If any of you reading this know me personally, you know that I am and have been a bit of a meathead for many, many years. Around the age of 13, I discovered that I had very good genetics and body-structure to be able to pack muscle on my frame with great ease. I started pumping iron almost religiously, and did so throughout high school, six days a week for an hour-and-a-half a day. That turned me into this:
During this period, I didn’t give a rat’s ass what I ate. I ate anything and everything. My post-workout protein shakes consisted of three or four heaping scoops of ice-cream, three eggs, two scoops of protein powder, whole milk, blueberries, malted milk, and chocolate syrup. One summer, I drank a gallon of whole milk every day for three months. I gained twenty pounds of muscle that summer. I inhaled Chipotle burritos and Popeye’s fried chicken. I also took every supplement you could think of: creatine, glutamine, BCAA’s, nitric oxide, kre-alkalyn, muscle-milk, amino acids, etc. At one point, I even took something that claimed to be homeopathic growth hormone, although I question whether that’s what it really was. I was a testosterone-brimming, pimple-popping, bench-pressing maniac, to say the least.
I kept up my workout routine into my brief stint at an institution of higher-education, and even into the year after I dropped out of school and was working as a manager at a Papa John’s in Charlottesville, VA. Slowly but surely, however, my metabolism began to slow down and be ever-more-so revealing of the palate for beer that I had been developing, and the pure trash I was known to consume (I ate a lot of pizza working at Papa John’s). I really didn’t care that much though, I still felt I was an Adonis among men!
I moved back home and got a job as a waiter, and eventually bartender, at a small pizza/sandwich/craft beer restaurant in Arlington, VA called The Lost Dog Cafe, and my taste for beer exploded. I developed my love for the heavy, hoppy, malty, syrupy, smoky beers that were then readily available for my enjoyment! I also stopped working out regularly. That’s when my belly really started to grow. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was never “fat,” but I was developing a gut that wasn’t reminiscent of my former form.
I moved to Charlotte, NC at the start of last year, and got a gym membership at the nearest Planet Fitness, and started working out regularly again. I even started doing cardio before my workouts, which was something I had never done before (in high school, I used to smoke a cigarette on the way to the gym, and light one up on the way home…blech!). While I began to gain back my muscle mass, I couldn’t seem to make a dent on the pouch hanging over my belt. I was about 200 lbs at 5’9″, and I began to realize that exercise alone was no longer sufficient to keep me lean.
I started to do some research on diet. I knew how to cook, and I knew how to make what I thought was a “balanced meal,” usually consisting of meat, frozen veggies, and rice or potatoes. All too often, however, my dinners would consist of a box Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, with three extra slices of American cheese, or pizza, or some other kind of fast food (I admit that to this day I am still a sucker for some fried chicken!) Through my research, I stumbled upon the “paleo-diet”, in which, in the words of Greg Glasman, the founder and CEO of CrossFit, one should;
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds,
some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep
intake to levels that will support exercise but
not body fat.”
The diet attempts to emulate that of our cave-dwelling ancestors, who didn’t have any processed or “convenience” foods available, and subsisted on what they could catch, kill, forage or gather. I immediately implemented the fundamentals of this into my own diet; I cut out processed foods and grains, and began eating grass-fed and pastured meat. The results were almost immediate. I was shedding the fat from my belly. My research on the paleo-diet led me to crossfit, and I joined a nearby crossfit gym, CrossFit Steele Creek ( http://www.crossfitsteelecreek.com ) and was instantly hooked. Crossfit is not only a great workout, that implements a lot of the heavy lifting that I already loved, as well as other types of cardio and gymnastics movements, but also had a great team mentality with lots of great people, which was reminiscent of my days on the wrestling team.
My diet has since evolved into a “locavore” diet, wherein 95% of the foods I consume are produced within fifty miles of where I live. I eat foods that are in season, and I try to eat all organic, and if not, I will try to understand what it is that makes the food not organic. A lot of times, a producer cannot claim something is organic because it has not been certified as organic by the USDA, but are grown organically regardless, and even sometimes more-so than what the USDA deems as organic. I do eat bread and pasta once again, but local and organic! I have lost twenty-five pounds, and am leaner and healthier than I have ever been! I suggest that you, too, look into adopting a locavore diet! It’s the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, while connecting with the environment you live in by eating foods grown in the same dirt you tread upon and breathing the same air that is filling your lungs!
