The diet industry has pathologized normal or otherwise benign physiology in the spirit of developing products and services to “fix” something that isn’t really broken.” Tim Frie
Sound familiar? This is what I said last week in the mini-rant I did on food and why I firmly believe that there is no such thing as healthy food. Then, yesterday I ran into Tim’s quote on the same issue. It felt very affirming.
This is why understanding the math of food on your bottom line is so important. And it is why understanding food, is fundamental to solving our mental health crisis - and the stigma attached to it.
The worst of all of it seems to have started with fats being mistakenly held responsible for high cholesterol, 30 years or so, ago. “Nutritionism” (viewing food as the sum of it's parts instead of just as food) and “Parking Lot Science” (only looking for answers in places that are comfortable) are to blame. It was a steep downhill from there. It now impacts almost every human in the Western World. And, perhaps I’ll get into this one day – but for now, it is also highly responsibly for devastating effect our Standard Western Diet - has had on the rest of the world. And it is responsible for the pathetically inefficient food chain supply we have created. I have often said that I don’t really think we are in danger of a ‘global food shortage’ the way it is portrayed. I think what is really endangered is our ill-health causing food manufacturing, poorly planned food supply chains and ignorance of the fact that we can grow enough food to feed our families for a year, on our own yards.
Our collective, orchestrated, dysfunctional relationship with food, costs companies billions of dollars every year - in sick leave and prescription costs - and so much more than that.
“Mental Health” is not the lynch pin for solving the imbalance in your company culture, our physical health is. Mental health was (naturally,) the last to go. It was the final aspect of ourselves that broke:
*under the weight of decades and decades of nutrient deficient food
*over the 100 years of 250,000 new chemicals developed and throw out into our food, water and air – new compounds that our bodies had never seen before.
*as an outcome of 70 years of doubling down on women, giving them a second fulltime job and demanding they be able to handle both.
*as an outcome of doubling down on men by demanding they adjust their ancient attitude towards women immediately, evolve their psychology at record speed and start behaving the way we wanted them too now that we had finally woken up.
* and, as another factor, that will be triggering for some - an outcome of waaaaay too many generations of doubling down on infants and demanding they sleep through the night by using the trauma inducing strategy of separation, to do so – and – then expecting them to be cooperative kids when they start talking.
On the baby part, which can be so understandably triggering - it is no one’s fault. And mom.... it is not your fault either. It was a survival tactic. Mom’s had to work so baby had to sleep. The paediatricians that preached a strict feeding schedule and low PDA between child and parent were as human (and as wrong) as the guy that decided fats in food caused high cholesterol in humans. We didn’t know as much about the nervous system and the primitive brain then, as we do now. We did have scientists screaming from the roof top that if we keep refining our foods we’d end up with an epidemic of obesity and heart disease. Why didn’t we listen? Well.... what happened in the 40s while these experts were yelling and trying to be heard?
War. A need for economic recovery. Food processors had jobs. Mothers had to go to work and still needed a quick meal for their family. The chicken and the egg.
It was too late after that.
So here we are.
The costs are beyond what we can calculate, well, actually, they are beyond what we can psychologically tolerate – it is just too much awfulness for us to hold, without also having the release of pressure that is allowed by having someone to blame.
This is also why we have not gotten anywhere yet. Our human need to have someone or something or some company, to blame - so we can handle the pain, has resulted in an eternal game of duck-duck-goose. Depending on where the researchers wanted to look (parking lot science) is what dictated which industry, product, company, group of people, or entire country, that we blamed for a couple years. Blame creates defensiveness that redirects blame - and then 30 years later we are right back where we started - except more forests have disappeared and my city runs out of water in 33 weeks.
This dysfunctional food situation also adds to your para-medical costs.
Once someone has bought into the quest for the holy grail of diets that will solve all their problems, they will pay a lot of people, a lot of money, to never find it. They will travel for it. They will use up their benefits for it. They will often be mislead and end up sick and unwell later because the root cause was never addressed, and then you will pay for their mediations.
The place to start addressing ‘mental health’ in the workplace lies in our relationship with food and understanding stress, trauma and the microbiome. If that is not your strategy you will neverEVEREVER get rid of the stigma around mental health. It’s not going to happen.
Why? Partly because, Covid. This pandemic forced us inward. Those of us that accepted the challenge of feeling our real feelings during lockdown and isolation, have come up with a different perspective. We know that food, stress, the microbiome and our relationships are what precipitates a poor mental health outcome. We will not be able to help ourselves - when we look at the person, whose mental health is faltering, that we have to help or compensate for, we will not be able to help wondering if they could not be doing some of the things we did, to help ourselves.
