The De-composition of Scott Ricci Part II

The next nine years were pretty stable. Mom got a great job in yet another town. And while I spent that summer before my third grade year with my grandparents on their farm, mom worked to fix up a tiny house for us. I arrived at our new home just before I began the new school year and lived there until I graduated from high school.

After entering my new school, I did everything I could to fit in. I became the class clown and was liked because I mocked my teachers and was generally pretty silly much of the time. I also put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best student in the class. I was so driven to be the best that I even cried if I lost a game. I had to be the winner. I had to be the best.

In high school, I decided to take Latin to help with all those medical terms since I was planning to become a veterinarian. The teacher was amazing and fun…..and obviously gay. And he knew I was too, way before I was willing to admit it to myself. We ended up becoming friends outside of school. He used to compare my mother and I to Alice and Tommy of the television show, Alice. We both collected beer cans, so we would would take trips to find new and different brands to add to our collections. We ended up getting into a strange one-sided physical relationship for a year or so. I did not feel abused at the time, although there was some psychopathy involved on his part. In the end, I was getting something and so was he. It wasn’t until after the affair ended that a strange interaction happened with a teacher whom I didn’t know very well. He stopped me in the hall one day to tell me that the Latin teacher was in love with me. I just kept walking. How was I supposed to react to such a revelation? I never told another soul and just pretended it never happened. After all, my true self was stuffed so far down inside, what else could I have done?

I was fairly popular during high school. I kept busy with extra-curricular activities like the school radio station, a class play, Honor Society, Student Council and the tennis team. I was considered part of the “intellectual” clique, but was adept at bridging the gap with other cliques in school too. I was even voted, “Most Likely to Succeed”. All the while I was stuck in my very own safe place: my own mind.

I continued to do what was expected of me. I went to most all of the school dances, taking a different girl to each one. I think my classmates assumed I was quite the ladies man. The reality was that I couldn’t stick with the same girl for too long for fear of having to go all the way, which I found to incredibly stressful just to think about. So I figured out a way to play the game to my advantage.

Three weeks after graduation, I gave up a full scholarship to the state university of my choice, which I had earned by default. I was the top male student in my school because the real top male student in my school was going to Yale. I had decided to move to Arizona, where my dad and his family had moved several years before due to my stepmother’s arthritis. My aunt, who had kept in contact with them over the years since the divorce, was instrumental in setting up the offer. The agreement was that dad would pay for college but I had to move there immediately in order to get residency. I agreed, as I had wanted to leave the stifling mid-western state where I grew up since I could remember. Plus, I felt that dad owed me for never being available. I lasted a month and came back. It was family culture shock. I had gone from being trusted and relatively free of oversight to many new rules and way too many people to interact with on a daily basis. I was sharing a room with my half-brother making my privacy a thing of the past. My dad, of course, blamed my mother for my departure. But it was me who called her to ask if I could come home. Somewhat ironically, as I was originally making the decision to go, she questioned whether I was going for the right reasons. Was it to get to know my father and his family or was it to get financial payback for all the years he wasn’t around? As it turns out, even though I was living with him, he still was unavailable. And even though I immediately began lobbying for my own place, I could quickly see and understand that was not going to happen anytime soon. There wasn’t much money. And there were four mouths to feed besides my own. I was no longer the center of the family. It was the beginning of my pattern to flee whenever the discomfort grew unbearable.

After returning home, I had to rethink my life. I had given up on the scholarship so I got a part-time job and enrolled in a small local college. After two quarters of school, I moved again to attend a huge state college about 100 miles away. Within two months of arriving, I had my first experience with another man, who was one of my new roommates. Additionally, the store I transferred to from my hometown had a manager who was gay. We soon became friends and he began to be my gay mentor, showing me the local gay subculture. The closet had exploded. Yet once again, it felt like my choices were only logistical in nature. My life had become predetermined as I learned what it meant to be a gay man in the early 80’s. At the time, I knew no other way to fit into my new community.

When I was barely a university junior, I quit school and began working full-time. I was on the hot list to be promoted so it was an easy decision. I could continue to be miserable as just another number in school being forced to take classes in which I had no interest. Or I could eliminate the looming debt of 8+ years of college and the stress of having to work and study by moving directly into a career. Besides, I had to support my night club and party habits and salvage what was left of my grade point average. It was my first act of defiance against what I was supposed to do. Or so I thought at the time.