As my research on diet progressed, I began to delve deeper into the issues of organic vs. conventional, factory farming, and GMOs. I became enraged over these different issues. I mean, how did we allow these practices that are so fundamentally contradictory to the way the world works naturally become the staples of how the food we consume is produced? How can people be so complacent as to not even question where their food came from and what the ingredients in these foods actually consist of?
The majority of the nutrition obtained in processed foods come from different variations of two plants: corn and soy. How can that be healthy, to get the bulk of your nutrition from TWO plants? These two plants are also the most heavily genetically-modified species grown commercially around the world. How natural is it to have a plant that won’t get killed by a chemical (glyphosate, the primary ingredient in RoundUp) that can kill any other living organism in minimal doses? It must be pointed out that just because the plant won’t die when sprayed with this chemical, it becomes incorporated in the soil, which kills the microorganisms in the soil that regulate the health of the soil, and gets sucked into the plant through the roots and becomes incorporated in the plants very makeup. When ingested, these trace amounts of chemicals wreak havoc on the trillions of microorganisms that line our digestive tract, which help regulate our own health! Glyphosate has been linked to numerous chronic ailments that plague modern society, including but not limited to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Parkinson’s, autism, breast cancer, and increases the risk of birth defects.
88% of corn and 94% of soy grown in the US is genetically modified. Of the corn and soy grown, however, 70% of it is used to feed the livestock which we consume. These chemicals have the same effects on animals as they do on humans. I mean, how could they not? We are all made of the same stuff! We are stardust! The craziest thing, though, is how we are so blind to the conditions these livestock are raised in, these livestock that eventually become the food on the dinner table. The majority of the meat produced in this country is produced in confinement-housing factory farms. The animals are crammed into a building, never allowed to see the sunlight or taste fresh grass or breathe clean air. Instead, they spend their lives in darkness, when it has been proven that sunlight is necessary for certain natural glandular processes to occur in the body. They breathe in fecal particulate (or pulverized poop), which gives them lung infections and spreads disease. They consume a grain diet, which is not what they have evolved to eat. Because of these conditions, they require copious amounts of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, and hormones to help them grow, what with their lack of space and exercise that would enable them to do so naturally. All these things become incorporated in the tissue of the beasts, and are consumed when eaten. These antibiotics and hormones have also been linked to numerous diseases and chronic ailments, as well as strains of “super-viruses” that are resistant to antibiotics.
I could delve deeper into any of these topics, and rant and rave for hours on end, but I’ll save that for another time.
It is apparent to me that there is something fundamentally wrong in a society where we don’t even care about the practices involved with the food we consume. Nutrition is one of the essential necessities of life! I think the world has been around long enough to know what it’s doing with regards to nature, so why do we feel the need to interfere and make things more mechanized and “efficient”? I’ll tell you why. Money. Avarice and sloth are the two greatest cardinal sins displayed by our prevailing global society. The want of money, and the desire to get it as quickly and easily as possible. People have lost their discipline and their integrity, and this is evident in the growing population of the overweight and obese. It’s not that hard to stay healthy and fit, it just takes a little discipline and integrity.
This path of research and introspection on my diet and health and the impacts of the current food systems on the natural world are what inevitably led me to the decision to become a farmer! I want to be a part of the shift towards a globally sustainable food system that works with the natural elements of the earth, help heal whatever corner of the world I end up on, help more nutritionally sound foods be more readily available for the consumer, and become a model for others to follow!
People argue that buying organic is just too expensive, and they can’t afford it. While it is true that organics are generally more expensive, by spending what you can when you can for these foods, you are encouraging more people to grow organically, and when more people are growing organically, more organic goods are available, and the price will go down! It’s simple economics, people. Vote with your dollars, and the producers will listen! Go to your farmers market and talk to a farmer. Buy local, buy organic, be a part of the change for the better! Be diligent, and have integrity in your lifestyle!