I've been reading up on homesteading lately... or what most people called "living" for most of human history, at least outside of urban areas.
There is something romantic about the concept of course. The idea of having greater autonomy appeals to me. But the thing that most appeals to me is that you can't just accept the ease of convenience.
I firmly believe that convenience might be the root cause of most of our collective physical ailments and chronic illness. The fact that we can order pizza and have it delivered to our door and that it is cheaper than making a meal means that the profit margins have to come from having the cheapest ingredients possible. Those ingredients are calorically dense and filled with preservatives that cause inflammation.
Like many things in life that are desired by many people we have to make compromises and can't get everything. Like buying highly desirable real estate you have to choose between location, size and price; unless you're incredibly rich you only get two of the three. A great price and a nice size means you will have a long commute to work. A great location and a decent size means you are paying up the wazoo. And a great location and a decent prize means you are living in a shoebox.
When it comes to food the comparable trade offs are between taste, health and convenience:
- Fast food is tasty and convenient food but not healthy.
- Skinless chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice, the body builders special, is overall healthy and easy to make but few people would call the dish particularly tasty.
- Ribeye, creamed spinach and a wedge salad are pretty healthy but it's not convenient.
That's why I find the idea of homesteading appealing. There is something about growing your own food, preserving it and preparing it that is incredibly appealing to me. It is a slower pace - moving to the beat of crops and seasons.
As I think about food and how to find time to make things that are appealing and healthy I started thinking about education and how we collectively learn.
The equivalent of junk food is social media, where most people get their information. Just like fast food chain's main motivation is to profit and not to nourish you, so these sites are incentivized to maintain your attention, not to tell you the truth or to help paint the richness of the story.
Search Engine Optimization and clickbait titles are the equivalent of packaging on snack wrappers - designed to capture your attention and entice you into checking out what the site or video has to offer you.
Just like junk foods know that what the customer wants is the right combination of salt, sugar and fat, so too does social media and other sites recognize that what keeps bringing us back is a combination of titillation, novelty and pageantry.
I don't think it is a coincidence that we see an increase in obesity in the united states
at the same time that we are seeing increases in mental health challenges, particularly with adolescents.
To some extent there might be a causal link; eating highly processed food and not getting the nutrients we need, especially during adolescence and physical growth, probably plays a strong role in mental health challenges.
But more broadly, I think we are collectively consuming junk food while we are consuming junk information - one is having a devastating impact on our body and the other is having a similar impact on our brain.
This is, in my opinion, even worse for young adults. People of all ages generally can recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods even if they choose to only eat junk food. Many people, particularly young people, would not have the slightest clue how to distinguish between truth and authoritative lies that are posted on a polished Instagram account.
How do we fix this?
Social media = junk food and books = nourishing food. If we want to get healthy we need to eat less junk and more nourishing food. If we want to get our minds healthy we need to consume less social media and read more books. We seem to be doing less of that.
I do fundamentally think that the key to getting healthier physically and mentally is simple; eat nourishing food and read nourishing books. We are doing much less of that than we did and we are paying the price in terms of greater physical and mental health challenges.
If we value physical and mental health we have to give up something else that we value; convenience. It is far more convenient to eat fast food than to make healthy food; but there is a price to pay. It is far more convenient to scroll on social media than to read a book; but there is a price to pay.
My only hope for people is that they at least strive to make a conscious choice in these things. Eat as consciously as we can. We can always get better at it if we feel like the efforts we are putting in have been paying dividends. Likewise lets try and be conscious of the media we consume and be cognizant of how it is attempting to inform us and shape our opinions for repeated viewing and future revenue.
If you want to eat the ice cream, go for it. If you want to watch CNN or spend hours on Facebook, go for it. Just recognize that McDonald's is serving you tasty food that isn't good for you. Likewise, cable news and social media are entertaining but aren't serving you information that is good for you. All of these companies have the same goal - serve you whatever keeps you coming back for more.
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