If food is your boat

When I was a kid, maybe seven or eight years old, I would often tell my dad, “we need a boat.” I have always wanted a boat, and still do to this day. I love being on the water. As a fisherman, I love being able to move into areas restricted from bank access and create excellent cast angles along structure. I enjoy being with people on the water and tubing. I enjoy the feeling of gliding on the water.

These things, in my mind, make a boat an amazing thing. My dad, however, would always respond to my desire with, “you never stop buying a boat.” What kind of sense does that make? I thought once we paid for it, it was ours.

He meant other things that came with the boat, like maintenance, never stopped. Boats, because they are in water so often, are subject to damage from water. Water is a funny thing. We need it to survive, but it degrades anything man-made. We want water to come out of our sink and shower, but we do not want a leaky pipe in the wall, or worse, in the attic crawl space. Once it invades one of those no-no areas, water can create significant damage to the contacted surfaces.

This is what comes with the boat, whether the purchaser believes it or not. Boats require lifelong maintenance to counteract water erosion. This is principle, meaning all boats everywhere by nature will fit this criterion.

What does this have to do with food?

Food, to our short-term perspective, is a one-time decision made multiple times per day. We are either hungry or just bored and presented with food, and we decide to consume.

We navigate through a few criteria when deciding what to eat: what time of day it is, what we had yesterday, what others may want, what we do or do not like, what we feel like, what sounds good, what is convenient, what leftovers we have, what prepped food remains for the week, and others. We use these as a method to filter through the many options. Once we get more clear direction, we act on what fits best for the moment.

In terms of our long-term health, however, food has a bigger effect. Each time we eat, we input substances with the power to affect our future health. Our bodies need vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to remain healthy. Quality nutrients allow the body to survive in our present environment, fight off disease, and remain capable through old age. We must have quality nutrients to thrive, just like our bodies need water.

Earlier I spoke of water, how we need it to survive but also want it contained. In a similar way, we need food to survive, but certain types we should avoid. Why?

We really do not need to talk about what foods are healthy. Do I need to tell anyone to eat more spinach? Do I need to tell anyone to not eat fried foods? For the most part, no.

What I need to tell everyone is why foods have a profound impact on long-term health. Even better, I need to frame it so we see how foods lead to chronic issues.

The body’s specialty is conversion. The body takes food, and converts it for use. By nature, it absorbs and breaks down the food we consume to carry on cellular processes. What the body does not use it eliminates.

The body has systems to filter out unnecessary elements. These elements may hinder the efficiency of the body or create toxicity with potential to harm the body.

The kidneys, for example, filter out elements with potential to create toxicity in the body. When the body breaks down protein to build muscles and maintain organs, ammonia is the by-product. Have you ever cleaned with ammonia? Ammonia has an incredibly strong odor and can cause problems if you use it in an enclosed space without ventilation. Drinking it would be very hazardous.

Our kidneys filter ammonia out of our bodies. Imagine if ammonia built up in our bodies? Bad news, right?

Guess what? A large amount of food today is man-made with chemical ingredients. Much like water leaking in a crawl space, foods like these are bad news. Why? Because they come with problematic ingredients that create extra stress on the body.

Filtration organs like the kidneys, liver, intestines, lymph system, and even the respiratory tract are subject to higher levels of stress when presented with additional chemicals to eliminate. The chemicals must be filtered out to keep the body balanced.

But here is the rub: what if these chemicals by nature harm the cells of filtration organs? Not only must the body filter them, but it gets damaged in the process. And what happens when the damage levels decrease the body’s filtration efficacy?

Just like we need water to survive but want it to be contained, we also need food but want real sources of food without chemicals that harm the body.

Ninety years ago, we could smoke a cigarette on an airplane, in any restaurant, and in any building. Smoking was cultural. Over time, effects from smoking became connected to smoking itself. Sadly, smoking remained cultural, and the evidence against it did not turn the tide just yet. Around the 1980s, research began to link smoking to lung cancer, emphysema, and other respiratory issues. These issues, once thought as experiences of genetics or old age, were labeled “chronic.” Why?

They were labeled "chronic" because they were repetitive microtraumas resulting in macrotraumas. The microtraumas, or repetitive damage caused by each cigarette, eventually led to the microtrauma, or related illness.

Many health issues today are chronic, meaning many microtraumas led to the macrotrauma. What we eat is either helping or harming the body. Even more, what we eat can be causing microtraumas and can lead to macrotraumas down the road.

Even more alarming, eating poorly and creating microtrauma is cultural. Many American resturants, snacks, and recipes are geared for taste alone, often at the expense of poor ingredients. What is the first question we ask when someone is eating something? “How does it taste?” “Is it good?” We are always concerned with taste first. Sadly, taste is a characteristic only noticed until about ten minutes after the meal.

We are short-term focused when it comes to food, and we need a long-term perspective. Healthy practices are always deferred gratification. Talking about how hard it is to eat healthily because of taste is a massive waste of time, because the reasoning hinges on the attribute with the shortest effect of all. Would we rather do what pleases us for ten minutes at the expense of chronic health problems in the future?

Whether we want to admit it or not, food comes with a long-term cost, just like a boat. Yes, meals happen at specific points in time throughout the day, but the long-term effects are inextricably connected.

If your food is your boat, then what maintenance are you buying for yourself in the future?