The past few days I've been feeling run down and lethargic when I get off work. All I want to do is change out of my uniform, lie down and eat snacks. Today at work I felt like my head was in a fog. (I finally know what people mean when they say that.) I feel like I'm barely functioning.
And I know the reason why: it's the food.
I've gone through a radical change in my diet since I've been here. I'm not talking about switching from being vegan to eating a little meat. There was no being 100% vegan while living in a tiny town in West Texas. Every salad has some cheese and probably some meat on it. Fine. I let that slide. (And had some brisket and some good cheese here and there, if we're being honest.)
I'm talking about switching from eating healthy, whole foods, mostly organic, mostly plant-based, to eating nothing but processed junk food.
Part of the deal of working here is that we get a place to live and three meals a day. Unfortunately, the meals (while lovingly prepared by my wonderful coworkers) are of the lowest quality ingredients and mass produced for 250+ employees.
What I'm eating now is probably no different than how I ate in high school and college. It's no different than how most of America eats. My question is, how in the world does America function? How in the world are we the most prosperous nation on earth when we eat this garbage? (By garbage, I mean food with absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever.) And how much more prosperous would we be if we actually ate food that made us feel good and function properly?
Today's lunch menu: corn dogs, tater tots, hot dogs, some kind of beef soup, and the salad bar. What could be wrong with the salad bar, you might ask? Iceburg lettuce so translucent you can almost see through it. Sometimes there are some spinach leaves sprinkled in, but I can guarantee you that spinach was grown on a factory farm a long time ago a long way from here and was probably hosed down with pesticides along the way. You couldn't make a meal of a salad here and get full, or get all of the nutrients you need, day in and day out.
I didn't go to supper today. Instead I had an apple and almond butter in my room (THANK YOU MICKEY!!) Last night's supper was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, the kind of mixed veggies that come from a can (peas, corn and something resembling green beans) and brownies. Sounds like a decent meal, right? But is that the type of food you would want to eat every night for optimal health? And don't get me started on breakfast. Powdered eggs, bacon and, the one thing I would eat: lumpy dry oatmeal. (Not steel cut.) With some canned fruit on the side.
I hadn't eaten candy in years... unless we're talking about high-quality dark chocolate. I never buy candy bars for myself...but here it's everywhere and I have re-developed a taste for it even as I can feel the detrimental effects it has on my body and my mind. And junk food really is addictive. It's designed to be that way. Once I switched to a plant-based diet 2 years ago, I never wanted to eat so much sugar-laden processed food as I do now, but once you start, it's hard to tell your body and mind to stop unless you overhaul your diet with healthy foods and lose the taste for processed foods again.
I've learned a lot from these new eating habits. The most important thing I've learned is that my body really does feel and work best when I'm eating whole, organic, plant-based foods. It's a night and day difference. I've also learned empathy for people who do have to eat this type of food their whole lives. No wonder kids and adults are obese, no wonder kids have problems paying attention in school, no wonder adults at younger and younger ages are getting cancer, diabetes and dementia. In so many ways our country is rich, but in some ways we are also poor.
For those of you who do have access to a grocery store (for me the nearest real one is about 90 miles away and I don't have a car), and to a refrigerator and a kitchen: stock it with fruits and veggies...and some (ethically sourced) meat too if that's your thing, and cook yourself a good nutritious meal. Observe the effects on your body and mind. Bringing conscious awareness to how we feel after we eat is the best way I know to make healthy choices.
As for me? I'm going to try to supplement my nutrition with greens powder, vitamins and fresh fruits and veggies when they're available. I'm also not going to stress about what all this junk food might do to my body and my skin because there's nothing I can do about it anyway. Four months of bad eating isn't going to create an irreversible long-term health problem...I hope. I will try to enjoy the junk food binge while I can...and will do the mother of all detoxes when I get back.