American physician, medical adviser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, and New York Times best-selling author Mark Hyman came together with Sadhguru on World Peace Day 2014 to explore matters of health and wellbeing. Last month’s article looked at the significance of how we consume our food. In this excerpt, they explore how good or bad health can be a direct consequence of what we eat.
Sadhguru: This wonder gadget that you are carrying in your pocket – a fork – is also part of the crime. When you do not touch the food, you do not know what it is. If food is not good enough to be touched, I do not know how it is good enough to be eaten!
Mark Hyman: So we should not have listened to our mothers – we should eat with our fingers, because touching our food helps us stay in contact with it.
Sadhguru: The cleanliness of your hands is entirely in your hands. The cleanliness of the fork is not necessarily in your hands. No one else but you has used these hands, so you can be sure how clean or not clean they are right now. With the fork, you do not know who has used it, how they have used it, and for what. All they have to do is wipe it with a tissue and it looks clean. Above all, when you use a fork, you do not feel the food.
The first thing that we were taught is if food appears in front of you, you hold your hands upon the food for a few moments to feel how the food is. If something appears on my plate and I just feel it, I know what to eat and what not to eat without having to taste it. My hands are the first level of knowing the food. Similarly, if you want to know a person, you guys shake their hands. I usually avoid that.
Mark Hyman: That’s a good strategy.
Sadhguru: But it is important to know the food that is going to become a part of you. Even if you do not physically touch it with your hands, just by being conscious, you will clearly know how the food will behave within you. The decision whether a particular food should go into you or not changes from day to day, because your body is different every day, every moment. If you feel the food, you just know whether it should go into you on this day or not. If the necessary awareness is brought in, we do not have to tell people what they should eat. Every meal, they should decide what to eat this time.
There is no one prescription of what you should eat for the rest of your life. That said, sugars and carbs are definitely a serious issue. But the real long-term challenge is weaning people off meat. Almost 200 pounds of meat are consumed per capita in the US per year. And 3 trillion dollars are spent on healthcare – barely four other countries on the planet even have a GDP that is larger than that. In other words, the healthcare bills in the US are higher than most nations’ GDPs.
This is a violent way to exist, and it is very hard on your system. Illness is the first level of violence. You cannot be peaceful when you are ill, because your body is in a constant battle. The fight with some virus, bacteria, or something else that comes from outside is one thing. But a chronic ailment is like a civil war. You created a battle within your own system, without an outside enemy.
Too many people die from chronic ailments, and more than that, even when they are alive, they cannot live well. And unfortunately, the maximum number exists in one of the most affluent countries on the planet. That means if affluence comes, we will lose all our sense. This is what America is telling the rest of world. And this will happen to the whole world at some point. We see similar things in Indian cities. It is just that America may be the forerunner. It is very important that America corrects itself, because whatever America does, for some reason the rest of the world does too.
You will see, in an Indian city, almost 60% of the population is wearing denim pants. And if you go to an Indian village, they might not have heard of yoga, but they know Coca Cola. When a nation has such an impact, you have a responsibility not just for your own health or your nation’s health, you have a responsibility for the world’s health, because the rest of the world imitates whatever you do.
Mark Hyman: Actually, China and India now have the highest numbers of diabetics in the world: 80% of the world’s diabetics are in the developing world. And it is because we created the worst diet on the planet, exported it to every nation, and they are eating it. One in three adult Americans has pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, and one in ten kids in Mexico has type 2 diabetes, which we used to call “adult-onset” diabetes.
This epidemic is getting out of hand. It goes right along with the amount of soda we drink and processed foods we eat, and the amount of misinformation people get. One of the things that have struck me in the last few years is that people want to do the right thing, but they often do not have the right information.
As part of the movie “Fed Up,” which is about childhood obesity, the obesity epidemic in this country, and the food industry, I worked with a family in South Carolina who was very overweight, very sick. The father was on dialysis; the mother was probably 150 pounds overweight and had many illnesses; and the son was 16, almost diabetic and probably 60 or 70 pounds overweight. They lived in a trailer on food stamps and disability benefits.
The solution was food – not a prescription drug. I showed them how to cook a simple meal with a guy from “Good Food on a Tight Budget,” which is an initiative of the Environmental Working Group that teaches you how to eat food that is good for you, good for the planet, and good for your wallet. This family just did not know how to cook. After teaching them to cook a meal without processed foods and sugar, I gave them my cookbook.
The mother lost over 100 pounds, the father lost 45 pounds and was able to get a new kidney, and the son lost about 50 pounds. There is a huge hunger in this county to do the right thing, yet people do not have the right information. I think it has been a deliberate, intentional effort by some elements of the food industry to disenfranchise us from our food, which goes from a direct relationship to the food we eat, to connecting to it like Sadhguru said, to growing it, to eating real food, to knowing what it is.
I think that is the revolution that has to happen. And it is that seed that will be planted that can shift a lot of the global problems we have. When the World Economic Forum says that the single biggest threat to global economic development is our chronic diseases epidemic, and that this epidemic is driven by the food we eat, changing our diet and lifestyle is the answer to this huge problem.
Sadhguru: Eating improperly and eating inappropriately are two big aspects. The way we “do” food is violent, and if we carry much more on this frame than what we should carry, it is a kind of soil erosion. Whatever number of pounds you shed does not go into the sky – it is going back into the earth. You prevent soil erosion!
We are allowed to carry what we want, but not beyond what is comfortable for us. The pain of existing like that is such that most people who are in this state have forgotten what it means to be light, what it means to be agile, what it means to be really alive. As I said earlier, it is not just about the medical aspects, the number of people who die, and various other things. The biggest problem is the number of people who are alive but cannot live a full life.
Mark Hyman: That’s right. It is not just about preventing disease somewhere down the road. People just do not connect the way they feel with what they eat. The truth is that in a short while, by shifting the way you eat, you can literally transform your health. We see this over and over – even in a week or ten days, people have dramatic transformations.
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