Friday, December 23, 2011

Nutrition as the foundation

Odilia Rivera Santos

For my thirteenth birthday, I bought myself a pair of ten-pound dumb bells and vitamin C. I had become interested in yoga and meditation through my brother Orlando. I decided at 13 to aim for optimal health and being highly productive into my 90s. In my twenties, my heroes were Linus Pauling, Carlton Fredericks, Durk Pearson, Sandy Shaw, Rudolph Ballentine and I briefly considered becoming a naturopath. I got the application from Bastyr university and thought about becoming a naturopathic doctor. My naturopath, Tara Nelson, a slim elegant brilliant New Yorker relocated to Connecticut, encouraged me to study natural medicine. Dr. Nelson was wonderful and even did phone consultations when I moved by to NYC, and then, in 1998, she died in a plane crash. Dr. Nelson's picture was in The New York Times with a headline I couldn't understand because it was such a tremendous loss. The first visit with her was a long careful interview to assess my diet, relationships and stress level. This is unheard of in regular Western medicine where patients are pencilled in fifteen to twenty minutes apart. She helped me tremendously; she gave me a recipe for an immune boosting cereal I still make and eat.
I was a member of The Life Extension Network for a long time, reading the latest research on anti-aging supplements, but not the anti-aging as it relates to wrinkles. I was and still am very interested in research regarding human potential and how established parameters can be changed. I want to be able to improve brain function as I get older, to gain muscle and be productive and engaged with others and live to be 110 at least. My interest in nutrition and vitamin therapy are related to a desire in the exploration of human potential. Unfortunately, most people I meet are more interested in how they look than in the state of their brain cells or levels of omega 6 in the body.
I have met people, who have experimented with crack, cocaine,heroin,and other drugs, but balk at the idea of taking vitamins on a regular basis. And some people say you need to talk to your doctor. Medical doctors are not required to study nutrition and they definitely don't study vitamin therapy.
You cannot patent a natural product, so the regular medical community can't make a fortune from telling you to take B12.
You can only patent a natural product that has been manipulated in some way to increase one phytochemical for example.
I taught nutrition workshops in Harlem, the Bronx, and Queens for six years. One obese coworker said I was "too obsessed with eating well and health" and she asked "How could you not eat at McDonald's?"
My mother cooked all our meals from scratch and taught us to cook. I went to McDonald's for the first time when I was sixteen and the food tasted salty and greasy. When you grow up eating food with a lot of different subtle flavors, salt and grease do not taste good.
One day, my 350 lb coworker made a joke about the vitamins I was taking and my homemade organic chicken soup, salad and spelt bread, and I was about to say something nasty, but watching her eat from a large bag of potato chips and take huge mouthfuls of a burger, I felt sorry for her.
I didn't talk to her about nutrition again.
When people around me start to speak about the ways in which the brain and body fall apart at certain ages, I don't say anything.
After hundreds of hours of nutrition classes and workshops, as a student as well as a teacher, reading books, attending conferences, I know a lot of people choose to not consider what the potential of a body and mind could be and prefer to accept a rapid demise in functionality as natural.

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