We have had three decades of variations in public opinion ranging from the Atkins diet to Paleo, low-fat diet to a high fat, South Beach to The Blood Type Diet. People are mostly confused. These quick fixes have not worked. True scientists view the evidence as a way to gauge success and failure based on data over time. As a scientist, I can assuredly say that what public opinion has historically considered ‘healthy’ has failed miserably. We are sicker and more obese, tired, and more depressed than ever before in the history of the human race with skyrocketing rates of cancer and heart disease. What has gone wrong?
I have been a physician for more than three decades. Around the time I graduated from medical school, the nonfat, low-fat movement was well underway. It resulted in mass blood sugar dysregulation and obesity. Then Atkins came along to fix that. It created heart disease and cancer and the same has been true for the Paleo diet. The public grabs hold of these for their promised quick fix value leaving a trail of disease in its wake. The body does not respond well to quick fixes. Furthermore, the way we manipulate and treat our bodies in our culture reflects our adversarial relationship with it. The body has a tremendous capacity for healing, it has an innate wisdom and how it feels and looks is simply its response to how we treat it. The body has natural rhythms and mechanisms that are intricate and interconnected and not understood very well by our medical system. The body functions like a web of many moving parts, which communicate with one another and require alignment. It can sense exploitation, manipulation, shame, hatred, sadness, grief, and disdain. It also senses love, care, alignment, nourishment, community, collaboration, and joy. Our body knows us by heart. It merely responds to whether it is nourished and supported by our behaviors towards it and our relationship with it.
I see the body as an information communication system. It responds to what we feed it by gaining weight when we feed it foods that lack nourishment. We call these ‘empty calories’. It responds by being depressed when we don’t honor our feelings or try to deny or suppress them with medication or by pharmaceutically or surgically manipulating its natural cycles. We have normalized this behavior for nearly 50 years. Our bodies have been informing us that this form of relationship doesn’t work. The body needs to be treated as a sacred vehicle, one that has innate wisdom, far exceeding our egoic minds. Our current relationship with our bodies is toxic.
Now, in my mid-fifties, I look back at the information my body has given me for nearly six decades and feel grateful for having begun listening to its call when I did in my twenties. Growing up in India, where the body is adorned and fed healthful, beautiful, and nourishing food assisted a great deal; but I too had an adversarial relationship with my body. The collective culture imprinted me as well to shame and disregard my body and I was no different than most of us in this manner. But when I began to understand that my body had needs and I needed to serve it well so it could function in an optimal way, I stopped normalizing the dysfunctional way society and my medical training had imprinted me and began to heal my relationship with it. When we function according to societal norms, we shut off our body’s signaling system. We grow numb to it and eventually become ill due to our disconnection from our inner guidance system, taking guidance from societal norms. I believe an illness or dis-ease may be a way our bodies invite us to look deeper and live with more consciousness in our relationship to it. Maybe illness or dis-ease is simply a result of our lack of consciousness. When we align ourselves more consciously, we are able to listen to the subtle yet deeply powerful messages our bodies are continually giving us.
All of my patients who have had life-threatening illnesses have felt these occurred as a call for them to become more conscious. When we grow conscious through illness, we may even consider illness as having ‘healed’ us of our unconscious state. Herein lays a powerful paradox.
When we normalize what the masses are doing, we get what the masses are getting. Heart disease (1)and cancer (2) are now the number one killers in our country and they are both diseases of lifestyle. Even if we have genes that predispose us to cancer, scientific evidence in the field of epigenetics (3) has unequivocally demonstrated that our conscious lifestyle choices can turn those genes off, unconscious ones can turn them on.
Making conscious choices to reclaim our health is in fact a form of individuation (4). When we separate or individuate from the ‘norm’ we find our own unique and often healthy path. We are born to individuate. It is the only way we can transform and reclaim our health. Science has more than enough evidence to show that a plant-based/Mediterranean diet is a time-tested way to live. When societal norms fill our minds with varying opinions, they fly in the face of scientific evidence. Ultimately the traction of society promotes complacency. Life was never meant to be a quick fix. It is meant to be a process that requires work, learning, growth, and individuation. It requires our consciousness and attention. It also requires us to explore what has been shown to work despite society’s pull in the opposite direction.
Maybe reclaiming our health is not that complicated after all. With a good dose of scientific evidence and a desire for consciousness, we can ultimately align ourselves with the wisdom of our bodies and support their powerful ability to heal. Reclaiming our health may be as simple as that.
©July 2017 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. Website: www.ommanicenter.com Author of Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife. 2011, 2014 Medial Press