All the nightclubs and drinking and drugging led to some poor choices during a time when a single decision could lead to your death. I was not immune. In September of 1983 I became very ill. It was a wake-up call for me to make a decision: do everything I could to survive or to keep doing what I was doing and die. I chose the former, thus inspiring me to rethink my life yet again.

This was a pivotal moment in my life. I had met a wonderful man who became my partner. Together, it was time to re-evaluate who we were and what we wanted, for he too was HIV positive and struggling with the demands of medical school. It was my first glimpse into becoming aware that what I had been taught and told life was supposed to be all about was not really my story at all. I neither fit in as a college student nor as a gay man. It began the most difficult part of my life. I had to search deep within myself and find a way to become Scott. I had to de-program myself. I had to de-compose my story. It was time to reinvent myself and find a way to survive and thrive in the world as the real me.

The question was, how?

My reaction to Russell Tovey’s comments on masculinity

I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up,” he said. “If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.” Russell Tovey, actor on Looking

Russell has been taking a lot of heat for this comment. And since he has apologized for offending anyone. I wonder why?

Perhaps it is because of political correctness and the fact that he is an actor and in the public eye?

I recently penned a story which I hadn’t yet published until now. It is generally an account the first half of my life. It names certain events which led me to not become my true self but someone whom I was expected to be by family, friends and society. It describes my struggles to fit in. My reality, though, was that I neither did fit in nor ever wished to. That is had I been more self-aware over the early years of my life.

At the time I was writing the article I was not considering the fact that I turned out to be a gay man who most would assume wasn’t due to my “straight” affectations and likes and dislikes in life. But after reading Russell’s comments and seeing the reactions, I feel I must rethink that omission.

If you take the time to read the aforementioned article, you may begin to understand why I turned out similarly to Mr. Tovey.

Having thought to myself at about age 8 or 9 that I perhaps should have been born a girl due to my heightened sensitivity compared with my male friends made it entirely possible I would have become more effeminate. But since I had no father around to push me into sports or hunting or the like, it was I who made the decision to reign in my sensitive side to fit in, be it consciously or unconsciously. (Considering that I was a smart boy with a penchant to over-think things with an abundance of alone opportunities to do so, I would have to say that I made a conscious decision based on unconsciousness.)

Additionally, because I “knew” at a young age that I was both the man of the family and not a homosexual (see article), I became an actor myself. But instead of using my skills in a play or television show, I played my part out every waking moment of every day.

It is said that there is no reason to live in the past, as it has happened already and is immutable. Accordingly, I will not confess to having resentment or a desire to do it all over again. It is what it was. I will however say that at this time of my life, I acknowledge having learned a great deal from the events and circumstances of my childhood. It has made me the man I am and I love myself without question as I am. I can also say that because I appear to be a straight man, my life amongst society has been easier than an effeminate man. But my personal life has in many ways been a struggle because of it. I have worked diligently to fit in and yet been uncomfortable and unhappy. I have abused drugs and alcohol at times to numb the discomfort. I have taken on a role in my relationships of the typical heterosexual husband, which caused me to be resentful and angry and not a great partner. It is only in the last year or so that I have been able to uncover and release the real me for all to witness. I am ever so grateful that I was able to do that before my time ran out here on Earth.

So my question remains: Do I really appear to be my true self or have I guided my external self-manifestations to be who I am? I may never know the answer. What I do know for sure is that no matter who I appear to be, I am certain now of the fact that I am a real and honest man. And as long as any human can say to themselves they are being authentic, they are all right by me.

The De-composition of Scott Ricci, Part I

Fitting in has been a life-long struggle for me. It took me many years to realize that fitting in was a construct of society. I had been brain-washed to be the person everyone else expected me to be and taught little or nothing of how to uncover the true nature of who I am. Over the years, family, friends and schools have filled my head with labels and outcomes which don’t necessarily have anything to do with my own needs and desires about my life. So it seems I have been muddling along living a life that had little to do with fomenting my own sense of self and finding my own version of fulfillment and happiness. Ultimately I had to realize that it was my choice to partake in the dream presented to me. And if I was going to partake, how much could I participate without losing my self-respect and integrity?

