A seriously 'Fat' issue.

If you’re not aware, there is a ‘fat acceptance’ movement, advocating for more social acceptance of being ’fat’. 

A concise description of the movement is provided on the Cherchez La Femme website, “Fat activists campaign for the right to reclaim the word “fat”, demand better “fatshion” and advocate for social acceptance of good health at any size”.

Cherchez La Femme is a Melbourne based, monthly talkshow of popular culture, news and current affairs from an unapologetically feminist angle who recently had an advert temporarily removed by Facebook administration. The advert in question featured a photograph of the plus sized model Tess Holliday. The ad was promoting an upcoming discussion focusing on fat acceptance, notably from the female perspective. 

Facebook's logic behind removing the advert, was ”the image depicts a body or body parts in an undesirable manner" and ”Ads like these are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves”.

Facebook later backtracked and allowed the advert to be posted. But the damage was done. Social media went into discussion mode. 

This photo of plus sized model Tess Holliday was used to promote the event.

The organiser of the event, Jessamy Gleeson was stunned by Facebook administration, later suggesting that Facebook "seemingly has no idea that plus-sized, self-describing fat women can feel great about themselves".

She urged followers on the platform to "rage hard at anyone who tries to tell us that some bodies are more 'desirable' than others".

I have previously written about the body positivity movement, ‘fat acceptance’ and ‘fat shaming’ revolving around complex issues exclusively restricted to privileged western cultures. Issues not solely, but overwhelmingly dominated by a female voice, this is not an opinion, this is just how it is, don't judge me, I just hold the mirror. Although I must mention from personal experience, that fat shaming is not restricted to a female social context, and although I’ve been obese for many years and subsequently fat shamed, I also understand and acknowledge that there is more pressure on females to fit within a ‘socially approved’ body form, although we must also recognise that there is significant pressure from various social platforms for males to look a certain way. 

As important as the fat shaming issue may be, it’s not what I want to focus on at this point.

In our reasonably affluent western cultures, we have two social groups with two very different agendas. 

One is the above mentioned, the fat acceptance, social activists fighting to feel better in a society that is used to seeing ‘slimmer’ bodies dominate various media, fashion and advertising platforms. These activists fight to not feel judged, to not be harassed, to feel happy in their body whilst also being fat. This is not a formalised social group, more so the agenda is driven by social media interactions and discussion events such as the one featured by Cherchez La Femme.

The second social group is highly organised and backed by scientific peer reviewed research, it’s the health care system. Every single wealthy western culture has one, and every single western country has a health care system currently under pressure dealing with high demand treating preventable lifestyle diseases, most notably those caused by dietary choices. 

‘Fat’ can mean many different things to many different people. Describing oneself or another person as 'fat' can be both subjective and objective. You can look in the mirror and think yourself as ‘fat’, then you can visit your GP, have your vital statistics measured and be described as ‘healthy’.

From an emotional and psychological view, feeling horrible about being ‘fat’ (overweight, obese) is seriously draining on many levels. Being overweight is also seriously draining physically, with each day a struggle to get out of bed, tie your shoe laces, walk up stairs, its even difficult to hop into a car. Everything is physically harder when you’re fat. I know this, I’ve been overweight or obese for more adult years than not.

In the Australian context (which is similar to many other wealthy western countries) we have a serious problem with weight which subsequently impacts the health care system. According to 2014-15 Bureau of Statistics figures, 63.4% of Australian adults were overweight or obese. More alarmingly, the next generation is following the lead with one in four children being overweight or obese, (these figures have recently been reconsidered and the problem has been found to be much more dire). 

We have a seriously unhealthy society, one that is statistically recorded to be placing immense pressure on an already burdened health care system. 

Regardless of how we ‘look’ ‘feel’ or what ‘fatshion’ is available to us, from a strictly medical perspective, obesity is costing us billions, an estimated $14.6 billion on diabetes alone (not all types of diabetes are lifestyle influenced, but “many cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented, or the onset delayed, through positive lifestyle changes. It is estimated that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced by up to 58% by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and following a healthy eating plan" Diabetes Australia).

“The problem goes far beyond aesthetics. As described by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, excess weight, especially obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions and some cancers. As the level of excess weight increases, so does the risk of developing these conditions. In addition, being overweight can hamper the ability to control or manage chronic disorders.” (Huffington Post)

It’s important to feel good about oneself, to not hate oneself. It’s also fair enough to expect one can walk down the street and not be judged based on anything, size, colour, sexuality or religion. 

These are all psychological, emotional, cultural, societal based perspectives, but we shouldn’t discount or undervalue the importance of physiological health. Some would consider it a priority. There is a generally accepted thinking that physiological health directly influences mental wellbeing, and vice versa.   
 
Personally I have journeyed from a healthy child to an obese young adult, to skinny but not healthy (ate processed food, drank and smoked excessively), back to obese (definitely not healthy), returning to skinny (same old habits) back to obese (super unhealthy and actually presenting with many chronic issues) now finally adopting a sensible lifestyle, eating mostly home grown food, mostly vegetables, little bit of fruit, less meat, exercising regularly, drinking less and as a result I’ve reduced a significant amount weight over 3 years, dealt with my chronic illness and removed myself from high risk category for many preventable lifestyle diseases. 

Notice I mentioned that I was skinny but not healthy. The point I’m making is that I used to ’diet’ focusing solely on weight loss. I lost weight but ate poorly (nutritionally speaking) whilst maintained some naughty vices. Observing from the outside I appeared ‘skinny’. I had the appearance of ‘healthy’ but that wasn’t necessarily the case. 

I wouldn’t call myself super slim now, but my changes in lifestyle have allowed me to shed a significant amount of weight, I have more energy, feel better about myself and most importantly I have addressed my hyper-tension, depression, anxiety, chronic pain and illness issues not to mention removing myself from many high risk categories for cancer, diabetes etc.

During the time of being obese I have been publicly fat shamed on social media, rather abusive I might add ("you fat cunt" was one of my favourites). I have been ridiculed by ‘friends’ to my face and behind my back (pre social media days). I know what it feels like to be obese, both from a ‘feelings’ perspective and from a physiological viewpoint. I also now know what healthy living is, how I achieved it and how to maintain it for life. (In a nutshell, the secret formula is as simple as eating more vegetables, and going for a walk!)

I know that the health and wellbeing and ’dieting’ industries are just that, INDUSTRIES. Business’s and individuals that capitalise on desperate people in need of help. People desperate to fit into the visual categories that are perpetuated by society. I’m aware of the powerful ’fitness’ industry, both companies and celebrity individuals also capitalising and perpetuating the visual concept of what a ’healthy’ body ‘should’ look like. It’s all very disappointing and what I’d describe as a “load of bullshit” (I’m literally quoting myself there).

There is NOTHING HEALTHY about obesity. Yes you can ‘feel’ good about yourself when obese (or you can certainly tell yourself that, as I did for many years, but was really self hating inside). You can tell yourself that everything is ok, as I did for years. But you're sealing your fate, your future, your wellbeing. Getting healthy is not an easy task, it takes mindfulness, dedication, discipline and an open mind. I can totally understand why an individual would prefer just to 'feel' good about the situation. But unfortunately 'feeling' doesn't address the cause, nor the impacts of obesity. Only hard work and action does. A complete lifestyle shift is daunting but will provide a completely different life. 

There is also nothing healthy about perpetuating the idea that healthy comes in the form of a perfect shaped skinny person. We all have different frames, curves, bums, legs, boobs and faces. Deal with it. I drew the short straw, I have to accept what I look like. I'm no piece of art, that's a sure thing. 

The reality of obesity is that, at some stage it will impact on an individuals health, potentially being a serious medical condition leading to premature death, chronic illness or lifelong pain, not to mention the mental health impacts (which also relies on the health care system to treat, mind you they tend to focus on treating symptoms not dealing with causation).      

We must also remember the reality of living in large populations that function on individually contributed taxes, which governments collate and distribute for a health care systems that we all rely on. 

Society is made up of many individuals.
 
Individuals make choices (Food and exercise).

Those choices impact on society (Impacts Health Care system).

Our personal choices not only effect us, they also impact the many. Regardless of how we ‘feel’ the reality is our actions as individuals impact on a greater society (i.e. other peoples lives) and most definitely impact the economic functionality of a health care system. 

 

If you're offended by this article you need to take a long hard look at yourself and your personal agenda. But be careful, you may get offended by yourself in the process.  

 

 


  

   
  

       

      


  

Fat feels.

Tried to get this article published with the Guardian and The Age. Both declined.

 

It's an article in response to some public banter a few weeks ago between Michelle Bridges, Chrissie Swan and Meshel Lawrie.

 

Before you read any further I need to make a declaration. I used to be a fatty, a real big unhealthy fatty. I’m no longer a big fatty after reaching some horrible point of obese despair (and receiving a stern talking to from my GP) I placed myself on a trajectory for healthier living. I didn’t get healthy by joining a commercial weight loss program, signing up for a 10 week detox booty camp, nor did I take supplements, purchase powdered protein shakes or join a gym. I lost weight (and in doing so became much healthier) by taking the most basic of advice of which consisted of, eating mostly plant based food, a little meat and dairy, drinking less booze and embracing moderate exercise. It’s a health and wellbeing message the government has toting for decades, way before our ‘wellbeing era’ of the bikini clad, yoga, green smoothy, coconut age of wellness enlightenment.

 

 

It’s taken me a few years, but have eventually wound up 23.5kg lighter, my high blood pressure is reduced to non medicated levels, my depression and anxiety has subsided, I no longer have reactions to certain processed foods and most importantly I’m no longer in the high risk category for many preventable lifestyle diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and stroke. This positive health story does’t make me invincible, I will still die eventually, we all will, but while I’m here my quality of life has been greatly improved and my risk of preventable illness has been dramatically reduced.

 

Now that we have that messy business out of the way, let’s look at a recent obesity related controversy that’s been playing out in popular media of late. The trio of opinions from Michelle Bridges, Chrissie Swan and Meshel Laurie. The backstory is that Michelle Bridges (described as Australia’s most influential health and fitness expert) made some comments on a recent episode of ABC’s Australian Story “I can tell you, I'm yet to meet someone who is morbidly obese and happy”. Which garnered a reaction from Chrissie Swan, who was all like “Hi, Michelle, if you are listening, remember me? I've known you for years. We have met many, many times. You can take it back now. I'm happy.” And then Meshel Laurie was all like “I'm such a lucky person. I've got two arms that work, two legs that work. A brain that's sharp” “It is actually possible to be fat and happy, I promise you.” Do yo get the picture?

 

How has the issue of obesity shifted away from the serious impacts to become an issue of how we ‘feel’? It’s apparent we live in an age where the importance of ‘me’ has more sway then ‘us’ or ‘community’. The focus of this recent debate has been on how we feel when we’re obese, and if you listen to Meshel and Chrissie you’d almost think it feels completely ok when you’re obese (as a person that’s lived most his adult life obese, I’d strongly disagree with this sentiment, and my years of substance abuse in an effort to ease feelings of self hatred are testament to it, happy days!)

 

The real issue is much greater than the simplicity of how we ‘feel’ about ourselves, instead shouldn’t we be focusing the spotlight on the severe impacts of obesity, be they social, physiological and economical, for both the individual and the wider community? (Wider community! Come on, I’m on fire!).

