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Hunting And Gathering At The A&P

Have you seen the new government food guidelines? If you haven’t, don’t bother. Instead of making it clearer and less confusing, they’ve made food categories so broad that it’s more like having no guidelines at all.

Whenever I get confused about all of the conflicting nutritional information “out there,” I always go back to Mother Nature and ask what’s the natural thing for us human beings to do? What would we eat if we were in touch with our hunting and gathering instincts?

This is a really hard thing to keep in mind when shopping for food. But, the other day at the A&P, I had an “epiphany.” (Don’t worry, I’m ok. That’s just a word I learned in college. It means I had a realization. A revelation.)

Speaking of college, let me digress here a minute. In my experience, college offered few “epiphanies.” Think about it. How many required courses did you sit through in school that had absolutely no long-term impact on your relationships, your health and happiness or even your bank account?

But maybe, every once in a while, your professor finally said something meaningful, something that woke you up from your stupor and changed your life, something you still remember. If so, it made all of your college loans worth while. It was an “epiphany.”

I can remember one such distinct college moment. (C’mon, I had a lot of other things on my mind.) It was in a liberal arts course and the professor was discussing existentialism (I can see your eyes rolling back just like mine did). Out of nowhere he said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Whoa! I was floored. I think I even paid attention the rest of that semester.

Think about it. With every new “diet plan” promising permanent weight loss, our population continues to gain weight – nothing’s changed. Or how about this one, even though the medical profession has “advanced” over the years, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are still on the increase. (Maybe this is why they call it “practicing” medicine.)

Or here’s my most recent “epiphany.” Look how modern we are compared to our early ancestors. But despite all of our modernization, we’re still just plain old hunters and gatherers – nothing’s changed. Sure we’ve tossed off our animal skins for synthetic fibers and we can chase down a chuck roast much faster than the whole mastodon, but when it comes right down to it, going to the A&P is our version of hunting and gathering.

The more I think about it the more I realize our lives depend upon our hunting and gathering skills as much as they did for our earliest relatives. Life is still just a series of risk management decisions. Should we follow the herd or eke out our meager existence farming in this rocky soil? Should we eat organic whole foods tonight or splurge on a Big Mac and fries? Each choice determines our future existence, whether it’s long and healthy or short and miserable.

The immediate outcome of our decisions today may be less noticeable. After all you could have been crushed hunting a mastodon and that seldom happens when buying a chuck roast. But, on the other hand, modern risk management choices do consistently show up over time. It’s absolutely clear that your food choices today determine your health in the future - whether or not you get a cold next month, the flu next year, or heart disease 10 years from now.

So consider this “epiphany” the next time you go shopping at your local A&P. Think of yourself as a hunter-gatherer. And remember that your life depends on the choices you make as much as they did for your great, great, great (multiplied many times over) grandparents. (The ones in animal skins with bone tools).

If the realization really sinks in, you’ll forego the short-term pleasure of some decadent, rich, gooey, sugary, greasy, fattening, processed death food and choose the long-term pleasure of a happy, healthy life from balanced, nutritious, naturally delicious whole foods. This is a vitally important risk management decision. Too bad they didn’t teach it in college!

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