This programming happens through examples of behavior we see and hear via the media. It begins in earnest on the first day we attend school, where we are all taught to play by the rules and to excel in order that we may become “successful”. It involves competition between ourselves our fellow students, stratifying the classroom into the smart, obedient kids and the rest. And if we don’t excel or at least keep up, we are ostracized by our fellow students and ridiculed at home for being not good enough or for not putting in the effort. It seems to be a no win situation.

Even during those brief times when creativity was encouraged, such as in art class, I felt quashed. I remember bringing home a clay lion’s head sculpture which I had made in 4th grade. My mom immediately laughed and said that it looked like a pig with a bonnet on. It became a joke that would last a lifetime and one that I would never forget. Another unforgettable moment happened once when I was visiting my aunt. During a grocery store shopping trip I began to whistle a song. My aunt laughed and exclaimed that I was just like my father—off key. Needless to say, I stuck to more simple projects in art class and kept my whistling and singing to myself from then on.

Let me declare that this is my story. I tell it only to offer insight into my long and winding path to self-love and acceptance. It is an on-going journey, complete with wrong turns and dead-ends, as well as seemingly great, healing leaps forward. Read on if you are ready to step off the hamster wheel of doing what is expected so that you may find your authentic and most beautiful self. But remember that this is my journey. It has not been the most direct path. Your journey is unique to you and hopefully a whole lot shorter than mine. And no matter where you are in your life today, it is never too late to take the road less traveled to discover who you are and what you need to become a happy and healthy person.

The story begins…..

In 1963, after being high school sweethearts, my parents divorced. I was one and a half. My mother never remarried in her lifetime.

When I was still a toddler, I was informed by more than one relative that I was now the “man of the family”. No pressure there. This was about the same time I discovered my desire to explore my best friend’s anatomy under the honeysuckle bush in his yard. Life had become painfully complicated for me. This is when the one Scott began to separate into two. There was the outer happy, precocious me and the inner sad and lonely me. I would spend the next decades of my life trying to rejoin the two.

At age 7, I was moved to another town where my mom had found a job. I was to live with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Mom couldn’t afford a big enough place for both of us. It seems strange now that at such a young age I was given just two choices: to stay in my small hometown with my grandparents or to move to the city. Moving in with my dad, stepmother and stepbrother was never offered as an option. I chose the latter because I wanted to be close to mom. I was beginning a fresh year of school in a new big city school. It was second grade. I coped by becoming the bad-ass of four-square. I would get into square four and serve until the recess bell rang. I was ruthless. Looking back, I was scared and angry and sad. I remember crying myself to sleep often during that year. But I was supposed to be strong and tough. I had to disregard my true nature as a sensitive and introspective child.

During this time, my cousin and I began to explore each other. This went on for over a year until we were caught by his brother one night when my mother was watching us while my aunt and uncle were away. My older cousin ran downstairs to tell my mom what he witnessed. This led to a talk with my mother where we were asked two questions: “Do you know what a homosexual is?” and “ Do you want to be a homosexual?”. Both of us, of course, answered, “No”. The explorations ended right then and there. So now two things became quite clear to me. Not only was I the man of the family, but I was also not a homosexual. My true self would again be relegated to deep within my own heart and mind.

A Sensitive Man

be yourself pic

I remember being about 9 years old. I was playing in the front yard with a friend. His name was David. He spit in my face for some reason. I cried and got very angry. And right in that instant, as he laughed at me, I wondered to myself if I should have been born a girl. I could act as tough as anyone, but I always felt so much more sensitive than my friends. I always felt like I was hiding a part of myself to fit in. I thought there must be something wrong with me.

I also remember watching Little House on the Prairie with my mom. And at one point, after a particular episode ended, I looked at mom and said, “I am not watching this anymore, because every time I do, I cry.” She laughed. I went to my room.

I still cry at movies and TV shows.

I am an only child. My mom and dad divorced when I was a baby. My mother never remarried. I was informed at some point early on that I was the man of the family now. I needed to be strong. I had to be good. I had to become someone else in order to live up to the expectations put upon me.

I went through school pretending to be a “normal” young boy. I played sports. I was the funny kid. I acted like I was strong. But I wasn’t a “normal” young boy. I was different. I was gay. I guess lucky for me I never was attracted to dolls, or had a lisp, or liked show tunes. I played the part with ease.

Or did I?

