Given that we, along with the rest of our world, are living beings, one of the unfortunate consequences of consumerism has been a profound misunderstanding of nutrition. While the culture of consumerism has focused on increasing the quantity of things to be consumed, the culture of wellness focuses on what, when, where, and how much is to be consumed in order to increase the wellness of ourselves and our world.
Because consumerism has focused on increasing levels of consumption, it has brought about a global epidemic of obesity while simultaneously depriving many of our world’s poorest people of the nutrition and other resources they require in order to be well. Perhaps surprisingly, much of humanity’s nutritional imbalance is due to the mechanical mindset. In viewing human beings as machines, the mechanical mindset has treated people like steam engines by prioritizing the heat-producing capacity of the fuel we consume. This heat-producing capacity is measured in calories, a term created from “calor”, the Latin word for heat.
The nutrition that our bodies actually require in order to be well is far more complex and nuanced than any single measure. This is why our bodies are able to inform our minds of their needs in remarkable detail. We are not only able to know when we are thirsty or hungry. We are also able to know what, when, where, and how much our bodies need to eat and drink in order to be well.
Because we evolved in a wide variety of fluctuating environments that were subject to changing seasons, our bodies are highly adaptable and are able to utilize and convert a wide variety of nutrients. This is why consuming large amounts of non-seasonal foods and beverages with a limited variety of nutrients is harmful to your health.
By mechanizing our nutrition to ensure that we are consuming a predetermined range of calories and nutrients, many of us have trained ourselves to ignore the messages that our bodies are constantly communicating to our minds. This dissociation from the reality of our bodies is deeply related to our dissociation from the reality of our world.
What is actually happening is that consumerist culture has encouraged ever increasing levels of dissociation from reality in order to maintain its existence. For example, do you know where your water, food, and power actually come from? Do you know where your sewage, trash, and other waste actually go? If you were living as one with Nature, you would certainly know these things. Consequently, the outcomes of your consumption and your responsibility for those outcomes would be quite obvious to you. In other words, you would clearly know how you are a living part of our living world and how your choices influence our wellbeing.
In consumerist cultures, it is not uncommon for people to eat or drink something because they encountered marketing or an advertisement that triggered feelings of want or lack. By relying on external signals when determining what, when, where, and how much to eat and drink, rather than internal signals from your living body, you dissociate yourself from the reality of your life through the choices you make.
In reality, no one other than you can determine what you need to eat and drink in order for you to be as well as you can be. This is because no one else is able to determine what your body is telling you with more accuracy than you can. Of course, other people can help you to learn how to listen to your body more accurately but they cannot do a better job of telling you what your body is saying unless you simply aren’t listening.
The notion of following recommended daily allowances of specific nutrients only makes sense if you assume that you are a machine that processes roughly the same amounts and types of nutrients every day. Similarly, there are no inherently good foods or bad foods because whether a food promotes your illness or wellness depends very much on the specifics of what, when, where, and how much your body needs in order to be well. It also depends very much on how you are eating. For example, when you are eating something, are you feeling guilt or shame? Are you feeling gratitude or delight?
The beliefs we have about what we ingest influence how our bodies process the foods and beverages we consume. The mythologies that have been created to sell more foods and beverages to more people in consumerist societies are quite extensive. Whether something is advertised as fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, grass-fed, free-range, or any of the many other labels meant to suggest premium products, such labels have no influence on your health beyond how you feel about them, assuming that you do not have celiac disease.
None of this is to suggest that we do not have a moral obligation to ensure that the animals we eat have lived healthy and satisfying lives. After all, treating living beings as machines is inherently abusive. Still, the mythologies surrounding good foods, bad foods, super foods, pure foods, and toxins are oversimplifications at best. The mythology of clearing one’s body of toxins, for instance, is only useful if it encourages people to vary their diet, to occasionally fast, or to otherwise rid themselves of the metabolic wastes they have accrued through illness and overeating. The rest of the mythology is essentially fictitious.
Because we evolved in environments with unreliable food sources, our bodies evolved to not always have as much food as we want. This is why occasional or intermittent fasting supports the wellness of our bodies. We also evolved to chew extensively on foods having limited fats and sugars. This is why our ancestors prior to agriculture did not have cavities, regardless of not brushing their teeth, nor did they need to have their wisdom teeth removed. In short, what is actually happening is that we are beginning to realize how very disconnected we have become both from our Mother Earth and from our own bodies. What is actually happening is that, both individually and collectively, we are beginning to desire wellness over excess.