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The Sicker We Get, the Happier We Are?

Watching an hour of television at night makes me feel sick. There. I said it out loud. It’s not the programming so much as it’s the Big Pharma ads during the programs.

If they’re to be believed, every single person struggling with one disease or another is well, frankly, living their best lives. If these ads are to be believed, (and trust me, they want us to believe them), people struggling with every ailment from psoriatic arthritis to type 2 diabetes to metastatic breast cancer are having more adventurous and robust lives than any healthy person could dream of having.

They travel to find their roots despite the threat of Afib. They sing in choirs, go kayaking, swim what looks like The English Channel; do cannonballs into pools, hike trails and mountains and run playfully through fields of flowers; they are fishermen/women; they’re singlehandedly remodeling homes and generally living as the life of the party.

Jeez. How is being dreadfully sick portrayed as more fun than being well?

Look, I get it. We no longer say we are winning the battle against cancer or any other disease so we call people with these perfectly awful diseases as “thrivers.” I have to say this term completely sets me off. I don’t think that people struggling with disease should cower under blankets and give up, but can we please stop glamorizing illness in service of selling us yet another drug with side effects as brutal or worse than the disease?

Big Pharma tells us not to worry about staying healthy. Don’t worry about healthy eating and living. They have our backs. If you get seriously ill, there will be a pill or injection to help you out so you can continue zip lining on weekends…you know…thriving. Maybe they are just telling us to live in the moment, but as a cancer survivor, you want more than the moment; you want your life and you want to be free of disease.

A wise medical expert friend of mine once told me that I would be shocked at how much money was spent to suppress information on the impact of healthy eating to prevent and even treat disease. I guess it makes sense. There’s a lot of money to be made on illness and disease. From insurance companies to pharmaceutical giants, there’s a big investment in Americans’ ongoing collective struggle with lifestyle diseases.

And yet, we do need medicine and medical experts. I don’t negate that need for one moment. We are living in a pandemic, a global viral pandemic. We need medical experts to help those in dire need. We need answers to this problem that only science can give us so we know how to move forward as a global community.

We also need to do our part. If we have learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that no one is going to care for our day to day ability to fight disease but us.

Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Tuft’s University and a nutrition expert said that 88% of Americans are metabolically unfit to fight off infection. He said that until we address the role diet (and exercise) plays in our compromised immune function, all the vaccines in the world won’t rid of this modern-day plague.

That should wake us up, big time. Simply put, if we made healthier food choices and moved our bodies just a little, we would stand a greater chance of fighting off infection. Nothing is an ironclad guarantee that Covid won’t infect us, but wouldn’t you want to give yourself every advantage to stay well?

And one other thing. Am I the only person who hears the breathy disclaimer that almost always states that use of this or that drug can inhibit the body’s ability to fight infection? Do you know what that means…now more than ever? And yes, before you yell at me, I know that people need medications from time to time to support them through a health crisis. And yes, medicine can be a blessing. We must use it wisely and not as a substitute for taking care of ourselves.

I get it. I don’t know about you, but there are days when I grieve for a life that feels diminished. Some of us are out of work and some of us are working around the clock to keep society functioning, putting their lives at risk daily. Still others are simply exhausted, spent by the relentless onslaught of bad news and unreliable opinion from various pundits. We are dealing with loneliness, family strife, duty, anxiety and the virus itself.

Life is hard now on the best of days. We’re weary and irritable.

But do we think for one minute that zonking out on the couch with a bag of chips or cookies will solve this? We don’t get to check out this time. We must fight for our lives. WE must fight for our lives.

So we cook. We don’t order take out every night under the guise of nobly supporting the restaurant industry. We must cook foods that will support our bodies’ immune function in these stressful times. We must cook to feel better and to help our loved ones feel better. We cook to get along in life.

White flour, white sugar, processed foods, animal products, soda, chips and other junk food will leave us feeling lethargic, bloated, depressed. ..and terrified. And while we have every right to feel terrified, we can be strong and terrified just as easily as weak and terrified.

I choose strong.

A diet of whole grains, lots and lots of veggies, beans, tofu and tempeh, nuts, seeds, good fats and seasonal fruit will not only satisfy but will strengthen your body’s ability to fight infection.

Remember that there’s comfort food and food that comforts us by knowing we are doing all we can to stay well during this uncertain time.

Even if we begin cooking in exhaustion, it will end in satisfaction and maybe even joy as the food we serve nourishes those we love in a way that helps them fight off infection. It’s not everything, but it’s what we can do to proactively support our wellness.

We must eat as though all life matters and fight for our lives as we never have before. And the battle begins in the kitchen with what you choose to eat.

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