 

Australia is one of the unhealthiest western countries and it’s costing us billions, 132.7 billion in the year (to September 2015) according to the Fairfax Lateral Economics Index. State Governments around the country constantly plead with the Federal government for further funding for a heavily burdened health care system doing its best to keep up with demand. It appears we have a treadmill situation in play. For all the years I was obese (15+) I visited my GP often, presenting with obesity related issues, depression, anxiety, hyper tension, skin rashes (don’t ask) dietary fibre issues (also don’t ask) and endless chiropractic sessions, all of which not only cost me money, they also cost the state. I was one of now millions of obese ‘clients’ requiring medical services from our public health care system.

 

The causes of obesity are complex, and there is no quick fix single brush stroke solution. However if you strip away the social and economical context and you’re left with a very simple formula. The scales of energy inputs and energy outputs are currently out of balance. Rudimentarily speaking, we’re consuming energy rich food but not burning it up with energy expending exercise, blame modern living, it’s 2016 after all and life is just way too easy.

 

The high energy food that’s responsible for our obesity crisis sits proudly on the shelves of supermarkets, is served at the drive through of fast food chains and is cleverly marketed to us toting it’s ‘healthy’ and ‘nutritious’ credentials. I used to believe in that hype, as a result it made me very sick. Once I removed that type of food from my life, my weight issue reduced and more importantly my health returned.

 

Health can be subjective, a person can smoke all their lives, drink booze everyday and happily live to 100, but that’s an anomaly. There’s a reason why the Heart Foundation uses BMI measurements as a guide for healthy living, because it’s based on peer reviewed statistical analysis, incorporating both the anomaly, outliers and the norm.

 

We know climate change is a real thing and what’s caused it, we also know we have an obesity problem and what is causing it, so it makes you wonder why the very food that’s responsible for the problem is still available to buy? Ironically, just as the focus on ‘feelings’ currently dominates the obesity debate, economics is what’s driving the continuation of poor health. Until we see change in what’s presented to the public as ‘food’ we won’t see much of a change at all, no matter how we ‘feel’ about ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trapped in a riddle we perpetuate

The cause of our obesity epidemic is complex. 

The cost of our obesity epidemic is mind-blowing. 

Obesity costs us billions of dollars each year, health care, absence from work etc. 

Our population is heading for a reduction of life expectancy a result of the food we’re eating, a by-product of our affluent culture, now that’s irony. 

Rates of obesity are higher in low income socio economic groups. 

Rates of obesity are higher in regional areas than in cities.

Rates of obesity are higher in immigrant populations.

BUT, Australia is one of the wealthier countries in the world, comprising of mostly middle class, and almost 2/3s of us are overweight or obese. So it’s a middle class problem more than the just a lower socio economic, regional or immigrant problem. That's not something people like to hear. 

Some people say that the reasons for obesity is that folks don’t have time to choose good food, can’t afford good food, have more important things to deal with, are lazy, are ignorant, are from poor communities with other more pressing social issues, don’t know what real food is, or simply don’t care. 

We could spend a lot of energy arguing over the reasons, or we could strip away these reasons and focus on the root cause of obesity? FOOD.  

Something significant has changed in our environment over the last 5-6 decades.

Something is out of balance. 

We’re consuming energy rich food but not burning it up. 

The food on offer has definitely changed.
 
It’s richer in sugars, fats and complex carbohydrates. 

It’s addictive.

We have become slaves to what fuels us. 

This food, the very food that's responsible for our populations obesity is still available at the supermarkets and take away venues, and as long as that food exists, the obesity crisis will exist and will continue to get worse. More pressure will be placed on our already burdened health care system. People will live more uncomfortable obese lives and will live shorter lives. 

So what options do we have?

Imagine if our government made it illegal for the food that’s causing the problem to be sold. That should fix the problem, right? 

Maybe the government doesn’t get involved, maybe collectively we just stop buying the processed food that's making us sick. What impacts would this have?

Most likely it would make a significant difference to the obesity problem, but think of all the jobs that would be lost, and how the economy would be effected. 

Jobs lost would be the farmer growing the mono crop primary produce that was supplying the food processing plants. The workers at the food processing plants, the marketing companies that persuade the population to buy the processed food, the logistics transport systems moving the processed food around. Think of the reduced demand on pharmaceutical companies that had been supplying the obese community to treat the lifestyle related diseases. It would impact many jobs in that sector not to mention the health care system, which would require less specialists to deal with obesity related treatments. The supermarkets and take away franchises would lose significant profit with the reduction in sales of cheap processed foods. 

So we ‘need’ the processed and take away food to keep the economy healthy. 

We ‘need’ the obesity problem to prop up the pharmaceutical industry and keep employing more medical staff to look after the obese clients.     

Feeling powerless yet? Trapped?

Is there a possible solution? If the population purchased less processed food, would the companies that produce it, make less of it and slowly transition to make better food? Am I being too idealist? Most definitely yes. This is an unlikely scenario.  

A major hitch……how do you convince the people that are addicted to the food that’s making them sick, how do you convince them to stop consuming it? A very difficult challenge, especially when you’d be battling wealthy companies that are behind the processed food, constantly telling us that we should try this new food product because it will improve our lives.

We live in a very interesting age. Most people are completely asleep or just happily ignorant to what’s going on. I guess humans have been ignorant through out the ages, so this is nothing new. 

How will our generations be remembered? Obese, wealthy, resource hungry, but unhappy and definitely not enlightened.  

Is there anything we can do? Of course we can do something as individuals, we can chose to eat better food and exercise, that’s great, but it doesn’t fix the broader issue. 

I’ve been told that my idea of setting up a food/nutrition/grow your own/demonstration farm is futile and will make very little impact in the wider community. And to some extent I’d agree. But it will make some impact. Maybe that impact may catch on, it may spread, it may make a difference to enough peoples lives. It’s better than sitting on my arse, feeling powerless and trapped by the situation. 

Why even care about the issue Rohan? Well I’ve been overweight and obese most of my adult life. It’s only been the last five years that I’ve started to make changes in my life. It’s only the last two years that I’ve actually started to lose enough weight for my health to return. It’s only been in the last five years that I've learnt what makes real health, what real food is, and how it can positively impact on ones life. 

It’s been a painful journey that has required a great deal of hard work and discipline. It’s been fucking annoying to say the least. I had to lose a significant amount of weight to return to a healthy weight range, and the older you get, the harder that task is. My entire world has changed. The food I used to love eating I no longer eat. I have found a love of real food, but the transition was like coming off a drug.  

I can’t change my past, but if only I knew back then what I know now, then I wouldn’t have become obese. I wouldn’t have had to go through this painful process. If I can make that difference in peoples lives, that’s enough. That’s my vocation, as futile as it might seem. 

We could waste time and energy looking for something to blame. Instead we need to look at the causes, address those causes, and focus on making positive change. 

Oh and I’m aware obesity isn’t the only problem processed food causes. Even thin people can be unhealthy due to diet and poor nutrition choices. Obesity is an obvious issue, it's at alarmingly high rates, as too are diet related cancers, heart disease, diabetes and hyper tension, obesity often goes hand in hand with these medical issues. 

The reason why I wrote these words is because I had this very conversation with my girlfriend in bed this morning. We both felt trapped and powerless. I thought I’d share it.

 

I dedicate this post to Karen, for her unending emotional support. 

Armageddon outta here!

A few weeks ago I read an interview with David Suzuki in a magazine called Dumbo Feather, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Some time back in the 1980's I remember first encountering this man, probably via a VHS played to us at primary school on one of those televisions that took a few minutes to warm up. I vaguely remember watching one or two of his documentaries at home, on weekends when we where allowed to watch TV. In any case, his message about the importance of the natural world seemed to have snuck into my subconscious, helping form me into the human I am today. 

The general vibe of this article in Dumbo Feather was about reflection. Mr Suzuki is now 80, has fought his entire career for environmental change and is now nearing his winter season. My heart hurts with the very thought of it, he's been such an inspiring human. He still has energy, still fights for change and continues to influence. I saw him speak a few years ago, he visited our town to talk about his life work for the release of his memoir. Somehow I ended up with two copies of this book, but I can't bring myself to read either one. 

I walked away from the magazine article thinking a lot about the broader futility of human behaviour. Here we have an intelligent man of science, one that's spent a life time begging our leaders for change, pleading to the wider community of humans to make change, and he failed. Scrap that, he didn't fail, his message did, and so did the people he communicated it too (well most of them anyway). 

I'm not sure exactly what it is within us as a species that refuses to heed the warnings we should be paying so much attention to, maybe we're just too distracted by other trivial things to notice. The older I get, the more I have to simply accept it as part of who we are. For so many of our human issues, change has taken many years, not just decades, but hundreds of years. You'd like to think that human issues of slavery, racism, human trafficking, homophobia don't exist anymore, but they do, as do many others, some worse than in all of human history. Media is full of humans doing stupid things, cruel and mean things to other humans, so much so that it's painful to keep up with. And before anyone says "this is why I don't watch the news anymore" let me explain that until we're active in making change as individuals, our world will remain troubled. So popping the head in the sand won't help the situation. 

The Suzuki article has troubled me ever since I read it. Since my life altering change from being an 'asleep at the wheel unhealthy mindless consumer' to 'slightly more aware than some, but probably not as awesome as David Suzuki' I've been writing, talking, teaching, workshopping and what not, all for a cause. This cause is built on the principle, that, as individuals we have the power to make significant change regarding issues, notably our personally health and how our consumer choices impact the natural world.

The article got me questioning my own actions. Maybe I'm wasting a good deal of my life away, maybe I'm putting my energy into something that won't really make that much of a difference. I'm not being completely nihilistic but one can't help think that change isn't going to happen, not on a grand scale anyway. Simple observation of encouraged population growth, installation of more fast food chain outlets, the continuing dominance of supermarkets, the endless building of road infrastructure, the blind faith in a market driven economy (not one driven by carrying capacity of natural resources), rising obesity, apathetic populations happily living within the illusion dream they're sold etc. You can observe all these goings on free of charge via the internet, or simply mingling amongst other humans and the built environment.   

As challenged as I am, I'll continue to work on my projects, to share the message about food, humans and the natural world, with the understanding that some people will get reached, some will poke fun at me, many will ignore and most will not even hear me.

Regardless of what happens in my personal world, the outlook for us all is pretty bleak. I'd love to read over these paragraphs in 20-30 years (if I'm still around). I'm no futurist but I'm fairly confident most of my predictions will come true (at least over the next few hundred years) based on current trends and forecasts. 

We will continue to get fatter, much fatter, and more of us. This will place a heavy burden on our already struggling health care system. Preventable lifestyle diseases will overtake natural and age related disease. This isn't just the fault of people choosing to eat 'bad' food, the fundamental problem is that this 'bad' food is approved and legal to sell, this is the root cause. Our alternative? Take the shit off the shelves, replace it with real food, teach people how to cook and watch health return. But this will never happen. 

Climate change is only starting to rear it's ugly head. In decades to come we will see countries and entire geographical regions struggle with drought, flooding, extreme heat and severe storms. Crops will fail, water supplies will be compromised, people will die for lack of food, people will also fight to take other countries resources. Richer countries will try to help poorer countries, but eventually richer countries will themselves face turmoil. Mega migrations of populations will take place, people driven from one area to another due to increased tensions, wars and persecution. Good quality natural resources will replace valuable commodities like gold and oil, and people will kill for them. Our alternative? Embrace cleaner energy regardless of the current cost. Undertake massive by-back schemes for marginal farming land, reforest and improve biodiversity. Consume less material items (not all, just less), embrace 'local' where possible, support the emergence of local manufacturing industries, opt for anything with reduced road miles, improve public transport for large cities, tax single driver city cars, subsidise efficient small scale regenerative farming business, subsidise the re-introduction of multi species small scale agg on the outskirts of major cities that supply fresh real food to city dwellers and replace the single species crops currently supplying processed food production, penalise waste for companies and individuals, address food waste and invest in new technologies to search for cleaner energy. 

