With the latest headlines coursing through my mind, how could I possibly continue to merrily write posts about food and farmers and health? Am I just sticking my head in the sand (or in the fridge) when I write about such things, when chaos abounds in our world right now? I know of a young 16 year-old in Maryland who recently took her own life. There were mass shootings this past week in Georgia and California. And, in Paris, Nigeria, and too many countries to count, people are reeling from recent terrorist attacks. Many respond to the sadness and turmoil by calling for legislative change and stricter gun control laws, advocating for help for the mentally ill, and reaching out with thoughts and prayers. All of these reactions are fitting and appropriate (despite blog posts to the contrary). But how does nutrition fit into this scene? Is a health blog relevant at all? Is it simply entertainment? What part can nourishment play in this world of terror, mass shootings and suicide?
I submit that it is part of the solution, not a sidebar, not a pleasant indulgent distraction nor a pie-in-the-sky hope. I see promoting nourishment as a critical preventative piece of the puzzle.
When we are truly nourished, I mean, all the way deep down to our bones, we are content, satisfied, tranquil, peaceful. We can respond to aggravations and irritations around us with equanimity. We are less likely to be flustered, worried, anxious, and unhappy.
Notice that I said "less likely." Of course, I'm not suggesting that we will never be disgruntled or worried; I'm simply saying that true nourishment brings us a settled, grounded feeling most of the time. Think about the term "hangry." It comes from that irritated, agitated state that leads us to react poorly when we've gone too long between meals. You've been there. I've been there. We lash out at the slightest provocation; we feel "off" and on edge.
Now imagine a person feeling that way most of the time. (I'm not talking about the hungry in developing countries right now. Clearly, they are underfed and often malnourished, simply hungry and not "hangry." It is important to look for ways to make sure they are nourished, of course.) Right now, today, I'm addressing those here in the U.S., who are overfed and undernourished.
The person who is undernourished, is chronically "hangry," i.e. irritable, volatile, and more likely to be aggressive and dangerous. I'm not making this up. I heard an NPR program about a school in inner city Chicago that had major behavioral and discipline problems. They changed nothing but the food available at lunch time and behavioral issues diminished significantly.
Certainly nutrient-dense food can change our mood and disposition. But what about the person who is mentally unstable or depressed--can it help them, too? Studies have shown that a changed diet can be as effective as medication, if not more so. And, of course, nourishment of the spirit is as critical as nourishment for the body. Sharing a meal around a table meets our deepest needs for community and connection. Seeking help and hope from faith and friends goes far in giving us a sense of purpose and contentment.
All this to say, we must pay attention not only to what is happening "out there" but to what is happening "in here," inside ourselves. How are we being nourished on the deepest levels? Are we being nourished on the deepest levels?
With all of the insanity swirling around us, let us not discount the role of nourishment--physical and spiritual--in addressing this world's turmoil, and our very own. The fix may be much closer to home than we realize. It may even be as close as our kitchen table.