Physical Toil, Not Whole Foods will give you a Long Life

We have a Whole Foods close to where we live. They’ve got a great selection of foods and products, but generally we avoid shopping there, because at the prices they charge, I’d need to take out a bank loan.

There is this old joke: –

Only sick people shop in health food stores.

Is it true? Possibly. The first time I ever went into a health food shop was after I got sick with a digestive illness in my 20s and I started to learn about diet.

I tried out all sorts of foods and supplements. Things like: Quinoa – made me vomit, Udo’s oil – too oily for me, Spirulina – gave me a boost of energy when I first started taking it, but then the effects stopped, Rescue Remedy – like those fresh-breath sprays from the 90s, and various organic fruits and vegetables for juicing – definitely needed to take out a bank loan to buy those.

I don’t mean to criticise health food shops. I think they are a great alternative to the awful and exploitative conglomerates/corporations like Tescos and the rest. Though I do sometimes feel we get better value and food quality from some of the smaller businesses by non-British, which sell simple ingredients for cooking staple foods. The kind of stuff our ancestors have been cooking for centuries.

Recently, I discovered Polish bread sold in a local off-license food store. It tastes a lot better than the standard bread from supermarkets and is much cheaper than bread from the health food shops, which I understand is called ‘artisan bread’. As though bread is a piece of architecture.

I think that a lot of the foods and products they sell at Wholefoods are ego items. It’s a way to feel more healthier and wholesome by spending more money on products that have a ‘healthy’ label.

On the other hand, there are things you can buy  in health food shops that you can’t get in regular shops – like flouride-free toothpaste. So I am grateful for them to give us a choice. Isn’t it curious why Tescos can stock 5 or so different brands of fluoridated toothpaste, but not one single non-fluoride option? Or is that my conspiracy mind kicking off? Perhaps it depends on the store.

Organic Fried Chicken

I wonder what would happen if Macdonalds sold an Organic Big Mac for £1 more. Would people be tempted to buy it, telling themselves that it is healthier? Or if KFC sold battery free organic fried chicken? Maybe not. I wonder why they haven’t attempted it yet.

It wouldn’t be difficult for KFC to fence off a section in their factory farms, cram it full of chickens allowed to run around on their short stumpy legs, (hence free range) and throw organic chicken feed at them. They could even inject them with organically derived antibiotics and organic growth hormones so they plump up just great.

It’s not so far fetched. If Burger King can make the so called vegetarian – ‘Impossible Burger’ (and get sued (ironically) by vegetarians because they are cooked on the same grill as meat – yes that did happen), then organic Big Mac’s are quite possible. By the way, there will come a time in the future where Macdonalds and Burger King will have to display disclaimers on their menu boards to stop themselves getting sued.

Burger King Products are manufactured in a place that processes and handles MEAT.  Vegetarian options may contain TRACE amounts of MEAT!

If you are a true vegetarian, you have no place philosophically, stepping foot in a Burger King. Certainly not giving them any money to fuel their animal-killing empire. Perhaps an exception can be made if you just want to use their restroom, but even then it’s still pretty questionable. I mean, you’d have to be close to pissing yourself in the street to accept that it is justified to use, hence justify, the existence of a Burger King or Macdonalds.

Physical Toil

Anyway, the point of my article is that whether you buy the best and healthiest food’ or not, the most important component to robust health and a longer life is physical work, toil and activity. In fact, a combination of an active physical life and simple foods are key factors in reaching an old age. Certainly junk foods and snacks are not good for us, but I also think that the so called ‘health foods’ don’t matter as much as we think.

You can eat all the organic mung beans and soya you want, but if you don’t use your bodies the way nature intended them to be used, good health is not guaranteed. And our bodies are meant to be used. Conversely, you can eat a less than optimal diet, but if you are active throughout your life, you can maintain a good level of health.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from the octogenarian Qigong master Geoff Pike. He passed away a few years ago after a very long life. He also survived cancer in his 40s.

Cauliflower Sid

I once worked with a lumberjack named Cauliflower Sid, who ate little but tinned cauliflower, as the ever growing mountain of tins outside his tent testified. But he also felled more timber than men half his age. He was seventy-two and died at eighty two after falling from a galloping horse. I have shared the dubious delicacies taken from fly-blown saddle bags with men who are sixty and as lusty as nineteen year olds. The fact is, the average lumberjack, cattlehand, seaman, soldier or labourer will often out-work, out-play and out last his diet-conscious brother because his daily existence keeps him fit. With the greatest respect for health foods, such men have probably never heard of ‘we are what we eat’, otherwise they would all have gone to an untimely grave under a monument of empty cans, bacon grease, dried meat, hard tack and bangers ‘n mash… not to mention the hard liquor.

Consider the huge work force of the Third World. Throughout the East you will find middle-aged to old Chinese women trotting up and down the planks of building sites all day balancing baskets of sand and cement; Indians, Indonesians, Filipinos and Malays labouring ten to sixteen hour days – all on a bowl of rice, a chunk of dried fish or meat and a spoonful of green vegetables if they’re lucky. They smoke cheap cheroots, drink cheap booze, gamble half the night, bear many children and usually call it a day in their eighties, with a roomful of respectful great-grandchildren paying for a festive send-off.

