I am just getting home from an impromptu trip from the Wonderful World of Disney. Absolutely crazy. How was the past week for you?
While being at the Happiest Place on Earth this past weekend I couldn’t help take note of all of the people walking around me, I mean how couldn’t I, it was “Dapper” day! I would say that at least a third of the guest were dressed in vibrant, poodle skirts, tiny hats, ties, and black and white shoes. A dashing assortment of enthusiastic people walked the park, true Disney fans. As I watched people, I couldn’t help but also notice the epic gallon size Disney cups full of coke, tubs of fake buttered popcorn, funnel cakes, and endless fried and fake foods being shoved into people’s mouths. Now don't get me wrong I love a bite of greasy junk food, every once in awhile, or for a special treat, or a party... BUT as I looked around I couldn't stomach what I realized.
Would it be fair to say that Disney Land is a cross section of America, of tourist, of families who have some expendable income, have at least one car, possibly two jobs... send their kids to college or are at least saving for them?
SMART people who care about their health, and what they eat? Right?
As the day continued and Adrian and his best friend became more irritable (and well, completely obnoxious) I became annoyed, upset and disappointed with Walt Disney!
I’m a SMART person who cares, too!
Here’s what happened... I didn’t pack our usual snacks or our healthy meals — I was left to contend with the less than average, Disney Fare. We ate tasteless mac and cheese, oddly textured meatloaf, overcooked carrots, and green beans, mashed potato with gravy and drank boxed apple juice, and a neon green mint julep soda. I tried to choose my health, I tried to do my best , but in the end the choices that I had were all bad — which lead my son, the hundreds of people around me, and myself down a path of total food annihilation!
We are hardwired to eat real food, yes, green, healthy, vibrant food. Not food that has been processed and beaten to death with little to no nutrient value, but we eat the junk anyway. We'll devour Mc Donald's Quarter Pounder, quickly whip up a box of mac and cheese for our kids, and pull out the pastries at breakfast, this is the land of plenty, we live in the hustle of go go go, I'm with you on this journey, life is overwhelming. It’s been stated that food is medicine, it leads our bodies in positive ways, cures our bodies and opens our DNA code. Food is our fuel.
We're SMART people, right?!
Then why are we eating food that leads to total devastation? Well, here are my reasons:
Sometimes pure ignorance.
The last two reasons can be a bit hard to swallow at first but hear me out as I attempt to explain a little about how carbohydrates and low-fat junk food fuels my addiction of more, more, more, bad food!
et me start with the modern day food pyramid that we all grew up with which told us to chow down on 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. It also told us to use fat sparingly. Now, this has changed over the past few years with the new food plate, but it still doesn't work. (and by the way, I spent several minutes trying to find a great example to share with you about the food plate and serving but it's quite ridiculous and didn't find one!)
We consume about 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour per year, think about that for a moment, and I’m being easy with the numbers, I’m sure the folks at Disney Land are 10 pounds over those averages. We also continue to fill our bodies with anti nutrients everyday. Our American diet, which looks something like this: Grab a Starbucks Venti non-fat sugar free vanilla latte in the morning, a muffin at snack, a veggie wrap at lunch with a side of fries, a second wind latte at 3:00 with a gluten free cookie, a “protein” bar at 5:00 and then dinner, which is a chicken caesar salad from your corner diner or better yet, you order pizza and wings for the family because you just don’t have the energy to cook… Well here’s the truth, this meal plan just doesn’t hold the high-density nutrition or fuel you actually needto thrive in today’s world. In order for you to make successful decisions, have great conversations or even hot sex, your meals, and what you eat has to change. We need foundational nutrition, real food, yes, more green veggies! Living with the above diet plan equals brain fog, a few extra pounds that don’t ever budge, and skin that’s lost that once radiant glow you had, but more importantly is your mindset, life is challenging enough, but to then have to worry about what you eat... come on... life is stressful. Are you grabbing a piece of chocolate every day, to make it all worth it? This typical diet is so low in the critical nutrients it makes me crazy. I'm going to be bold and state the obvious -- we're killing ourselves, slowly. I know that statement is dramatic but study after study suggest and proves that our poor dietary choices are leading the way to diabetes, heart disease, digestive cancers, Parkinson's and obesity.
Iadecola C Sugar and Alzheimer's disease: A bittersweet Truth Nat Neurosci. 2015 Apr;18 (4):477-78
Barclay AW, Peocz P McMillian-Prince J et al. Glycemic index glycemic load, and chronic disease risk--a meta-analysis of observational studies AM J Clin Nutr 2008
Centers for Disease and Prevention. Number in million of civilian noninstitutionalized persons with diagnosed diabetes, US 1980-2011 http:www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statitics/prev/national/figperson.htm
What I saw at Disney Land was a phenomenal case study of what isn't working.
Let me get back to the carbohydrates, my cravings, and addiction. When I eat a diet as I mentioned above, I set in motion a ticking time bomb, here is another example: I eat a totally “healthy” gluten free scone for breakfast. The gluten-free mini puck (refined carbohydrate) sets off an alarm triggering my insulin (a hormone in my body that allows my body to use sugar for energy or to store for future use) production which turns on my fat production factory (lipogenesis) in my liver and my fat storage system. OMG! I thought I was being “good” by eating a blueberry gluten free vegan scone!
(Bingo, weight gain.)
Oh, I could go on here but this is as basic as I can make it. You do not want to be eating things that continue to trigger or set off that alarm system.
Why does this happen? There are several reasons but the one I want to point out right now is simple… my brain is only concerned with making sure that I survive. When I eat a food that contains something harmful, in this case, more gluten free flour (than necessary) and sugar, my fight or flight response gets triggered to eat something sweet, and sugary (quick energy) to actually run away from the problem… which in this case is the scone! Crazy, right? My brain is trying to run away from the food that I am eating and I want more of it!
Let me go deeper… Our brains have three parts, the reptilian brain which deals with our body temperature, and electrical systems, this brain I equate to a current. Then there is the limbic system. The limbic brain keeps us going, makes sure that we have food, reproduce — it’s what I call the survival brain. The last part is our, “Human” brain, our neocortex where we process — it’s our learning part, our sleeping function, and it also houses our memories, and assist in making decisions. (It's also the last part of the brain that gets nourishment.) So, when I say mention that my brain is triggered by a food, I am speaking about the limbic brain, total survival.
A vicious cycle is set upon my brain when I begin eating foods that are not rich with nutrition, get it? I run around in a circle chasing after more sugar… more junk, survival.
Ok, this is a long rant, but I’m a little frazzled after seeing so many people at Disney Land who were yes, like me few years back, twenty pounds overweight with a Churro in one hand and a Coke in the other. I am not a doctor or specialist by far, and I certainly can't tell anyone how to live or eat but what I will continue to do is share what I learn and how I eat in hopes for people to make better decisions, and feel more empowered to change their world.
Your homework this week is to pay attention to what you’re eating. Are you eating to zone out? Are you eating vibrant, nutrient-dense foods that keep you in balance and nourish your body? Do you have a plan for eating healthy? Oh, and think about this… if you have a kiddo like me, are you nourishing him/her with healthy options and saving their brain...?