that is full of preservatives. I ate the ingredients that make-up much of what is America’s diet. It is “difficult” not to, or so I once thought. Upon entering a grocery store, one sees little that is fresh. There are aisles and aisles of cans, boxes, and frozen wares. However, upon learning, observing and experiencing, the damage that these elements do, I decided, difficult or not, there must be a way.
As I discovered how these man-altered-ingredients age the body, how they silently destroy cells, and how these foods deliver results that are anything but healthy, I decided I had the will.
My own history with food is an interesting one, or so others say. Often I am asked to write of it, yet I delay. Other areas of life are more interesting to me. Nevertheless, possibly, now, the time has come. Each day there is talk of obesity, adult on-set diabetes, the new, and possibly better, food pyramid, low-fat, no-fat diets, good carbohydrates, bad; the trends abound. Yet, people gain weight, lose weight, and then, ultimately, put it back on. I did the same; however, since my change, I do none of these.
Life is good. Life is great! I consume large quantities of chow. Food tastes, as I never imagined. I wish I could describe this to you; however, I know there are no words! My weight is stable. I do not crave food; miss any of the foods that I once ate. I have time that I never had before, and energy, oh my gosh. If I could only explain the difference, I would. My hair is thicker, my teeth denser, my skin more supple, and my face less aged. I am in “juvenescence”! It is a fascinating tale or was for me when it was novel. Now it just is. Nonetheless, others think it an important parable. Therefore, I will partake. I will share it with you.
Years ago I changed my eating habits, drastically; it was a slow process. However, unexpectedly, after making one minor change all else changed totally. The transformation began more than a decade ago; I realized that my addiction to sugar, trans-fatty acids, and chemical preservatives, though slowed, needed to stop.
There were studies of the brain on trans-fats, sugars, and preservatives that I found fascinating, though not motivating. I had my habits and they were comfortable. I knew how to do as I had done. Change is a challenge and if life seems to be working, even if it is not totally as one might desire, why change?
My eating routines were adopted more than a century ago, or so it seems. It all began when I was a very young child. I was walking talking, and toilet trained myself by the age of eight months. My own actions, made it possible for me to be left with my Grandfather while my parents went about their day. My grandfather owned a pharmacy; it was a wondrous place, a child’s dream.
In the pharmacy, as in most pharmacies in years past, there was a soda fountain. This is the name for a raised bar, where people sit to eat, drink, and indulge in the goodies that they crave. As a young child, I had access to all the candy, soda, pretzel sticks, comic books, and gum, any little girl would desire.
I also was awarded the treats that my Grandfather prepared from scratch. He made juicy hamburgers topped with homemade mustard. I would watch my Grandpa mix the spices and water and marvel that something so simple could be so scrumptious. “Milton” as my cousin and customers called him, fashioned malts, milk shakes with malt powder that would bring any mouth to salivation. Life was good, or so I thought. Later I realized that this was the beginning of my downfall.
The introduction of foods such as these, in one’s youth, is often the collapse of good sense. People do not realize that they do not need these foods. They believe that what is available, easily, is all there is. Some say natural foods are not as filling or fulfilling. They cost too much, are difficult to prepare, and a challenge to find. The majority of people seem to believe nothing is as sweet as “sugar”, processed sugar. They crave it, and they there are studies showing that physically, they do. The body does desire sweet foods; it learned to do so in prehistoric times.
Yet, fortunately for me, the same man that introduced me to all that I now know is awful, particularly, in respect to the affects these foods have on our body, taught me to appreciate the contrary. Uncle Milty, or Grandpa, was what my cousin Alvin laughingly calls, a health-nut. He was a peacenik as well, which my cousin thinks is truly nutty. Though grandpa would eat anything and everything, including ice cream for breakfast, my Grand-pop was a pharmacist/chemist.
In his every breath he spoke of chemistry, the chemical reaction between this food and that, between this substance and that. He honored this wisdom; he took supplements and when I was destroying my own body, he put me on a regimen of these. My then thinning hair began to heal; my skin improved, my teeth were restored, slightly. However, since I had not yet given up my poor habits, these changes were far less than they might have been. My hair, skin, and teeth did not fully return to the thickness and vibrancy that they once had. People often profess, this is what happens as we age; yet, now, I wonder. Might this be expected and therefore accepted.
