Twenty years ago, I went to London with my classmates. For many of us, it was our first time abroad without our parents. I remember at the end of the trip we got some postcards to write to our family back in France. And by the end of that day, one of the teachers pulled me aside. At first, I thought I was in trouble. But by the look on his face, I could tell he had some terrible news for me. And that’s how I learned my father had been killed.
Growing up without a father was very painful for me and my siblings. But with time comes acceptance. You look around and realize you’re not the only one, so you accept it as part of life. In French we say “C’est la vie!”. That’s life.
But things changed when I was pregnant with my daughter. When the doctors asked if there was any disease history or genetic disorder in my family, my first response was to say that we have pretty good genes, but it also got me thinking how brain cancer killed my father when he was just 57 years old. And it dawned on me just how many people I knew that it happened to: good people, with lifestyles not so different than you and I, getting sick and dying prematurely. Just how many people do we personally know that are sick or died of a chronic disease? How many others do we know that are just not in good health? For the first time in my life, I started to question it.
As I was becoming a mother, I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to prevent it from happening to me and to my loved ones. So I started to look into it and empower myself with knowledge.
I went into this learning experience with low expectations and no other ambition than to learn a few tips on healthy living. I had no idea I would fall into a rabbit hole, and just how deep the rabbit hole goes. For example, I learned that chronic disease - heart disease, cancer, diabetes, mental illnesses, kills 30 million people each year. It’s happening both in low income and high income countries, in fact it is the leading cause of death by far in high income countries. And it is estimated that a staggering 80% of these deaths can be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
This gave me a different perspective not only on health, but on life itself. So I left my career to spread this message: conscious living starts on your plate. The foods that are the best for our health, are also the same foods with the most gentle impact on our home planet. They are the foods that are best for us on an individual level, and at a collective level for us as a society. And they are also the foods that reflect the best human values.
I had a bittersweet realization along my journey: I had the knowledge to save my father, only twenty years too late. But instead of feeling disempowered, I also realized it’s not too late for everyone else. Once we understand that we have a choice and we are the leaders of the world we want to live in, it is incredibly empowering.
This message is so important in our times. Although we are getting more and more advanced in terms of technology, we are regressing on many fundamental levels: an increasing number of people suffer and die each year of dietary-related disease. We face unprecedented challenges with climate change, food security and environmental pollution of our vital resources like water and oxygen. And we are struggling with an ethical crisis, as violence has become accepted as part of our lives.
But it doesn't have to be this way. We have the power to change that. It all starts with you, right now. One person can make a difference, and if you ever feel overwhelmed, just know there are millions of people voting with their lifestyle every single day for a better world.
All we need to do is to empower ourselves with knowledge, open our mind, awaken our heart, and rethink our food choices.