The population of the western world will continue to get dumber, lazier and more apathetic. Will ask less questions, and will trust more in what they're told. They will continue to be fed all information and entertainment by different forms of media, sold the dream of the perfect house, full of natural resource hungry material items and sold food that will make them unhealthy (but happy for the short term, .....as it gets eaten). Some groups will try to fight against this but will fail, beaten down by the much louder voices of large companies and the governments that are in their pockets. It's been happening for a long time, and continues to happen. Even in the past few weeks the lobbyist's for industrialised poultry farms had the term 'free range' to brand farms where 10,000 birds occupy 1 hectare, by state governments at a recent meeting in Canberra. How much news coverage did this get, very little. The idea is to feed as many people, as economically cheaply as possible, regardless of the welfare or environmental implications. 

Yes these are all generalisations, and I'm sure someone will tear me apart for writing it (the joys of social media and being an idiot magnet) but the future is bleak. I don't want this future, I'm sure no one does, but maybe I'm wrong. 

I hate to use this term, but I think we may need to look at many of these issues with a 'holistic' approach. For example, we won't save the world by all of us simply going vegan, especially if we're eating fresh produce out of season that's travelled thousands of kilometres to reach us, we'd just be adding to more green house emissions, and wildlife causalities. Or if we eat processed vegan food that's doing nasty things to our insides, simply because we believe it to be a better option than eating animals. If we want to make change happen we need to think outside our comfort zone. In this case, instead of eating imported summer vegetables and fruit that's travelled great distances, lets look at local, in season produce, and maybe produce that's not required huge energy inputs to create it. Let's look for food thats not packaged, which means less landfill, less finite resources required to produce said packaging. Everything needs to be broken down and analysed. And we can't get it right all of the time. This shift will come about by actively making changes we can realistically make. Starting with our food will bring about massive results. Most of the food we're currently eating requires huge energy inputs to create, it's not a sensible long term approach. We need to embrace regenerative, because sustainable isn't actually possible. I can't tell you what to do, you have to discover shit for yourself, otherwise real change doesn't happen (long term). Whats needed is some serious habitual transformation as consumers, in every aspect. 

But none of this change will happen on a scale that is required. It's an unfortunate reality we must face. Someone once commented that we just need to learn to live with this bleak future, to adapt to the shit that's heading towards us. It's not really a very positive world to be raising children in, but we have to make do with the situation. I wonder how David Suzuki feels about the future that he spent a lifetime trying to change. I wonder if he feels hope. Once you're engaged with these issues and the subsequent realities of future, it's difficult to feel that same sense of hope you felt as a child, watching those magical Suzuki films.   

 

 

 

Open letter to Cole Supermarkets and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Hello Coles and Mal,

I'm sure you're both aware that Australia's health is a little bit shit at the moment. It's obvious that we're a tad chubbier than we used to be, but that's not the half of it. Obesity is obvious, but we also have lots of hidden health problems attributed to our diet and lifestyle choices. High salt is giving us unprecedented hyper tension problems, sugar seems to be adding to the diabetic epidemic, and auto immune diseases are off the gluten IBS charts.  

I know you both care, and I'm sure you want to see something done about it, so I'm showing a bit of innovation and initiative (just like you asked PM Mal ;-)) and writing you this pleading letter asking for some help.

Our health care system is overrun with 'clients' presenting with illness's that are diet and lifestyle related, and I have this sneaking suspicion that if we addressed what people were eating in the first place, then we might be able to reduce the amount of preventable illness's that are like, so hot right now. I have a project that I've been trying to get off the ground for a few years now. I call it 'The Nursery Project'. It's a foundation, foundation owned, Not-for-Profit, Tax recipient and it's aim is simple.

To teach people how to eat better and be healthy.

The Nursery Project is a physical place, it's a school kitchen that will teach people how to cook with real food, we will run classes teaching sensible and practical nutrition with the idea to improve peoples understanding of the importance of food and how it influences our personal health. 

You see, there's is a lot of misleading information out there, and we the people are so confused. The food producing companies are placing the onus on us to make better food choices, but we keep making making poor choices because we haven't been educated properly. We pick up a packet of food at a supermarket that tells us it's healthy, but when we look at the ingredients it's loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives. Being so confused and bewildered, we've kind of given up as a population and now we eat all sorts of funny 'food' like products, which between you and me are making us a bit sick. I'm sure you're aware of the statistics.

Showing a bit of initiative, we thought we'd try and help turn things around and set up a place to teach people what's not really being taught. We'd like to teach that old approach to healthy living, lots of veg, fruit with a little meat, some grains and dairy, but very little processed food. We aim to educate via fun experiences what food really is, like carrots, zucchini and eggplant, and what their amazing uses are other than just funny emojis. 

But we're just little people, we can't do it on our own. And we figured we should embrace the disrupt approach by asking one of the two large supermarkets that, well let's be honest, sells a lot of the food that's making us sick. Which I can confirm from personal experience, your food made me morbidly obese, the salt hidden in your processed food gave me hyper tension, the sulphites gave me respiratory problems and the sugar played funny games with my brain. It's not a nice reality to hear, but the products I habitually purchased from your store for years is what made me sick, but here in this letter you are being offered an opportunity to turn that around. Oh and by the way Coles, I no longer eat your processed foods, so I've lost 22kg, I have no problems with high blood pressure, allergies and my mental state is vastly improved. I no longer need to buy pharmaceutical products to treat my medical symptoms, which I find very interesting, don't you? Imagine if that happened on a broad scale Prime Minister. Imagine how much money the government would save having less patients in a poor state of health just like the old version of me. Just a thought anyway (btw, hope you're having fun in China Mr PM, that's where apples come from now, but that's an environmental issue we shouldn't touch on right now, might be a little bit delicate while you're there).

So what do we need? We need good old money. We need money to buy land, to build infrastructure and to hire people to teach our students.  

Hey Coles, it's tax deductible so don't stress, because that means more money for you. (I used to work in your head office, so I know how much you love making money for the shareholders. ;-) wink wink, cha ching! No point hiding it, you're a massive profit driven company, you're not the Salvation Army. 

Coles, at the very least have a pretty good fresh produce section. We think that's a great start for better nutrition even if it's not produced with the highest of environmental standards, it's a damn fine start (in regards to better nutritional health). Unfortunately we can't help promote your processed foods, high sugar sauces, frozen nuggets or celebrity chef endorsed ready meals, but we can tell people to go buy your lettuce, beetroots and grapes and other fresh whole food produce (if they're Australian grown that is. Ha ha so many issues). 

I hope you're the slightest bit interested. I know it's a bit weird me writing to you, but, as I hope you can understand, I'm a little frustrated with the lack of inaction in regards to the health and wellbeing of Australia. Such a pretty country, so many sick people though, can't be a good look for tourism. Anyways, if you want to drop me a line to discuss further, there is a contact form above. Say hello, maybe together we could make some real fine change happen for this country.

 

Ro

 

 

 

 

Trying to make some sense of things

There are times that I just don't understand what's going on. I mean I know why, it's money and the world needs money to operate, theres no new information there.

Today I walked past a very long row of potato chips, corn chips and flavoured rice crisps at a supermarket. The variety was staggering. Obviously there is a decent amount of money to be made from such a 'food' product. In fact if you walk the other isles of a supermarket you'll see loads of 'food' product on offer that also sells like hot cakes, from canned food, marinades, snacks, confectionary, ready made meals and frozen items. There's no shortage of this kind of 'food' product, the majority of the edible produce at supermarkets is of this elk. The problem is that it's not really food. This accusation will likely enrage some people, but there are many that get what I'm talking about. 

I used to think it was food, and I loved eating it. The result was a very unhealthy adult. It's the same old story of the processed food with hidden amounts of sugar, salt, preservatives etc, and after years of relying on it, I got rather plump and sick with annoying aliments like hyper-tension, anxiety, depression and allergies. I'm not writing this to be a tin hat wearing scar monger, I'm simply sharing what I've observed from a personal experience. I'm thankful that I had some sort of turn around and began a (rather frustrating) journey of real food discovery. I say frustrating because if you can imagine your whole world turned upside down, everything you believed in turned out to be a load of bollocks. In the early years of my transition I'd pick up a item of 'food' at the supermarket, maybe some food item that I'd been buying for years, then I'd read the ingredients and pop it back on the shelf in frustration. No purchase would be made. 

Anything that wasn't full of understandable ingredients, or had high salt, sugar or preservatives went back on the shelf. Anything that had ingredients that I knew went in the trolly, eventually this meant that most of my purchases ended up being whole-foods. That was my early days, eventually I went a little further and embraced some even harsher rules, of which I won't elaborate on for now.

I know there is someone reading this that will try to point out that processed food isn't bad, and I'm just not buying it because I don't recognise the names of the ingredients, of which most are safe, or they wouldn't be approved. Well that's cool, everyone is entitled to their opinion. and if you want to eat that food, be my guest. I'm not in the business of telling anyone what to do.

I'm interested in what's good for me, and I embraced real food, I opt for a fresh carrot instead of a frozen packaged carrot or tinned carrot or carrots in a pre-made frozen mixed vegetable stir fry, of a processed carrot soup, or a processed carrot flavoured cake mix, or carrot crisps, I'm sure you get the picture. 

A long time ago I realised that I'd lost my connection with nature, I had no idea what was natural, I had no idea how important nature was to me. With hindsight this is an understandable situation, my life was flooded with media and advertising trying to sell me new products, or tote their healthy and worthy credentials. I was a bit confused, maybe even a little consumer brain washed. It was a bit of a struggle to wade out past the break of bullshit, and I think I may still be paddling and wading to this day, but probably not so hard. So I embraced real food and after many years of eating this simple kind of food, I have developed a different set of consumer eyes. When I look at a lot of supermarket 'food' I no longer see it as food. I still get pangs of wanting to make a purchase, but the knowledge I have now reminds me not to fall for the trap. 

I may have learnt a valuable lesson, but it's come a little too late. My body is scarred. Today a newspaper came to photograph me for an article, and the photographer worked hard to get a nice portrait of a bloke that's not super in to having his photo taken. I asked to look at the photo he had taken and sure enough, rolls of fat in the middle area. I've lost a heap of weight (22kg since I was at my worse) but I still have the scars of a middle aged man that has a past. I'm the fittest and healthiest I've been in my adult life, but I still look like a sack of shit, and that is extremely frustrating, something I wish for nobody, not even people I don't like (and I can be pretty vindictive). 

What's even more frustrating is how futile the situation is, allow me to elaborate. I'm sharing a little bit of my life experience in the hope that some younger person will read it, take something from the story that will keep them healthy and not take them down the path of ill health and obesity that I've walked. It's a horrible path which comes with complementary depression and anxiety not to mention the other health issues that obesity harbingers. The battle lines may have been drawn, but realistically we have no hope of winning the fight against crap food. It's a shame because it really is making a mess of our communities health. In fact I believe less people seem to listening, and the population is getting sicker. I understand why, what I'm sharing is not a very exciting message, it's not like a fun entertaining competition cooking show on TV, it's a bit of a crappy message but a message that needs to be heard (if we want to see change that is).  