So as I grew up in the 70’s, I had to hide that part of me too. I had to be someone I wasn’t. I was afraid to be me because I thought that “me” was wrong. Especially after my oldest cousin caught my younger cousin and I with our underwear half on and half off. We had begun to explore each other when I was seven and he was nine or ten. My older cousin told my mother, who was sitting for us while my aunt and uncle were away. So we got called downstairs and were asked, “Do you know what a homosexual is?” and “Do you want to be a homosexual?” Of course, we answered no. And that was the end of our explorations and the beginning of my self-hatred and my new persona.

I tried to fit in in high school. I dated a lot of different girls. I didn’t know it at the time, but my classmates thought I was getting a lot of action. When in reality, I couldn’t stay with one girl for very long because then we might have to move pass kissing. My unintentional plan worked. I never fooled around with a boy in high school, although there was a teacher who was kind but ultimately preyed upon me as no adult should ever do to a child.

As I grew older, I became an angry man. I was still playing the tough guy, even as I was absorbing all the dysfunction and pain around me. I scared friends and partners and myself with my outbursts. I have struggled with this my whole life. The irony is that in reality, I am a gentle and kind man who can cry at the sight of a roadrunner in a parking lot. I can sense pain in others to the point where I have to leave the scene so I won’t be overwhelmed by empathy. I have longed for someone in my life who could understand and accept me and my conflicting personalities. Someone who will let me be me and still love me.

This story was inspired because of a music video I recently watched. It was Eddie Vedder singing John Lennon’s Imagine at a concert with his band Pearl Jam in Portugal. He was inspired because of the recent intensification of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He is a sensitive man, unapologetically so. He is one of the few men I have ever witnessed that was both strong and sensitive. I wonder how he deals with it? He sings it out, I’ll bet. He trusts that he is just perfect exactly as he is.

Thankfully, two wonderful events happened to me in the last year. Firstly, I enrolled in school to become a health coach. There I not only learned about the value of being authentic, sensitive and vulnerable, but also met some amazing and supportive people. Secondly, I met a remarkable man through a personal ad I placed. We dated for a while but soon realized that we were better being friends. As it turned out, he became a teacher to me. He helped me see the emotional pain I was holding onto and how it was keeping me stuck in the same miserable cycles over and over again. He taught me that the Universe is all about peace, joy and happiness and until I was ready to accept this, I would be tested. I needed to learn to let the perceived unpleasant things in life pass through me like a breeze through an open screen. And through awareness and practice, I have rewritten my patterns and found harmony in my life.

The test premise was the best lesson I had ever had. Passing wasn’t up to some external force. It wasn’t a matter of luck either. Passing was entirely up to me. It was based on my chosen reaction to a given situation. So I made the decision to pass the myriad test being thrown my way. I realized that bad things happen all the time to everyone. (I would like to stipulate that bad/good is a subjective view created by our minds to keep us occupied and distracted from the true goal of living: peace and harmony and love.) We must remember that without the bad we cannot appreciate the good. It is the yin/yang of the Universe. It is the spiral of life. It is the light of the sun and the pitch blackness of space. It offers perspective. And whatever my happen is perfect for me. It it always an opportunity to learn and grow.

I write this today because I know from my 50+ years on this planet in this physical body that I am not the only one who struggles with pain, depression and feeling isolated and different. I am not the only person pretending to be someone else to please others. I needed to share this with all of you, because if after all this time I can rediscover myself and learn to be like a duck and let it all just roll off my back, so can you.

So I urge you to open up. I urge you to find a teacher, a book or a friend and begin your own personal process of finding peace, harmony and love in your life. It isn’t necessarily easy to alter long practiced patterns, but if you take the first step you have begun the process. Your decision creates awareness and sets you on a path that you will have no choice but to walk. Put fear aside, breathe and walk in beauty. Allow your true self to shine and witness a whole new world. Then pass it on.

A Planetary Health Coach

I had a wild idea the other day, hatched from the aftermath of the elections.

What would it take to build a strong coalition around this simple idea: that we can all agree that the direction humankind is heading in is not working out? What would it take to transmute frustration and apathy into hope and action? How can so many different causes coalesce into one strong organization committed to moving in a new direction that benefits all instead of the few? How can we clearly see the bigger picture?

