This blog is about food. Food for thought. It is about health, diet, lifestyle and balance. It is about what is wrong with our lives nowadays….and what we can do to improve quality of diet, health, emotional wellbeing and life.
Much of the problem with today’s society, particularly in America, is a lack of balance: a lack of harmony. We are living in turbulent times, reflected in a chaotic society which is lacking balance and tranquility, looking for almost “magical” solutions to all the ills of society. Everyone suffers from anxiety, depression, some form of addiction and certainly from insecurity.
People tend to over eat or under eat. Everything goes to an extreme. Everyone is looking for some kind of answer to their problems: a quick fix. Anything extreme tends to appeal to people. They think that somehow by being extreme, they will find a miraculous solution to their problems. Everyone wants something to believe in, thinking a particular diet will magically heal all ills or prevent all problems. Celebrities fuel this idea by constantly endorsing this diet or that protocol. But over time, all these diet fade away and no longer are revered. Please remember: diet is not a religion. It is not an absolute doctrine. Diet needs to be flexible, according to many factors in a person’s life.
Some people on a macrobiotic diet are so strict, afraid to ever eat a piece of chicken or meat, treating it almost as if it is poison. That is not a healthy or balanced way of living. It is not even healthy psychologically: it becomes a crutch, almost a form of idol worshipping. We must never worship or put all our belief into a diet. That will bring either anxiety or a feeling of superiority, both of which are not good. You can be macrobiotic, but be flexible: it is okay to eat a small amount of chicken or meat at special occasions, or even on a regular basis, if your body needs that. In the Jewish religion, meat is typically eaten for Shabbat and yom tov. There is no reason to forego tradition for an imaginary health fad. (In fact, the original macrobiotic diet incorporated a small amount of animal protein, around 15%, into the diet, but later people wanted a more “spiritual” diet so they decided to remove animal proteins)
It is okay to eat a bit of sugar here or there. Nothing is an absolute. It is really not so much about what you eat as about how you eat (and how much of something). If you overeat anything, even very healthy food, it will have a detrimental effect on your health and digestion. Maimonides (the Rambam), the greatest physician who ever lived, said that over eating is one of the most damaging things. He said that a person needs to learn to eat in moderation. Even supposedly “unhealthy” foods, if eaten in moderation, will generally not be harmful. The problem today is that many people cannot control their eating patterns and they over eat everything. Over eating leads to weight gain. It also makes it hard to digest the food. The stomach cannot contract properly. That can result in gas, diarrhea, stomach pain etc. So not over eating is an important principle in healthy eating.
The Rambam also said that the food one is accustomed to from childhood usually will not harm a person. And he said any extreme change in diet results in bowel changes and stomach problems. That is true because many people who adopt a gluten free diet suddenly find they are very constipated. Nevertheless, back in the times of the Rambam, people did not eat the type of junk foods we have today. There was no food coloring or preservatives or additives in the food. There was no refined sugar. Food was healthier overall. But we can also understand from that advice, that if one is very used to a particular food or way of eating, and one does not eat to extremes, a bit of the food one grew up with will not cause damage. People often feel happy eating the food they had as a child or that is part of their culture and family life, and happiness itself plays a big role in promoting good health. Even doctors and scientists now recognize that people who are happy are healthier. It is not only about what we eat. In fact, much of health has less to do with particulars of diet and more to do with other aspects of life, including how happy we are. Our mental and emotional state promotes good digestion, better health and our bodies function more optimally. The Torah says that as well: a person should not eat when angry or sad or upset. At that time we cannot properly digest our food. And if we have emotional issues that really are constant, we need to find ways to heal ourselves in order to balance our health more.