There are times when I ask myself what I'm doing with my life, why I've taken on the challenge of trying to alter our food culture in some way, no matter how small that change might be. My experience of a GROW, GATHER, HUNT, FORAGE guy put me back in touch with nature, it's given me some great skills and experiences. It's part of my daily routine now, it forms my annual calendar and it's based on what's happening in nature and it's wonderful. That was what 'Whole Larder Love' was all about, documenting my journey back to nature. I'm still learning lots of tricks but I no longer need to focus my energy on communicating that I'm JUST a grower of food, a forager of food, a hunter of food, as these are all just parts of my life, a life that revolves around eating better, being aware of what is good for me and avoiding what isn't good for me. 

I was asked to provide a bio to someone the other day, and realised my bio is now outdated. I've changed, and that's a good thing. Sure I still do all those things with food, but I'm more interested in communicating the reasons behind why I do what I do, instead of just what I'm eating. I'm interested in the bigger picture. I'm interested in communicating that we need change, for our health, and the health of the natural world. I'm sure there are people out there willing to listen. I see first hand how unhealthy we are, surely we can all see it. How we make change I'm not entirely sure, but something needs to be done. 

My other option is to disappear in these highlands, ignore the issues facing us, get a labouring job on a farm and never write another word. And that would kill me with frustration, let alone leave me with some level of guilt for not doing anything about what I know to be wrong. I'm not going to stop people in the supermarketers and tell them they're buying unhealthy food, instead I'll lead by example, I'll continue to share information and generate discussion which I hope, may lead to a change in thinking. Anything is better than doing nothing. I want to break rules, I want to rock boats, I want to make waves in what is currently very calm waters. 

 

 

body is the Earth

"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn"

These clever words are sung by Jim Morrison from The Doors in the song 'The Wasp'. They often play through my earbuds as I run. Yes I'm one of those annoying people that exercises. 

As I sweat profusely, my shirt grossly sticking to my torso, I think about the line, how true the words are and how they apply to many facets of life.  

If you've ever read through these pages you'd be familiar with the story about how I was once a super fatty that ate crap food, eventually becoming unhealthy as a result, then had some kind of life epiphany, starting growing veggies in my backyard, sourcing my food from places other than just the stupidmarket, as a result I got much healthier.

I have a fairly basic approach to better living, and that is, generally speaking, to embrace a life of eating mostly food that begins as real food ingredients, you know the stuff the government tells you you should eats lots of, things like vegetables, fruit and a little meat. Although I publicly advocate for a better understanding of health, I'm not telling anyone that to be healthy you need to embrace a range of new wellness fads. In fact I think a lot of them are a load of shit, I think they confuse the situation and polarise what is needed for good health compared to what contributes to poor health. 

Health is relative, and some people are convinced that if a packet of 'food' states its healthy credentials then it must be healthy. It's absolute trickery, and we're better off with food that has no printed credentials, nothing printed on it at all is preferable. Health can be achieved by making simple changes, it's as simple as cooking with more vegetables or eating vegetables at all. You'd be surprised with what many people are eating, our populations health is a mirror that no one can deny. I digress. 

Back to the excellent line from Mr Morrison. 

"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn"

The more I hear the words the more they set off sparks. I relate them to my own personal story, I imagine the sliding doors (The Doors....get it?) to other versions of me that could have existed. I could have stayed the path, continued to get fatter and sicker, no doubt ending up in the box, six foot under a lot earlier. Alternatively, I could have turned extreme and morphed into a green smoothie, coconut loving vegan yogi, kefir fermented, ancient grain, activated almond and choo choo berry wellness kind of person. I'm not suggesting that any of these activities will make you unhealthy, it's just that they're not the only way to get healthy, and definitely not what kept people relatively healthy for eons (not discounting the threat of black plaque, small pox and silly wars etc). Instead I went middle of the road, sensible, common sense, practical, logical and achievable (and by the way, foraging wild mushrooms and eating wild shot rabbit isn't what made me healthy, eating real food is what made me healthy, carrots, cabbage, tomato etc). The end result is that my medical vitals are in better shape, I feel better,  and most important of all is that my buns look much better in a tight pair of jeans. 

Lets re-cap the big picture story.

1. Because of my actions, my health declined, and at some point I realised I needed to make changes in order to improve my health (whilst understanding and accepting that my health would never return to that perfect optimal state, but could be significantly repaired).

2. I then made deliberate effort required, implemented the necessary changes, and I repaired (over many years and I continue to repair).

Does the story sound familiar?  Let's examine another similar example. 

We have acknowledged that our planet is in a poor state of health, a result of our collective actions. We also know that we could make changes which would result in an improvement of earth's health. We're currently at that point, that sliding door moment where we're required to make a choice, do we do something or do nothing. Only time will tell which door we've chosen. 

What is profound (if only to me) is the relationship between giving a shit about my personal health and giving a shit about environmental health. For me, the two seem to go hand in hand. They shift back and forwards, they linger in the distance, pulling and pushing, influencing in my life choices. Allow me to elaborate. Years ago I wanted to reduce my impacts on the natural world by growing my own food, as a result I suddenly found I had a bucket load of fresh produce, which I then ate, which improved my health. Seeing the mash up here? The more I understand about real food, the importance of core ingredients of cooking, the more I want to support the places where that produce is grown with regenerative agricultural practices at play, simply because the fresher and more naturally produced the food is, the healthier it is for me. See the pulling and the pushing? It's like a porno stuck in a loop.  

I wonder how amazing the world would be if we turned off the TV's, if the advertising had little effect on us, if we returned to some of the sensible old ways, ate better food, the stuff that starts as a carrot, an onion, an eggplant and thus improved our health. I wonder if doing this, in learning to realign our value system we'd fall head over heals with supporting good agriculture and in turn reduce at least some of our environmental impacts. 

I don't have all the answers, but I'm fairly comfortable with the choices I've made, and I have a fair idea what to do going forward. But these choices only impact directly on me, my family and to some extent my local community. Hang on, think about that. Positive changes that impact on you the individual, your family and your local community. Wow I wonder what impact that might have. If we all did that, wouldn't it change everything?

Today I read an article about survivalist preppers, making ready for the Apocalypse. Maybe in 20 years time this article will be redundant, the world will have spiraled into chaos, Trump will be the overlord and computers won't even exist. Sliding doors people, sliding doors.  

Here is a recent photo of me, pre-apocolypse, but post-veg box delivery. As you can see I have some 'scars' from the old version of me, but also note the something unusual on my face, a smile. That's because I'm happier than I once was. I have less, I also have more. 

 

 

 

 

Perspective via experience

Every hour or so a gentle breeze would meander up the hill, working it’s way between the manicured rows of grape vines, momentarily bringing relief. 

The day was hot, akin to hours cooking over a flaming fry stove. Like a bitter ex-lover the sun had quite the sting, and I regretted choosing solid black in tee-shirt selection earlier that morning, but was thankful remembering my white straw hat. The picking crew comprised mostly of vietnamese labourers, one german police officer on a working holiday, a Japanese student, and an English back-packer, all utilising working visas. I was one of only three locals helping out on the grape pick. 

We were picking grapes that make the Chardonnay for a local winery each year. The plump bunches of grapes were beautifully sweet, good enough as a table grape. They were warm from the sun and exploded with initial sweetness, followed by tart and bitterness once chewed into the seeds and skin. I imagined these grapes on a platter with room temperature brie, roasted figs and jamon. Alas, this was a mere daydream occupying my a wandering mind during the monotony of snipping and tossing bunch after bunch of grapes into sticky white buckets. I’d fill a bucket in what felt like a handful of minutes, then I’d move onto a fresh empty one, where the bunches of grapes made hollow thud sound when they hit the bottom of the empty bucket. This rhythmic task had a cadence, at times it seemed endless. 

The Vietnamese workers were efficient in every way, they are professional pickers, and I enjoyed working amongst them, frantically trying to keep to their pace, and although I had no idea what they where saying, I quietly laughed with their banter. You would find it difficult not to, the laughter was infectious. I wished for someone apt like Luke Nguyen, with his skill of translating that super fast language in the hope I could make sense of what was at the core of all the jokes. I wished it didn’t involve my over sized cowboy hat, although one of their crew was wearing a large novelty sombrero, obviously from a costume shop, reminiscent of the famous urban sombrero. So large that no sun touched his head, nor his shoulders for that matter, and he smiled at me a lot, maybe he thought we could be extras in a B grade Vietnamese western. 

We continued to pick all day, excluding those moments when the crew simply dropped tools and broke for lunch or tea without so much as a mutter. They just walked off, ate some food, smoked a cigarette, and without fanfare returned to work just as they had left. No fuss, simply efficient, quite admirable. 

The winery owner drove up and down the rows in a dusty red ATV towing a trailer fitted with a large tub. We’d pour the buckets of freshly picked grapes into the tub, the ATV would then disappear into a storage shed to be unloaded, return towing behind a new empty tub. Tubs and tubs were filled with Chardonnay grapes, all destined to be transported to a nearby town where the wine maker would press them within 24 hours, and the wine making process would commence. 

We ended up picking around five tonne that day, which the wine maker seemed impressed by. In the afternoon, with the work completed, the bus loaded up with the vietnamese workers where I gave an awkward wave to a bunch of people I’d worked all day with, had not really spoken to, but was part of a team with. The back-packers shuffled off to their on farm accomodation and I opened the door of my van, greeted by the savage heat of a car interior that had been baking in the sun all day. With the windows quickly downed, I drove over the hills, headed home with a great big smile on my face having just agreed to do it all again the following week. 

Yet another experience to add to the list. 

Understanding the grapes I picked aren’t really food, instead they’ll make a stunning wine, it was the laborious experience which is adding to my collection of memories, forming a view of the food world. It’s our collective memories and experiences that influence our opinions and views, they define the prescription for glasses of our world view, and I’m fortunate to have had many experiences. 

I grew up in the country, on a farm with cows, chickens, home grown food, fishing for trout, eel and crayfish, picking mushrooms, berries and preserving food on hot summer days for winter provisions. This life was relatively free and simple, full of those cliché rural experiences. 

In my teen years I was sent to a city boys collage, where I quickly learnt that peer pressure was a thing. I learnt that if you didn’t have the right brand of shoes, the most up to date Sony Walkman, or an expensive skateboard that you where a nothing. Here I leant the perceived value of materialism.  

In my twenties I worked corporate, I moved to the outer suburbs and lived amongst the community where many people strived to build wealth, to have an appearance of success, even if it was the suburban version. The new electronic house gadgets, expensive golf equipment, flat screen TVs, new cars, theatre rooms and renovated kitchens. I strived, and I failed, in the process teaching myself a great lesson in how I did NOT want to live. 

In my late twenties I left the city, returning to a rural life where I felt more at home. I returned to University studying the field of Natural Resources and for a few years worked on a crew planting thousands of trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges in rehabilitation programs, ran community engagement and education programs on the importance of native vegetation whilst also spraying pesticides to control invasive woody weed species on crown land parcels. 