It is important to truly understand what’s going on. We are all fed fear fodder all day every day. Disease. War. Violence. Poverty. Environmental collapse. Economic uncertainties. And on and on. Fear is addicting. Fear causes stress. Fear leads to an “us against them” syndrome. Fear makes hatred so easy as there must be someone or some group to blame. We ride this wave of adrenaline. We stay distracted and get more and more stressed, which leads us to disease and a general feeling of dis-ease.

This is exactly why I don’t watch any news programs! Oh, I do occasionally watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report only because I came to the conclusion that the world had become such a circus of insanity I might as well laugh about it.

But just because I don’t get fed the daily dread, doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on. I want desperately to do something to make it all better. I, too, suffer with the pain and anxiety that flows all over. I, too, am frustrated and get angry over the misdirection in our world.

In order to cope and to prepare myself to be of service, I studied permaculture, a design system for sustainable living. Then I dropped out of society for a while, living alone in a small rustic cabin in the mountains of NM. I am vocal about my disgust with the system. Recently, I graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a health coach. I want to stop my frustrated inaction and be a part of the solution. A planetary healer, of sorts. For I see the consequences of living a stressed out life as it manifests in our bodies and our society.

And yet, how is any of this helping with the big picture? How am I making a difference?

Have you ever heard of the concept of critical mass? It is: the size, number, or amount of something that is needed to cause a particular result . I know in my heart that we have the critical mass right now. But in order to make large and sweeping positive changes, the issue becomes more than just the number. What we lack is a commitment to a co-operative approach. We need to accept and cherish our differences and find ways to agree and focus on them.

Remember that we are up against highly organized and well-established political and business entities. Entities whose main purpose is the perpetuation and expansion of their existence. We must match their focus and cohesion with our own.

In other words, for the principle of critical mass to kick in, we need to all be on the same page.

Don’t get me wrong! It is wonderful and inspiring to see so many groups and organizations doing such amazing work around the world. Ending hunger. Ending AIDS. Sustainability projects. Environmental protection. Women’s rights. GLBTQ rights. Native American and Indigenous Peoples rights. Equality for People of Color. Animal rights. Income parity. Healthy, local food. And on and on. Where would we be without these dedicated souls working to make a better planet?

Unfortunately, due to limited energy, I believe we usually focus on one maybe two issues at a time. These tasks are so enormous and critically important, one-at-a-time is often all we have the energy to do.

But the time has come to not only continue to do all that work, but to also join with others of like-mind to make the one change that may just allow all the others to begin to fall into place. We must begin to act as one. We must re-think our priorities.

That coalescing issue that needs to be addressed in the US is money in politics. This is the key issue to all the other changes/improvements we are already working to implement. It will unlock the hijacked political process to allow the people to choose not only our leaders but what issues get their attention and what laws/bills get passed. It will allow the citizens to once again have a voice. And that is when we take back our government and focus on the issues that really matter in our inter-connected world. Only then can we drive public policy and get back on the right track.

And the only way to correct the problem is to publicly fund elections and ban all other monetary influences during the campaign and election process. This could be accomplished by a constitutional amendment. Which means that three-fourth of the states, or 37, would need to support such an amendment. Which means we have a lot of work to do locally!

Imagine that just one member from each organization which aspires to see a more just, equitable, peaceful and non-toxic world, joined together to form another “umbrella” organization, we would create the critical mass necessary to move our government from a perpetual state of inaction or reaction, into a state of pro-action and to prevent causes rather than treat symptoms.

OK, here is where the “planetary health coach” idea enters. Even though I was trained to help people, through permaculture I was also trained in ways to help the planet. Help one and help the other. The circle of life goes both directions!

Folks, it is all connected. Your personal health creates health in your community. This creates health in your region and creates health in the world. Eating whole and sustainably-raised foods heals the planet.

We need to stop reacting to things and create the existence we wish to see. We have become like hamsters on a wheel. We use up our energy, wanting so desperately to help. So we join a cause and become saviors to try to create at least some balance. And it works up to a point. But then it becomes pathological. It becomes a part of the problem. It keeps us hyper-focused and distracted.

I am asking you to break free from the expectations and rules. Change your desires. Be yourself. Believe that a better way is not only possible but probable. End all the competition and the need to be “right”. Now is the time for co-operation.

So, if you want to be happy….

If you want to be healthy and live in a clean and safe environment….

If you want everyone to be equal once and for all….

If you want to heal.

JOIN ME!

WE CAN DO THIS! Together. Respectfully. Compassionately. Peacefully.

