There are many things a consumer can do to ensure that we get quality foods, from protesting misleading and deceptive ads, to campaigning for nutrition education in our schools, demanding nutritious meals for our children who eat at school cafeterias, educating others about diet and exercise, and becoming an environmentalist to make certain our water, air and soil is clean and free of pollutants. We also can become aggressive in our efforts to eat right and to exercise; in so doing, we become role models for others. A complete return to hunting, gathering and cultivating in the same ways our ancestors did is not usually practical, but all of us can manage to some of it. Cooking just one traditional dish regularly, sowing a garden, and beginning an exercise program is greatly empowering.
The Raramuri (or Tarahumara as they were called by the Spanish) live Sierra Tarahumara in northwest Mexico. They live simply, in remote areas in cabins or in caves. They eat what they always have: beans, corn, potatoes, fish, herbs, rabbits and more recently, beef and goat. One of their traditions is "foot throwing" a competition that involves a small wooden ball "thrown by the foot" by teams in a multi-day race. In 2004, Raramuri runners participated in the bi-annual Copper Canyon (in Mexico) to Canyon Trail Marathon, took place from Urique to Batopilas, a distance is 27-29 miles of steep rock that ranges up and down for 13,000 feet. Seven of these runners completed the race in little over five hours. Runners who want to participate in the 2005 race will pay $300 dollars in order to cover the prize money and accommodations for the Raramuri (See http://caballoblanco.com/raceagain.html).
There are thousands of role models to emulate, but there is no real good reason as to why we cannot become role models ourselves. Action You Can Take:
Good health is not an accident. With all the food choices, pollution, deceptive ads and cheap prices, it is easy to become lazy and succumb to unhealthy meals. You must be diligent and you must be aware of what you consume. If you truly want to make a difference in your and your family’s and your tribe’s health, you must do the following:
Educate yourself about nutrition. Buy or check out books that inform you about nutrition and fitness.
After you are educated about nutrition, stop blaming McDonalds, Arby’s or whomever for your obesity. Blame yourself and do something about it.
You can, however, blame the food industry for targeting children. Celebrities make a small fortune representing unhealthy foods. Ignore them. Take action and protest with your wallet: don’t buy their foods.
Companies such as McDonalds, Domino’s Pizza, National Livestock and Meat Board, Campbell’s Soup, National Potato Board, etc. serve as sponsors of educational materials. When your child takes a healthy lunch to school and he/she gets kidded about what in their lunch boxes, teach your children to say, “I like it,” and when asked why they don’t eat junk food, they say, “I don’t like it.”
Take a stand at home and limit the amount of time the kids (and you) watch t.v. or play video games, surf the web, etc. Make rules and stick with them. If my kids watch t.v. for ½ an hour, they have to play outside for ½ hour. The only snacks allowed in front of the t.v. is fruit.
Learn about the food your tribe consumed. Ask yourself why you cannot also start eating like this. What are the drawbacks? What is the expense?
Subscribe to magazines that give you inspirational advice each month. I think the best is Men’s Health.
Many food advertisements are deceptive and manipulative. Question what you are buying: check labels and do not buy foods that you now know are fatty, greasy, salty and sugary.
Be aggressive at restaurants. Ask for doggie bags, ask the waiter to take away the bread basket and do not eat everything on your plate.
Buy healthy food for your family. Children usually do not have the luxury of picking out what they want, but you do.
Do not give your children lunch money when there is a chance they will buy soft drinks, cookies and French fries. Spend some money and make their lunches. The investment is well worth it. Click on Lap Top Lunches http://www.laptoplunches.com for inspirational lunches.
Campaign your school board or tribal council for healthier food at schools.
Volunteer to be an educator about health and fitness at schools, tribal council meetings, neighborhood meetings.
Start an exercise and diet group among your friends. Meet everyday at designated times to walk and to talk about healthy recipes. Have pot lucks—no junk allowed.
Organize a cookbook of your tribe’s traditional meals.
Start a community garden where everyone can pitch in and help and later reap the rewards.
Show by example. If you start eating right and exercising, then others will see what you are doing and they will do the same. Be prepared to answer questions.
There are works to turn to if you want more information about what to eat, the politics of food production and marketing, and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. National magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Consumer’s Report consistently feature articles that tell us about the latest discovery about nutrition. I believe that Men’s Health offers the best advice for diet and exercise, although females will want to steer clear of the misogynist articles. It is available at newsstands or on the web at www.menshealth.com, where you can purchase articles on line. Another source of information is Outside magazine that often features articles on health and fitness. See www.outsideonline.com.
There are several recent, eye-opening books I recommend, most notably Kelly D. Brownell and Katherine Battle Horgen’s Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About It (New York: McGraw Hill Cos., Inc., 2004); Greg Critser’s Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2003; Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001); Marion Nestle’s Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). The movie “Super Size Me” (2003) gives detailed and startling discussions about the food industry and just how abnormal and deadly the American diet has become. I took my kids to see this one. A rich source of information about Indigenous knowledge that includes farming, agriculture and food restoration is at http://topics.developmentgateway.org/ik. A book that I have turned to for 30 years is Gaylor Hauser’s Diet Does It (New York: Coward-McCann, 1944). Anytime I feel out of sorts, I eat his suggestion of fruits, vegetables and yoghurt and I feel completely different.
Do not let anyone discourage you from your goal of becoming fit. Often times spouses, friends and children are wary of something new and it is not unheard of for those close to us to try and sabotage our intentions. Keep in mind that no one can make you fat and unhealthy without your consent.