I then secured an office as a pubic servant in state Government. This is where I learnt that it’s not wise to rock the boat when working in public service, in fact just pretend you’re not even in a boat, the boat doesn’t exist, nor does the ocean, but definitely complain about the apparent disappearance of life vests. I also learnt the importance of writing formal reports about the missing boat, the lack of ocean and applying for the funding for oars, but definitely not to be rock any boats or approved floatation devices.

I worked a bunch of other jobs from indie magazine publisher to wedding photographer and a few in between. I worked so much that I stopped looking after myself, got lazy in lifestyle, ate lots of crap food, didn’t exercises, drank excessively to self medicate unhappiness and I smoked like a chimney. 

Then I started the hobby of growing food in my backyard, wrote about the journey online, was offered to write a book about it, then another. Toured internationally presenting talks on the experience, returned home having had a more great experiences, meeting a lot of people involved in food, having great discussion, developed a passion for food, its problems, its solutions. Dove into the deep end of research to explore as much as I could about food, how it’s produced and how it impacts on the natural world and human health. 

I moved to an old farm house surrounded by industrialised conventional farming and got a first hand look into the realities of how food is produced on a large scale. You couldn’t ask for a more honest insight than living in a paddock surrounded by huge boom spraying tractors and helicopters flying overhead dusting crops with fungicides, pesticides and fertilisers. Learning how the potatoes are grown to make the french fries for Le’ Golden Arches has been a real eye opener, the sheer natural resources required, the water, the oil, it is an appropriate time to use the word phenomenal. 

From a more existential experience, I’ve changed destructive yet quite common habitual lifestyle choices, lost weight, reduced medical ailments, and helped out the old mental health department. This has been the most profound of all the experiences, because I can see what CAN BE DONE. I can see past the bullshit of detox diets, dieting companies, green smoothies, processed ‘health food’ rectal pre-biotic trends and much, much more. I spend most of my days talking to people about food, reading about food, asking questions about food, discovering amazing things that most people just won’t see. This doesn’t make me smarter, more intelligent, an expert, nor does it mean my opinion is right or better than anyone else’s. Just like the day picking grapes with international labourers, it’s simply an experience that assists in developing a thought process. It’s about sharing the things I’ve learned, the things I’ve seen, heard and discussed.  

It’s been eye opening, and it’s why I’m writing a novel about it. 

  

   

The Epoch of Facepalmocene

Geologists have declared a new age to describe the extensive human impact on the globe, they call it Anthropocene. Officially it hasn’t been accepted by all the lab coat wearing community, but at the very least it’s up for discussion at the water fountain just outside the lecture theatre. Technically we’re still in the Holocene epoch, but our modern consumerist way of living is creating such impact with all that pesky carbon, plastic and other stuff we’re leaving around, that gosh darn it, let’s create a new epoch to celebrate. 

Even though I have a pair of science based tertiary courses under my belt, I’m not really a member of the scientific fraternity, I never did finish that doctorate. Useless personal information aside, I’d like to propose a new epoch, the FacePalmocene. 

Never before have we had such a well documented, scientifically accepted observation of our impacts on the natural world, but we’re just not quite getting the message. I’m not going to point the finger at politicians, the poor bastards can’t see past a four year term at the best of times. It’s us that’s to blame. Consumers.

As individuals, we’re paying more attention to ‘me’ and ‘now’ than we are to things like ‘us’ and ‘future’. Generally speaking our priorities continue to revolve around consumer values. Yes there is a sector of the community that is mindful and consumes less, eats well (of which you probably fall into), but it’s not representative of the greater majority. There are many complex reasons for this, none of which can be solved or described entirely in a few well written sentences. Suffice to say there is a machine at work, turn on a television and it’s acutely obvious.

So much has changed in my short lifetime, alternatively many things have remained the same. Human behaviour for instance, so diverse, so complex remains unchanged in many respects. We aren't too keen on a bit of enlightenment, opting instead for self destructiveness, ultimately because the problem is so complex, it's just too difficult to change. There probably isn’t a government in the western world that hasn’t yet commissioned a report into the public health crisis of obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, heart and lifestyle induced diseases. Authorities are aware, the media is aware, much of the population is aware, if you wake up in the morning and you can’t see your dick because your gut is so large, surely you must be aware. Two thirds of the population is either overweight or obese now, so when ever you’re in a crowded public place, you can’t ignore the reality, just don’t stare it’s rude, especially don’t eyeball the man looking for his dick. 

We know we have a problem with food, but we just can’t manage to unpopularise the ‘food’ that’s making the majority of us sick. Why is that? It’s obvious that the ‘food’ that’s available to us is driven by a market economy, not practical, sensible or balanced diets. Promoting the concept of eating real food, not being a celebrity chef, not labelling it with a buzz’s words or having a hip image is not cool, and it doesn’t sell lots of cook books (I know this, ouch). The concept of eating seasonally, mostly plant matter with a little meat is not a new idea, it’s been around for thousands of years. For the last 60 odd years though, we’ve messed things right up, to the point of absolute confusion and bewilderment. So confused are we humans that we’re constantly coming up with new diets, fads and hero ingredients that will return us to a tantric state of health, but the underlying food and health issue remains because we are yet to alter our culture. Healthy eating is actually really simple, it’s just not as hip when compared to what most people are obviously eating, and it's not getting the media attention needed to alter our culture, please pass the chicken salt. 

As a general population, we still can’t seem to give much of a poo about how what we produce impacts on the natural world. This week the news highlighted the Aussie cotton growers having a hard time with a poor yield this season. Is anyone even asking the question whether we should be growing cotton in Australia in the first place? Are there alternatives? Hemp perhaps? More alarmingly though I was surprised by the lack of discussion about one of the main reasons for the low yield this cotton growing season; it was from accidental drift of a sprayed herbicide, Phenoxy 2-4D. If you’re unaware of what ‘drift’ refers to, it’s when an agricultural pesticide/fertiliser gets carried ‘off target’ by wind and air to a place it’s not supposed to be, in this case it reportedly traveled 10km, yes 10km.  2-4D, the juice the World Health Organisation suggests might be kinda like, almost, possibly, carcinogenic did travel around in the air for a while before landing on the cotton crop, whoopsy! Before any chemists start sending me scientifically correct hate mail, we can at least agree that the jury is still out on the toxicity of this juice. Some say it’s ok, some say there isn’t enough evidence, and some say it’s potentially dangerous. That argument aside, it’s still being used, like Kenny Rogers it’s a gamblers game, we may not understand its impacts for decades. It drifted 10km down wind, might be carcinogenic, probably not good for food crops, that’s a concern right? Oh wait, the Bachelors on, I can’t miss this episode. 

My Face Palm action is so frequent, I’ve considered surgery to get the whole damn thing permanently attached. You may feel the same, you may feel helpless in the epoch of FacePalmocene. What can we, as insignificant multi celled organisms with consciousness possibly do? Maybe we could share articles like this on social media in between the cat memes, drunk festival photos and inspirational quotes. Perhaps we could have open discussions with friends and family, good old communication. What about a whole of country intervention? We could hug, tightly embrace each other and employ some laughter therapy, it was all the rage a few years ago, seemed to do the trick. Or maybe we take to a boring practical and uncool approach and use things for longer, buy better, well made quality that will last, hold back from ‘upgrading’, reuse, recycle, source better food if possible, get our learning on and become aware about how we can reduce. 

Reduce has so much potential for positive change in this modern world. Not to stop consuming completely, simply to reduce our consuming, to reduce the impacts of our consuming. This would make a massive difference and result in far less face palming.   

      

 

   

     

 

   

Eat shit and die

A few days ago I spotted an advertising billboard promoting a new kids 'healthy' snack. Even though it was a processed food (no doubt with the usual suspects of preservatives, some form of sugar etc) the advert advised that you could find this product in the HEALTH FOOD SECTION of your local supermarket. Head scratching ensued.  

The madness of modern food has now reached the point of being humorous. Let's think about it, a 'health food section' of a supermarket? Shouldn't ALL the food be healthy? And to add a little irony, a lot of the food in this magical section isn't actually as healthy as it suggests. Just because a packet of chips is 'organic' doesn't mean it isn't still just a packet of chips, just because something has coconut oil in it, doesn't mean you won't get stupified. Sure you can have a 'treat' every now and then, and like all dodgy things, it's best in moderation. When a processed food is marketed as healthy it's misleading to the GP (general public) many of which invest little effort into learning about what they're eating, hence the current state of poor health across most western countries. The healthy food product also adds to food anxieties. This magic health food 'may' cure that, this food prevents that ailment, and this probiotic will 'repair' you. It's phycological marketing preying on the fear of the individual becoming unhealthy, and no one actually wants to be unhealthy do they? We all know that every time we shove food in our mouths we're determining our health, and this is exactly what the marketing players rely on. 

'Healthy' food information on packaging and advertising is overwhelming to the consumer. In many cases the health food in question is processed, it's packaged, it's high in sugar or salt, may even contain sulphites, and often it's travelled some distance (e.g. Bolivian Quinoa or any coconut product, FROM THE TROPICS!) Often the supposed health benefits aren't really worth the extra coin the consumer forks out, nor is it necessarily any good in regards to environmental impact, soya products for example. But it makes a shit load of money for the retailers and the manufactures, and really that's what's important isn't it? The growth of our economy. 

 

Toting manufactured food as a 'healthy' option, or highlighting the health benefits of any food product (e.g. the controversial permeate free, A1, A2 milk), continues to polarise the issue of personal health. A consumer either chooses to eat regular food (not so healthy apparently) or alternatively values their health, and purchase's a 'healthy' option. The health food industry is huge for this very reason, with some of the big sellers being speciality oils, coconut wonder products, powdered supplements, vitamin supplements and milk alternatives, the later of which has most definitely gone out of control.

There is an element of our population that are now so health addicted that there's actually a name for it, orthorexia, which involves a maniacal obsession with eating only healthy food. To a large extent, it seems like many of us are dipping into a bit of orthorexia pie. The spread of the health food obsession is evident with the success of certain fad diets, 10 week healthy eating apps, wellbeing cookbooks and magazines full of adverts for, yep you guessed it, processed 'health' foods. There's nothing wrong with being interested in ones personal health, but many of the poplar diets and health products of the modern era are extreme in their content, based on short term goals, and mostly focused around weight loss. Weight loss can be a good thing, a very good thing, but unless you whole heartedly embrace sensible eating in it's entirety for the remainder of your life, you're simply just going to lose some weight, eventually returning to bad habits, and pop the weight back on. 

A book full of smoothie recipes was one of the best selling cook books of the year, a reflection of our societies desire to want a quick fix for health, and before I receive any green smoothy hate mail, allow me to point out that just because one consumes a green smoothy, it doesn't automatically make one super healthy, it's only one link in a chain. Also consider what is being 'smoothied'. Was it grown hydroponically? Was it raised with synthetic agricultural fertilisers, pesticides? We tend to popularise these fad approaches to healthy eating without seeing the full picture, in the process we push aside what's really needed. Green smoothies are a modern approach, in some cases they might be good for you but the healthy food was there all along. Fruit, veg, grains and a little diary and meat, all raised via natural systems can provide us a healthy life. It's been supporting the human population for thousands of years. 

These fads, in many cases are not long term approaches to personal health. Blitzing the crap out of fruit and vegetables and drinking nothing but liquid mush for breakfast, lunch and dinner is not going to solve your poor problems long term. I know so many friends that have juiced their way to health.......for a week. Now they're stuck with an expensive juicing machine that gets shoved in the back cupboard, the individual inevitably returns old habits, and weight/poor health eventually set in until the next fad diet is discovered, marketed and embraced by the consumer. I believe the term is 'YoYo'. I'm old enough to know this, I myself have been there.  

