not all utopias have perfect health as a major premise? The Judeo-Christians
typically refer to Heaven as being a place with no pain and suffering.
Many ancient writings, whether talking about Golden Ages or future
utopias, discuss the peace and enjoyment people experience. In none
of these writings were health problems mentioned. In fact, one's
good health was so expected that reference to it was not made in
many of these works. Thus, let us explore utopias in relation to
one's health in terms of food and exercise.
Health. It is
more than the absence of pain. In fact, health, as described by
Dr. Dean Ornish, is as follows: "Health refers to your overall
state, defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as 'the overall
condition of an organism at a given time; optimal functioning with
freedom from disease or abnormality'" (Ornish 316). In today's
society, much emphasis is put upon people's past health (health
histories of patients and their ancestors). In today's society,
much emphasis is put upon people's future health (studies performed
and cures being sought). In today's society, aside from the minor
band-aides and repair jobs done, few people are putting a concerted
concern upon their current health. What does having concerted concern
upon one's current health involve? Three things: vegitan diet, organic
vegetables, and proper exercise.
Even in literary
writings, concerted concern is not placed upon one's health. For
example, Walden Two, which is a past utopia in my mind, does not
place significant influence upon one's diet. When the guests ate
their first supper at Walden Two, it mentioned that the menu
was goulash, soufflé, and lamb chops (Skinner 41). While
this menu had some vegetables included, the allowance of meat is
frightening. Breakfast was equally disturbing-scrambled eggs and
bacon (Skinner 61). Why is this frightening and disturbing? Dr.
McDougall explains in his book that consumption of meat is dangerous
for quite a few reasons. First of all, he explains that animal flesh
is contaminated with hormones, stimulants, and antibiotics that
are used in the livestock yards. Second, when cooked at high temperatures,
chemical changes in the animal's flesh can occur that can actually
create carcinogens. Further more, many people have allergic reactions
to both animal flesh and dairy products (McDougall 37-44). Thus,
to obtain optimal health, meat and dairy must not be consumed. Is
it not clear that while Frazer strove to create a utopia there,
he failed to instill a major premise for a complete utopia-the vegitan
Tale, though a dystopia, addresses the future and has equally
distressing approaches to one's dietary habits. Chicken, steaks,
and butter are mentioned as common foods (Atwood 48). Breakfasts
are mentioned with eggs as staple ingredients (Atwood 110). The
question now becomes, "What is wrong with eggs?" Many
things! Dr. Attwood explains to us that eggs are culprits of causing
food allergies, as are milk and dairy products (Attwood 74). Also,
Dr. McDougall explains the vices of eggs. Eggs are extremely high
in cholesterol and do negatively affect one's blood cholesterol
levels. Even the white of the egg should not be consumed because
of its high protein content and high fat content (McDougall 56-57).
Vegetables and breads are mentioned but only as side dishes to the
meat courses. Thus, again the vegitan diet is not addressed.
the past utopia or future dystopia here addresses the true concern
for one's health, what is the present time doing about one's health
in its relationship to food? Not much. Money is being thrown into
research, surgeries, and studies. Yet, hardly anyone is informing
the public that true health is up to one person-you! As more and
more studies are being performed though, the general medical field
is realizing that the fad diets of the past few decades are mine
fields waiting to explode (if not already exploded). The medical
field is slowly beginning to see the vegitan diet as the one true
answer to optimal health. Dr. John McDougall, one of the few people
focusing on advocating a healthy lifestyle, describes our eating
habits this way: "Developed societies commonly use animal products
as their meal's main course and, as a result, suffer from diseases
caused by overindulgence in rich foods" (McDougall 37). He
continues to explain to us: "A health-supporting diet contains
no animal products. To recommend any meat or dairy foods would compromise
the basic premise that will be developed in this book, which illustrates
how rich foods-heavily processed, high in cholesterol, fat, protein
and contaminants and low in carbohydrate, fiber, and potassium-are
detrimental to our health" (McDougall 38). Thus, one major
step toward having a utopia today in regard to health is to eat
a vegitan diet-unrefined starches, grains, legumes, beans, vegetables,
in the right direction is what kind of vegetables one eats. Organic
vegetables are much better for one's health over commercialized
vegetables, even though commercialized vegetables are much better
than any meat or dairy products. Dr. McDougall explains it as follows
in The McDougall Plan: "Because flesh is high on the
food chain, it often contains unacceptable levels of environmental
contaminants. All over the world, poisonous chemicals are buried
in the ground or dumped in lakes, rivers, and the sea. Pesticides
and herbicides are used in growing food crops and accumulate in
the soil. Growing plants absorb small amounts of these chemicals.
Because they are highly attracted to and absorbed by fat, these
chemicals are called fat-soluble. When animals and fish eat plants
containing even low levels of contaminants, these chemicals are
concentrated in the fatty tissues of their bodies. If we consume
the flesh of these polluted creatures, we take in large amounts
of potentially harmful substances" (McDougall 41). Thus, we
can clearly see that organic vegetables are the best choice of consumption
with non-organic vegetables following as the next best choice of
consumption. Meat is definitely not even a choice of consumption
due to the high levels of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and
other damaging chemicals found in it.
does not say if their vegetables are organic or not. Due to their
being a community off by themselves and dependent only on themselves,
I would assume that their vegetables would be organic. They grow
their own gardens and foods. Thus, they would not be depending on
the foods marketed by the general food suppliers in current cities.
