Disclaimer: Since people tend to get very emotional about the topic of food – especially Westerners, whose food culture was an early victim of Globalization and who have never recovered from this loss – we advise sensitive and easily offended readers to stop here and read something more fun, like for example this essay here.
In many places, often so-called “undeveloped” or “developing” nations, you will find generally much less confusion about what to eat, and almost no arguments about this topic. This is because most people in those places simply eat what their land has to offer for them – exactly what humans (and all other animals, and plants, and fungi!) have been doing since the dawn of time. Only Victims of Globalization have forgotten this, having grown up in a place where you have to decide whether to have Mexican, Korean, Greek, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Nigerian, Thai, German, Indian, Vietnamese or North American food, and all your food comes either from supermarkets or restaurants. This lost connection to the land is what drives “modern” people to constantly experiment with new dietary trends and fashions, since they feel a strange uneasiness and spiritual emptiness when they eat too much food from far-away places they have no connection to.
Our views might offend vegetarians/vegans, juice fasters, “frugivores”, “carnivores”, raw eaters, and basically any other overly dogmatic followers of modern, cult-like diets.
A lot of so-called “healthy diets” are based on a reductionist (and therefore incomplete and sometimes outright faulty) understanding of how our body works. Since the Standard Western Diet is not exactly the most healthy one, it is reasonable if people look for a more healthy way to eat. While finding the optimal diet might seem difficult for some, it is actually fairly simple: just eat a lot of organic local, wild, and raw foods, and always eat the highest possible diversity– this way your body can choose exactly what it needs from the largest set of nutrients. No “dietician” or “nutritional expert” can tell you precisely what your body requires in any given situation (most of them run “business” scams where they sell books, nutritional supplements, blenders etc. so they care about their financial gain, not your health). Most plans propose something along the lines of “the average male/female with this-and-that BMI requires a minimum of x milligrams calcium and y micrograms folic acid per day”. Since no day is like the other, and “the average man/woman” only exists in the minds of statisticians, those statements are nonsense. Requirements change constantly, and although some “experts” try to overcome those complications by creating “body types”, each body is unique. Only your body knows what your body needs, so listen to your instinct (while remembering that the instinctual craving for sugar should be mostly ignored!) and give your body a broad range of foods so that it might choose whatever it needs.
The following opinions are informed by the fact that there is no archeological evidence whatsoever that any culture of Homo sapiens over our whole 300,000-year history ever
- only ate raw food
- only ate vegetarian/vegan
- only ate fruit
- only drank juice for extended periods
Not a single time has there been any primitive tribe “discovered” by anthropologists or early explorers (read: exploiters) that is or was exclusively vegetarian/vegan, “frugivore”, or raw.
It follows that an omnivorous, mixed raw/cooked diet that highly depends on what food can be obtained from one’s immediate environment is the natural diet for the species of humans we all belong to. It’s difficult to argue that a dietary fashion that’s (at its very most!) a few hundred years old is somehow better than what has been evolutionary proven to be successful for 300,000 years. (Otherwise indigenous people today wouldn’t be overall much happier and healthier than virtually all civilized folks – and their environments wouldn’t be the hotspots of biodiversity that they are.)
So here we go:
“You are what you eat.”
This is true in every sense.
- Metaphorically: if you eat only junk food, you become kind of like junk food yourself, full of fat and chemicals, unhealthy and not pleasant to look at.
- But also biologically: your body constantly renews itself, old cells die and new cells are created. Those new cells are not made out of nothing, they are made of what we consume to stay alive – food and water.
The average cell life differs widely, skin cells have a relatively short lifespan of 2-3 weeks, red blood cells about 4 months, white blood cells more than a year, whereas colon cells live only for 4 days. Brain cells are not replaced (remember that when you go out to have a drink the next time); neurons in the cerebral cortex, for example, are not replaced when they die. Basically, your whole body constantly flushes out old material and builds new materials out of the food you consume.
Most parts of your body get replaced, and this new cell material is not made out of nothing: you are made of the food you eat.Both animal and plant bodies have roughly the same elemental composition (with slight differences), our bodies and the bodies of most plants as well are approximately 3-4 percent nitrogen by weight – the bulk is made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. This points to the fact that we are not so different from the beings we eat after all.
Because of this it makes sense to take great care of what you eat, since cells made from organic vegetables and fruit and wild meat are naturally stronger and generally more efficient than cells made out of BigMac’s.
