Why do we have a protein obsession these days? Ask anyone trying to lose weight or gain muscle or recover from illness, or really anyone striving to eat right, and the question of protein amounts & sources inevitably comes up. In a time when our focus on food choices has reached a religious fervour, protein leads the current caravan of nutrition to the promised land.
In exploring the beautiful reflection you see in your meals through the Magic Looking Glass for Eating Right, you are also learning to reflect a deeper care of yourself. This is self-love in action. Eating a balance of nourishing food you enjoy is one of the concrete ways you express self-love – it’s a form of radical self-care. Each of the nutrients in the looking glass framework offer you an important angle for eating right AND show you how you can nourish your best self.
How is it that we’ve come to view lots of protein (to the exclusion of other macronutrients) as synonymous with health?
Two ways: timing and our personal focus at this time.
Historically, it’s been coming to this inevitability for decades:
Nutritional science of the 70s, 80s & 90s drove us to an unrelenting fear of fat. First saturated fat, then fat in general, were (falsely) proven to be the source of heart & weight problems in North America. The extreme version of this food fad found me on a practically fat-free diet after the birth of my 1st son – a situation that had a negative impact on my health for the next 20 years.
Atkins and all the variations of low-carb diets followed that fiasco. (These should more accurately be called low-starch or low-refined-carb diets, but I digress. You can read about this particular pet peeve of mine here.)
Turn 2 out of 3 macronutrients into bad guys, and you’ve got to drive home the benefits of the last man standing. There are many fantastic reasons why we need protein, though we’re now overdoing it to the detriment of our fat & carb intake. (I’ll get to those protein-based details in the next post.)
Another circumstance underlines our heightened awareness of this nutrient.
While carbohydrates fuel us with the energy to stand straight and function adequately through the day, and while fats ensure our constant warm temperature and a healthy nervous system, protein provides the actual structure and functionality of the body.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
If you believe this tenet by Teilhard de Chardin, then you can fully understand Meggan Watterson’s guiding principle that “The body is our sacred chance to be here.”
The flesh and sinew that make up this tabernacle, this house for the soul, is all protein.
Think of protein as the stones of the temple honouring your soul. Protein is the building block for muscle, yes. It’s also the structural material for all tissue in the body: skin, mucous membrane, nails & hair; cartilage, ligaments, tendons; even your bones & teeth.
Protein is the molecule that differentiates plant from animal.
Because of the structure, protein gives us (as animals) the freedom to roam the earth independently. And it’s protein that supplies the means by which we have the ability to carry out our life’s purpose, our work in the world.
There are messengers keeping us in constant communication with the Self: hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies.
There are enzymes, the acolytes who quietly see to every minute chore within the temple.
Freedom and location independence: as a society, these are the values we currently crave the most. No wonder we’re obsessed with protein!
The wonders of protein don’t stop there…
In a beautiful model of sustainability, the body recycles and reuses protein constantly, thereby keeping our daily intake needs to a minimum. Brilliant, when you think about it, having evolved from an ancestry of feast or famine, the body learned to make its most precious commodity last.
Are You Able to Take It All In?
Even when you eat right amount of protein for your age, gender, activity level (details in the 2nd post), how much of it are you absorbing and actually using?
Before the peptidases (protein-digesting enzymes) can do their job, a protein needs to be denatured (uncoiled) by stomach acid. Not enough acid, and that protein stays pretty much intact through the rest of the digestive ride.
The stomach lies at the heart of the 3rd chakra, the energy centre ruling your sense of self, your ability to stand up for yourself. Your Will. Digestion, in general, and specifically activities of the stomach are an act of will – an indication of how engaged you are with life, how well you digest life.
In other words, you need a strong sense of self, at an emotional-soul level, in order to best access the building blocks for your physical body. The best way to solidify your Solar (3rd) Chakra is to ground more strongly into the lower two, root yourself into your own care & security. Improve your relationship with the earth, and you’ll improve your digestion.
As we move into the new paradigm, an age in which the needs of the individual soul step forward as the guiding principle for how we live, it’s essential that the way we nourish the body supports that growth and movement.
“The body is your sacred chance to be here” and, with the help of protein, follows the directives of your soul.
These thought are great food for conversation. Get a good discussion going among your friends by using any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons. Then come to the Eating Better Conversation group to mull it over with me.