Also, their members seem to be in relatively good health-which could
easily be explained by the pure vegetables they consumed. In fact,
their health could only be improved by their elimination of meat
and dairy in their dietary lifestyle.
being a dystopia, The Handmaid's Tale, though also not explicitly
stating so, leaves obvious signs that their vegetables are not organically
grown. Though this book's setting is in the future, the grocery
store from where all the food is bought certainly does not resemble
anything close to a health food store. The vegetables bought from
this store and served to the people in this book are then probably
not organic. Also, the women mentioned throughout this book do not
seem to be in the best of health. Childbirth is an important topic
here in this society. Yet, many of the women are unable to have
children, have miscarriages, and even have children with major deformities
and problems. All of these conditions suggest that the proper dietary
lifestyle is not followed here-that would include the lack of consumption
of organic vegetables. Thus, it is fairly evident that this future
society does not consume organic vegetables.
Even at the
present time, few people are realizing the importance of organically
grown foods. However, there are a few doctors and others who are
realizing their contributions to one's health. Dr. Charles Attwood
describes one's concerns for pesticides on plants as follows: "If
you are also worried about pesticide residues on your vegetables
and fruits, peel or wash them. Generally, the benefits of eating
vegetables and fruits far outweigh any negative effects from pesticide
residues. Of course, organically grown food would be best, when
available. The only thing you can't control is the air you breathe.
But, let's face it, the greatest pollutant is animal fat and protein.
Avoid that and you will overcome the less serious effects of air
pollution" (Attwood 20).
third step one must take in implementing a utopia now concerning
one's health and well-being would be to incorporate exercise into
one's lifestyle. This is something that has existed ever since man's
existence. Years ago people would laugh at you if you had asked
them if they had exercised that day, replying, " What in the
world are you talking about?" Yet, they had probably exercised
more that day than many of today's population have done combined
in one whole week. Physical labor was an essential ingredient of
the past. Now, this modern age has "improved" conditions
to the point that we can avoid steps via elevators, walking via
vehicles, and strength-building activities via all kind of newfangled
gadgets. Yet, more and more people are now reviving this long-forgotten
practice of physical labor with a new term for it-exercise.
did not mention "exercise" per se but it did mention that
every one in that community was expected to complete four "labor
hours" per day. While those credits were their means of "paying"
for the services they received, those credits also served to give
them the physical exercise they needed. Frazier argues, "One
or two hours of physical work each day is a health measure. Men
have always lived by their muscles-you can tell that from their
physiques. We mustn't let our big muscles atrophy just because we've
devised superior ways of using the little ones" (Skinner 52).
He clearly understood that even the brilliant people who exercised
their minds had need of physical exercise for their overall health.
Tale also incorporated exercise into their society. A daily
walk to the grocery was mandated for the women's health. This mandated
walk was greatly needed since most of the women's days were spent
in sedentary activities if any activities at all. Brief reference
is made to the fact that the women were also required to do daily
floor exercises and breathing drills (Atwood 26). Thus, these daily
exercises provided the much-needed utilization of energy and work
that is required of every person.
Today, the general
public is realizing the true benefits of exercise more and more.
The different programs and methods are as varied as is the human
species. Yet, exercise is realized to be important and vital for
one's health. Dr. Ornish points out in his book that exercise has
been proven to reduce one's body fat, increase one's bone density,
reduce one's blood pressure, decrease the formation of blood clots,
raise the level of HDL ("good") cholesterol, and lower
one's triglycerides (Ornish 320). All of this without the side effects
of some "wonderful pill." Dr. McDougall explains that
exercise causes one to have a more appropriate appetite, developed
muscles, shaped physique, stronger heart, slower pulse rate, decreased
heart disease, circulation at the joints, and increase in one's
mineral content of bones (McDougall 176-177).
of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely
the absence of disease or infirmity" is the definition the
World Health Organization gave health as shared by Dr. Ornish (Ornish
316). The physical aspect and to some degree the mental and social
well-being is attainable by first incorporating the three steps
shared here-vegitan diet, organic vegetables, and consistent exercise.
It is only when one is at his best that he can do his best. Now,
are we ready to begin a utopia now? It is up to us! We have the
tools within our reach to so reach a utopia. And what a utopia it
is! Many individuals across the country today have sought these
various doctors who are truly concerned about their patients' health.
When the patients would incorporate a vegitan diet and exercise,
the results have been astounding-overweight people have lost weight,
people with autoimmune diseases have been freed from such dehabiliting
conditions, and even those with minor health problems have been
relieved to better live life and create of it what we desire it
to be in the here and now.
When our country
was torn apart by war in late 1862, President Lincoln addressed
the state of the Union with this quote, "The dogmas of the
quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is
piled high with difficulty, and we must rise-with the occasion.
As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must
disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country"
(Israel 1084). Today, we are not in a civil war. Yet, are we not
in a war for one's health? Every day is a war with at least three
battles fought within it (daily meals). The past will not help us
in our fight and neither will the future. Only when we begin to
think anew and then to act anew today will we win the war on health.
Now that we know the strategies to beginning to win this war, we
can presently begin to combat the unhealthy habits of the past and
embrace the healthy lifestyles of today. Each day, we can come closer
to a healthy utopia for us until one day it will no longer be a
dream, a hope, a wish. It will be a present day reality. So, here's
to the present utopia and one's health!
R. A Vegetarian Doctor Speaks Out. Prescott: Hohm, 1998.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1998.
Israel, Fred. The State of the Union Messages of the Presidents
Volume II. Chelsea House: New York, 1967.
McDougall, John A. The McDougall Plan. Piscataway: New Century Publishers,
Ornish, Dean. Dr. Dean Ornish's Program For Reversing Heart Disease.
New York: Ballantine, 1996.
Skinner, B. F. Walden Two. Prentice, Upper Saddle River: 1976.