I'm going to use a word here that I hate to use, but use consistently; SENSIBLE. You can't have good health without a SENSIBLE balanced diet and some form of consistent exercise. It's what our biological vessels have evolved to operate on. A sensible balance of mostly plant material (that hasn't been too fucked with), a little bit of dairy and protein (meat) and some exercise.  This also includes bread, which is actually just a grain seed, crushed, then fermented with water, then baked, a far cry from supermarket bread.  And for the angry vegans out there, yes some traditional cultures survived on plant matter alone, but on the flip side some traditional cultures also survive on mostly hunted meat, whale blubber or fish. Let's focus on evolutionary biology, not privileged western food opinions. 

As soon as you mess with this basic formula things begin to get shaky. As soon as you embrace this formula, a healthy balance returns. I've experienced this first hand, progressing from a diet of mostly processed foods to a diet of mostly home grown produce, the physiological and mental health benefits have been mind blowing. I can't sell you that formula, there is no app, no 10 week diet program, instead I can give you this information for free. There is little money to be made from promoting the concept of sensible eating, even less when you start toting the idea of only eating food produced naturally, in soil, without inorganic fertilisers and pesticides. In fact the more years I spend advocating for better eating and environmental consideration the more I struggle to make ends meet, turning to labouring as a reliable form of income. If you need a landscape gardener, veg grower or wood chopper call me. And just because I've written books featuring real food, doesn't make me a millionaire published author. I should have written a hunter forager smoothie cook book. Wild mushroom and raw venison smoothies! Hot Damn! 

There is however, much money to be made cashing in on peoples food anxieties and food insecurities. Hence the health food shops, health food  isles at supermarkets, the processed foods toting health benefits, the smoothy shops, all of which are not the be all and end all of a healthy existence. The smoothy shops always crack me up, they use tonnes of fruit and veg that's out of season, not organic and has massive road miles, but the consumer is convinced that what they're consuming is a 'good' healthy option. 

I recently met someone in our hippy home town for a date at a 'health food' shop/cafe (why isn't it just a food shop? Is food that bad that we have to differentiate?) Lovely place, healthy food etc, I don't want to upset the locals. I asked if they sold a locally made Italian style soft drink called Chinotto, a favourite of mine. They didn't sell it on the premise that it wasn't organic. I looked in the fridge, which was stocked with organic soft drinks, but they where still soft drinks containing sugar. Just because something says organic on the packet, doesn't mean it's good for you. The same can be said about 'farm fresh' 'free range' or 'healthy choice'. Often an amount of effluent is associated with these claims. 

Broccoli grown in my back yard is 'organic' and my body likes it, but a packet of organic corn chips are still just processed chips, fried in oil and loaded with fats which if I consume too much of, my body will store fat for leaner times, because of that evolution thing that happens. Get the picture? No? Let me give you another example. 

A family member once bought me a 'good bacteria' product because it was a healthy product. They had good intentions, but I refused to drink it, rightly so, it was loaded with sugar and it didn't fit in with my understanding of healthy living that doesn't include on the surface quick fix's. The product had a massive television marketing campaign and the family member in question had bought into the message and successfully made the transaction to a healthy lifestyle. I'm using sarcasm here. FYI. 

The notion that a certain category of food is healthier than any other food is what polarises the issue. You either have the income to be able to afford the 'healthy' lifestyle or you eat poorly. But the reality is not so obvious. Some of the poorest people eat the healthiest foods. Many cultures outside of the western world that have established food traditions eat a balance of plant matter and meat and enjoy a healthy existence. And for those that are unaware of the existence of other cultures in the world, may I suggest that many do not have such a wide spread intolerance to gluten, diary, solanum, nor do they have deadly food allergies, extremist veganism, but the worst of all is that many of these poor bastards don't have access to our amazing selection of health food options or green smoothy cook books. We should donate now.  

We are smart enough to know that there are two options with food. Eat shit food, don't exercise and your body will run like an out of tune car, you're life expectancy will diminish as will your quality of life. The other option is to eat sensible good food, exercise a bit and you're body will operate at it's optimal. It's disheartening to know that the health food industry was born out of desperation. People wanted a healthy option because much of the food presented to them was unhealthy. But the good food is there, it's as simple as vegetables grown in soil. It's as simple as  being honest with yourself, embracing sensible. I wish one day this could be better understood. 



Applying logic?

For the first part of my adult life I was a sleeping consumer. I would question a few things, bitch about something here and there, but generally speaking, I simply accepted the culture I'd been brought up in, and got on with my life. 

My first serious job was stacking shelves at a Kmart store at a large shopping mall called Eastland. It was a horrible place, still is. It really is a temple for for mindless consumerism. When you're in it, when you part of the machine, it's hard to see the full story. But really this place, in the scheme of things is just a tiny cog, a part of a much larger machine, one of many around the western world where people buy a lot of stuff that they can most definitely live without. Sure these places serve a purpose in our society, they sell us things we can use everyday like clothes, food and tools, even the computer I'm writing on, but much of the stuff available is fairly useless, in a practical sense. However, all of it at some point has utilised natural resources to be manufactured and distributed. Every piece of stuff has a cost, be it human or environmental, and to ad salt to the wound, most of the stuff ends up in landfill. A similar reality exists in regards to food; natural resource utilisation, human and environmental impacts, excess leading to waste. 

For years I simply did not understand food. I did not know about the impacts of my diet choices other than how much it cost me at the register. I had a very limited understanding of nutrition and the impacts of lifestyle choice on personal health. I guess when I was younger I felt slightly more invincible. My mum recently reminded me "you can't put an old head on young shoulders" which is so true, but jeebers I wish I was a little wiser much earlier. I have only my life experience thus far to examine when asking the question "why do most people not care about food like they should?" It's not like I'm super awesome, know everything and always make perfect choices, but for the most part I'm mindful of how my food is produced, it's true cost, and what it's likely to do to my insides. 

I've been trying to figure out why (on average) most of us continue to make fairly poor food choices, and when I say most of us, I'm probably not referring to you, you're engaged in the topic, you're reading a post that's a bit political. Instead I'm referring to the general public that probably has no idea this conversation exists, but is also the majority that has little or no understanding of the impacts of food. A recent add campaign cemented my belief that it's all just a bit confusing for many people out there. I'm not going to harp on about the commercial, who starred in it or which supermarket it was for, instead I think it's important to highlight that it's yet another mixed message about nutrition and health that adds to the sleepy consumers state of bewilderment. I can understand how you'd just not want to care any more. There are so many voices, yet so little clarity. One voice tells you that it's important to look smoking hot and skinny, another says to be comfortable in your body, another says drink green smothies, and one faint voice said something about superfoods. It's all just a load of horse shit. 

The answer is so simple, it's actually rather ri-dick.    

If you are interested in being slightly healthy, then eat lots of unprocessed plant material, (veg, fruit, nuts) and apply sensible moderation for the meat, eggs, diary and stuff made with flour (if possible go for the naturally fermented breads). 

If you're super interested about long term health, read the label on every food item you consume, and learn about the true ingredients of your food, get educated. Not all processed foods are bad, cheese is processed, as is yogurt. But also know that not all processed foods are created equally. Again, if you care enough about health, then get educated. 

If you don't like the idea of eating meat, or animal products then don't eat it. But beware that just because a processed food is meat free doesn't make it a healthy choice, shit processed food is still shit processed food. The same can be said about organic. Organic cola is still a cola, loaded with sugar. Be sensible. 

Every now and then, if you feel like a treat, eat a burger and wash it down with a beer, or two. 

If you give a shit about the impacts of your food other than just your own personal health, then be mindful about where your food comes from. Buy local, and reduce the miles your food travels. Buy food that hasn't had synthetic chemicals applied in it's growing stage or in it's processing stage. Buy less packaged food, reducing impact on environment. Buy food made in your country, even better, within your state, even better within your local food bowl.  

If you give a shit about how the animals and humans that produced your food were made, then opt for fair trade, or agriculture practitioners that embrace some animal welfare standards.  

Generally speaking, if you get educated, if you become informed, then you're empowered to make better consumer choices. This general rule can be applied to all manner of consumerism. 

As simple as this approach is, it will not likely be embraced by the masses, maybe only 10 people will read these words, and not all will agree with the logic. No matter what the case might be, the reality is that If people continue to buy the product, the retail outlet/fast food chain will continue to stock it. At the end of the day, if it makes money for the shareholders, it remains for sale, that's what drives corporations, I know this, I've worked for some of the worst.

There is a lot of food out there that for a long time has been impacting our health, it's making us obese, it's giving us hyper tension, anxiety, depression, food intolerances etc and as long as it remains out there for the population to purchase, the resulting health effects will remain, as will the impacts on the natural world.

If we chose not to support it, then maybe we may see change.

So I guess the change we want to see is within our power? 

 

 

 

Hasta Mañana

It's a cold day, there's a chill blowing in from the south, a stark contrast to yesterdays hot wind which howled at us from the opposite direction. The weather has a hint of insanity this time of year. It's indecisive, like one of those annoying guests at a restaurant trying to decide between the beef and black bean sauce, or the combination sweet and sour. The past few months have been weird here, with brutal mini heatwaves followed by freezing days, reminiscent of middle winter. The plants are confused as I am. I've lost a few, some bolted and set seed, and some have been hit hard, by insects that seem to have arrived much earlier this year. As frustrating as losing some of my crop is, it's all normal to some extent.

I have a few cups of dried beans in store, which is surprising seeing that I cooked with them quite a lot this past winter. The last few years I've become quite the bean eater, which has been a great experience. I know why poor farming folk in the past relied on beans so heavily to get through the cold season. They're an investment in my food bank. I grow as many as I can over summer, hang them to dry in Autumn, painstakingly pull them from the dried pods and pop them into jars for storage. It's fiddly work which I tend to save for the evenings in Autumn when we start huddling around the fire place once again. I don't really start cooking with them until the wild mushrooms of Autumn diminish, and casserole, stew, braising season begins. 

A plate of beans tells quite a story, well this plate of beans does anyway. It's not store bought, not highly processed, not packaged in a tin. It's a culmination of determination, nurturing, effort and patience. It's not just the beans I've been responsible for, but many of the other ingredients. A bottle of preserved whole tomato from last summers crop, a bottle of tomato passata, also from the previous summer, fresh garden parsley, dried garlic and kale, all from my patch. A lamb neck traded with venison I hunted, indirect effort on my behalf, but food trading is an important part of my food income. Even the smokey roasted chilli powder I used came from Jalapeño I grew last year, oven roasted, smoked then blended to make a butt whacking hot spice. And the accompanying bread, my sourdough of course, which took me a few years to master, but now produces a high rise, tasty bread that has only two ingredients, flour and water. 

The ingredients that haven't come from my efforts, are the onions (of which I cannot grow enough to supply my kitchen), the smoked pimenton, cumin, goat feta and glug of olive oil. The rest is mine. 

I'm not sure how many of these bean meals I'll make before summer kicks in, but while the weather remains topsy turvy I'll continue to dish them up. It's an easy process too, I simply brown the onions and garlic, add a few cups of soaked dried beans, the tomatoes, parsley, spices and a bit of water. I then brown the lamb and pop that in too. When it's finally bubbling away, I take the large pot off the hob and slide it into the oven whispering "hasta mañana". It cooks overnight and welcomes me first thing in the morning, baked to perfection. 

