Dinner and a Few Movies for Your Health

Written by Nicole Glor

I am late submitting this article. It’s not as if I was lying around just watching movies, I’ve just been too busy cooking…thanks to a few movies. Let me explain.

You’ve probably heard of the popular movies Food, Inc. (2008) and Forks Over Knives (2011), both of which which I was originally afraid to watch because so many people said it would “change the way you eat forever,” and I wasn’t ready.

I did watch them eventually, when my father was diagnosed with cancer. After several surgeries, he survived. But my parents started changing the way they ate to less meat products and more plant and herb-based. We watched Food, Inc. together, and it made me really think about the treatment of animals we eat and how it affects our health, from diabetes to cancer. It changed the way I eat by convincing me to be mostly vegetarian, and eating red meat once a week, grass fed, pasture cows at that.

Food, Inc. explores big factory farming, the use of antibiotics, spread of E. Coli, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, chemicals, governmental policies and regulations. The cameras show the conditions of chickens, pigs, cows while they are alive, what they eat, and how some never see daylight, how disease is treated, and how they are bred to be big. Later it explores how they are killed, and what its like when their bodies are later being handled and packaged.

According to the film’s website, Forks Over Knives “examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.” It explains why our Western diet causes diabetes, hypertension, and heart attacks, and why eating a plant-based diet can reverse these problems and save your life. People who have bacon or sausage for breakfast, then a burger or deli sandwich for lunch and a steak dinner will take note of this unusual amount of (worse quality meat than past generations had) has become socially normal. And it’s killing us.

Forks Over Knives made me wish for a time machine to go back to the days of the pilgrims and how they got food for Thanksgiving. Since we can’t do that, it changed the way I eat by making me lean further away from an aspiring vegetarian to vegan-aspiring dishes (vegan doesn’t just omit all living animals like vegetarians, but also their products like milk, eggs, and cheese). It’s enough to make you think twice about that ham sandwich and opt for a veggie wrap instead. It’s become so popular with the people who have seen it, that the website gives instructions for home screenings, recipes and parties.

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So if the first movie makes you want to be vegetarian, and the second inspires you to be vegan, a new one, Food For Thought, Food for Life, will surely make you want to cook.

The documentary, released in October 2015, is the creation of award-winning director Susan Rockefeller. This film made me think more about the plants we eat, in a way that Food Inc. did for animals. For example, even if you are vegan, you need to consider where you’re getting those vegetables, nuts, beans and fruits from, and at what time of year. It explains that our health, and the health of the earth, is at stake.

The 20-minute film aims to start a conversation about farming practices, their effects on the planet, and how local communities can actually change things. People can get healthier right at home and in their neighborhoods.

"We want our food fast, convenient and cheap, but at what cost? I sought out to develop a film that educates people about the negative impact our current methods of agriculture have on the earth,” said Rockefeller, a creative conservationist and social entrepreneur. “In addition to providing vital information, the film gives viewers the necessary tools to make a difference in their own lives. It explores the connection between the planet and our health, and suggests that strengthening that connection will only benefit our future.”

Food for Thought, Food for Life, explains the downsides of current big-farming practices, and how the government subsidizes them to grow one big crop or raise one kind of animal, a mono-culture, that hurts the soil, and causes more packaged and processed food to be made cheap and more available than good food. It shows how smaller farms with many crops are better for the soil, and healthy soil needs less chemicals and pesticides. It shows the cost in money, and to the environment, of shipping non-seasonal produce to people. The movie also introduces us to farmers, chefs, researchers, educators, and advocates who are providing solutions. The solution is eating food that arrives whole, from nearby, or that you grew yourself, that is in-season and that you cooked in your own kitchen. Finally cutting out processed food is key, and pay attention to things like not eating kiwis and oranges in November if they are not grown in your area because of farming practices and the cost of transporting them, monetarily and environmentally.

The film is both poetic in showing the connection between our health and the health of the planet; it's practical in that it shows specific strategies for sustainability, abundance, and  inspiration. The inner-city communities who turn their roofs and sidewalks into pop-up farms show that you can save money, your health and the earth if you grow your own food or get to know your farmer.

I live in New York City, and order groceries delivered from Fresh Direct. Now, I notice a “local” tab and mostly order from there. The best part, is the surprise that comes with each order, when I click yes on the local farmer’s co-op that includes whatever is in season and harvested that week with a note, and the farmers’ humane, organic eggs and cheese if you please.

So this past week I cooked yellow beets for the first time for a salad with local arugula and nuts. I chopped watermelon radishes and couldn’t believe the beauty on my plate. My root vegetables dish included rutabaga, parsnips and tri-colored carrots with potatoes from soil under an hour away. Tomorrow I’m harvesting kale and chard from my roof. I no longer order watermelon when it’s cold out and the only meat in my cart is local duck breast. I used to prefer take-out to spending time in the kitchen. Now I realize the kitchen is nicer than a hospital room.

The next time your motivation to be healthy needs an increase, you have this trainer’s permission to be a couch potato, but only to watch these movies and see if you might just get busy farming or shopping locally and thinking about the animals and plants you eat in a whole new way. At the very least, your new obsession with cooking will give you an excuse to procrastinate on work!

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