This is the high-bred stigma that is on it’s way. If we do not educate the masses on the fundamental issues I am talking about here, it’s going to happen. If we do not educate everyone on all of these things – so that they can create a framework of compassion and empathy for those that are struggling, a compassion that is willing to respect the individual’s journey and trust that they will get there, then we’re f#cked. The new stigma will ensue and all those programs and policies and systems that you put in place to extinguish all the things, will have just pushed the energy of this underground. Later, by the fate set in motion by all those universal laws I talked about in “Exposing corporate wellness” and “Our End Game Playbook" and “How feminism f`d up”, those imbalances will resurface - in the most inconvenient places.
Sorry. Back to food. Because it is the symptom that points us to the root cause.
Counting calories is as useless as counting blades of grass on your lawn so you can estimate how long it will take to mow it.
Read that again.
The quantity does not matter, the quality does. When you focus on quantity, what you are really doing is rationing supplies sent to your immune system, your circulatory system, every system. You are wasting your brain’s energy. And then, arguably, you start eating yourself. A biological debt is created. If you don’t start eating your own muscle tissue, then you start eating your vitality, your mental health, your ambition, you stable blood sugar, your homeostasis. Can’t get something from nothing, remember?
I’ve got a short, revelatory story about one of the first clients I ever had, and what they taught me, that threw my “Holistic Nutrition” diploma out the door - before I had even finished it. (damn it!) I did finish it tho. So that I had the framework. I needed a couple letters behind my name so people would listen to me and pay me for my help.
She had something on her back that would not heal. She had done every cleanse known to man, she said "we eat very clean". no one could figure out why it would't heal. Doctors and holistic practitioners alike, no one could figure it out. (It was the remnants of a skin parasite she'd pick up in a South American country.)
I asked for a 7 day food journal from her. And there it was. Every dietary insanity every created. Skinless chicken breast, brown rice, steamed green vegetables, no sugar. Lifeless. Food prison. The food prison created by 'nutritionism' that allowed a multi-billion dollar industry to grow around solving a freaking problem that was never there.
Want to know what my "clever" strategy was for her?
Go to the grocery store and buy anything that appeals to you, buy every color of the rainbow in the produce section and cook it. Go to Baked Expectations and have a cheesecake. Drink a glass of wine with your meals.
ONE week of that, and her skin issue resolved.
I spent the next 14 years reframing everything I had learned.
I don’t teach ‘nutrition’ anymore, I teach food. It’s all we need. And what I am talking about here is all gonna come tumbling down in the next 10 years anyway – so why not be ahead of the curve?
All of the talk therapy, mindfulness, meditation, CBT, breathwork and exercise in the world cannot, and never will, put the building blocks needed for mood supporting neurotransmitters and hormones, into your blood stream. It’s not physically possible.
This is all the big reason why our mental health crisis is escalating instead of resolving. All of the therapies I mentioned there will direct your body to produce chemicals that will support your mood, but if you’re not eating the pieces of the puzzle, your body cannot solve it. AND, even if you are eating them, but you are one of the 20,000,000 people in Canada that have some form of inflammation in your digestive system every year, then your ability to absorb those puzzle pieces is greatly reduced.
They say that costs our economy 18 billion a year, btw. If you’re in the USA, you’re probably looking at 180 Billion.
Can you imagine what one year of country wide education on this would cost, comparatively cost? Can you see what that would do our current costs? These costs, btw, are going to skyrocket post-pandemic - because, in a low-grade stress response, for 18 months during a global crisis, cortisol is constantly circulating our bodies. Cortisol dampens the immune response and is corrosive to our digestive tract lining.
Read that last sentence again.
Can you see where I am going? The strategy for curbing benefit costs, for reducing stress leave, for improving culture, for dissolving the stigma, is the same. And the longer I do this, the more I believe in my initial hypothesis, that strategic corporate wellness is probably the only way to save us at this point. It's not fair. But it's our last play. Our governments cannot do it. Even if they wanted to, you know they can't.
But a company can. All on it's own, one company can create a strategy on this that will save it's own costs from escalating. If a lot of companies in the same region do it, you'll see the results in the healthcare system, it will suddenly be less overwhelmed.
There is no pipe-dream here. This is biology. Our bodies have no reason to lie to us. Your pain and discomfort have never been an Advil or cortisone deficiency, I promise
I better stop, for now. Thanks for reading.
Your friendly broken record that will never stop.
Ps. You’ve just read the first draft of the first chapter of my book. Do you think I should keep writing? You just read the beginning of 3 other chapters, and those other articles I mentioned, with all the scientific and universal laws, are the framework. Feedback welcome. I
plan to call the book the title of this article.
Sonia Funk is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and Corporate Wellness Strategist. She has travelled the world as both student and teacher, gathering as many perspectives as she could and trying her damnedest to integrate them all. She doesn't think she as ALL the answers. But she's pretty sure she has decent questions. You can DM her if you'd like to hop on a discovery call, or go to The Whole Avocado and sign up for her email list (bottom of page) to get the low-down on the Group Wellness Coaching Program for Women that she will be opening up in Fall 2021.