Nutrition, Culture, and Health
(Authors Note: Huh. Reading all that, not so much is different from Chile to here…go figure.)
I would like to take a moment to talk about health when it comes to eating.This is a topic that is important to so many people my age and older, and not always for such good reasons.
What tastes good is mostly a matter of habit, in my experience. Personally, I like the taste of healthy things, so accepting eating well has never been that hard for me, except when I’ve felt as much like garbage as the garbage I was eating. Juice is still the greatest to me.
The best thing about making really concentrated juice mixes (kinda like sludge but healthy) is that you can freeze it into smaller amounts (in the US but not everywhere else) or re-refrigerate it (generally true but like I said, it depends). I like to take small amount of different mixes and freeze them. Because I have a microwave at my house, I can melt the 2 inch mixture cube in less than a minute if I want. Mix that with water and anything else your body needs, and you’ve got a lot of what you need for awhile. A lot of smoothies and health drinks in the United States are expensive and kind of dumb. You pay $4 for something that has a lot of sugar and a ton more nutrients than you actually need at that time. I think it’s better to make vegetables and other things part of your typical diet in subtle ways and just force yourself to eat good things sometimes, if you’re picky.
But yet, there are so many different ways a person can accept nutrition into his or her life. In my fridge right now, we have a lot of different fruits and vegetables that are seriously healthy and relatively cheap here. Kale, Carrots, Apples, Spinach, Oranges, (somewhat) Celery, Bananas, and a lot of other stuff. Personally, I like the taste of raw vegetables. It makes me feel good to be able to consume what I need, especially in winter. I don’t like eating all that much unless I can eat good things, and I like to take advantage of the cold weather slowing my metabolism to eat well. I still eat well, and I try to maintain that as a habit. The best part about growing used to the taste of healthy things is that you can improvise your texture. I like crunchy things and generally not soft or soggy things unless they are loaded with sugar, so putting flax, oats, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, etc. in my juice isn’t gross to me, it’s just adding a little bit more of what my body already needs to an already good thing. Some people add peanut butter to things like this, or yogurt for more protein. I get that, but where I live, I can get the protein and dairy I need in other ways, and those are gross to me.
When I was in Chile, my host mama cooked very healthily. She spent ten years in Belgium with her late husband and two sons while he taught there. She liked to cook legumes like garbanzos, lentils, pinto beans, and other sorts of protein. Unlike many of the homes my friends were staying in, we ate a decent amount of meat, and she like for us to eat breakfast. I hate breakfast, so I mostly tried to escape that one. But a lot of the time when I knew I needed to eat something, I would force myself to drink some tea, shovel in a yogurt, and take an apple for later. They eat near 2pm, so getting my body in sync to eat about 2 hours later on average was good for me. It helped me realize how flexible most of eating is, so long as people get what they need.
In Chile, not many of the people my age ate well. A lot of university students doing their best to feed themselves with questionably less life skills here and there, and separated from home. In my Bible study with some of my favorite people, we ate a lot of junk food. It was nice. But then again, I knew people who had seriously bad body image and may have even had disordered eating. The women I knew that were super classy talked about being “fat” in ways that seemed happy up until they compared themselves to things printed in magazines. Because I looked more like the magazines, they would look at my hair or eyes or flesh tone and feel even worse. The way popular misconceptions are set up, that wasn’t fair to anyone.
What I would hope for all people is that they can learn to make their bodies healthy regardless of what culture they are born into; that they would have the resources and the ability to determine what health means in the context of their bodies, and that they would have healthy thinking strong enough to practice self-care. From the people I know that have recovered from eating disorders, I know that beauty can be just as dangerous as it can be fabulous. I may not have experienced that all that much myself, but I know that many people do, and I know that negative dieting habits can increase when viewing magazines like Cosmo and other media that distorts body image and encourages rigid beliefs about beauty, regardless of people’s demographic or gender. Although some of that shifts throughout the world, we have different cultures so that we can respect one another’s differences and still practice our own. Even within one neighborhood, you can have intense differences of beliefs. It just takes two people to have any kind of interpersonal difference, duh, that’s because each person is different. It is worth learning to eat well if you can, because it gives you more energy, can boost your attitude and mental health, and just help you learn to take calculated risks in the name of being kind to yourself. Like any change, I believe good things should be learned as slowly as necessary for them to stick. Not everyone can drop things cold turkey, and it takes A LOT of willpower to change such a significant portion of people’s lives, that is a part of nearly every important social ritual people have as a whole, and can be just as bad as it can be good. But health is worth it, at least to me.
All the best,