This is real food, it's what I identify as food now. Most of the food available to us at the supermarket is not real food, it's not good for us and it's hard on the environment. But it's still there, it's still legal, which blows my mind at times. The more I learn about food the more I realise that the food I used to eat was so full of shit, that it was surely but slowly killing me. I am comforted by the results and transformation in my health, and in my quality of life, shifting from processed foods, to learning how to cook real food. I wish the same for everyone else. We're living in an interesting time, a sad time in fact. We have so much knowledge and awareness but we keep enacting the same consumer behaviour, preventable diet and lifestyle disease continue to rise, even in the young. I don't know how change will come, I'm sure it will be slow if any. In the meantime, I'll stay put right here in the hill country, happily slurping my chilli beans. 

 

From a seed in city soil....

I didn't realise that by growing a handful of veggies in an urban backyard that I would be lead to where I am today, both in a physically and metaphysical sense. Simply by planting some seeds in a patch of city soil I embarked on a journey of discovery, education and experience. Initially my aims where driven by a mix of health, guilt, ethics, environment, and that romantic notion of 'living off the land'. All of these reasons for change remain interrelated and very much connected to one other. 

I've now been living back 'out bush' for a number of years now, and have no intention of moving back to an urban environment. I like it out here too much. I like the big sky, the unobstructed views and the quiet darkness of evening. I like my lush food garden, I like the rabbits and ducks in the paddock, I like my productive hen house and I like the freedom to walk outside with no one peering over the fence. But it is only a rental, and it all has to go. My garden will be gone soon, but I will rebuild, somewhere. I don't want to dwell on that heartbreak, I want to focus on what's beautiful, and that's the lifestyle I'm fortunate to be able to embrace.

Lifestyle is an interesting phenomenon. That we even get to choose a lifestyle is a luxury that poorer cultures or people living with conflict do not have. With that in mind, I appreciate my freedom of choice a great deal. I chose a lifestyle with less fiscal security, instead opting for experience, quality and an increased level of health when compared to my old life. I take pleasure in the freshness of the garden food, the uniqueness of wild fare, the seasonality of forgeable items.

We live fairly normal lives, but In regards to food and chores, we're not that dissimilar to a family living rural 100 years ago. In fact we're not much different to a rural Mediterranean family, in that we enjoy fresh seasonal produce, some local farmed and wild food, all of which I have to work for directly or indirectly. 

Along the way to 'here' I've recorded many fond memories, many of them relating to food I've produced. Memories such as biting into a crisp sugar snap pea straight off the vine from my backyard, or the juice of a sun warmed tomato exploding in my mouth. Munching my first home grown asparagus or opening the jar of my first attempt of pickled jalapeño. I remember the first slice of home cured jamon years ago, it was a full 12 months in the making, even better was the initial success of my very first experiment with chorizo a few years back. Not only was it the enjoyment of the flavours and textures, but most importantly is the joy of accomplishment, of being useful to oneself, and for the family. 

I don't believe that everyone needs to grow their own food or hunt animals or even prance around the forest with a basket of foraged treats. I do think many of our food woes can be improved with more mindful consumer choices, but for those of us with the inclination, willingness for some work, a patch of soil and the time, I can't recommend this approach to living enough. 

This lifestyle has tought me so much. It's changed me in many ways. My entire value system has been flipped upside down, which directly influences other facets of my life. I consume less, I want for less, I value hard waring, practical, reliable, long lasting over design and fashion. I'm excited by small backyard victories, cooking success's and the love for true seasonality of the food that fuels my family. A simple frittata of home grown produce is more celebrated than the expensive gourmet food I once ate at classy restaurants. There is an excitement when a food ingredient returns back in our lives, a floret of broccoli, a pod of peas or the crisp heat of a summer chili. We follow the annual cycle of food and it enriches our lives.     

Embracing this lifestyle has one down side. The deeper I go into this beautiful peasant, natural, self sufficient, hippy, practiculture living, the less I can relate to my old world. I used to love to consume, to get what ever I wanted, even though I didn't need it. Electrical items, clothes, gadgets and general stuff that filled my house, but I did not use. It's not that I now live in a cave, wearing animal skins, instead I've just managed to embrace an approach that involves less. Less stuff, less baggage instead more focus on high value experiences and quality of living.

I don't have all the answers. I do love living this way though, and as much as I'd like to see more people embrace it, I acknowledge that it isn't everyones cup of tea. Even when it comes to an individuals quality of health, it's often not until something bad happens that major changes are made to lifestyle choices. Even when we know what we are doing is bad for us, or the planet, we continue the behaviour (case in point, the current western lifestyle). We are definitely an interesting species. On that note, before I get too political, I'll go pop on the kettle for a herbal tea. How things have changed.   



What happened to common sense?

This afternoon I overheard a conversation about milk that was the straw that broke the nutritionally healthy camels back. I thought about this milk conversation as I cooked dinner for my family. A dinner of common sense real food, some roast veg with passata baked sausage. But let's not talk about a sensible dinner, allow me to tell you about the milk and nutritional information fiasco. 

Image 1. Sensible dinner porn

The hot news is that milk is bad. In fact, it seems that all diary is bad of you. 'Everyone' seems to be telling me about the magical properties of cow milk alternatives like almond, soy, and coconut milk and of course the most popular of all, the Choo Choo Berry Milk. Apparently all these milks have God like healing powers. Normal cows milk however is clearly evil, and is the root cause of most illness, including stupidity. How embarrassing that all these years various human cultures have been culturing milk to make cheese and such, which was obviously a whey bad idea. So bad that everyone that has ever consumed dairy products will now go to hell, where they'll be forced to drink diabolical spiced lattes and hell fire smoked cheddar. 

Ok so I'm clearly going over the top, but for fucks sake can we just calm down with the nutritional advice? It's getting out of control, to the point that I just don't want to care about food anymore. This is the age of endless information, and the internet is a hot bed for conflicting 'science', irrational opinions and vested interests. The nutritional advice game is played out on every platform. I can't look at Instagram, Facebook or Grinder without someone telling me that Choo Choo berries cure cancer or flax seed oil will give me a harder, longer erection.

I feel for the people beginning the journey of eating healthy food, for it's a veritable mine field of conflicting information. You can imagine someone asking google those big questions;  "is milk bad for me?" "can I die from cabbage overdose?" "can I get drunk on Kombucha?" "actually what the fuck is kombucha and why is everyone drinking it?"

Image 2. More sensible dinner porn. 

As a bloke that's come from chicken nugget land to roasted home grown veg for dinner, I can relate to how challenging it is to wade through the bullshit information out there. It's almost like it's screaming at the consumer about 'healthy food' options, actually let me rephrase that, 'misleading' the consumer. Examples are everywhere. I see that my favourite processed food company McCains now has a 'healthy grains' pre made meal range, containing the magical properties of ingredients like quinoa and wild rice (wtf is actually wild about wild rice?). But what can we expect from companies like McCains? They even sell a frozen roasted potato product that cooks in an oven in just 30mins, about the same time it takes to actually roast an actual potato. Any meal that comes in a box that has to tell you it's healthy, probably isn't very healthy. An apple doesn't need to tell you it's healthy, neither does a beetroot, not even a roast spud. But thankfully we have the companies to help us time poor people out, they even tell us on their website....."We all know we should be eating healthier, but really, who’s got the time?". 

I walk down the 'health food' isle of the local IGA curiously observing all the 'healthy' food. From vegan processed 'food', 'paleo' bread and fermented food that promises to repair my body from the impact of my poor diet and lifestyle choices. Seriously, where the fuck did all this rubbish come from? The majority of it is not very good food, but people keep believing in it, and keep buying it. I feel for the real sufferers of IBS and gluten intolerance that have to go down these isles to buy the gluten free food, to have to wade past the rubbish. And on that subject, why have so many people decided it's a good idea to self diagnose themselves with a gluten intolerance, or to choose to eat gluten free for 'health' reasons. If you do not have an autoimmune disorder involving gluten, then don't go gluten free to improve your health. It's a dumb choice. So many consumers are opting for the gluten free option for the wrong reasons and manufacturers are rubbing their hands together, so much so there are even TV commercials selling gluten free products like pasta. It's just another hot retail item, but it's need and popularity is not comparative with the numbers of  people with gluten intolerances. 

How can our food and nutritional health have gone from rudimentary just a few decades ago, to Masters Degree level in such a short time period? The answer is the dependable drive for making more money. A few decades ago it was as simple as recommending we eat mostly whole foods and do some exercise for healthy living, now it's as complicated as an episode of Lost. And someone is making a lot of money from it. The more information about the health values of a particular food item, the more confusing and misleading it is to us, and I've had enough. I'm deflated, I obviously need a 'detox'. I can imagine how deflated someone would be if I told them they just needed to real food, like veg, fruit, nuts, grains with a little bit of meat and dairy in order to be healthy. That they didn't have to 'give up' a family of food entirely, instead just to use common sense, and embrace moderation. Common sense, do we even remember it? Let me think on that while I suck on my 700ml protein shake. 

Shit food, is shit food. Cheap shit milk will always be cheap shit milk. Good milk from decent dairy, with the cream still on top and as unfucked with as possible is good milk, but also only good in moderation. Shit cheese is shit cheese. Good cheese is ok, but I wouldn't recommend you eat  tubs of the stuff, except marinated goats cheese, rub that one all over your body to get that youthful appearance. 

I'm old enough to remember the time before food allergies, food intolerances and nutritional information saturation. A time before paleo, raw food, detox, protein shakes, fermented miracle products and choo choo berries. Common sense, please return. We miss you.

Notes:

1. Yes I have been known to eat some fermented food, not for it's miraculous values but simply for it's taste. 

2. I acknowledge that some people do actually have real food allergies and intolerances, to dairy etc

3. There is nothing wrong with people actually diagnosed with gluten intolerance. I'm not hating on them. It is a shit condition to live with. 

4. The dairy industry is mostly shit, but that doesn't mean you can't consume dairy products. Just use common sense and avoid the crap where possible and opt for the better stuff (if you care to do so). 

5. If anyone defends the pre-made processed food, you're camping in the wrong tent, move along, nothing to see here. 

6. I'm also not bagging ALL nutritionalists. Some are good, some are shit, just like cheese. 

7. If you want to drink Kombucha do so. But stop telling me how healing it is. I'm happy eating vegetables. 

Image 3: OMG is that a d$#k?




Seeded Optimism

Recently, a dear friend showed me some messages she'd received from a bloke via a dating app. It was gross. I was ashamed to be of the same sex as the male that sent the messages, to think there are males out there that act like that. I felt like an ancient man, out of touch with how the humans communicate with each other. I feel saddened at how disgusting and brutal some forms of human communication have become. Often I feel like I'm an old man, rocking on a chair on a porch when I say things like this, but I have to share that I'm often repulsed by the lack of respect people have for each other, especially on social media, but also on the street, in public. It's like the wheels are falling off decent social values. I get lost in the internet tunnel in apps like Instagram, deep in the search function where you can look into the lives of other people, what they value, what they hold dear and what and who they aspire to be. I just don't get a lot of it. I don't understand why people do certain things, destructive things. I just don't get a lot of it. 

