We Are What We Eat

By now we all know about the health benefits of a nutritious daily diet – we’ve been saturated with such information for decades – so you need no reminders from me.

Nevertheless, I still find I occasionally need reminders. It’s just too easy, as a single older person living on a fixed income, to skip meals, skimp on groceries, not bother with cooking for one. A bowl of Campbell’s soup and a hearty little sandwich could easily become my only real meal every day.

So I keep this silly greeting card on my fridge, a souvenir from the days when I taught healthy cooking – in Manhattan at a prominent cooking school, in the Peace Corps in Africa as a health and nutrition volunteer, and in Taos, New Mexico, in a college-level course:

And I frequently consult the “ChooseMyPlate.gov” plate I invested in when I taught healthy cooking at UNM-Taos, just to refresh my memory:

“Make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” the plate states. Oh, really? Who among us (who is not a devout vegetarian) actually DOES that? I know it’s something I need to constantly strive for.

After my now-famous fall last January, when I went to the young and adorable Dr. Erick at the consultorio (see my post “After the Fall” for more about him), he must have noticed (how? from my broken nails? my dry-and-dull hair? the dark circles under my eyes?) that I was undernourished. So among his prescriptions was a large packet labeled MultiMix (available only from the farmacia Similares here in San Miguel de Allende) – a vitamin-and-mineral dietary supplement in powder form that I’ve been adding (along with protein powder) to a fresh-tropical-fruit smoothie every morning ever since.

What a difference these smoothies have made to my healing process! I feel healthy again.

And it’s not just food, I believe. We are what we consume in every aspect of our lives: We are the books we read, the news we digest, the lectures and performances we listen to, the television programs and movies we watch; everything we take into ourselves to feed our other hungers – of the heart, the soul, and the mind. Not just the body.

I was reminded of this the other night when I happened upon the 2010 film, “The Traveler,” starring Val Kilmer and Dylan Neal, in English with Spanish subtitles, on my TV. I’ve never liked horror films, but this one was horrifyingly captivating. I was so paralyzed by it I couldn’t turn it off. I had to see it to its conclusion.

It was beyond grizzly, beyond bearable. Blood, guts, gore, savage cruelty and torture, a severed head rolling from an open car door, creepy music… I kept asking myself, Why are you allowing all of  this to enter your brain? You’ll have nightmares for weeks!

The next morning, after waking from a bad dream (not prompted, I don’t think, by this film), I researched “The Traveler” online and found that one reviewer called it “a fetid slice of supernatural tomfoolery that will insult your intelligence every chance it gets” (Todd Rigney of Beyond Hollywood). Indeed.

Imagine, I thought, having a steady diet of such horror films – what a horror your life would be!

And this goes for the news, too. Now that I no longer get American news programs on TV, I’m feeling much healthier, gracias a dios. I still read the news online every morning, but I no longer have CNN’s “Breaking News!” out of Washington breaking my heart every day. I still care, of course, about world events, and I do all I can within my sphere to try to make things a little better.

But I’m no longer consumed by events over which I have zero control. It’s taken a while, but I’ve come to realize I can no longer allow that sickening man who’s sullying the White House (and tarnishing the U.S.’s image in the eyes of the world) to make me sick.

When my siblings and I were kids, my mom had a few food rules that were well worth following. One was, “Junk food isn’t FOOD! It’s JUNK. Don’t put it into your body.” She equated junk food with plastic: inedible. She didn’t allow us to watch scary movies either, believing that real life could be scary enough.

She was not a highly educated woman, but she was wise in many ways. She knew that what we consume becomes who we are. And it is our own personal responsibility to be as healthy as we can be. But sometimes even I, knowing all of this, forget.