Everything is food
Everything we eat, whether plant, mushroom or animal, once was a living being, just like us. It is important to always remember that everything, including us humans, is food and will be consumed by some other species at one point. This is the best example for the interconnectedness of the Community of Life – a vast network of millions of species on this planet, all of which grew out of the same single-celled prokaryotic cells (such as bacteria) in the oceans of the Archean era 3.8 billion years ago, which in turn was made possible by the creation of the different elements throughout the cooling of our universe after the Big Bang. So every kind of energy has ultimately the same source – this is not only the teaching of various religions, but also a simple scientific fact. Daniel Quinn called this ‘energy’ that lies within every living being the “fire of life”. The fire of life once burned in everything you eat – but that doesn’t mean the fire is out now. The fire was passed on to you. The fire that once burned in the plants and animals you eat helps to keep your own fire alive and strong. Once you die, your fire of life is being passed on to the microorganisms, insects and animals that feed on your corpse. Energy is never lost, and we are all different parts of the same journey through time.
Eating is sacred
Eating should be considered a sacred act, mainly because eating is as fundamental to our existence as breathing and drinking, and because it reminds us that we are part of something bigger, that were depend with our very lives on the plants and animals that feed us. It is an act of reaffirming this interconnectedness, this dependency, and we should always be conscious of this fact and remain grateful for every meal and every living being that gave his/her life so that we may live.
Listen to the Land
If you pay attention, the ecosystem you inhabit will show you all by itself what to eat. Certain berries will light up in bright colors, certain odors become fragrant, and certain animals and insects will show themselves in large numbers. Those foods will, of course, be seasonal, wild, and local. This is the only sustainable way to eat, and this was how humans and all other animals ate ever since the very beginning. Only globalized civilization allows us to eat things from distand lands, shipped to us at a tremendously high ecological cost. This is arguably one of the most destructive ways to obtain food, and there is no place for practices like this if we want to avert the worst damage to our shared home.
The same is true for growing food – if long beans grow easy and fast in your garden in one season, you should have plenty of them. If bamboo shoots sprout up in another season – there’s your dinner. In Durian season, we might just skip a meal or two and just eat Durian instead. It is an unnecessary effort and a violation of “do-nothing” principles to try to have tomatoes all year round. If they don’t like rain, fine, try again in dry season. The plants themselves know the best when (and where) to grow, and when to fruit.
All diets that are not land-based can and will never be sustainable. If juice fasters want to drink only grape juice for two months, there is absolutely no way they themselves can grow enough grapes organically to supply themselves with the extraordinary amount of juice they will consume during that time. Only supermarkets supplied by industrial-scale juice processing factories and chemical-intensive monocultures allow such lavish absurdities.
But what about fasting and “Breatharians”?
Fasting certainly can have enormous benefits both for health and for spiritual experiences. Many primitive cultures all over the globe have rituals that involve fasting for purification of body and mind, and for vision quests. When done right and not too often, there is nothing wrong with it – as long as you don’t overdo it and you don’t stop listening to your body.
Modern culture still maintains certain imbecile core beliefs from earlier civilizations, and those can be very harmful and counterproductive. One of those beliefs is the Mind-over-Matter metaphor, the idea that you have to make yourself suffer, to use your mind to force your body to attain “spiritual pureness”.
First recorded in ancient Greece where philosophers came up with the strange idea that the mind is somehow separated from and more important than the rest of the body (even though mind and body are two parts of one and the same entity, and one can’t exist without the other), this idea was later picked up by Christians (notably the notoriously women- and body-hating Apostle Paul) who reached a new level of Nature-denial and self-hatred. Inspired by passages from the Bible like: “Put to death what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5), Christians started hating their bodies so much that they denied themselves every kind of pleasure and even occasionally practiced self-flagellation – hitting themselves with a whip. This sense of having to punish the “worldly” body through the “higher” and “pure” mind remains vivid until today, although most people punishing their bodies through extreme fasting and other such exercises would vehemently deny that their practice has anything to do with their Christian ancestors’ beliefs and practices. Nonetheless, the pattern of thought is the same.
We advocate loving and honoring your body, we advocate enjoying all the wonderful earthly pleasures there are to enjoy in life, and we see mind and body as two equal aspects of one and the same thing, interdependent and interconnected like the rest of the cosmos.
There are people who claim not to have eaten for extended periods, but to us this seems like bogus. It is the same idea, as old as civilization, that humans are somehow “higher” than other animals (although giraffes are arguably a lot higher than humans), somewhere in the middle between animals and gods – and therefore, they believe, we can transcend the earthly shackles of being forced to eat food like every other creature crawling in the dirt. This, of course, is utter nonsense. It stands in direct conflict with how life works. To think you can evade the endless cycle of feeding and being food is the denial of Life itself. We are animals, and this is a reason to be proud and feel rooted, comforted, and welcome – to recognize yourself as a part of a larger family, the Community of Life.
Oh, and then there is the story of how, in 1983, most of the leadership of the breatharian sect in California resigned when Wiley Brooks, a notable proponent of breatharianism who claimed that “all food is poison”, was caught sneaking into a hotel and ordering a chicken pie. Guess Nature finally caught up with him.
There are five categories that are important to us: