D is for Diet

So, going backwards, this is the D post that was supposed to happen last Friday…

Diet.

I wish to make a confession. I’ve somehow become a food fundamentalist. It goes beyond enthusiasm, to borderline fascism. I am working to step back from the edge of extremism, taking a more moderate Buddhist approach to hospitality, practicing a radical acceptance of what is offered to me, in order to preserve my relationships and my sanity. A fundamental part of my pagan path is the endeavor to live in right relationship with the Earth. My own practice of this belief has led me to obsessive label-reading when it comes to purchasing a new product. I pursue research on to what degree corporations consider environmental effects of what they produce. I avoid high fructose corn syrup and fast food like the plague (and all other fake food, for that matter). It started with being pescetarian through college, moving toward being an omnivore but eating only grass fed, free range meat, to phasing out as much canned food as reasonable and buying as much dried food in bulk as possible, eliminating the white foods (white flour, refined sugar, white rice). Still, I want to do more. I want to someday eliminate plastics from my diet, transition to getting most of my food from the land I live on, and teach other people how to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle, for themselves. To reach others, I have to keep working on being approachable, and avoid conveying to others that what they’re doing isn’t working – it all works, to some extent, but I feel beholden to the law, ‘Do No Harm’ when it comes to my choices of food. Some harm is inevitable, of course: life feeds on life, as the great philosopher M.J. Keenan once growled (see “Cry of the Carrots”). For me, a lot of doing no harm is avoiding unnecessary suffering in the process of going about life.

This ongoing transition is huge for me, considering the place from whence I started. In high school I guzzled Dr. Pepper and inhaled Doritos (mmm, MSG) with all the other teens (wondering why I had such low energy levels and couldn’t think straight in chemistry class). Over the course of the dozen years that I have claimed the Pagan Path, I’ve undergone a transformation in consciousness that has also worked to shift my habits, step by step.

I am a cradle environmentalist, not because my parents were hippies, but because as a child, I witnessed oil spills, toxic dumping, and deforestation (and maybe watched too many episodes of Captain Planet); these events horrified me. I knew even at that early age, that the things we did to the planet, we did to ourselves. These global events, plus my exposure early on to the Cherokee world view, shaped the rest of my life path. My biological family (with a few exceptions) generally practice habits that are not in alignment with my present values. Growing up, we ate a lot of canned food (my parents have shifted to eating mostly frozen food that’s still pre-cooked and possibly worse in terms of health consequences). My grandmother baked exclusively with white flour and white sugar (I didn’t learn the difference between refined grains and whole grains until a middle school science class). I remember eating a whole Big Mac to myself at age 5. I would avoid eating vegetables, opting instead for fortified cereal (except on the rare occasion I could eat out of our neighbor’s vegetable garden). When I embarked on the pagan path, I asked the Goddess to open me up to awareness of my relationship with the Earth; as a consequence, I began to see where the waste was going and where it ended up, and all the waste that went into creating the food I eat, instead of just what was there.

To me, it seems clear that the American/ Western way of life is diametrically opposed to honoring the Earth. As of the year 2000, the average American was eating almost 200 pounds of meat per year (that’s over 50 pounds more than what we ate in 1950, the steak and potatoes era!). Also in 2000, we ate almost 30 statistical pounds of cheese per man, woman, and child, and just over 85 pounds of corn-based sweeteners. Needless to say, these dietary habits are unprecedented by the rest of the world. In 2010, we consumed 31 million tons of plastic waste (12% of overall Municipal Solid Waste). To add insult to injury, we toss out 1/3 of the food that we have available to us.  There is an island of trash forming in the North Pacific because we cannot seem to comprehend the effects of our own waste. I recycle what I can, but feel thwarted when I’m given a gift wrapped in non-recyclable packaging, or buy something only to realize later it contains poison in the form of artificial coloring.

When I first started out a dozen years ago as a baby pagan, I assumed that every pagan was committed to honoring the Earth, and I had strong notions of what that meant. After all, we all ascribe to an Earth-based spiritual path, right? Needless to say, I became jaded with organized paganism in any form for many years, after encountering a group who consumed enough paper and plastic goods to keep up with the rest of our disposable culture, with no talk of change. This happened right out of high school; I became solitary for the next seven years, in part because of not having an example of pagan activism to inspire me to start my own group when I moved to a place with no significant organized pagan presence. I became cynical, thinking that all publically open pagans in my generation were just like the Sunday-Christians of my upbringing (Pagan at the sabbats, could-give-a-crap any other day). It was only when I moved to the San Francisco Bay area and discovered a coven that is openly engaged in activism and community service that I felt able to participate in group ritual again. Over time, I have begun to process a lesson I have known intellectually for a very long time: everyone is on their own healing and growing path. We all have to start somewhere, and just because a person seems lackadaisical about something on the surface, doesn’t mean they are guilt-free about their lifestyle choices underneath.

It’s emotionally difficult for me to hear people give credence to Earth-based spirituality, only to find out they make little or no conscious effort to eliminate fake foods and unnecessary waste from their diet, choosing to eat fast food because it’s convenient and guzzle soda because they ‘need the caffeine,’ with no regard to the harm they are doing to their bodies or the planet. I’ve had to work a lot on my tendencies to be sanctimonious or zealous, and I still have a lot of work to do in that department. It’s not very endearing of me to people if I give them harsh criticism, or if I cause them to feel like what they are doing ‘isn’t good enough.’ I am striving for what E.O. Wilson calls ‘dynamic disequilibrium’ (which sounds a lot like the D/Lakota concept of the Red Road – allowing good and bad to exist as they appear in your world, and not trying to veer too far in one direction or another, thus maintaining travel upon the Red Road). At the end of the day, my methods of self expression are my own, so I can’t own other people’s opinions of me, either. I can only work on walking the Red Road.

Over time, I have become rather strict with myself about what enters the Temple of My Body. I’ve encountered a need to cultivate ease and relaxation around people who are uninformed about their unhealthy diets (you would be surprised at how many of you who try to make healthy choices are really eating fake foods, or the widespread unawareness of how plastic leeches into food), rather than being judgmental of others’ choices. That said, I feel like this blog is an appropriate space to encourage people to engage in some self examination. Take a minute to calculate your carbon footprint. How could it be smaller? How much plastic do you consume? Break it down into small steps. Make more things yourself. Slow down in life. Consider your purchases – do you really need it, or just want it? Is it the most sustainable option available to you? Can you make it yourself? What do you feel you can’t live without? Are those things necessary, or are you just addicted? Be honest. Make your own private list. No one else is looking. Give yourself love and forgiveness for your transgressions against Mother Earth. Remember that just because you have everlasting love from Her, is no excuse to continue in complacency on your path of self indulgence and wastefulness.

Remember also that corporations have no other motive than to make money, and you cannot trust what they say at face value. Ask the Goddess to reveal Her Truth to you, and do your own research. 

Sources:

http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/plastics.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

http://www.rosenlake.net/er/Lugenbehl.html

http://www.realfooduniversity.com/paleoprimal-lifestyle-sustainable-meat-production/

http://blog.friendseat.com/food-waste-study-worldwide

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9 comments on “D is for Diet

  1. “To me, it seems clear that the American/ Western way of life is diametrically opposed to honoring the Earth.”

    The Boyfriend and I actually discussed this yesterday, how most of the people we know/engage with are unable to comprehend doing things that don’t mess up the Earth. Though he and I are not yet self-sufficient, we are both highly looking forward to the day when we may both live together and have even a little bit of land that we can use to grow our own food. I lust for the day I can afford to join a CSA and buy free-range food, but as I’m currently a uni student who is sadly still dependent on her parents, that is still a bit farther off. Hopefully when Boyfriend and I graduate and move away, we’ll be able to start implementing all the things that we want to do, like gardening and composting and trying to live as greenly as possible. I do what I can, but there’s always more, y’know?

    “When I first started out a dozen years ago as a baby pagan, I assumed that every pagan was committed to honoring the Earth, and I had strong notions of what that meant. After all, we all ascribe to an Earth-based spiritual path, right? Needless to say, I became jaded with organized paganism in any form for many years, after encountering a group who consumed enough paper and plastic goods to keep up with the rest of our disposable culture, with no talk of change.”

    You would think, yes? But there are still many Pagans who do not revere the Earth, despite claiming to. I was at PSG this past summer and I cannot even begin to tell you how many men and women I listened to talk about how much they loved, respected, and revered the Earth and then five minutes later I watched them throw a candy wrapper on the ground and not pick it up, else do something equally upsetting.

    I am not perfect. I make no statements that I am, nor do I pretend to. But I try my damnedest. Sometimes, I forget to go the greener route and it upsets me. I have been trying to not only recycle, though, but to also reduce and reuse. I have a bin filled with glass jars and bottles from various things that I am planning on reusing for other projects. Like I said, I’m not perfect, but if you don’t at least try, what ARE you doing, yeah?

    • Excellent observations, Kaye. It was a point of contention between me and my husband at one point when he pressured me to throw away the glass jars I was saving up. I’ve since started collecting them again and he’s more okay with it, because I’ve been able to demonstrate my reuse of them by storing herbs. We do what we can with what we have. 🙂

  2. Nice post! I’m going to write about ethical eating for next week’s PBP, so have a look out for my post.
    I agree with most of what you say, although I think I’m a bit less strict. While I do try to buy from our local farmer’s market as often as possible, sometimes I simply can’t afford to buy biological foods since, sadly, they are more expensive than, say, a frozen pizza at a supermarket. It’s not that I enjoy eating canned foods, but when the end of the month approaches, as a student it’s often the only way to buy food at all.
    Also, I understand your reasons for not wanting to eat fast food. But I think that drinking coke or having a veggie burger once in a while are fine. After all, some fast foods do taste good, and I don’t think that my body will suffer a lot by a small coke every once in a while (I’m talking especially those times when you’re invited to somebody’s house – the fact that I’m vegetarian is usually enough for my meat-loving friends to cope with, so giving them any more restrictions seems asking too much from my part).

    • My husband insists on buying frozen pizza sometimes, so I’ve had to learn to pick my battles! Also, I have a weakness for Hansens and ginger beer in a bottle. I was referring to people who are so caught up in their fast paced schedules they end up eating fast food at least twice a week, and who drink soda on a daily basis… it takes some work-arounds and time, but there are ways to make food ahead of time and carry it with you for when you’re on the road. It just annoys me when people act like it’s impossible to do what they’re doing any other way. Bb!

  3. What a great blog post! A lot of people don’t give their diet much thought. It should be an integral part of our spirituality. I whole heartedly agree with you about the reduction of harm. It’s important to know where your food comes from, how it’s treated & what it eats. Consumers have the power to control how our chickens & cows are treated by choosing not to eat animals that aren’t treated properly.
    I’ll stop there as I feel a rant coming on. LOL

    A quick comment about reducing plastics; I started making fabric lunch bags to replace ziplock bags. There are lots of patterns & premade ones to buy online.
    Thanks again for your wonderful post which reminds us to be mindful about how we affect the environment. )0( bright blessings.

    • I agree about the power of consumers. In some cases, I’ve felt it’s the only power I have – I can’t make other people’s choices for them, I can only make my own choices as ethically as possible and forgive myself when I fall short. I’ve read a bit of your candle magick article, and I can’t wait to read more. Blessings! )O(

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