I've been called a Nihilist on more than one occasion, and I guess thats why I like living in my bubble. Here things make sense to me. I surround myself in elements of nature and family, things I can understand. I'm not yelled at by a TV, we got rid of it years ago. I don't have junk mail in my letter box telling me to buy stuff, in fact no post gets delivered to our home, instead we have to travel to town and junk mail doesn't make it to PO boxes. I remember how the junk mail annoyed me when I lived in the city (yes, I had a no junk mail sign).

The other day I saw a well known local radio presenter working in his garden up here in the hills. When I visited the city this week I saw him again, not in person but on a billboard screwed to the back of a bus, advertising his radio show. I had to laugh a little. It was perfect metaphor for my style of living. I see the real stuff, not the billboard advertising it. It wasn't that long ago that I lived in a city, in fact most of my adult life I've resided in a built human environment. I much prefer where I am now. Not just physically, but for my mental health. Living out here, amongst the nature is brilliant for my sanity. It just proves how unhealthy city life has become, well for me anyhow. I'm a big believer that processed food has a lot to answer for in regards to anxiety and depression, but the noise, visual pollution, crowds, traffic, high cost of living etc all play their part too. 

And then I'm in my garden, my dirt covered hands fumble through packets of vegetable seeds. I select the plants that will feed us over summer, eggplant, tomato, zucchini, squash, cucumber, basil, coriander and more.  In a few weeks I'll begin to plant food that will feed us the following winter, the food that will store well like beans and pumpkin. I'll also plant the food that grows underground and gets it's start in late summer and grows through into autumn. The amazing root veg that enters torpor as the soil cools, and is easily plucked when needed in the depths of winter. 

The seeds that have been drying on my shelves and in old glass jars since I last ate their fruit, will now serve their intended purpose. These seeds hold the genetic information of previous crops, and hold all the energy and goodness that will make them germinate and grow into another year of food to feed my family. So simple, so easy to understand. 

The spring equinox has arrived, the days will be longer, my garden will see more sunlight and we will subsequently eat more vegetables. It's a beautiful system and it's one that I never really understood when I lived in the city, but makes sense to me now that I'm living deep within it's core. The dark days of winter are over, now the optimism of spring has returned. The beginning of the cycle, another year begins.

It will take a few months for these vegetables to feed us, in the meantime, I'll cook with the spring produce of mizuna, broad beans, peas, broccoli and endless rocket, kale and chard. There is always something to eat here, I even have a few potatoes and carrots stored underground ready for a supper. Even though I earn the least amount of money I've ever had, somehow I manage to eat like a king. Now how is that possible? ;-) 

Accidental Activist

This past week I've been bed ridden, I've had a lot of time to think. Here are some thoughts. 

A few weeks ago I started telling my story over and over again, it's all part and parcel of being an author. Writing a book is step one, promoting is step two. Over the course of a few weeks of re-telling my story, I'm realising more and more that I've fallen into the box labeled 'Social Activist'. I'm kind of split by this. On one side there's the lovely idealistic notion that I'm part of some people power movement instigating positive social change, and then there's the other side which has me looking for some alone quiet time and maybe finding that peace I've been chasing for years. I'm not going to rabbit on about what it's like to be an agent of change, instead I want to talk about how I've shifted my expectations for that social change. 

In the beginning I wanted to go extreme, I wanted everyone to return to the roots, to the soil, to provide for themselves. It didn't take me long to realise that the many humans are simply not interested in this approach, well not in the way that I am anyway. That realisation broke my precious little naive heart. That naive, enthusiastic spirit, full of good intentions to save the world. Over the years my nativity wore down like the epidermal layers of my practiculture hands. The outcome is that I've become more realistic in my expectations. So much so that I have no expectations for what anyone else does, or thinks, or puts into action. I also used to care when people would criticise me, for what I was doing, or for my 'success' (welcome to Australia), and for that matter, I no longer give a shit. Sounds harsh, allow me to continue. 

Jamie Oliver is releasing a new book soon that has a focus on healthy eating. Jamie Oliver, you may have heard of him. This bloke is so well known, has done so much in regards to 'educating' the community about eating real food. His actions are worthy of a Excellent Human Award, if there was such a thing. This book (like many of his others) will make a difference in many peoples lives, and that's magnificent outcome. But no matter how famous or wide reaching this message will travel, the reality is that many people won't hear it, or they will hear it, they just won't 'get it'. And you just can't lose sleep over it, although I used to, which in hindsight was a complete waste of time. I used to think it was a mission of mine to 'convert' people to eating healthy real food and maybe persuade them into 'giving a shit' about their impact on natural world.  I've tried many different techniques of communicating this message, from calm, positive, scientific, to fists of rage raised high into the internet air. I've since realised that people will do what people want to do. Let us take nutrition, or personal health as an example. If people choose to ignore the likes of Jamie Oliver waving a flag for real food, and instead choose to eat crap food, then they're the ones, that at some point will have to deal with whatever health consequences may arise as a result of their choices. That was me in my previous life. I clearly knew I was eating crap food, but I liked it, it was cheap and convenient. I only started making changes when my health began to falter. Not suggesting that that's the only way someone with transition from a diet of crap food, to a diet of real food, but it is a common thing and I've been writing about it (the transition) for many years now. Looking back, it's clear to me that the experience was a social activist trap. It's not at all a bad thing, in fact, the process has been a great learning experience, so much so that it's shifted my views on many things. You might say it's this view is pessimistic or realistic, please continue. 

It's comforting to know that each day, all I can really do is feed myself and my family the food that is based on my belief system. This is food that comes mostly from the backyard, the things I can't grow I can source from local ethical producers, the rest  I can get from the ever reliable stupidmarket. That's what I do because I've made deliberate choices in my life to make that happen (this does not mean that I think I'm better than you or more ethical or some bullshit like that). I constantly get told that my lifestyle is not applicable to people living in the city and I agree with that, especially if you're living in a studio apartment.  But there are alternatives to producing most of your food, from CSA's to veg box schemes to home delivered meat straight from the farmer, farmers markets, fresh food markets, there are backyards in cities, soil on crown land, community gardens, and there is also the fresh produce department at a supermarket. I'm yet to visit a supermarket that doesn't have a fresh produce section.  The point I'm making is that there is always another option to simply eating mostly processed foods. But regardless of that point, really who's to say what anyone else should eat. It's all personal choice right?

photo @bobbyandtide

photo @bobbyandtide

And that's the very reason why change will be slow. Because it's up to us, the collective of individuals. It's the individual that needs to first recognise that changes need to be made, and secondly to actively implement those changes. But you can't be told to do that, it has to be personally motivated. I go to great lengths not to tell people how they should be living their lives, instead I take the approach of saying, this is what I do, and this is why I do it. Last week I did a cooking event at a fresh produce market, it was a wonderful looking market, with fresh produce displayed all neat and pretty like. However with the experience of being a veg grower, all I could  see was out of season produce that had most likely been sprayed with pesticide and fertilised with some inorganic shit, and had no doubt travelled a long distance to get to the market (Chanterelles from France, case in point). But is it my place to yell and scream and explain to the people at that market that the food they're eating has a high carbon legacy, or that has residual pesticides on it. No it is not my place to do that, instead they have to figure that out for themselves. And that is why we are doomed. Because people find this reality confronting and shit, because it is. And let's face it, who wants to go with out eggplant for 8 months of the year? It's unthinkable. 

So why do people have to figure it out for themselves? Why can't we have a television show that explains it all, clear and scientific like? Because not many people would watch it. No one likes bad news, people like happy shiny things, like sportsball, hot chicks in bikinis and masculine ripped abs. It helps to distract them from the realities of existence. Life is not easy. Sometimes it's ok, but usually it's busy, stressful and everyones short on time. Well that's what we tell each other anyway, but it's all down to choice, if you catch my drift. You buy the big houses, you pay the big bank loan. You buy the new car, you pay the big bank loan. It's maths baby. 

The same can be applied to diet and lifestyle choices. Some people choose to eat protein shakes, some take supplements, some eat chicken nuggets, some are cooking imported French Chanterelles and some are eating backyard kale. Everyones eating something based on their belief system. Which belief system is right? Does there even need to be a right believe system? The only thing I've figured out is that we probably should care about what is actually going into our bodies as it may impact on our health. We kinda should care about the wellbeing of the natural world, cause it kinda supports our very existence. And just a little cherry on top, maybe it's not such a bad thing to care about the conditions the animals we end up eating live in, or to maybe care about how the worker humans that make our food are treated. But hey, that's up to the individual to want to care. 

I'm comforted by the idea that no matter how much us humans end up damaging ourselves, each other or the natural world, at least the planet has the ability to recover, given the right conditions of time and a reduction in the amount damaging humans. Here's hoping. Enjoy the Chanterelles. 

 

Journeys are funny things

I can't remember when I started my journey, I just know that I'm on it.
 

Food has been my vehicle of choice, and it's taken me to both amazing and horrible places, literally and metaphorically. Today I woke to the reassuring sound of rain falling on the tin roof of our old rented farm house. I've heard rain fall on many different roof's and this morning it was here, at the place I currently call home. It's not my place, someone else owns it. I don't have the money to afford my own place. The dream of buying my own land often nags at me somewhere in the back of my convoluted mind. I've made do with the situation. Years ago, when we first moved here I asked the landlord if we could fence off a small backyard size area to grow food.

Our request was granted (for an extra rental fee) and we have a small area fenced off where I grow a good amount of food for our families needs. I have the usual elements, a handful of vegetable beds, a hen house, some fruit trees and a poly tunnel (hot house). The idea is to grow and provide as much food as possible. An alternative to eating mass produced food, to reduce our food miles and to eat produce that's has been grown chemically free. This is a contrast to how I used to live, I've not always cooked with real food, instead I relied heavily on processed food. Eventually my body began to break down and didn't function as well as it used to. I had a long list of health problems because of my food choices, so I looked to the past for some answers and embraced a simpler 'peasant' style of living that's served communities of humans quite well for thousands of years. 

This morning I stepped out in the mud of winter, I walked the isles of my backyard garden, picked some ingredients, fed my hens, planted some spring vegetables and went inside to cook. My life is sometimes very simple, other times it's as complicated as a Facebook relationship status. But it's real and it's very normal. I work a job, then when I'm not working I spend time cooking and working on food production, be that growing, hunting or searching for free wild food. 

In the cold still air of the morning, I laid my ingredients out on the kitchen bench. I stared at them a while, sipping a hot cup of tea. Food has been the driving force, leading me to experiences and unexpected events. Staring at these inanimate objects may seem weird to some, but it's the food that sparked me to make change, to deliberatly move away from what was easy and comfortable towards something that is real, natural and honest. Food has challenged my entire belief and morality system that goes beyond a meal, it filters everything in life. 

Food has taken me on an adventure of flavour, of new experiences and new skills. Food has taught me to be resourceful, practical and in it's very production has provided me with a sense of purpose and accomplishment that I'd never felt before. My food has taught me to think more, to ask more questions. It's taught me to be creative. It's given me a love of writing and taught me to improve how I communicate, notably to restrain the wild anger that burns inside me.

Life is one big journey, a cliche I'm happy to embrace. I started this journey with the intention of  providing for my family and I've been taking many places in the process. My intention and purpose remains the same. I acknowledge that it's simple and thats the way I like to live, simple. My life used to be complicated, stressful and purposeless. These past few years I've achieved two things that make life enjoyable, clarity and a sense of contentment. My aim it to continue this lifestyle, but like all journeys, many paths present themselves along the way. Paths you never imagined in your wildest dreams that you'd be prepared to take.