All this should indicate that physical toil is nature’s exercise which all of us were built to perform, and it helps greatly when it comes to avoiding the results of inadequate or unwise diet. How does this knowledge help us in our own situation, surrounded as most of us are, by a convenient variety of highly refined processed, frozen, dehydrated supermarket edibles?

If we are honest with ourselves, we probably accept that a dramatic change in our eating habits is unlikely to last. If there are certain things you really enjoy eating and that you have always eaten, giving them up altogether may not seem worth the sacrifice. Perhaps it isn’t. With the tremendous research and millions of words written on the subject of ‘eating for health’, we all have a fair idea of what we should and shouldn’t put into our stomach.

If we are not prepared to take a course in mathematics in order to compute the exact measurements and balance accurate combinations, there is always a simple formula.

  • Eat less meat and more fish and fowl.
  • Eat less carbohydrate and more protein and grain.
  • Eat less processed food and more raw vegetables.
  • Eat less animal fats and more vegetable oil.
  • Eat less white sugar and sweets and more honey and raw sugar.
  • Eat less white flour and biscuits and more fresh fruit.
  • Eat less refined cereals and more roughage.

The Power of Ch’i, Geoff Pike

Geoff makes some interesting points in this extract. However, there are some statements which I would question. When he describes the lifestyle of the Third World workers of drinking, gambling all night and living to their 80s, I don’t think this applies to everyone. Because even with a life of physical toil and labour,  if you don’t look after your body and diet, you can wear it out quicker. Bear in mind, these are countries lacking in medical care. Also, I am not sure about his advice of eating more vegetable oil rather than animal fat. I think that there is some research to show that animal fats are actually more healthier than processed vegetable oils. But either way, I think the quantity of fats in general needs to be reduced. Other then these points, I think his writing is pretty valid.

A personal example

For example, my father who has recently reached his 80’s has spent his entire life doing physical work as a farmer, brickie, and then as a gardener for the last 40 years, along with various other jobs here and there. He still works as a gardener at the time of writing this article. I worked with him for a few years, and can say, I didn’t enjoy the work as I am much more suited to working indoors and prefer wearing clean clothes (yes I’m soft), but I totally respect him for being able to do what he does, especially in the winter and rainy weather. And England does rain a lot.

I also see that it is this lifetime of physical toil that has conditioned him this way and has enabled him to get to the age. He has a simple diet of his own grown vegetables, store-bought porridge oats for breakfast (a favourite of Rupert Murdock, so I’ve heard), and some fish or meat bought from a local butchers or fishmonger. He is not fussy where he shops as long as they have the simple foods he wants at reasonable prices.

My father never eats sugar, biscuits, crips or chocolate and definitely not Macdonalds though occasionally he will eat from a fish and chip shop. He has no taste for those foods. He also happily drinks regular tap water.  Not filtered, – just regular tap water.

Additionally, my father has never once stepped foot in a Whole Foods store. Perhaps I should encourage him to go. I’d love to see his reaction when he saw the prices. The shelves of a Whole food store with its packaged products are a far cry from the homegrown veggies of a London allotment. Which one is really healthy?

I think also the nature of processed food has changed. Cauliflower Sid survived on tinned cauliflower. It may have been lacking in vitamins and nutrients, but it is still better than some of the processed and junk foods, he would have been able to choose today, which contains all sorts of additives, chemicals, especially appetite-inducing substances like MSG. It’s ok as a treat here or there, but this stuff is bad for you in large doses.

Changing habits

The problem is that I, like many other people of my generation and younger, have been adulterated by snacks, sugar, junk and convenience. I wouldn’t even know personally how to grow my own veggies. These processed snacks and foods are very addictive like a drug. It takes willpower to break these addictions. They are comfort foods as well as stress-dealing foods.

The risk of them is that the more stress you have, for example due to a shitty job – the more of these foods you will eat, and the more damage you will gain whether it is weight-gain, or disruptions to your hormonal system. It becomes a kind of vicious circle, because you start feeling worse about yourself and so keep on eating more of these foods in order to lift your mood, but it only makes the problem worse.

When Macdonalds is better value than health food…

We have more junk food available. It’s the only thing that is not affected by inflation. Doesn’t that seem strange? Whereas everything else is becoming expensive – bills, living costs, rentals, and salaries are stuck. Additionally, we work more than previous generations, with more women and men in the workplace, more stress and more pressure. Consequently we have more obesity and increases in diseases. General health is on the decline.

Bread and circuses anyone? Keep people’s bellies full, then they won’t get too upset that they are getting a raw deal.


I think one thing that can help us all is by getting into physical activity. Be-it sports, or regular training of some sort. Because when we learn to appreciate and respect our bodies, we also care more about what we put in them. It becomes not a vicious circle, but instead a ‘splendid’ circle, because as you feel better about yourself, you feel more encouraged to live and eat more healthier.

In other words, “We Eat to Live. Not Live to Eat”, as my dad has sometimes quoted to me.


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References and Images

Featured Image from (Nadejda Panina)

The Power of Ch’i. Geoff Pike. 1981 Outlet


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