Are you ready for great change? Contact me at scottricci@hotmail.com

Visit: http://www.democracyisforpeople.org/ , sign the petition and check the box to take local action.

Visit: https://movetoamend.org/ , sign the petition and check the box to become a volunteer. (I am attending my first meeting this Saturday)

Visit: http://united4thepeople.org/action.html , for a list of state resolutions passed and introduced and a list of other organizations with active campaigns to overturn Citizens United.

The Year of Living Intuitively

ur the universe pic (2)I began my year by enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition with the expressed purpose of becoming a holistic health coach. That was September 2013. I knew I was taking a leap. At age 52, I was again embarking on a radical career shift. Something with which I have become all too familiar. Little did I know the affect that this one decision would have on me in holistic way.
Besides the knowledge needed to be an excellent health coach, I have improved my health and my happiness. I successfully did an elimination diet to determine how the foods I was eating were making me feel. Results: eggs, dairy and peanuts increase my susceptibility for nasal allergies and sinus congestion. I learned that without balance in my life between healthy relationships, plenty of physical activity, a strong spiritual practice and loving my job, I would never attain optimal health no matter what I ate. Life is indeed…..all or nothing!
So then I realized that becoming a full-time health coach would take time and great efforts in planning, goal-setting, marketing and constantly honing my skills before it could replace my current income. I had to make the decision that I could no longer wait to quit my job that I hated. I had to take a leap of faith. I couldn’t change the job. I couldn’t accept my circumstance at the job. So I had to leave it. Quite remarkably, I immediately found a great transitional job which allows me the benefit of time without pressure to get Confluence Health and Wellness not only off the ground but soaring.
In the meanwhile, my spiritual journey took on a life of its own. After having spent years reading books such as Conversations with God, The Power of Now and its follow-up A New Earth, The Alchemist and listening to all the masters speak whenever possible, I still felt stuck in my ways and not able to be all I could be. It took meeting a kind and wise friend to assist me in my transformation to a being who accepts and trusts that all control is an illusion. It is up to me to become open to the infinite possibilities and not allow the self-imposed prison of egoistic control. It is a choice how I live each moment. It is my decision to not allow others or situations or circumstances dictate my mood. And whether it happens at age 20 or 60, the real point is the awareness of that place inside that offers unlimited potential and endless peace. We all have it!
Today I finished my last quarterly test at IIN. Graduation is on October 14th. The tools are in place. The mind is full yet empty at the same time. The authentic me is shining brightly without fear or self-repression. Life is full and I am ready for what ever comes to me. For I know it will all be good even if I can perceive it differently. I will continue to learn and it will guide me on this path I am on. This journey of love and self-awareness. The ultimate goal: to share my new-found wealth with everyone.
When you are ready to find your center, your peace, your bliss. I will be here with arms open wide and all the support you can handle. It is a journey that you needn’t take alone.
After all. It is your choice. All you have to do decide to be healthy and happy. Take the first step!
Namaste.

The Case for Eating Well

The following article was recently published in EPIC magazine in the Albuquerque, Taos and Santa Fe edition. http://www.epicmag.org

Since 1980, the number of Americans considered either overweight or obese has risen to over 68% of the population. Just by being in public, it is startlingly clear how prevalent it is to be heavy. This is not a judgment; it is merely an observation. I do not believe we should all strive to be thin simply because the media portrays it as the key to happiness and success. It is not about looks, it is about health, vitality and longevity. It is not about our outward appearance, but about our inner-happiness. And it is about setting an example for the world.

There are myriad reasons why people eat in unhealthy ways. It can be caused by something psychological (compulsively eating or not eating) or physiological (food addictions). It can be due to monetary circumstances or based on a need for convenience. We may believe that eating healthier food is too expensive or we may be busy and overworked. Maybe we are frustrated with our lives and we are using food for its nurturing and comforting effects. What we are not doing is taking into consideration the correlation between what we nourish ourselves with, and our decreasing quality of life and health.

The impetus for our trend toward obesity was when the U.S. government began to subsidize the food industry in the 1930’s after the Great Depression. The original intention was to control food output and even pay farmers to allow fields to lie fallow during peak growing years. Then in the 1970’s, policies were redirected to overproduce all the time to keep food cheap and to open up markets overseas.