Nonetheless, I knew. I could see and feel what nutrients did for me, and what sugars, trans-fatty acids, and “chemical” preservatives were doing. Slowly, very slowly, I increased my intake of supplements and healthier foods. I expanded what I call, the “compensation.” I did more healthy things in hopes of alleviating the affects of processed foods. Finally, a few years ago, I completed the transition. It was an interesting travel, one that taught me much, and now, as I listen to discussions on food, I marvel.
In June 2005, my father and I went to visit my Cousin Alvin in South Florida. He was fascinated by my diet, not a diet per se, but what I eat and no not. Alvin stated, “People do not have time to do as you do.” They do not wish to invest in natural foods. Fruits and vegetables need to be washed, cut, and shopped for, patiently. People prefer to “just” eat. Packaged, processed, and “fast food” is freely available, accessible, easy to prepare and takes so little time, energy, or thought. I disagreed; knowing that for me the pleasure that I glean in making my meals is indescribable. The joy I experience as I watch my health and appearance improve is immeasurable.
I see and feel the benefits. The curl and thickness in my hair has returned. The color is glossy and all natural. The density of my teeth is ever increasing. The smooth surface on my teeth has returned and while I see the flaws in my face, wrinkles, etched as an effect of earlier times, I do see what others say. I have far fewer creases than I once did. Interestingly, these continue to diminish! Many share, my skin glows from within, it is supple, and continues to improve.
Nonetheless, one cannot argue with the habits and beliefs that serve another well. I said to Alvin, I am fine with his doing as he does; however, for me, I prefer to do as I now do.
The next morning, after the discussion with my cousin, my father went to Target. He is an early riser, and therefore, arrived at the store long before it opened. He noticed from a far, a long line of cars, waiting, for some event to occur. He wondered, what was all the excitement. The shopping center had little signage and this made it difficult to discern what was happening.
My father drew closer and saw. These automobiles were filled with the hungry, the famished, those that were barely awake; yet, waiting for breakfast. These people were waiting for McDonalds to open. They wanted their happy meal, their healthy meal, their vittles. They craved sugar, trans-fats, and oils. Caffeine also called them.
All these people woke early, dressed while ravenous, got into their cars, and drove. They sat there starving, dreaming of foods that would wrinkle their skin, weaken their hearts, raise their cholesterol, and rot their teeth. They waited and waited, while, back at the hotel, I prepared our meal. My father and I made sure we had refrigerators in our rooms. When our planes landed, we went to a fruit market before we checked into the hotel. Once in the rooms, we filled the frig. We were ready.
Therefore, on this morning, while he was out buying a hat, I was preparing our meals. I was leisurely dressed in pajamas, happily washing fruit, and when by the time I was through, he had returned. He and I sat, comfortably, chatted and I did not leave the hotel until after my delicious meal. Had he not forgotten his hat, he too would have had no interest, reason, or desire to leave until after the meal was done.
My journey for food took minutes; it was quiet, calm, relaxed, and fulfilling. There was no traffic, no trauma, no drama, and I did not need to dress for the occasion. The travel of these others took time, effort, and energy. I rather not expend all that just to have a meal, especially knowing that my health would suffer from such a venture.
The deterioration of the body when engorging fast food is a slow one; it is almost invisible, and yet it occurs. The wrinkles, the thinning hair, the weakened heart, and the weight gain, the sagging skin, the loss of energy. Wow, it is quite a mouthful!! The cost is great! With good, healthy food, there is rejuvenation. This too may be difficult to discern, initially; however, in time, the rejuvenation is very visible. The invigoration is almost instant. For me fast food is not fast; good food is! Being in “juvenescence”, though it takes time, I believe time well spent!
Possibly, you missed this link in the body of this treatise. You might wish to read, An overweight America comes with a hefty price tag. The cost is not merely physical; it is a financial. It drains our pocketbooks. We, as a society, pay. Medical expenses soar throughout the nation.
You might also think this find fascinating Food on the Brain, by Daniel Fisher, Forbes. It too was embedded in the body text. Please indulge!
Please peruse Our Junk Food Nation By Juliet B. Schor and Gary Ruskin, AlterNet. This writing is quite revealing. It helps to explain why we believe that what we eat is all there is to choose from.
Fun with Food . . .