Angie Alt is wife, mother, world traveler & blogger. She’s also a warrior in the autoimmunity war. Angie confronts three autoimmune disorders each day, including Celiac Disease, with powerful management techniques like AIPaleo & the Paleolithic lifestyle. She blogs regularly about the emotional side of tackling autoimmunity, adopting Paleo, and how it impacts her, her family, & their way of life. You can read more by Angela Alt at her blog and connect with her on Facebook.
I have a conundrum. For some, it may seem cut and dry, but I have been struggling with it for a year now. Well, maybe more accurately I’ve been struggling with it for about 11 months . . . like since the moment 30 days into AIP when I had the full-blown revelation, “Our food system is killing us.” The next thought was, “Can I willing give the poison to others?”
No, right? No, I should not feed SAD food to others, if I know it is extremely detrimental to their health. The answer should be no, but I’ve had a hard time with it.
The first time I struggled with this was when we cleaned out our home of the SAD foods once and for all. Almost all the canned goods went, all the pasta (even the gluten-free stuff), all the bars, all the snack foods, and all the store-bought yogurt. All of it got packed up . . . and then sat there for a day, while I wrestled with what to do with it. I tried to talk it through with my husband. Should we take it to the homeless shelter? Should we donate it to the food bank? At the time we were also moving across the country, so I asked, “Should we give it to the neighbors?”
Honestly, what I wanted to do was throw it in the trash, but I also have this deep aversion to waste, especially food waste. I used to live in West Africa. After living there calling my feelings about food waste “aversion,” is actually a giant understatement. Here’s the thing though, I knew the food was not healthy for just about anyone to consume, but I hadn’t quite started seeing it as NOT food. I didn’t want to waste food.
I ended up sheepishly approaching the neighbors and asking if they wanted any of it. They had little kids and were happy to receive nearly a week’s worth of groceries for free. I walked away feeling awful that they were going to feed it to the kids though. I even felt a little bit relieved that we were moving. Talk about a guilt complex. I didn’t want to participate in giving it to others, but I also didn’t want to throw it out.
We arrived at our new home and settled into a routine. My Paleo transformation really began to take off and my improvements on AIP were very noticeable and steady. My household went 100% gluten-free and my husband and daughter soon had health improvements. From there, they agreed to take everything 99% Paleo in the home too. They started eating mainly AIP dinners with me. We started buying mostly grass-fed, organic meat; we found a local source of farm fresh eggs for them. Our health as a family bloomed. It was plain to me that SAD food was not food at all. I started to see it as food-like substances. A trick played by industry.
That’s when I started to think about Africa again. A large part of US foreign aid is food assistance. A great deal of it is grain. We ship our excess grain to them. It is needed. I’ve seen it first hand, in tiny, remote villages at the end of a long, long dry season. Our food aid actually matters for them. But, they also need very serious nutritional interventions. Is it nutritionally undermining them further by giving assistance in the form of grains that we are now seeing more and more in the US as negative to overall health? In the last year, I’ve had three doctors, one being a highly respected GI specialist at a prestigious, big name medical school say to me, “Nobody should be consuming gluten.” Does “nobody” include those that are facing severe food shortages? How do we resolve this dilemma on that scale?
I had struggled with it on the micro level, “What to do when I clean out my kitchen?” and I had tried to contemplate how to navigate it on the macro level, “What about foreign food aid?” Then my nephew’s birthday came up. For his previous birthdays I’d done something awful, with a capital Auntie. I had sent him boxes of his favorite sugary cereals in the mail. One year on home leave from Africa, I took my other niece and nephew out to breakfast. I bought them the most over-the-top donut AND ice cream, of their choice. I have another niece, the most adorable two-year-old on the planet. I used to sneak her ice cream and cookies too. I live far away and don’t see any of them often, when I do, I revel in being that special aunt, the one that spoils them rotten. I know now that it really is rotten, though. I can’t feed them poison, but should I be trying to “Paleo-ize” them?
This is a real question for me. Big ethical arguments aside, how are you approaching it or have you resolved it?