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. In this excerpt, they explore how it’s not just about what food we eat, but also how we eat.
Mark Hyman: As I was thinking about the biggest threat to world peace and the solution, it occurred to me that it is something that could fit in your pocket. And if we get it right, with this one tool, we can cure chronic diseases, which are on the rise across the globe. Over 50 million people a year die from lifestyle-preventable diseases, compared to 20 million who die from infectious diseases.
It is not only the single biggest threat to global economic development, costing 47 trillion dollars over the next 20 years – which is more than the annual gross domestic product of the six largest nations combined – it also threatens our oceans, our soils, and our air. It is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, to political instability, and to the lack of ability to actually take care of our population across the globe. And yet, if we get it right with this one tool, we have the ability to solve all these problems.
Do you know what this tool is? It’s in my pocket. It’s a fork. Because what we put on the end of our fork determines everything about our world. It determines what happens to our health, to the lands we grow our food on, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. It determines the stability or instability of governments and societies around the world. Still it is something that nobody is really talking about. When we talk about threats to world peace, we only talk about ISIS and instability in the Middle East, which is certainly real and important as well.
Nobody is talking about this other issue. The single biggest problem facing us as a human race today, is how do we create a healthy world? Because a healthy world is a peaceful world. A world where we are sick and overweight, and burdened by disease and the cost of those diseases, is a very unstable, unsafe, and un-peaceful world. So, today we are going to talk about some of these issues, hopefully provide some context, and some solutions for it as well.
Economic issues and health issues are connected, and we see this increasing economic burden in our society. The United States is spending 2.8 trillion dollars on healthcare this year , which is about 16% of the economy, and 84% of it is for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, obesity-related illnesses – lifestyle-preventable problems. And yet, our healthcare system does not address it, because it seems like the solution is outside of the doctor’s office – it is more in our own hands, in our own hearts, and in our own minds. So, one questions is, how can we get more empowered about taking this into our own hands? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Sadhguru: Today being the World Peace Day, let’s talk about food in the context of either peace or violence. Essentially, we treat our bodies violently, we live violently, and then we expect the world to be peaceful. The world is quite peaceful without human beings. It is only the way we live upon this planet which creates violence. As Mark mentioned, there are very violent, brutal situations on the planet, like battles or wars. They need to be handled – there’s no question about that – but the everyday violence with which we live also needs to be addressed.
Every year, we are killing 53 billion land animals, and over a hundred million sea creatures. When we cause so much violence, we being healthy and peaceful is not going to happen. Not just the quality of the food we consume – how we consume, how wantonly or how consciously, is very important. There is a whole lot of talk about what to consume, but there is hardly any guidance or effort to bring awareness to people as to how to consume food. I just read somewhere that 20% of the American meals are consumed in a car.
Traditionally, in the East, we have always been taught how you should be when food enters your body, what condition you should be in, what posture you should be in, how you should approach it – these are very big things in the East. If 20% of the meals are eaten in cars, maybe another 20% is eaten in bars! I don’t know how many people actually sit at the table and eat a meal consciously, with a certain sense of involvement with the food and the people around them. I think there is enough knowledge about the content of the food today in the world, but still, people are yet to make the necessary changes, apart from a few cosmetic ones maybe.
Apart from the content of the food, which definitely has a big impact, how you consume it is equally important. Whether you eat an animal, a vegetable, or whatever else – essentially, food is a piece of life. Something that was a life by itself becomes a part of you. One life transforms itself into another – that is what eating means. It is not just digestion – it is one life fusing into another.
When you put another piece of life into you, how it merges with your body and what this produces depends on how you keep your chemistry while you eat. How you should be, when you should eat, in what posture you should sit, and how you should welcome the food into yourself – these things are completely ignored today. Right now, the battle is about what to consume. That itself is a big challenge, and Mark is taking it up.
Mark Hyman: It’s very true. Actually, if people consciously ate the food that they are currently eating, they probably wouldn’t eat it anymore. In fact, there was a patient who was desperate to lose weight, but he was very busy. He said he had to go to Burger King every lunchtime, order two big whoppers, and quickly eat them. I told him, “I want you to mindfully eat each bite, taste it, and really enjoy it.” He came back a few weeks later and said, “I tried it. It was disgusting. I couldn’t eat it anymore.” Since we are often eating unconsciously, we are not even aware of the effect on our body. I think the power of food is enormous both to cause disease and to cure disease. The quality of the food that we eat determines the quality of our health, and the awareness that we eat our food with also determines how that food is metabolized by our body. Those are real phenomena.
And the problem in this county is that the food industry has literally hijacked our food system and has produced factory-made science projects that are highly addictive and that create disease. And the ways in which we grow them have huge impacts on our environment – degrading our soils, our water supply, and our air. The industrial agriculture contributes greatly to climate change, and the food we grow from it has an enormous impact on our health.
The processed foods are full of sugar and flour. The average American eats 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour every year, which acts just like sugar in the body. Combined, this is about a pound a day of sugar and flour. This causes heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, which they now call type 3 diabetes. Sugar and flour can cause depression, even infertility, and acne. But even though they have an enormous impact on our health, they are the main food we eat in this country.
A lot of the calories we eat come from sugar – up to 20%. I think we have to look at the food system, how it affects us, and how we can bring about a shift. Making the right choices every day about what we put in our body is a very revolutionary act. I think we all need to start a revolution in our own kitchens, in our own bodies, in our homes in order to shift the tide, to change the world towards a more peaceful state. Because the way we currently eat is driving so much of the health disturbances, the economic instability, and ultimately the political instability and threats to peace.
We all have that power, at every single meal. We can vote three times a day with our fork, and this has an enormous impact beyond your own health. Probably the single most important and powerful thing you can do every day is figure out what you are going to put on your fork, and the choice is yours. You can’t always control how much you eat because that is driven by hormones and brain chemistry, which is regulated by the quality of the food you eat. If you eat sugar and processed food, it actually makes you hungry and slows your metabolism. If you eat real food, it changes your natural regulatory mechanism, so you don’t overeat. You eat the right amount of food, and so you stay a healthy weight.
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