Why that name? Obviously those two things are our two most basic needs. You could throw in love and family as well, but that’s a different blog. We need food – hopefully healthy, nutritious, whole foods that supports a long, healthy, good quality life. And we need shelter – a roof over our heads, protection from the elements and wild animals, and clean air and water – to be able to live as a part of modern society.
Have one without the other? Life suffers a bit – and maybe more than a bit. Shelter without any food means you starve. Shelter without good food – food that supports the body in healing itself from the injuries of modern industrial society (and Father Time…) – leads to protection from the outside world but disease from within. After WWII, as our economy took off and the modern American busy work-life started taking shape, we began to have less and less time to cook food. Women entered the workforce in increasing numbers, and the idea of someone in a family being able to carve out time from work, commute, and a busy life to shop for, prepare, and serve a healthy menu became more and more a remnant of the past. What started with TV dinners turned into Domino’s delivery. Even breakfast – the last bastion of healthy, simple family meals turned in Eggo waffles and Pop Tarts – we were lucky if we took the time for a bowl of Frosted Flakes.
As our diets became more and more processed, and we started depending upon other people to assemble and make the foods we ate, we handed over control over what went into those foods to the Industrial Processed Food Complex. There are countless good books about what happened next – my favorite is Michael Moss’ Salt Sugar Fat – but our diets gained about 20% more calories between 1970 and 2008, with almost all of that 20% increase coming from extracted oil, sugar, and refined flours. As my mentor (and renown nutritionist) Jeff Novick once said, “What happens when you put oil, sugar, and flour in a bowl, mix them, and cook them? You get a donut.” And that’s what the American diet turned into – even if you were trying to eat healthy, and thought you were eating healthy (95% of people polled say they do), the facts are tough to ignore. More calories, with most of them coming from processed sources, less whole foods, and far less control over our ingredient list – meaning, other people make most of what we eat.
This is a tough position to put our bodies in. Regardless as to whether you eat Paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers, vegan or whatever plan you follow, once you give up control of the ingredients, it’s impossible to control what you take in. You might be sensitive to gluten, and be unknowingly eating it in a wide variety of forms. You might not break down certain sugars like fructose, but can’t possibly avoid it when others make the decisions about small amounts included in recipes. Or maybe you’re like me, and basic foods like garlic and onions cause inflammation in your gut (most people don’t know this is even possible). Do you have any idea how many foods contain garlic or onions? It’s mind-blowing. The point is, as we lost our desire to cook, ability to cook, need to cook, or interest in cooking, we have slowly ceded control over the quality and quantity of calories we take in.
Not only is this problematic for our waistlines (40% of us are obese, and 2/3 overweight), our health (rising diet-caused diseases like diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, high blood pressure….), and our pocketbooks (as healthcare costs have skyrocketed, in large part due to the increasing numbers of American’s with lifestyle-related chronic, expensive conditions that either require surgery, a lifetime of medication, or both).
And this is just one side of our life. Meaning, we need two things to survive in life – food and shelter. Our food system – as amazing as it is – is really a bit of a wreck.
Now let’s talk about how we live – the buildings we live in, the houses we raise our families in and spend a growingly-large percentage of our lives in…