This overproduction kept commodity crop prices low while simultaneously increasing calories produced per person, per day (3200 calories in 1980 to 3900 calories now). Since 1980, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased over 40% while the cost of beer, butter and soda has actually fallen between 15% and 33%. This set up a perfect storm: an era of cheap and plentiful food for the consumer.

Caloric intake per person went up, as the busy American lifestyle became the norm. Food companies began working in their labs to develop all sorts of “foods” which could be stored for long periods and cook quickly and easily. These tasty and convenient “foods” encouraged loyal, repeat customers and created a way to utilize this never-ending supply of heavily subsidized, cheap food (corn, wheat and soy, for the most part). Fast food restaurants popped up everywhere offering cheap food to eat on the go. Then portion sizes began increasing. We went from drinking a 12-ounce can of soda with 140 calories and 38 grams of sugar, to a 64-ounce big gulp of soda with 780 calories and 217 grams of sugar! That is over 50 teaspoons of sugar. We are super-sizing ourselves to death.

Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, cancer and high cholesterol are all caused by poor diet. The cost to American taxpayers of diet-related, chronic diseases runs in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. In 2006, 84% of the money spent on healthcare was for the 50% of the patients who had chronic illness related to the food they eat! This is unsustainable and a huge burden on our economy, our vitality and our happiness.

The solution of course begins with knowledge and awareness. We can no longer make excuses. We must collectively face the reality that food is a business. It is all about having more sales and making a bigger profit. But as consumers, we play a part as well. Manufacturers like to state, “We make what people want to buy.” If we stop buying a product, it will either no longer be produced, or it will be changed significantly enough to entice us to buy it again.

We must consciously decide to be mindful of what we eat. We must relearn how to cook and take back our culinary integrity. Meals should no longer be out of a box and the vegetables we eat cannot be mostly fried potatoes and pizza sauce. We must choose our foods thoughtfully, with quality and variety in mind. We must become cognizant of portion sizes. We must become aware of where our food comes from and how it was grown. The time is now.

The effect of changing the way we eat doesn’t stop with attaining better health, spending less money on healthcare and becoming a much happier populace. It is actually much more profound.

Choosing to eat more organic, whole foods and sustainably raised animals would have an immediate effect on our ecology. Too many chemicals are used in our heavily industrialized agricultural systems. Petroleum is used to produce chemicals, apply them and then move products to market. Herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, genetically modified crops and nitrogen fertilizer are poisoning us, as well as our land and water. In order to grow plants organically, we must rebuild the soil. This would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon back into the soil from the atmosphere, ultimately slowing down the rate of global climate change.

Animals are being factory-farmed. They are treated only as products to be brought to market, much like making an electric fan. Again, it is about sales and profits. It is the way our current economic system operates. Cows in particular are being fed federally subsidized grains in large feedlots to fatten them quickly before they are slaughtered. Unfortunately for the cows, they were meant only to eat grasses. Grains irritate their digestive system, which causes them to have gas. This bovine produced methane release accounts for about 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than our transportation sector. Additionally, this stress on the cattle is happening immediately before we are about to eat them!

Improving our personal health is a clear and moral choice. We must move from believing we are somehow separate and superior to nature and accept that we are all operating within the same system and we have the power to affect it in big ways. Really, we have come across a win-win-win-win situation and those don’t come along very often. We will get healthy by choosing to eat only whole, sustainably grown foods and by being physically active. The environment will get a boost when we begin to farm without chemicals, rebuild our soils and begin to treat our animals humanely. The ecological health of our planet also benefits if we grow some of our own food at home and seek out foods that are locally and regionally produced. Global climate change is slowed by reduced emissions and carbon sequestration. And ultimately, our economy strengthens because we are not spending so much on healthcare and our productivity increases because we simply feel better. Win. Win. Win. Win.

It is the butterfly effect. When we see and accept the need for conscious eating, we create ripple effects. When we respect ourselves, we begin to respect our food, our neighbor, our community and our planet. You and I have the power to create great change by taking just one action. Are you in?

Scott Ricci is the beneficiary of a long search for truth, meaning and vibrant health in his life. His interests include organic gardening, permaculture, spirituality, cooking and building stuff. He only recently found his true calling and has become a Holistic Health Coach and Garden Guide. Visit http://www.scott-ricci.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com. Contact him at 505.353.1719 or scottricci@hotmail.com.