Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Mittens Are Off

May I invite you to pretend for a moment? To pretend that you’re visiting a world much like this one, in fact so much like this one that as you observe the children, you see almost no differences. Closer examination of the general population however, reveals a mystery, something you just don’t understand. It’s their hands. Those with their hands on view here are in the minority whilst the rest are wearing what you can only describe as mittens, although some are much more robust, more like boxing gloves. You learn from a lady you meet that her father taught her the piano when she was a child. Playing used to make her heart sing, but the mittens make it too difficult, the dexterity she used to display, is so impaired now that she avoids any opportunities that come her way to play the instrument she once loved so much. Another shows you the hooks he’s holding in each each hand. They’re widely available here and do allow him to perform some of the tasks that he used to rely on his fingers for, but he readily admits that he’s overused them and now he can’t unfurl his fingers; or rather he could, over time, if he were prepared to relinquish the hooks, but he’s learnt to depend on them. Others you meet demonstrate countless other difficulties that you take for granted such as easily turning the pages of a book, putting ribbons in your hair or a tie round your neck. The clothing here has become very functional, and life has become noisier as voice recognition is the only way to write emails and text messages. They've explained their stories, but you still don’t really know why they cover their hands, and why they cannot or will not remove the mittens. There is joy here, but it’s muted as so few people live to their full potential.

You’re glad to return from that world that made you feel a little sad and despondent. It’s good to be back to normal. Walking through the park, you smile as you hear the excitement of the children in the play park, and there are three children playing tag around the trees, laughing and squealing at the anticipation of being caught. One of the children asks their father to play too, but he tells them he’s too old to run around. He isn’t old, but his breathing is laboured just with walking, and his gait isn’t very easy or fluid thanks to the excess weight he’s carrying. Later that day you talk to your neighbour, and you offer her some fruit as you think you may have bought a little too much. She declines as she isn’t sure if any of it might interact with her medication. She’d rather not be taking the medication - she’s been on it for a few years, and there are side-effects - but she doesn’t know of another way to manage the problem. She reveals that a friend has suggested that she manage the condition with a change to her diet and for a moment you’re curious, is she going to try it? But then she laughs, and you feel you’re being invited to join in and laugh too at the absurdity of doing something no doctor has ever so much as mentioned to her. No, she’ll stick with the tablets. For a moment, your thoughts jump back to the weird world of the mitten-clad hands, but you try to shake it off and carry on with the day. It won’t go away. The news you’re reading in the paper is about the soaring rates of obesity and type two diabetes, and in your mind you re-trace your walk back home with the heavy bag of shopping, remembering the huddle of customers standing at the counter of a fast food restaurant, and your surprise at how many of them seemed to prefer to consume their purchases from paper bags or cardboard boxes whilst walking, or standing at the bus stop. You’re faced with the reality that you live in a world where the beauty and joy of eating real foods that have captured the energy of the sun have been replaced by industrialised commodities which cannot function harmoniously in the human body. What you took for normal, is actually just commonplace. Everywhere you go now confirms this; so many people with so many limitations from minor ones to the more disabling and destructive, from the immediately apparent to the complaints of ‘sluggishness’ and low moods, and so much of it attributable, at least in part, to an eating culture that seems to promise so much, but is instead an ugly, painful and costly process of deprivation.

It’s time then, to turn away from that which is currently ‘normal’. Time to ensure that you know how to love what your body cries out for, to see the joy in eating real food, to understand the influences behind the collective and personal eating patterns that are forging such a disconnection with nature, and to gently and compassionately overturn them.


  1. All so right. If something is done with love the results will be for common weal.

  2. Absolutely. And that must include love for ourselves (sometimes the most challenging bit!)

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