Mind the Gap

These are the words you hear as you step on and off the subway train in London and they never cease to capture my imagination. This is especially true now, since my work as a health consultant has me focused on a very specific gap – the gap between what we know today about good health and how to achieve it and the reality of the way we actually live here in America. It is a gap in what we value – between the rights and privileges we currently hold dear and the emergent values of personal responsibility and accountability for the wellbeing of ourselves, and by extension, our communities and our planet. It is more like a gulf than a gap – in America it is still a radical step to seriously pursue optimal health.

Here are three culturally shared values that I think illuminate the gap we need to bridge:

Time. Americans spend the least amount of time preparing and eating food than any other country – an average of 60 minutes a day – for all three meals! Those meals are often eaten standing up or driving and the time that used to be spent preparing and eating meals with others is now taken up by other activities – work, TV, phones, and computers.

Taste. Americans are addicted to the taste and texture of processed foods – which means a flavor profile limited to refined sugar, carbs, fats, salt, and chemicals. The range and depth of flavors found in whole-foods are way outside the comfort zone of taste buds dulled by the superficial intensity of foods that appeal to our basest desires. Whole nutritionally rich foods are such an oddity that my nieces and nephews declare fast food “real” and the stuff that I eat (e.g. kale) is perceived as “fake.”

Money. Americans spend the lowest percentage of their income on food of any other country – a mere 10%. That frees up more dollars for spending on consumer goods and entertainment. We also have 24/7 access to cheap, plentiful food on an historically unimaginable scale. Never before have so many had access to so much.

To sum it up: we dedicate the least time possible eating superficially satisfying, nutritionally barren foods at the lowest cost. In other words, the value we put on individual freedom of choice and the pursuit of “happiness” combined with the incredible availability of food and our relative prosperity has led us to feel entitled to live and eat in whatever way pleases us. To understand the consequences to our individual health, the wellbeing of our nation, and the state of the environment, we can take a look in the collective mirror, or simply read the headlines. The pursuit of happiness, in the form of a Happy Meal, has trumped the deeper freedoms and human aspirations for personal responsibility and accountability.

So, it’s a big gap. We do know more than we let on, and in the midst of our busy lives are reluctant to wake up to how slavish we are to our baser impulses. No doubt, a trend is beginning as we become unwilling to accept the decline in the quality of life we can expect from following the status quo. The steps we take to revalue our lives and the way we spend our time and money will create a bridge to a different future based on different values.

Express your desire and willingness to take your health and wellbeing into your own hands and go against the flow of culture as it is. Buck the system, have greens for b-fast, do more than you think you can – find ways to bridge the gap between what you know and what you choose to do.

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4 Responses to Mind the Gap

  1. Joanna says:

    Well said Katherine, really, once you become aware of it, what we are running on is bad fuel, by way of bad food – and how can we produce anything good if we are operating from a chemical cocktail. What is produced energetically from unhealthy eating is unbalanced and out of touch with ourselves and our goodness and groundedness. It’s clear when you see it, but not clear when the gulf is there in lifestyle and we are lost in it.

  2. Margaret Gubbins says:

    It seems that the sections of our community who have the worst diet are also the sections who “feel” the least free or privileged – and it is a reinforcing loop. So I guess the good news is that the opposite is also part of a reinforcing loop and by either improving nutrition and health or by education and development a more positive feedback loop will be triggered leading to healthier people who are increasingly more willing to take responsibility for our planetary health. I especially feel for parents of young children who are trying to select food and water that is free of harmful products, never mind being just plain nutritious – it ain’t easy! Margaret
    PS your expression in the pic of you on the ladder doing home renovations – is that pleasure or torture:)?

    • Kosmic Kitchen says:

      yes – we can create negative feed back loops and those need to be broken by positive action which leads to a positive feedback loop! And my expression is one of – “lay it on – I can take anything you’ve got” :)

  3. Shel says:

    Well said – I already have a post-it with “Mind the gap” prominently placed to remind me to contiually take steps to change the unhelathy habits to good ones. We know what’s good for us, but often choose “the easier” path, which isn’t necessarily so. We ultimately pay for our “bad” choices with lost time, poor emotional and physical health, even financially just to name a few. Keep sharing your thoughts and ideas.

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