21 thoughts on “We Are What We Eat”

  1. Hi Bonnie, when Trump got elected I cancelled my cable & put my small tv in the closet where it has remained ever since. I save $100 a month. I did, however, download the app, DemocracyNow. It is unedited news & definitely worth the time to hear the truth. So glad that the literary sala has finally discovered how talented a writer you are.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Susan. Yes, I sometimes watch Democracy Now online (as I do kitchen chores). Such great truth-telling. I don’t pay for cable here in my little departamento, so I sometimes channel-surf for fun. Sometimes it’s educational… Hope all is well with you.

  2. Oh Bonnie, so totally true! I too have turned off the news for at least 5 days a week – it had been making me totally depressed and I am better reading news selectively, as necessary.

    Eat, my friend, and eat well, stay well!

    1. Thank you, dear Carol. Yes, “selectively” is the word. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could come down to SMA for a visit and we could “do lunch”? Eating together! A delicious thought.

  3. Hi Bonnie – when you’ve had a healthy respite from “Breaking News” hysteria (it honestly makes my heart race) read Roger Cohen’s NYT piece on 06/05. Just from a writing standpoint you’ll appreciate it. Read it and then retreat for a while – I do emerge occasionally from my bubble for articles like Cohen’s. And thanks for today’s WOW – excellent.
    Jan (Robinson) Alfieri

    1. Thank you, Jan! Great to hear from you. Yes, I do follow Roger Cohen; his fine writing and thinking inspire me a great deal. I’m so glad you like this WOW. I hope you’re doing well.

  4. Hi Bonnie, sorry about you accident and your forgetfulness regarding eating. My plan is simple: you need more spaghetti- with garlic and oil, hot peppers, fresh mint and lemon zest. Topped ( at moment of serving) with Parmesan and fresh mache ( baby arugula can serve in its absence).

  5. Dear Bon,
    What great advice for all. Both the food advice and the news advice. After 2 1/2 years, I have stopped obsessively watching the talking heads, and I may not feel better, but at least I am not feeling worse every day.

    1. What a commentary on our current political situation, isn’t it, Paul dear, that we’re thankful (when we tune out of it) that at least we don’t feel worse every day! Yikes. But I’m with you.

  6. Wise words Bonnie. I AM one of those people whose plate is half fruits and vegetables so the past couple of months in Korea and Japan has been a little rough, especially since I have been traveling with a devout meat and noodles fan. Guess where it’s easiest to find salads? 7-11s! Here, unlike the US, they actually sell decent take-out food and they are almost literally on every block. I don’t like to support corporate food in plastic tubs but I am grateful I can get a healthy meal for $4 to offset the carbs.

    1. Yes, Kim, eating healthfully while traveling in foreign (to us) lands is always a big challenge. So glad you’ve found a way to maintain your balanced vegetarian diet in your travels and to stay healthy! I’m looking forward to your return to SMA next month.

  7. Like you, Bonnie, I’m so glad I don’t have a TV. I would probably be glued to the daily train wreck if I did. I just finished watching West Wing last week. I watched every single episode starting right after my heart surgery in December until just the other night. Seven seasons. It was the perfect antidote to our horror film du jour. Rational people in the White House trying to hold it all together with integrity and ethics. It was the best kind of fantasy getaway imaginable.

    1. Wow, Barb, you’re way ahead of me there! I haven’t seen any of the West Wing episodes. How did you see them? Online? Sounds like something I should look into… — xx

  8. Yes, I watched them on Netflix streaming. It’s about $10/month, and it was worth every penny to see West Wing. It makes you want to cry to watch people in the White House taking seriously the work of governing, being careful not to do something stupid that could cause problems, using diplomacy instead of bludgeons to make changes. We had eight years of that with President Obama. I think you and I appreciated it every single day, along with a lot of other people no doubt.

    1. I’ll have to look into the Netflix idea, Barb. I tend to watch “Law & Order” (dubbed in Spanish, on my free TV here) for similar reasons: It features good guys (and strong women) seeking justice — and usually winning. And in the process I learn a little more Spanish! — xx

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