When I hear people say “if only she’d skipped chemo and gone on a raw retreat” I want to punch them.
Seriously. I drink green juice. I limit the toxins in my personal care products. I read all the research and see an MD who’s also a naturopath, herbal healer, midwife and osteopath. But the idea that wheatgrass or green juice and cleansing is the answer to all illness is beginning to piss me off.
This kind of thinking has been going on for quite a while, but it’s now becoming more common, as the “alternative” and “Western” worlds merge.
Black and white thinking and green juice evangelism seems to be bothering some others too. I’ve seen fellow Academy of Culinary Nutrition grads giving up their businesses and blogs and clients because they are confused by the multiple theories and conflicting research and don’t know what to believe anymore.
I’ve seen articles in online wellness magazines written by once green-juice-drinking, kale massaging, healthy living “gurus” who’ve decided to throw in the towel and eat cheeseburgers all week long, drink multiple milkshakes and eat as many fries as they can cram in, chased by nightly margaritas because life is just too short.
And, I’ve seen two very sad examples recently that show just how much the body is a mystery. And that even doing everything “right” might not bring the perfect results we crave.
The recent passing ofJess Ainscough rocked the healthy living world. Although she took care of herself inimitably, with all the healthy food and spiritual practices and stress-free hopeful thinking available, eventually her cancer just overcame her body.
I suspect it made more than a few people question their choices. But in my mind that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have tried, or that she should have just said, “Oh well, life is short” and taken up smoking.
Even sadder was the passing of the tiny son of one of my yoga friends. This small boy was six months old when he was diagnosed with aggressive cancer. He hadn’t had time to have too many poisons (was he even eating food other than breast milk?), hadn’t spent hours with a cell phone to his ear, hadn’t used years worth of toxic body products.
And his parents are very conscious people. Yogis, passionate about healthy living, spiritual and mindful and hopeful. There was nothing there a person could point to and say, “Yes, that’s why, if only he’d…”
And this is the crux of the matter. Though I am a green juicer, a kale eater, an organic produce buyer and non-toxic beauty advocate, I believe there is also an X-factor to life in these human bodies. There are ways we work that scientists don’t yet (and may never) understand. Maybe it’s a higher power at work. It depends what you believe. Or maybe we just don’t know how all the ways the world around us and within us interacts.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We have to try, and try hard. But when I hear people say, “You’ve had so many colds lately, you should go on a raw juice retreat,” or, “Are you stressed out? That’s why you’re sick” I get so angry! Isn’t this health shaming? How do you know what will work for me or anyone else? What if the right thing is a combination of Western and alternative medicine? For me, it has to be. But that’s another whole can of worms. I digress.
The point is we don’t know everything. And stressing out over whether our healthy lifestyle is perfect enough is perhaps more toxic than a non-organic meal eaten happily al fresco with a loved one. This is where I’ve landed. And that milkshake obsessed, cheeseburger gobbling, french fry eating cocktail loving hedonist might want to consider finding a healthy middle.
It’s not that I would never have a milkshake or a french fry in less-than-healthy oil. But I would rather indulge healthfully most of the time, making healthier versions of my favorite treats, and save the indulging for a rare occasion. I try to live delectably, as well as in the mystery—inviting the uncertainty that my kale won’t cure me and my (once in a great while, organic, grass fed) burger won’t kill me. I draw my lines in the sand.
A glass of red wine with a few squares of dark chocolate is a definite yes. Commercial donuts with (OMG) titanium dioxide, artificial colors and corn syrup are a definite no. And when I’m feeling less than delectable it’s time to pull out all the healthy stops and get back to a greener baseline.
I’m not a doctor but something tells me when our food is subconsciously sprinkled with thoughts of fear or shame, we alchemically turn those nutrients into some sort of poison.
I know that fear makes people stand on their pulpit of Clean Eating Omnipotence, fear that maybe we can’t always isolate the variable, ward off disease and buy time on this earth with our VitaMix and dehydrator. As someone who’s lived a good portion of her life in fear, I get it. And as an act of service, I’m going to call people out on it. I hope you’ll return the favor.
Eat something you’ve been longing for, and do it delectably. Take your loved one out for a real ice cream (not made of cashews, but maybe an artisanal creation made with milk from a local creamery), invite a friend for a glass of wine and savor that one glass slowly over the course of an evening. Bake a cake yourself, so you know what’s in it, and invite people over to share (so you’re not tempted to eat all the leftovers). Whatever it is, choose it carefully, enjoy it thoroughly, and have no regrets. Then get back to your normal healthy baseline without a second thought.
Along with ice cream, I crave feedback, dialogue and candid convos. Feel free to share your reactions to this topic, here or via email.
Author: Laura Olson
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Andreas Kambanis
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